In Young Adult, Jason Reitman’s unsentimental portrait of a mean girl who clings to the memory of her high-school glory days – even in her late 30s – Patton Oswalt plays Matt, a misfit permanently scarred (literally and physically) by a run-in with homophobic bullies.
He’s just the sort that Mavis, Charize Theron’s aging beauty, would have ignored back in school, and she’d probably keep ignoring him, if not for her own desperate neediness. Returning to her small-town Minnesota home after a modestly successful stint as a ghost writer in the “Mini Apple,” Mavis finds companionship where she can, leading her time and again back to Matt’s nerdy man-cave.
Anna Kendrick doesn’t expect to win an Oscar for her ferociously perky supporting turn as a corporate terminator in Jason Reitman’s Up in the Air. That, she says, is an honor earmarked for another actress, though she coyly declines to reveal the mystery winner’s identity.
Even if Kendrick, 24, is right, it would take nothing away from her remarkable breakthrough starring opposite George Clooney in Reitman’s meditation on the value of human contact in an age of digital communication. Nor would it diminish the impact of her scene-stealing performance as a vapid, shopping-obsessed teen in one of the year’s biggest blockbusters, New Moon.
If there remains any doubt that Jason Reitman has arrived as one of Hollywood’s most gifted young directors, Up in the Air, his incisive new comedy about a corporate hatchet man who flies the friendly skies from one soul-crushing gig to the next, should put it to rest.
Reitman, 32, was determined early on to follow in the footsteps of his father Ivan, who directed hit ’80s comedies including Stripes and Ghostbusters. He was equally determined not to hitch a ride on dad’s coattails.
So by the time he got to college he’d made a difficult choice.
This has been heralded as the year of the animated movie, and with good reason: Fantastic Mr. Fox, Coraline and Up, among others, proved as engaging for adults as for children, validating a genre unfairly dismissed as kiddie fare by some critics and too many Oscar voters.
To me, 2009 was most memorable for its documentaries. Tyson, Capitalism: A Love Story, The Beaches of Agnes and The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers entertained as well as informed, and all remain worthy candidates for end-of-the-year accolades. Consider them (as well as Spike Jonze's Where the Wild Things Are) runners-up to my list of the year’s best films.
Ryan Bingham is suave and effortlessly self-assured, a masterful manipulator of even the messiest situations. It would be tempting to dismiss him as a soulless corporate mercenary, but there is real human feeling behind his veil of calm. That he can divorce himself from it to excel at his job – he’s a hatchet man, charged with handing out pink slips and preconditioning his victims for unemployment – is his gift and his curse.
After an open weekend highlighted by the regional premieres of Lone Scherfig’s An Education and Katherine Dieckmann’s Motherhood, which helped earn star Uma Thurman a festival award, Mill Valley’s annual celebration of cinema from all corners of the globe continues through next weekend. (Tickets for individual screenings are available, and can be purchased here.) The highlights include:
Diablo Cody is living the Hollywood dream.
If that sounds trite, consider her circumstances. Born Brook Busey, Cody (who adopted her pen name in 2003 after repeatedly listening to "El Diablo" by the pop trio Arcadia while passing through Cody, Wyoming) attended parochial school in Illinois for 12 years before moving on to the University of Iowa. After graduating, she tore through a string of "dismal" jobs - among them, working as a secretary at a Chicago law firm and proofreading advertising copy for Minneapolis-area radio stations - until, on a whim, she took up stripping, often billing herself as Bonbon or Roxanne.