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Movies of the Month > Up in the Air

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message 1: by Elaine (new)

Elaine (httpgoodreadscomelaine_chaika) | 241 comments I hated this as I watched it. In fact, the only reason I didn't change the disc was that I was so comfortable ensconced under my down comforter, I didn't feel like getting up. After it was over, however, it hit me.

The movie is about the most vacuous, shallow, essentially uninteresting person imaginable, a man who spends 270 days a year on airplanes, going to corporations, and delivering the same spiel wherever he goes. His speeches are canned and so is his life. His studio apartment is bare. Bare white walls, no pictures, no books, nothing to play music on, no magazines or newspapers, a total cipher like him.

He scorns all emotional involvements, claiming he has never felt drawn to anyone. His only ambition is to earn 10,000,000 frequent flier miles. Woop de do! And so this goes until he finally has a revelation, and at that point, the movie ends. And, at that point, I had gone from being annoyed by the movie and mildly angry at the hype it got, to feeling sad.

The revelation was, and this was not a revelation to me, that his life was empty. This is at least the third movie I've seen recently which has had as its theme the importance of family, friends, and a person with whom to share one's life. After years of movies ridiculing family and declaring long term marriage outdated, often portraying people as if they sprung from Zeus's forehead, it seems that Hollywood has discovered the loneliness and emptiness of a life without commitments. It will be interesting to see how far this will go, or if this movie and Away We Go and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past are flukes.


message 2: by Tom (new)

Tom | 5419 comments So which movies have you seen that ridicule family and declare long term marriage outdated?


message 3: by Elaine (new)

Elaine (httpgoodreadscomelaine_chaika) | 241 comments Which ones don't? U can start with The Royal Tennenbaums, which I love....


message 4: by Tom (new)

Tom | 5419 comments Elaine wrote: "Which ones don't? U can start with The Royal Tennenbaums, which I love...."

I asked you first. So how does ROYAL TENENBAUMS ridicule family and declare long term marriage outdated?


message 5: by Elaine (last edited Mar 15, 2010 02:59PM) (new)

Elaine (httpgoodreadscomelaine_chaika) | 241 comments If you've seen it, you'd know. That is what it's about. If you disagree with my comment, then give reasons for so doing. If not, asking me to explain the obvious (to me) is hardly a discussion. I just remarked that I'm coming across movies about the importance of commitment and family and am wondering if it is a trend starting. Your responses are almost hostile. I don't know why. We don't know each other. If you disagree with me, that is fine, but give your reasons for disagreement.


message 6: by Tom (last edited Mar 12, 2010 11:23AM) (new)

Tom | 5419 comments I didn't disagree with your comment. I just asked how THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS ridicules family and declares long term marriage outdated. Can you describe for those of us who haven't seen the film how THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS ridicules family and declares long term marriage outdated?


message 7: by Steve (new)

Steve | 957 comments Well, FWIW, I'd love to see this topic expounded upon. I haven't seen TENENBAUMS, but Wes Anderson has always struck me as interested in exploring (dysfunctional, either slightly or extremely) family bonds rather than actually ridiculing family.


message 8: by Phillip (last edited Mar 12, 2010 11:59AM) (new)

Phillip | 10707 comments if anderson ridicules family in tennenbaums, he also allows them a healing in the end. in RT i tend to think he is commenting on a certain generation (growing up in the 70's when divorce was sweeping the nation as never before)...and how we must try to heal those old wounds.

like steve-o, i tend to think all of his films deal with this topic...with possible the exception of steve sissou (sp?) and the life aquatic, which i didn't get at all. but tannenbaums, rushmore, fantastic fox and the darjeeling limited? yep...families seeking resolutions for broken bonds.


message 9: by Steve (new)

Steve | 957 comments BOTTLE ROCKET, especially, Phillip.

