DID YOU READ

George Clooney does the airport stare.

George Clooney does the airport stare. (photo)

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If you weren’t already aware of how our recent economic state has made the source material for Jason Reitman’s new film “Up in the Air” extra-extra-melancholy, the teaser trailer, released earlier today, makes it perfectly clear. You don’t even need to listen to George Clooney’s corporate keynote-cum-voiceover about literal and metaphorical baggage — simply note the incredible amount of airport staring that’s going on.

It’s hard to say when the airport stare became American indie and pseudo-indie film’s favorite visual shorthand reminder of the modern empty coldness of our cold, empty modern lives. But it’s become inescapable — a character turns his (or her, but mostly his) dead gaze away from the camera, allowing us to reflect on how one can be lonely in a crowd, on how isolating our modern institutions are, on how epiphany may or may not be waiting around the corner, on how artfully sterile this shot composition is, on how we should really download this soundtrack song when we get home. It’s amazing anyone can manage to get to their flight on time, with so many people moodily drooping their way along conveyor belts, up escalators and in front of windows. A small selection:

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[Photos: “Up in the Air,” Paramount, 2009; “Away We Go,” Focus, 2009; “Last Chance Harvey,” Overture, 2008; “Elizabethtown,” Paramount, 2005; “Everything is Illuminated,” Warner Independent, 2005; “Garden State,” Fox Searchlight, 2004; “Fight Club,” Twentieth Century Fox, 1999]

Underworld

Under Your Spell

10 Otherworldly Romances That’ll Melt Your Heart

Spend Valentine's Day weekend with IFC's Underworld movie marathon.

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Photo Credit: Screen Gems/courtesy Everett Collection

Romance takes many forms, and that is especially true when you have a thirst for blood or laser beams coming out of your eyes.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a werewolf, a superhero, a clone, a time-traveler, or a vampire, love is the one thing that infects us all.  Read on to find out why Romeo and Juliet have nothing on these supernatural star-crossed lovers, and be sure to catch IFC’s Underworld movie marathon this Valentine’s Day weekend.

1. Cyclops/Jean Grey/Wolverine, X-Men series

The X-Men franchise is rife with romance, but the steamiest “ménage à mutant” may just be the one between Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), Cyclops (James Marsden), and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman). Their triangle is a complicated one as Jean finds herself torn between the two very different men while also trying to control her darker side, the Phoenix. This leads to Jean killing Cyclops and eventually getting stabbed through her heart by Wolverine in X-Men: The Last Stand. Yikes!  Maybe they should change the name to Ex-Men instead?


2. Willow/Tara, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Joss Whedon gave audiences some great romances on Buffy the Vampire Slayer — including the central triangle of Buffy, Angel, and Spike — but it was the love between witches Willow (Alyson Hannigan) and Tara (Amber Benson) that broke new ground for its sensitive and nuanced portrayal of a LGBT relationship.

Willow is smart and confident and isn’t even sure of her sexuality when she first meets Tara at college in a Wiccan campus group. As the two begin experimenting with spells, they realize they’re also falling for one another and become the show’s most enduring, happy couple. At least until Tara’s death in season six, a moment that still brings on the feels.


3. Selene/Michael, Underworld series

The Twilight gang pales in comparison (both literally and metaphorically) to the Lycans and Vampires of the stylish Underworld franchise. If you’re looking for an epic vampire/werewolf romance set amidst an epic vampire/werewolf war, Underworld handily delivers in the form of leather catsuited Selene (Kate Beckinsale) and shaggy blonde hunk Michael (a post-Felicity Scott Speedman). As they work together to stop the Vampire/Lycan war, they give into their passions while also kicking butt in skintight leather. Love at first bite indeed.


4. Spider-man/Mary Jane Watson, Spider-man

After rushing to the aid of beautiful girl-next-door Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), the Amazing Spider-man is rewarded with an upside-down kiss that is still one of the most romantic moments in comic book movie history. For Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), the shy, lovable dork beneath the mask, his rain-soaked makeout session is the culmination of years of unrequited love and one very powerful spider bite. As the films progress, Peter tries pushing MJ away in an attempt to protect her from his enemies, but their web of love is just too powerful. And you know, with great power, comes great responsibility.


