Ink Blotting - Up In The Air

Posted on Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 12:00 AM

Up in the Air

The only reason I would dare recommend seeing this movie in the theatre and not waiting to rent it is to maintain the relevancy of the material while it is relevant. Like so many other Oscar contenders Up in the Air is relevant in the here and now and will likely fade into the background after it does not win Best Picture. And it won't. There's not even an outside chance but I'll get around to that.

In 2009 at one point I had 10 friends let go, laid off, in other words, made irrelevant with their respective companies and professions. For some it took almost 10 months to find something new. And the setting to Up in the Air is spot on to what was so near and dear to so many across North America in 2009.

Almost everything in the movie is closely tied into the title. I'll give you an example. How does Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) feel about love? To begin with he is snide and believes that love does not exist, scoffing at the mere notion of it. But towards the end of the movie, right before the climax it very much looks like he's coming around. It's not scripted, but you get the feeling that his thoughts on the matter are up in the air. Does Ryan Bingham like his job? From the get-go, before the movie takes off as it were, you would say yes, if he's not happy he is at least content and satisfied with his lot in life. But after a few personal realizations and decisions that he may or may not regret his satisfaction is definitely, dare I say it again – up in the air.

And that's the problem with this movie, but also the reason it’s been nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. There are no resolutions for our protagonist (if he is indeed even much of a protagonist). We are given a brief glimpse into several encounters that result in personal dilemmas and quandaries for Ryan Bingham and we see how he struggles through them, but in the end we are given no satisfactory release that all is well with the world again. Indeed, things are left very much, up in the air. But that's also the reason it won't win Best Picture. Put aside for a moment that there are better candidates and better crafted competitors. Up in the Air cannot win Best Picture because while it draws its relevancy from the woes that betide our economy at present it does not find any resolution within its own structure and leaves its audience confused, further depressed and even disgruntled. When you watch a plane take off after all, you presume that it will in fact land. Up in the Air never lands.

Now Up in the Air has also been nominated for several other Academy Awards: Best Director, Best Supporting Actress – Vera Farmiga, Best Supporting Acress – Anna Kendrick, Best Adapted Screenplay. It is unlikely given the tone of the movie and its manner of shooting that it will win Best Director. That's not to say it wasn't worthy of being nominated as it most certainly was because it's a unique movie to 2009. Both of the actresses very much owe their nomination to the support of George Clooney who always makes them look better than they likely would have next to another actor. George Clooney always makes the people around him look better, it is an unfortunate trait come award time for such a remarkable man, but something desired by every starving actor or actresss in the business.

What Up in the Air could win this year though is for Best Adapted Screenplay, and it is a worthy contender in the field given the unique perspective and setting for the film. But in the field it's in with Precious, District 9, An Education and In the Loop it's probably going to come in second.

3 out of 5

I could have written more about the plot, or about how other critics are reviewing this movie, but it is my intention to present over the next few weeks as many of the Oscar nominated films I can in relation to the awards it is nominated for.

Kyle Gould is a University of Calgary Graduate in English devoutly trying to make the 25,000 dollar piece of parchment not just a glorified ink blot. Currently it would serve better as a Rorschach test. Feel free to throw some ink his way at


NOTE: The showtimes listed on come directly from the theatres' announced schedules, which are distributed to us on a weekly basis. All showtimes are subject to change without notice or recourse to