Elaine, when you have time, can you post a few other films that you think cover this "ridiculing family/long-term marriage" theme? I think it'd make for an interesting discussion, esp. given the political/social/cultural moment the U.S. is experiencing these days.


message 10: by Phillip (new)

Phillip | 10707 comments i haven't seen bottle rocket, steve-o...should i check it out?


message 11: by Steve (new)

Steve | 957 comments Actually, never mind, I was thinking that the two mains in BR were brothers, when they are actually friends. At any rate, yeah, if you like other Wes Anderson movies, then it's worth a look.


message 12: by Elaine (new)

Elaine (httpgoodreadscomelaine_chaika) | 241 comments In Wes Anderson movies, families aren't healed,unless I'm forgetting something. Divorced parents remain divorced but siblings do try to connect. His movies, I always thought, show how children want a nuclear family. But aside from romantic comedies, how many movies hold out the prospect of long term committed marriages? How many show children who get along with their parents? The usual situation is that the parents, usually the mother, are people who interfere or are silly... Starting with Goodby Columbus, I've noticed how frequently weddings and family gettogethers are mocked, or the locus of dissent among family members, etc. As I said, the thing to try to find are post-1960's movies which are family-centric. Second Hand Lions might be one, although, again, it's about healing -- and it is about the regrets of someone's dying. (Remember the family in Clockwork Orange?)


message 13: by Steve (new)

Steve | 957 comments Without consulting lists of films...IN AMERICA comes to mind. A very nice picture about an Irish immigrant family coping with the death of a young son/brother and adapting to their new lives in New York City.

And this isn't a film, but the show MODERN FAMILY is very pro-family in its quirky way.

I'm thinking over Wes Anderson films now re: ridiculing family. (Sorry for latching onto that word, but it's where we started.) Just seems to me that view is a little too black-and-white. Families are rarely perfect and without problems—that seems to me to be what Anderson is focused on, rather than, you know, coming out against the family unit.


message 14: by Elaine (last edited Mar 15, 2010 03:08PM) (new)

Elaine (httpgoodreadscomelaine_chaika) | 241 comments I love Wes Anderson films. However, they give me the distinct feeling that he's saying families don't work out, and I get that from a great many movies I see. Yes, IN AMERICA is a very good movie and it is about the value of family. So is the one about the little girl who is trying out in a beauty contest (I forget the name offhand). The family loads into a van to travel to California... One thing that stuck out for me whas when the rickety van broke down, and everyone got out and pushed it until the engine caught again. That was a neat metaphor for the role of family in getting through life. (I'll remember the title as soon as I go offline!)

I think ridicule was probably not the most felicitous word for me to use. Sometimes movies ridicule, but more often they convey an attitude that the modern family has no more function and that you have to get away from yours in order to reach your potential.

There are so many movies made and in so many genres that, of course, there are some that are pro-family. I wonder how the statistics would run, however. Perhaps a do-able project for a degree in Cultural Studies would be to examine 5 years of the 50 top grossing movies (or another such criterion)to see how they treat family. Perhaps a better criterion is to limit a study to PG-13 and NC-17 movies. Attitudes towards family are certainly worth studying. Also, note, the pro-family movies aren't usually the blockbusters, and are far more prevalent in little kids' movies.


message 15: by Tom (new)

Tom | 5419 comments I think it could definitely be argued that depictions of happy marriages have certainly become considerably less plentiful on movie screens. Things like ORDINARY PEOPLE, AN UNMARRIED WOMAN, SHOOT THE MOON, etc. kind of put a stop to that. I can remember when I saw POLTERGEIST on opening day all those years ago, and was rather startled at the film's depiction of a married couple who actually seem to like each other.

Oddly, Tim Burton's film of CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY is explicitly pro-family. The film comes to a screeching halt for some really overt pro-family message-making that doesn't convince for even a moment, considering the content of the rest of the film, and is certainly not an element of the novel.

Barry Sonnenfeld's ADDAMS FAMILY films, especially ADDAMS FAMILY VALUES, are explicitly pro-family, without in any way mocking the importance of family connections. And Raul Julia's Gomez and Anjelica Huston's Morticia are possibly the most deliriously delighted married couple since the heyday of William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles.

Interesting points, thanks, Elaine. Can you elaborate on your point about CLOCKWORK ORANGE?


message 16: by Steve (new)

Steve | 957 comments I was just going to post about Spielberg re: POLTERGEIST (and others).

There is something of a hip, vogue tendency these days to depict fractured families. It would be interesting to continue discussing why this might be.

