More Great Clooney? No.

Perhaps long-time readers will remember that George Clooney’s “Up in the Air” rocked my world. It rocked me like I haven’t been rocked since Daniel Day Lewis managed to make Tomas a million times better than anything Milan Kundera ever invented–in the movie version of “The Unbearable Lightness of Being.”

Then Clooney decided to go after the solitary-monk-with-bad-habits thing again last year. So I was pretty siked when “The American” DVD showed up at the local library.

Ever read Anna Karenina?
Two instants in the movie thrilled me:

1. The sound of the reports of a custom-built rifle cut the movie’s cloudy silence like music.

2. When it seemed for a second that the mystery of Clooney’s character’s identity and destiny might be revealed in a clever, intelligently plotted manner, I thought, ‘My gosh, Hitchcock has come back from the dead!’

But I hoped for too much. When all was said and done, I stared at the screen. “Seriously?” You’re not allowed to make movies that don’t make sense.

Then it occurred to me. A specific problem has ruined the movies: No one has retained the skill of film editing.

A film editor must hold himself utterly aloof from the production process. When the time comes to cut the endless reels into the shortest-possible feature, the editor must understand the future audience’s total ignorance of the whole business. The audience should not be required to have read beforehand about “what the director is trying to do.” The film editor bears the burden of relating to the ignorant masses.

Regrettably, no one bothers to shoulder this burden anymore. My theory: The problem arises from the fissiparation of movie watching as a coherent activity. Editors do not detain themselves with the art of producing a single movie that makes sense. After all, the market devours DVDs containing deleted scenes, “director’s cuts,” and “extended editions.” Sitting and watching the movie through once, just as it is—like we used to do in theaters—this act no longer provides the editing norm.

…By the by: Long-time readers may also recall our euphoria when Ernest Shackleton’s long-lost cases of whiskey were found encased in ice. The Scottish-distillery descendant of the original maker has now come out with a reproduction of the Antarctic bottles.

Whiskey Rocks, Clooney Rocks

The adventure of Ernest Shackleton and his men was already one of the most wonderful events in history. There is a little movie about it, which is an utter delight.

Now the whole thing has gotten even more amazing. They have discovered two cases of whiskey that Shackleton and his crew accidentally left behind in Antarctica.

The 100-year-old bottles are encased in ice. They are going to cut them free. Someone, I pray, will sample the whiskey. Too awesome.

…George Clooney’s “Up in the Air” is not to be recommended for most audiences. On the other hand, it is one of the most heart-breaking movies I have ever seen.

“Make no mistake. We all die alone,” Ryan Bingham says. He is a monk of a frequent flier. (A lot of the time.)

In the end, he gets crushed. Then he strides on.

I didn’t think they knew how to make movies end this exquisitely. (Then again, “Juno” ended pretty well, too. Same director.)

“Up in the Air” also opens with an unbelievably fun song.

…Either there is a heaven up there, above the jet-trails, or, as Bingham puts it, “there is no point.”

“Tonight…most people will sleep. The stars will wheel forth from their daytime hiding places, crowning their neighborhood with lights…” So goes Bingham’s closing elegy on solitude.

In fact, there IS a heaven up there, where the angels make the stars wheel.

The way there is: to follow the solitary man who was crushed for our offenses and rose again from the dead.