5. Molly/Sam, Ghost

When it comes to supernatural romance, you really can’t beat Molly and Sam from the 1990 hit film Ghost. Demi Moore goes crazy for Swayze like the rest of us, and the pair make pottery sexier than it’s ever been.

When Sam is murdered, he’s forced to communicate through con artist turned real psychic, Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg in her Academy Award-winning role) to warn Molly she is still in danger from his co-worker, Carl (a pre-Scandal Tony Goldwyn). Molly doesn’t believe Oda is telling the truth, so Sam proves it by sliding a penny up the wall and then possessing Oda so he and Molly can share one last romantic dance together (but not the dirty kind). We’d pay a penny for a dance with Patrick Swayze ANY day.


6. Cosima/Delphine, Orphan Black

It stands to reason there would be at least one complicated romance on a show about clones, and none more complicated than the one between clone Cosima (Tatiana Maslany) and Dr. Delphine Cormier (Evelyne Brochu) on BBC America’s hit drama Orphan Black.

Cosima is a PhD student focusing on evolutionary developmental biology at the University of Minnesota when she meets Delphine, a research associate from the nefarious Dyad Institute, posing as a fellow immunology student. The two fall in love, but their happiness is brief once Dyad and the other members of Clone Club get involved. Here’s hoping Cosima finds love in season four of Orphan Black. Girlfriend could use a break.


7. Aragorn/Arwen, Lord of the Rings

On a picturesque bridge in Rivendell amidst some stellar mood-lighting and dreamy Elvish language with English subtitles for us non-Middle Earthlings, Arwen (Liv Tyler) and Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) bind their souls to one another, pledging to love each other no matter what befalls them.

Their courtship is a matter of contention with Arwen’s father, Elrond (Hugo Weaving), who doesn’t wish to see his daughter suffer over Aragorn’s future death. The two marry after the conclusion of the War of the Ring, with Aragorn assuming his throne as King of Gondor, and Arwen forgoing her immortality to become his Queen. Is it too much to assume they asked Frodo to be their wedding ring-bearer?


8. Lafayette/Jesus, True Blood

True Blood quickly became the go-to show for supernatural sex scenes featuring future Magic Mike strippers (Joe Manganiello) and pale Nordic men with washboard abs (Hi Alexander Skarsgård!), but honestly, there was a little something for everyone, including fan favorite Bon Temps medium, Lafayette Reynolds (Nelsan Ellis).

In season three, Lafayette met his mother’s nurse, Jesus, and the two began a relationship. As they spend more time together and start doing V (short for Vampire Blood), they learn Jesus is descended from a long line of witches and that Lafayette himself has magical abilities. However, supernatural love is anything but simple, and after the pair join a coven, Lafayette becomes possessed by the dead spirit of its former leader. This relationship certainly puts a whole new spin on possessive love.


9. Nymphadora Tonks/Remus Lupin, Harry Potter series

There are lots of sad characters in the Harry Potter series, but Remus Lupin ranks among the saddest. He was bitten by a werewolf as a child, his best friend was murdered and his other best friend was wrongly imprisoned in Azkaban for it, then THAT best friend was killed by a Death Eater at the Ministry of Magic as Remus looked on. So when Lupin unexpectedly found himself in love with badass Auror and Metamorphmagus Nymphadora Tonks (she prefers to be called by her surname ONLY, thank you very much), pretty much everyone, including Lupin himself, was both elated and cautiously hopeful about their romance and eventual marriage.

Sadly, the pair met a tragic ending when both were killed by Death Eaters during the Battle of Hogwarts, leaving their son, Teddy, orphaned much like his godfather Harry Potter. Accio hankies!


10. The Doctor/Rose Tyler, Doctor Who

Speaking of wolves, Rose “Bad Wolf” Tyler (Billie Piper) captured the Doctor’s hearts from the moment he told her to “Run!” in the very first episode of the re-booted Doctor Who series. Their affection for one another grew steadily deeper during their travels in the TARDIS, whether they were stuck in 1950s London, facing down pure evil in the Satan Pit, or battling Cybermen.

But their relationship took a tragic turn during the season two finale episode, “Doomsday,” when the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) and Rose found themselves separated in parallel universes with no way of being reunited (lest two universes collapse as a result of a paradox). A sobbing Rose told a holographic transmission of the Doctor she loved him, but before he could reply, the transmission cut out, leaving our beloved Time Lord (and most of the audience) with a tear-stained face and two broken hearts all alone in the TARDIS.