It would be interesting to see how those statistics shake out, Elaine, in a comparison of pre-60s and post-60s films. Douglas Sirk — his families were so often fractured — look no further than 1956's WRITTEN ON THE WIND! Or Nicholas Ray's BIGGER THAN LIFE, from the same year, though that of course ends on a very positive pro-family note.


message 17: by Elaine (last edited Mar 14, 2010 08:18PM) (new)

Elaine (httpgoodreadscomelaine_chaika) | 241 comments Rebel Without a Cause with the father in an apron is another 50's film about a fractured family, and then there were those Tennessee Williams' movies, like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and A Streetcar Named Desire, but the feeling of those is that these were the weird families, not the norm. Yeah, I could really see a Cultural Studies person or a Film and Society researcher do an interesting study of this issue. (Bette Davis in The Little Foxes is a GREAT example of how spouses can loathe each other.)


message 18: by Evan (new)

Evan You mean Bette Davis in The Little Foxes, with Herbert Marshall. Where she lets him croak on the stairs and won't get his heart medicine. She wasn't in The Magnificent Ambersons.


message 19: by Tom (new)

Tom | 5419 comments So this anti-marriage/family trend isn't necessarily recent, then, if we're bringing in THE LITTLE FOXES, and there are hideous married couples as far back as von Stroheim's GREED, with Gibson Gowland and the astonishing Zasu Pitts doing hideous things to each other.

But these movies, and in fact most of the ones mentioned, aren't necessarily against marriage as such, are they? They depict the strains and stresses of assorted married couples, but are there any movies that explicitly condemn marriage itself as an institution?

And might part of the solution have something to do with happy families and happily married couples not necessarily having anything dramatic about them?


message 20: by Elaine (new)

Elaine (httpgoodreadscomelaine_chaika) | 241 comments You mean I'm boring because I've lasted for 50 years with one man? Hell, no. It's hard work to maintain a relationship and there are terrific strains on it at different times and for different reasons. In the old movies, the errant spouse was being held up as an example of evil. Now they're being pictured as inevitable or justified, certainly as not bad. And there was a body of movies showing respectful children with loving parents as the norm. BTW, Broken Blossoms by Griffiths (Griffith>) was about child abuse. And I recently saw a 1931 movie with a father who pimped his daughter.


message 21: by Elaine (new)

Elaine (httpgoodreadscomelaine_chaika) | 241 comments OMIGOD Evan, I've been writing all day and my brain must have become scrambled. Of course, it was The Little Foxes!! Speaking of slips of the fingertips. Yes, wasn't that a glorious scene with Herbert Marshall dying and Bette being her Bettiest with that grim look on her face.


message 22: by Tom (last edited Mar 15, 2010 04:31AM) (new)

Tom | 5419 comments I was speaking generally, in terms of stories being told by films. I didn't comment on the excitement level of your 50 years with one man

I wonder if the perceived current day depiction of errant spouses as being "inevitable or justified" is because of an ideological shift against marriage as an institution, or due to a more sympathetic depiction of the real stresses of a long term relationship, and the increased societal respect for the possibility of ending a marriage that isn't working any more?

I can't think of any films that specifically condemn marriage as such, as an institution. The only one that comes to mind in Woody Allen's MANHATTAN, where Mariel Hemingway's character says something about how maybe we're meant to have a lot of different relationships of different lengths, as opposed to one long relationship, saying that kind of thing has gone out of date.

Or any films at all that condemn family either. There are ugly families on film as far back as BROKEN BLOSSOMS, of course, but no one, to my knowledge, has trashed family as an institution. That hideous family in TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE that seems to be an extension of the very worst going on among the nice kids traveling through Texas, maybe, but that's pretty extreme, and certainly not typical. PSYCHO, maybe?


message 23: by Evan (new)

Evan Elaine,
Yes, that's the scene that makes me never forget that film. She's like a slowly uncoiling snake when she finally deigns to rise from the couch to "help" him; those wide mad eyes ever so slowly rolling from one side to the other toward the scene of the atrocity. An appreciation of that scene and how it is acted, in my opinion, separates the true film lovers from the pretenders.


message 24: by Phillip (new)

Phillip | 10707 comments no, even in films like home for the holidays - which clearly is setting out to show how bloody difficult family can be - doesn't seem to be trashing the notion of marriage (or family). it's actually kind of clear in the end that the holly hunter's character's parents were pretty happy together despite all the tension among the siblings and their partners. i just saw that this past holiday season and enjoyed it.


message 25: by Elaine (last edited Mar 15, 2010 02:56PM) (new)

Elaine (httpgoodreadscomelaine_chaika) | 241 comments Tom, (1) I'm sorry if my wording made it sound as if I thought movies condemned marriage. I was trying to convey that there seems to be a sense that marriage is not relevant to happiness, or not what people should be seeking -- even that a long term marriage is either impossible or outmoded, not worth the effort to maintain.

