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Tag: Joy

Up in the Air – Review & Analysis

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“Yes, it was pretty lonely.”
“Life’s better with company.”
“Yeah.”

You’ve made your bed, now go lie in it. Enter Ryan Bingham (George Clooney), a man who summarises the shifting values of the 21st century, someone you see, but never meet. Tasked with the job of firing employees for ‘weak willed’ employers, Ryan travels the nation, never rooted, always moving. George Clooney delivers one of his best performances, and stars in the ‘Clooney’ role, an aging silver fox, with a seductive combination of wit and charisma, yet tragically flawed.

In this film, a young enthusiastic new employee; Natalie Kenner, played by the adorable and remarkably short Anna Kendrick, attempts to ‘revolutionise’ Ryan’s industry by introducing technology as the method of communication. Director Jason Reitman quietly brings up the moral questions of such an industry, will Skype make an already soul crushing announcement even less human? And if so, does it justify the cheaper economic cost? For Ryan, a gamophobic, he sees this decision as a direct attack on his laissez-faire state of living, ironically forgetting about the ‘real’ victims who are actually affected by the Global Financial Crisis. Already angry at Natalie for her suggestions, Ryan is tasked with the job of introducing her to the business, giving her first hand experience in this occupation, bridging the few months wait before the technology gets implemented.

This of course, cramps Mr. Bingham’s style, who personifies ‘easy come, easy go’.

On this subtle journey of self discovery, Ryan meets Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga); the modern day film noir love interest and a perfect combination of flirtiness, wit and unreachable allure. A self described ‘road warrior’, Ryan along with the audience is hopelessly charmed by her aura, even against their better judgement. It is with these bumps in the once smooth road, that the story starts.

[INCOMING SPOILERS]

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At the core of Jason Reitman’s film are the themes of relationships and responsibility; two dance partners who endlessly circle around the life of Ryan Bingham. Nothing reflects this like Ryan’s first encounter with Alex at a bar, both sipping on spirits, both waiting for the world to come and embrace them, but too jaded to make the first move. They start off their relationship by comparing credit cards, we as the audience are disgusted by such behaviour, but equally fascinated by their charm. They laugh and banter for a bit before going back to Ryan’s room to have sex. Casual and flirty; a quick transaction between two parties.

“We are two people that get turned on by elite status, I think cheap is our starting point.”

Apart from firing employees, Ryan Bingham also lectures about his isolationist philosophies, his message? “We weigh ourselves down until we can’t even move.” The core motif of this philosophy is Ryan’s travelling bag; light, compact and ruthlessly packed to maximise efficiency. The quick series of cuts showing Ryan checking into the airport at the start of the film, immediate convey his sense of character; professional, calculated and deliberate.

When Ryan’s oldest sister (Kara) calls Ryan to discuss about their young sister’s wedding (Julie), she pleads him to participate in their ‘wedding gift’. This requires him to take a few photos holding a cardboard cut out of the newly engaged couple at iconic scenes around America. Begrudging, and after a lot of resistance, Ryan agrees. From the continuation of the bag motif we can see how disgruntled Ryan is, the cardboard cut out, is a little too wide, a little too longer to fit into the metaphor of his luggage; his indifferent lifestyle of constant movement, constant activity. We start to see and understand how detached Ryan is, an emotionally damaged man, incapable, or even worse, unwilling to maintain any relationship. A man whose definition of success is to reach a mathematical number; ten millions frequent flyer miles. It all makes sense.

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“How much does your life weigh? Imagine for a second that you’re carrying a backpack. I want you to feel the straps on your shoulders. Feel ’em?”

Yet this motif comes to a crescendo when Ryan sheepishly invites Alex as a date to his sister’s wedding. When asked to pin the photos of the cardboard cutouts on a map, he stands there, transfixed. In front of him is a map filled to the brim with photos from all of the couple’s friends and family, it’s so crowded that Ryan struggles to find space. And there lies the irony, this humble homely couple in Milwaukee, unable to afford a honeymoon and with close to no travel experience, has connections all over the nation. In contrast, Ryan can boast about all the exotic places he’s been, all the five star hotels he has stayed and all the casual sex he has engaged in… Yet can’t describe the feeling of friendship, he can’t describe holding someone out of a genuine sense of affection.

