Avatar & Up in the Air

My first two reviews are up on Lost in the Movies, my new blog for contemporary film. First paragraphs are excerpted here, with links following:


Drifting momentarily out of consciousness he wakes up - with a jolt! - in a new body and, with it, a new life. Bursting out of the laboratory constraints and into the open air - for the first time in the whole movie - he weaves drunkenly through the tangles of exotic flora, wobbles on his legs (no longer broken by war, if now blue and elongated) and our own viewpoint swoons and stumbles alongside his. As in a liberating dream, our hero - and we as well - are intoxictated by the new sense of freedom; in three dimensions, in bright color, with a shimmering, unreal sheen, the new reality beckons and overwhelms. We are realizing the promise of virtual reality: not a return to our natural roots but an evocation and improvement of these roots through technology - a new world built to resemble, transcend, and perhaps replace the old.

Up in the Air

In one sense, Ryan Bingham is living the golden life. Soaring over the heartland, dipping in and out of fly-over country and hotter tourist spots, indulging in commitment-free trysts with women on the same ever-turning page as he: who could ask for anything more? True, the actual job which pays for this - firing strangers whose bosses are too cowardly to give the boot themselves - is not ideal. And the lifestyle doesn't allow much room for comfort or stability. But a guy like Bingham, who bears a remarkable resemblance to George Clooney, can coast by on his looks and his charm: he tells "clients" that they're Abraham Lincolns and Harry Trumans in the making, that they have to fail badly in order to succeed, and then he quietly hands them their packet and pushes them out the door (and away from the nearest window) while they mull this over. As for the security, the places to warm your feet by the fire at day's end, Bingham professes no interest - indeed, he's built an entire second career as a motivational speaker who advises stressed-out audiences to unload their metaphorical backpack and hit the skyways, real or otherwise.

Yes, it's the logical conclusion of the American Dream: to consume, to move restlessly onward, to live with style all while your feet barely touch the ground. Bingham suggests as much in the film's conclusion, over images of puffy, dusky clouds, his voiceover backed by the muffled sound of an airplane's engine roar, his ambivalent tone not quite mitigating the allure...
"Tonight, most people will be welcomed home by jumping dogs and screaming kids. Their spouses will ask about their day and tonight they'll sleep. The stars will wheel forth from their daytime hiding places. And one of those lights, slightly brighter than the rest, will be my wing-tip passing over."
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Thanks, and hope you enjoy.

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