There are advertisements and reviews out there that tell you to expect comedy in Young Adult. You deserve a sterner warning. Yes, the picture is written by Diablo Cody* (of Juno and TV's “United States of Tara”) and it is directed by Jason Reitman (of Juno and Up in the Air). But, if you recall, Up in the Air had George Clooney as a cool, amiable flake whose job it is to tell people they are fired, and who is set back (to zero?) when Vera Farmiga’s colder character tells him that their love affair of convenience and intricate travel schedules is going nowhere.
Leave it to the Oscars to frustrate me even when they’re properly awarded. On Friday, I loudly declared my belief in inavataribility, arguing that, given the Academy's lifelong emphasis on movies' commercial success, there was no way it would give Best Picture to a $12.6 million-grossing indie (The Hurt Locker) over a well-reviewed juggernaut that made 50 times as much (Avatar). On Sunday, it gave Best Picture to a $12.6 million-grossing, etc., etc. How did this act of cinematic sanity come about?
As we approach this weekend’s Oscars, there are two predominant takes on the Best Picture category: Either it will be a close race between James Cameron’s 3-D (and nearly 3-hour) money-mill Avatar and Kathryn Bigelow’s Iraq indie The Hurt Locker, with the latter a slight favorite (as this gambling site submits); or Bigelow’s picture already has the award in the bag.
What does it say that three of the top five films on my list this year--and another that could easily have made the top ten, Coraline--are “kid’s movies”? In the end not much, I think. Two of the three, Where the Wild Things Are and Fantastic Mr. Fox, were directed by talented indie auteurs (Spike Jonze and Wes Andersen, respectively) who merely happened to adapt children’s books in the same year.
The protagonist of Jason Reitman’s Up in the Air, Ryan Bingham, is a hatchet man for hire. The Omaha company that employs him, which goes by the Orwellian name Career Transition Counseling (CTC), rents him out to other companies to fire employees they don’t have the courage to fire themselves. He flies about the country, touching down briefly in Kansas City or Tulsa or Miami, to walk into offices he has never visited and tell workers he has never met that they are being let go.