Ryan Bingham lived for his resume and not his eulogy.

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Slowly, we can begin to see Ryan’s outlook on life change, his relationships with Alex builds and builds, overwhelming his once mathematical approach to life. Maybe, she wasn’t a burden, maybe love was more than just a transaction between two people. The wedding scene stands out as my favourite in the whole film; it was just relatable, so genuinely human. Reitman switches to a shaky cam and the tinge of vintage red makes the audience feel as if we’re attending the wedding of a close cousin. The following scene, when Ryan comes back to his unglamorous Omaha house contrasts the warmth and happiness he felt when surrounded by his new relationships. There’s no music, there’s no dancing, the world has lost its musky red filter. Only cold white walls, a vacant desk and dusty couch greet him.

During the middle of his ‘backpack’ speech in Las Vegas, a speech which was has been very excited for since the beginning of the film. Ryan stops and stutters, his philosophies have changed and the spark of superiority and sureness which glinted in his eyes previously was gone. He can’t even bring himself to say these words. He steps away from the podium, offers an apology and in an act of complete vulnerability and spontaneity, he catches a flight to Alex’s house to finally speak without his cool air of invincibility, without his sense of complete assurance.

And Ryan gets his heart crushed, Alex is married. With children.

Ryan’s whole life had been predicated upon his isolation and the distancing of himself from people. Now a middle aged man with his youth quickly fading away, Ryan realises the consequences of his actions. He made his bed, now he has to lie in it.

It’s ironic that for a man whose occupation demanded a total sense of aloofness, Ryan now stands as a victim to his own game. He hangs up on Alex after what is assumed to be their final phone call, “You are an escape… You are a break from our normal lives… You are an parenthesis.” Ryan Bingham was always very detached, unfortunately for him, he met the only person in America who was even more detached. Karma? You decide.

Dejected and demoralised, he catches a plane back home, when the announcement is made that he just hit the ten million miles mark. In celebration, the airline chief sits down beside Ryan and starts making small talk, asking him “Where are you from?” to which a disheartened Ryan can only respond with “I’m from here.”

When Ryan gets back to his office, he rings the airline company and tries to transfer his miles over to his sister and her new husband, giving them the chance to experience the honeymoon they deserve. Yet the decision is interrupted by an co-worker knocking at Ryan’s door, and he hangs up the phone. The thought is there, but whether or not he completes the action, the audience will never know.

The film ends with Ryan standing in front of a large destination board, once again called to be a ‘road warrior’. His figure dwarfed by the immensity of the screen. Stunned by the enormity of the task ahead, Ryan lets go on his luggage handle, silently protesting this lifestyle which molded him into a hermit. A man who has lived in many houses, but never a home.

And this is what separates Jason Reitman from the average director, with already a string of witty and clever films under his belt. Reitman refuses to give the audience their candy. A ‘happy ever after’ ending between Ryan and Alex would have been too smooth, too unrealistic, too impractical, and at their core, both were practical people. To have this joyous ending would have absolved Ryan and Alex from their past and ultimately, this was a film about responsibility.

You’ve made your bed, now go lie in it.

Genre: Comedy-Drama
Certificate: R
USA Release Date: 23rd December 2009
Runtime: 149 minutes
Director: Jason Reitman
Writer: Walter Kirn & Jason Reitman
Starring: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga & Anna Kendrick
Synopsis: With a job traveling around the country firing people, Ryan Bingham enjoys his life living out of a suitcase, but finds that lifestyle threatened by the presence of a new hire and a potential love interest.

Protected: Top 25 Most Important Songs Finale

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Hakuna Matata.

What’s the point of life? What’s the final goal, destination or reward. This is a question that has endured since the beginning of time and humanity has long searched for an answer. Here’s where I come in, I mean who doesn’t want to hear an average teenager’s response? (Don’t answer that.)

