By George Rose
January 19, 2010
(500) Days of Summer (2009)
It's nice when winter holiday movies perform like unstoppable summer blockbusters. In 2008, the biggest holiday movie was Marley and Me with just under $150 million. It was a nice, quiet winter that year, with the focus of time spent on family instead of ticket lines and popcorn refills. In 2009, both Sherlock Holmes and Alvin 2's Pesky Squeakquel made more than that. As you may have heard, there was also Avatar, which pretty much made as more money as every movie released over winter 2008 combined. That's the joy of the box office, its inconsistent and unpredictable nature. It's also fun to be an analyst when small independent movies break into the mainstream and become major successes in their own right. One such 2009 release was (500) Days of Summer.
While the unpredictable nature of the box office is what gives me something to talk about, it's not always what I WANT to talk about. What I want to talk about is good things happening to good people, which is why I hate talking about the amazing success of douche bag James Cameron's Avatar. (500) Days of Summer gives me that ability, so here is what I have to say: Zooey Deschanel is a goddess. Reviews for this anti-love story were glowing from the second it was released, all the way up until it left theaters many, many weeks later. Some movies are built on the back of stellar buzz and this was one of them. Stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Deschanel play two coworkers that fall in and out of love over the course of 500 days. It is not told in sequential order, which makes it all the more gripping. The writing and story are wonderful, and the story is told and paced very well. At the center of all this perfection is Deschanel, the queen of indie cinema and a ray of light in any release she appears in. She's the only reason to see Elf, The Happening or Yes Man, and though (500) Days of Summer stands high on its own two feet, it's all the better because of her presence.
Up in the Air (2009)
This isn't one of the best movies I've seen in the last few weeks. This isn't the best movie of the holiday season. This, my friends, is the best movie of the year. For the last few months, the only Oscar hopeful to really get on my radar was Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones. Why? Because he's Peter-freaking-Jackson. Precious came out and everyone started saying that was going to be best movie of the year, but I knew deep down it would still be The Lovely Bones. Then Avatar came out and everyone changed their mind, saying that Avatar was now the best picture of the year. Still, I knew to wait for The Lovely Bones. In the midst of my waiting, I kept hearing about this small movie called Up in the Air. Then I went to see the movie. Then I stopped waiting around for The Lovely Bones.
Early buzz on the Peter Jackson film has not been kind, unlike that of Up in the Air, which has been garnering stellar reviews since its debut. George Clooney is always reliable as a lead, even if the movie around him isn't that good. That wasn't much of a risk this time around, as Up in the Air is directed by Jason Reitman, of Thank You For Smoking and Juno fame. Throw in Vera Farmiga, who proved her acting chops in The Departed, and you have yourself certifiable Oscar bait. But this movie isn't just talking the talk; a movie can have the parts but still not come together as well as expected. After Clooney's Men Who Stare At Goats, I expected this film to follow the same footsteps and become an underperformer, despite an amazing cast and promising storyline. Then I saw the movie and discovered what makes it stand out above the rest of the over-hyped movies that tend to win awards: Anna Kendrick. I knew Clooney's acting would be good, because he's Clooney. I knew the directing would be good, because of Reitman. But since Kendrick has only been seen in the Twilight series, it seemed smart to assume she'd be a bumbling ditz lost in a sea of talent. Boy, was I wrong. She's a stunning beauty with immense talent, and the real crime is that she didn't land a bigger part in Twilight. She deserves so much more than to sit in the background of a teen romance, and I am so thankful she was given the chance to shine in Up in the Air. While it wouldn't surprise me at this point if Avatar took home best picture, my vote is entirely behind Up in the Air, and Anna Kendrick as Best Supporting Actress.