Spike Jonze, Jason Reitman and the fearsome third.

Spike Jonze, Jason Reitman and the fearsome third. (photo)

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There’s two good profiles published in the last few days about polar opposite Great White Hopes of Hollywood film. The New York Times profiles Spike Jonze in anticipation of his adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s “Where The Wild Things Are”; Anthony Breznican tackles Jason Reitman for USA Today in advance of “Up In The Air”‘s premiere in Toronto. As befits the man, the Reitman profile is competent and occasionally absorbing, but basically pedestrian; Saki Knafo’s take on Jonze is a great piece — if you think Jonze is a major American auteur, it’ll be the major piece to refer to in the years until someone writes a full biography (Sharon Waxman’s “Rebels on the Backlot” devoted a few chapters to the former Adam Spiegel); if he turns out to be a flash in the pan, this’ll be the peak of his career. Both profiles arrive on the eve of potentially make-or-break third films for each.

Jonze is only eight years older than Reitman, but there’s an era separating them. Jonze was part of the late ’90s group of directors that was supposed to invade Hollywood and change it, ’70s style. This didn’t precisely come true: Wes Anderson’s set up a niche for himself, P.T. Anderson works sporadically, Alexander Payne ditched the satire he was best at for soggy humanism. Knafo’s story paints Jonze as this idiot savant capable of dazzling technical wizardly because of his man-child existence; it’s a beguiling portrait, if a little condescending. Besides putting a fine point on Jonze being the guy who gave the world easily graspable versions of Charlie Kaufman scripts, Knafo treats Jonze with the same level of fascinating incomprehension most people lavish on David Lynch.

Though Reitman has cited all those ’90s directors as influences, the profile on the “Thank You for Smoking” director is a good deal more straightforward: he is extravagantly praised for working perfectly within the mid-budget “indie” genre, he explains the personal resonance “Up In The Air” has for him, and that’s that. He comes off as a much more stable choice of director than Jonze, whose problems with getting “Where The Wild Things Are” made are well-chronicled by Knafo: Jonze almost got fired, and no one will talk precisely about what made Warner Bros’ finally take an $80 million gamble on a movie that the author compares to Cassavetes and predicts might alienate audiences wildly.

However, whatever the result, Jonze is poised to be a full-blown auteur after this, finally making it clear what he himself stands for — something, I’m guessing, considerably more optimistic and less arch than his collaborations with Kaufman suggest. Kaufman gave him structure; on his own, precisely what does he care about besides skateboarding and technical challenges? Like Lynch, can Jonze deliver surrealism and deep emotions via naivete? We’ll see.

[Photo: “Where the Wild Things Are,” Warner Bros., 2009]

“Up In The Air” could be this decade’s “Fight Club.”

“Up In The Air” could be this decade’s “Fight Club.” (photo)

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Stills from “Up in the Air,” the new film from Jason “Juno” Reitman, have been gathered over at the Playlist, and while I’m not usually into the tea-leaf reading that occurs when an anticipated upcoming movie releases things like this, I’ll take any excuse to write about an adaptation I’ve been anticipating for almost a decade — one whose meaning has almost completely shifted.

Walter Kirn’s novel “Up in the Air” dropped in the summer of 2001, a more innocent age, to high sales and acclaim. It follows Ryan Bingham, “career transition counselor” (he fires people) and air-travel veteran, who waxes poetic about every aspect of his nomadic existence, the overwhelming sameness of hotel rooms, the miles and the artificial normality of travel. Kirn’s great zeitgeist contribution was the term “AirWorld,” denoting the sheer interchangeability of layouts no matter where you are in the airport system (a term promptly jacked by journalists reporting from extended sojourns inside). Bingham loves it, at least until he wonders if the system is trying to kill him; up to that point, he’s a lot like “Fight Club”‘s unnamed narrator, going on about “single-serving friends” but never wanting to leave.

But times, they have changed. In a (currently) print-only part of Entertainment Weekly‘s fall preview that the Playlist quotes, Reitman notes that between he started writing the scenes of Bingham’s job and filming them, any potential for playing the scenes for laugh faded. “I realized that wasn’t funny anymore,” Reitman explained, “and the film took on more dramatic tones.”