The average life span of an Australian male is 79.5 years. I am 18, so I have approximately 61.5 years left. I will spend a few years here and there with gaining and education, chop off around 6 years. This society dictates I work and contribute towards Capitalism so slice approximately 40 years off my life. 15.5 years left, age begins to weigh upon me and soon I am a burden to the younger generation and I am quickly whisked off the stage of life. Retirement goes slowly by as the joys of life fades with your health, 15 years flies by and soon you are left with 6 months left. (For your information, I plan to spend the last 6 months of my life in Harlem Prison spitting some heavy Wu-Tang lines to war veterans, stay fresh.)

Let’s examine the regrets of the dying, those who’s brief time on this earth has expired and will fade into non-existence. Let’s see how we can learn from the past and avoid filling their empty shoes on the cycle of life.

1. “I WISH I WOULD HAD THE COURAGE TO LIVE A LIFE TRUE TO MYSELF, NOT THE LIFE OTHERS EXPECT OF ME.”

This was the most common regret of all, too many people altered themselves to fit the expectations of others. Too many times did they compromise themselves to fulfill another’s dream, people are scared of being shunned thus they accept a life of mediocrity instead of pursuing their hopes and goals. When one learns not to seek external validation for their happiness they are avoid being entrapped in a regret.

“Life is a daring adventure or nothing.
– Helen Keller.

2. ” I WISH I DIDN’T WORK SO HARD.”

There was once when I valued money more than happiness. The Asian culture places heavy focus upon wealth, education and having a stable occupation, many of you readers may recoil from this and label that culture as materialistic, backwards or wrong. But isn’t all cultures strange and bizarre to those who stand outside it’s borders? China has long been a poor nation, from the start of the 19th century, it’s been involved with in two wars with Japan, (1894-1895 and 1937-1945.) It’s had opium dumped onto it’s shores by Western nations which destroyed it’s culture and crippled it’s economy. Eight nations have invaded China since the 1900s, Austria-Hungary, France, Italy, England, Russia, Japan, Germany and the United States. So obviously values such as education, wealth and money were important, how else would you feed your family? How else could you provide for your aging parents?

But thankfully, I grew as a person, wealth was important and necessary but money can’t buy love, money can’t buy a smiling household nor happy memories. Finally all the wealth in the world would be pointless when death arrives, as an Ancient Chinese proverb states, “All are equal before death.” I asked myself would I rather be on my death bed surrounded by money or my family and friends? The answer was simple, wealth is necessary but materialism shouldn’t be one’s objective.

3. “I wish I had the courage to express myself.” 

This ties heavily with the number one regret of not limiting or compromising yourself to satisfy others. Being yourself gives you a sense of freedom in life, one does not have to be chained down by lies which served to fill their insecurities, one does not have to halt their opinion because they are afraid of the consequences. When one takes a step back and realise their time on Earth is but a blink of an eye in the scheme of this universe, we begin to understand how foolish it is to act according to society’s unwritten laws.

4. “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.”

Once again notice, the regret isn’t I wish I had another few grand for a Ferrari  or I wish my house had a cinema room. These regrets reflect the true essence of humanity, that us humans thrive when we belong, we thrive on human connection. Technology has allowed us to communicate more and more but at the same time it has reduced human contact, no longer does one have to see a friend to maintain their relationship just Facebook them once in a while and watch as their friendship decays.

“I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.”
– Albert Einstein.

5. “I wish that I had let myself be happier.”

This is what I deem to be the key, happiness melts away all other regrets and worries. You are happy when you live a life true to your own values and beliefs. (Regret 1.) You are happy when you realise consumerism can not substitute joy. (Regret 2.) You are happy when you don’t have to hide behind a mask, when you can stand for what you believe in despite opposition. (Regret 3.) You are happy when your relationships don’t fade but grow stronger as you age. (Regret 4.) Happiness is the single counter to all the regrets.

People’s perceptions and attitudes have a funny way of changing when they embrace their morality. We are a tiny speck in this vast universe so our actions will have little consequences, even the greatest kings and scholars fall before the endless march of time. Thus I have decided that the objective of my life is not to seek fame or fortune, not to have the most exotic wife nor the fastest car. It’s too be happy because 79.5 years later I want to be on my death bed, smiling, knowing that I leave in peace, knowing that I had the courage to talk to that pretty girl down the street, knowing I lived my life with fear of judgement and knowing that I lived everyday with a single phrase in mind “Hakuna Matata.”

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

– Dr Seuss.

Stanley out.