Up in the Air is not what you’re expecting. Well, if you’re expecting George Clooney to play George Clooney, then it’s partly what you’re expecting. And while he gets a lot of criticism for playing himself, I think there’s nothing wrong with watching a little pure George Clooney now and again without him being all Syriana-serious. I enjoyed the movie, though not quite as much as the critics who are falling off their movie seats praising the work (it just got a Golden Globe nomination). Up in the Air is a solid slice-of-life film about a guy with an interesting role in the wave of layoffs, with a twist that comes in the form of Vera Farmiga—one of those actresses you never really recognize but fall in love with for her skill. I’m not sure this is a movie I’d want to see if I were laid off, especially around Christmas, but then that would mean a whole lot of people skipping this movie, which seems unlikely when you consider The Clooney Factor.
Now for some recent DVD releases: Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead is intricate, suspenseful, and well acted by Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Albert Finney (Daddy Warbucks!) and Marisa Tomei. The story—a heist gone wrong—unfolds in a back-and-forth sort of way and is a meaty two hours.
Paper Heart is an indefinable hybrid of feature film and documentary. I stay away from books like this (is it fiction or memoir? Decide please) but this was entertaining nonetheless. Charlene Yi and Michael Cera are charming. Whether or not they are Charlene Yi and Michael Cera or characters playing Charlene Yi and Michael Cera, I have no idea, but the idea is clever and the scenes done with paper cutouts are homemade craft genius.
Frontrunners is the more obscure of the bunch. The documentary was released last year and profiles four student candidates running for council office at the prestigious Stuyvesant High School in NYC where the rhetoric is Obamaesque and the drama is reminiscent of Bush vs. Gore. You almost wish you could vote.