In Daniel Bell’s 1976 book “The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism,” the author tries to explain how the world’s most successful capitalist society produced so many dirty ’60s hippies. It’s the result, he claims, of too much success allowing for too much time for doubt in that success — it “undercut the beliefs and legitimations that sanctioned work and reward in American society.” In other words, Tyler Durden isn’t mindless capitalism’s casualty; he’s its logical end product. Too much success breeds too many people wondering how they got there, and if they deserve it.

Kirn’s Ryan Bingham was meant to be taken the same way — he only became self-aware after he was financially successful enough to have the luxury to think about why he was who he was. But whatever “Up in the Air” the movie turns out to be (and considering Reitman doesn’t have the directorial chops of David Fincher), it can’t possibly be a straight adaptation without seeming deliberately inappropriate; it’ll be a flashback to ten years ago, when success meant — at least for authors — automatic self-questioning. Today’s harried work-force can’t afford to beat itself up over being part of the beast.

If the characters in “Fight Club” could afford to fantasize about destroying banks/credit forever — and seem semi-understandable for doing so — a novel that’s aged only eight years will have to translate itself radically to explain why a corporate head-cutter has the time to question himself rather than simply hanging on, desperately, to his own job. (Reitman should just cut his losses and put a “2001” title card at the beginning, honestly.) But that could be great — “Up In The Air” could transform itself from a satire on business travel to a eulogy for the same, a meditation on what it means to hang on to the most despicable of jobs in desperate times while remembering how low-stakes it used to be.

Or it could just be another quirky dramedy. We shall see.

[Photo: George Clooney in “Up in the Air,” DreamWorks Pictures, 2009]

Scorsese’s Sinatra biopic – who’s it gonna be?

Scorsese’s Sinatra biopic – who’s it gonna be? (photo)

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I’ve got high hopes that someone will have an intervention with Martin Scorsese regarding his Leonardo DiCaprio addiction in time for the casting of this biopic, titled simply, “Sinatra.” Scorsese is the right director to helm such a picture, his love and deft handling of cool/macho packs of guys is half the battle. Once upon a time he was a soundtrack genius too – I think “Mean Streets” alone holds two spots in my top ten uses of a song in film list (something I should start to chip away at). But it’s his choice of lead that worries me, more on that in a sec…

There’s some hubbub over a disagreement between the director’s vision and Sinatra’s daughter, Tina’s, ideas about how the Chairman of the Board should be depicted. Of course Scorsese wants a violent, sexed up mob related picture. The daughter reportedly prefers a softer approach that focuses on the music. Clearly, she should be removed from the decision making process, but we can’t blame her either.

All the controversy reports seem to stem from the NY Post, so factoring in a large hyperbole value may be in order. An “insider” was quoted adding: “The 60s were a very swinging time for Frank – he was having sex with a garden variety of bimbos and cementing his Rat Pack status. It’s a really key time to his mythology. And Tina really wants to make sure that a sanitized Frank comes through, and that it’s not overly negative.” [Guardian]

The other rumored potential conflict is the choice of lead. Tina allegedly prefers George Clooney, the studio is going for Johnny Depp, and guess who Scorsese favors, just guess! Always liked DiCaprio, but Scorsese needs to put on Frank’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” and do some soul searching right about now.

Depp could really be mind blowing, but has he lost some of his magic after all this Bruckheimer (aka butt) pirating? Clooney almost seems the natural choice, and shouldn’t be too old for 1960’s Frank.

Ray Liotta?

Fall Preview: Ten Breakout Stars… and the Indies You Can See Them In Now

Fall Preview: Ten Breakout Stars… and the Indies You Can See Them In Now (photo)

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Tons of movies come out every week (as our Fall Film Preview duly demonstrates), and it can be hard keeping up with them all. No one wants to be caught flat-footed or empty-headed when a movie blasts onto the pop cultural landscape and its young star becomes the next big thing. To avert said potential conversational disaster, here’s our picks for the ten most likely candidates to be the breakout stars of the fall, along with an older film for each to check out right now. This way, you’ll be ready when that all-important question strikes: “What have I seen him [or her] in before?”

