Tuesday, December 29, 2009

It's Up in the Air

Ah, the first snowfall of the season... it's always great when it arrives on Christmas Day on Interstate 70. I do not handle snow driving well, but I was determined to make it home in time to eat turkey and cranberry sauce and open presents with my favorite music geek. And so I braved the highway of snowy death and slid into Columbia just in time for a cozy Christmas weekend. There was much snow appreciation for us, including a long hike in the white stuff Saturday with a crazed pup who jumped into frigid Gans Creek like it was a thermal spring.

On Saturday night we went to see the much-hyped Up in the Air, featuring the I-want-to-hate-him-but-can't George Clooney. Clooney plays a corporate downsizer in perpetual flight—both to his next round of layoffs and from any sort of human attachment—who finds himself crossing flight paths and falling for a fellow frequent flyer (Vera Farmiga). As he works his way toward a mileage milestone, he is forced to tow a snot-nosed newbie (Anna Kendrick) through the American heartland to show her the ropes of sue-proof firing. Then there's his sister's pending marriage and her request that he carry a cardboard cutout of the happy couple-to-be on his travels to snap photos of it in front of the Luxor hotel and noteworthy airport terminals before the wedding.

The film is perfectly aligned with the current state of economic affairs and will strike a chord with most audiences, but it also emphasizes the importance of human connectedness. Cardboard cutouts do not travel by themselves; they need a network of friends to transport them, a realization that comes for Clooney's character at his sister's wedding when he looks at the hundreds of photos her friends have snapped for her around the country.

(Clooney and Anna Kendrick)

I liked the movie: it made me sad, it made me laugh, and it felt real. The soundtrack isn't bad, either. It ain't the best thing since in-flight movies, but it goes with the film and is highly listenable. Further research reveals the following short and sweet tidbits:

  • The movie was directed by Jason Reitman, who also gave us Juno and Thank You for Smoking.
  • The film features a song by The Black Keys, but the soundtrack does not.
  • Charles Atlas is not the bodybuilder but an instrumental/ambient duo from Brooklyn.
  • Kevin Renick, whose title track plays during the closing credits, is a freelance journalist in St. Louis who was himself laid off as an advertising proofreader in 2008, allowing him to pursue a long-standing singing/songwriting dream. He met Reitman at a college lecture and handed him a cassette recording of his song about the recent layoff, titled—surprise!—"Up in the Air." (For the record, the film is actually based on a 2001 novel of the same title by Walter Kirn.)

(Kevin Renick)

Up in the Air soundtrack tracklist:
(I managed to track down one or two of the songs for downloading.)

1. "This Land Is Your Land" by Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings
2. "Security Ballet" by Rolfe Kent
3. "Goin' Home" by Dan Auerbach

Download "Goin' Home" [mp3]
4. "Taken at All" by Crosby, Stills and Nash
5. "Angel in the Snow" by Elliott Smith
6. "Help Yourself" by Sad Brad Smith
Download "Help Yourself" [mp3]
7. "Genova" by Charles Atlas
8. "Lost in Detroit" by Rolfe Kent
9. "Thank You Lord" by Roy Buchanan
10. "Be Yourself [1971 Demo]" by Graham Nash
11. "Snow Before Us" by Charles Atlas
12. "Up in the Air" by Kevin Renick

Definitely go see this movie. It was worth every recession-era penny. You might not be blown away by the soundtrack, but you will tap your feet to it, and besides, Young MC makes an appearance in the first half of the film for a live rendition of "Bust a Move." Classic. You want it, you got it. You want it, baby, you got it...


  1. Estrogen won't let you dislike George Clooney, it's a fact.