Up in the Air (d. Jason Reitman) - Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner's adaptation of Walter Kirn's novel picked up a huge amount of critical support when it first began playing festivals, but by the end of last year it had come to seem almost forgotten. And I think I can see why. Up in the Air is -- and I have no question about this -- a good movie, with a strong, and unavoidable, dark soul beneath the romantic comedy trappings. The acting is very solid, and George Clooney, even though he occasionally reverts to his comfort zone (which, honestly, is sort of what the whole film is), brings a sharp and genuine sadness to his role as Ryan Bingham, a man whose job -- which is to fire people -- demands that he spend almost his entire life on planes or in airports. Which is, finally, the problem, I believe. Up in the Air is so current, with several references to our country's "climate" of corporate lay-offs, that it's in danger of feeling, a number of years down the line, like a relic. I don't mean to sound overly optimistic -- I'm not, actually -- but instead want to remind everyone that films that manage to successfully capture a time in history often don't do it quite so directly. But boy, that sure sounds like nit-picking, and complaining just to complain, because I did quite enjoy the film, appreciating especially, as I often do, the small touches, such as brief moment between Bingham's two sisters (Amy Morton and Melanie Lynskey), one about to be married, after Bingham is told that he's too late in his offer to walk her down the aisle.
Dorothy Mills (d. Agnès Merlet) - It is my belief that if you're going to make a horror film that goes out of its way to remind its audience of earlier genre masterpieces, you had better have something of your own tucked away that will make your film seem something other than a pale waste in comparison. In Dorothy Mills, the masterpieces being foregrounded are The Exorcist and, to a lesser extent, Hardy and Shaffer's The Wicker Man, films of such stature that I was really rooting for co-writer-director Merlet to unleash something really strange and original. But she doesn't. In this story of a psychiatrist (Carice van Houten, who is very good) who travels to a secluded Irish village to discover why young Dorothy Mills (Jenn Murray) abused a child she was babysitting, most of what we're given to react to is just an abbreviated rehash of what happened in those earlier films, and what is original to Dorothy Mills is, frankly, a little dull. But after the Satanic voice of Mercedes McCambridge spews the vilest of obscenities from young Linda Blair's mouth, hearing the thick country Irish voice of a teenage boy saying "Fuck you" and "Bitch", issuing from a surly teenage girl's mouth, I couldn't help thinking that something more was required from Merlet. I suppose I should be grateful that she didn't decide to try and one-up Friedkin and Blatty in the blasphemy department, and I am, but as the film progressed from The Exorcist to settle into its own story, all I could think of was the great heights of cinematic horror achieved by The Exorcist, and how rapidly I was now descending.
2012 (d. Roland Emmerich) - For a film that belongs to a genre that is traditionally perceived to be trashy to be called a "classic of its type", I believe it needs to be well-written. I believe the dialogue should live, and be as effective and as memorable in its own right as whatever more obvious spectacle is being offered up. Here is, in all honesty, what I consider to be the most memorable line of dialogue from 2012: "We have to get on the other side of the freeway!" So that's not good, and I doubt if decades from now 2012 will be considered a classic of its type, although who knows. Off-hand, I can't remember any dialogue from The Towering Inferno, and frankly this whole set of criteria I've set up for this gleefully low-brow genre is starting to sound pretty bone-headed, even to me. Even though, in theory, calling 2012 the "best Roland Emmerich film I've ever seen" is to write a series of words that together mean less than nothing, when I say it in fact, as I shall now do by inference, I actually mean that I did kinda have a good time with this. The all-star cast looks frequently embarrassed (except for John Cusack), and everything about the story is just plumb stupid, but the mayhem is extreme, various, regular and photogenic. If I thought that by spending four dollars to rent the new film by the guy behind Independence Day, I somehow deserved something more than that, then I'd be a fool.