More Fall Preview: [Theatrical Calendar]
[Repertory Calendar]
[Anywhere But a Movie Theater]

Tom Hardy, “Bronson”

How good is British actor Tom Hardy in “Bronson?” So good, according to the London Times, that the car company Audi “keen to spot a promotional opportunity, has started giving Hardy free cars.” In our book, that’s pretty damn good — just below Oscar good and at least two or three notches better than Golden Globes good. You can Watch Him Now in Guy Ritchie’s “RocknRolla,” where he played a gay grifter with the hots for Gerard Butler, but even though he’s playing another underworld gangster type, don’t be surprised if you don’t recognize him: Hardy packed on 42 pounds of muscle to approximate the legendarily violent criminal’s pumped-up physique, one that according to Bronson’s work-out tell-all “Solitary Fitness” can “punch a hole… through bullet-proof glass” and “bend solid steel doors.” Lord only knows what he could do to an Audi.

08042009_AnEducation.jpgCarey Mulligan, “An Education”

Pre-Sundance stories about “An Education” primarily focused on the fact that the film is based on author Nick Hornby’s first original screenplay. Once critics saw the film, things changed; instead, you can expect plenty of stories about the film’s lovely young star, Carey Mulligan, who David Poland already dubbed “this fall’s Movie Buzz Girl” on his blog earlier this month. Poland rarely agrees with his competitor Jeffrey Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere, but they agree about Mulligan; at Sundance, Wells raved “I know that special old-soul-mixed-with-youthful-effervescence quality that you see in very few actors and actresses over the years, and trust me, Mulligan has it.” Watch Her Now as Kitty Bennet in the charmingly rustic 2005 version of Jane Austen’s “Pride & Prejudice,” also starring Keira Knightley and Donald Sutherland.

08042009_NinjaAssassin.jpgRain, “Ninja Assassin”

On K-pop star Rain’s Wikipedia page, the title of “actor” is buried deep within his résumé, flanked by other credits like “model” and “CEO.” That may change once the Wachowski brothers are done with him. After impressing them with his stuntwork in “Speed Racer,” the Wachowskis (along with frequently collaborator James McTeigue) decided to cast Rain as the lead in this full-on chopsocky movie, “Ninja Assassin.” In addition to his test drive in “Speed Racer,” you can Watch Him Now in “Thirst” director Park Chan-wook’s previous film “I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK,” where The Man Formerly Known as Jeong Ji-hoon played a kleptomaniac who falls in love with a woman who believes she is, yes, a cyborg. I’d also recommend you do a quick search of the Interwebs for the highlights of Rain’s pseudo-feud with Stephen Colbert, which culminated in a hilariously tongue-in-cheek dance-off on Colbert’s show. Something tells me “Ninja Assassin” does not end with Rain smiting his enemies with exuberant dance moves, but that’s OK.

08042009_BrightStar.jpgAbbie Cornish, “Bright Star”

American audiences who go to see Jane Campion’s first feature in six years may not recognize the graceful young woman who plays the role of Fanny Brawne, the muse to poet John Keats and the love of his life. But in her native Australia, Abbie Cornish is already an award-winning star. Her performance in 2004’s “Somersault,” as a confused, curious teenager who runs away from home, garnered her both the Australian Film Institute and the Film Critics Circle of Australia Awards for Best Actress. For an early glimpse at her talents you can Watch Her Now in “Somersault” — right now, in fact, if you’ve got Netflix Instant. And while you’re at it, take a look at her male co-star. If you’re not too distracted by his borderline mullet (we’re being nice; there’s nothing borderline about it), you’ll recognize him as –

08042009_Somersault.jpgSam Worthington, “Avatar”

– he, too, received an Australian Film Institute award for his work in “Somersault,” where he played Joe, one of the men Cornish’s character meets in a bar during her flight from her angry mother. True, he’s got that dodgy hair, but even in “Somersault,” Worthington’s already got a knack for quietly charismatic brooding, something that surely helped him land the lead in James Cameron’s upcoming mega-blockbuster “Avatar” as well as the key supporting performance in this summer’s “Terminator Salvation.” If an Australian coming-of-age movie seems like an inappropriately thoughtful prerequisite for a 3D-CGI-SFXtravaganza you can also Watch Him Now doing battle with a giant crocodile in 2007’s “Rogue,” Aussie writer/director Greg McLean’s follow-up to “Wolf Creek.”

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