(2) My response about my marriage (BTW,which is my 2nd one) was not about its level of excitement or lack of the same, but to show that there is plenty of fodder for drama in "happy" marriages -- in response to your comment that happy marriages are undramatic.

In any event, I am sorry that a comment of mine has lead to so much discussion that is ultimately pointless. Anybody can cite individual films that portray this or that. What is relevant is how films of a certain time generally portray social institutions, and how they portray them.

For example,as I noted,there have always been bad marriages portrayed, but there's a difference between treating them as an aberration and/or a reason for someone to be considered immoral vs. treating them as inevitable or even admirable.

I personally think that no-fault divorces are wonderful and have freed a lot of people from lives of misery. The novel Loving Frank is proof of that. (It's based on a true story). However, nowadays many people have little patience for putting up with another's little pecadilloes or larger faults.

My husband and son are divorce lawyers & my husband, who has been practicing for 48 years, has noticed how many more flimsy reasons are being given to get divorced than a generation ago. I think that is reflected in films. Many the studies I've read of cultural influences on social attitudes have shown that the media reflect what's going on already. They don't cause the attitudes. They reflect them. Therefore, studying what attitudes are being promulgated by films tells us about societal trends today.

The benighted post in which I mentioned that there might be a change going on in people's attitudes towards family and commitment was only a comment. It was not intended to be taken as scientific proof. At the most, it suggested that we look to see if such a change is really in progress or if the movie in question is merely an aberration.

I still don't understand why you found that so offensive and so necessary to keep harping on. If I offended you or the readers of this thread, I can only apologize.

In the future, if I am foolish enough to comment on a movie in terms such as trends or motifs or what it shows about our culture, perhaps you should refrain from reading any of my posts, since such relationships between media and culture interest me & I am likely to comment on them.


message 26: by Tom (new)

Tom | 5419 comments Elaine, no problem with commenting on those issues, that's part of the fun of a message board like this.

If I found your posts offensive I'd have blocked them long ago. All I've done is ask for clarification and/or backup on your posts, that's all. Is it really such an offensive act to ask for examples or clarification?


message 27: by Elaine (new)

Elaine (httpgoodreadscomelaine_chaika) | 241 comments Evan, re: Bette Davis

Well, I'm a Bette fan in all her guises, but I really can't say that if you don't dig her you're not a true film lover. For instance, I can't stand John Wayne and that puts me beyond the Pale for many fans of old movies. Not liking John Wayne I've discovered is like not liking God.

It's good to find out that someone besides me appreciates the range of BD's acting, the subtle and not-so subtle ways she projected whatever facet of her complexity she was portraying. In The Little Foxes, she was the epitome of greed and selfishness, totally lacking in sympathy, an actual psychopath, but one with genteel manners and an acid tongue. She didn't need to draw blood to convey her evil.

In other films, she was the epitome of goodness and self-sacrifice for others. In Jezebel, she was a selfish, wanton woman who becomes the self-effacing, self-sacrificing heroine, traveling through the miasma of the journey to the isolated island in which she would nurse her beloved through the plague.

The amazing thing about Bette to me was she was, in herself, a parody of the virtuous/evil woman, whilst, at the same time, she was the actress who defined such women. Often those who parodied her just had to act the way she acted. They didn't have to exaggerate at all. Yet, she was for many people a convincing and admired performer. Is it too late in time to start a Bette Davis Fan Club?


message 28: by Steve (new)

Steve | 957 comments I would very much like to see the discussion about how modern films portray family and marriage continued, but perhaps a message board isn't the place for it. I'm sure there are reams of paper written on this subject, so I'll look for books and magazines that cover it.

Anyway, thank you for the posts, Elaine; it was a very interesting discussion.


message 29: by Elaine (new)

Elaine (httpgoodreadscomelaine_chaika) | 241 comments Tom wrote: "Elaine, no problem with commenting on those issues, that's part of the fun of a message board like this.

If I found your posts offensive I'd have blocked them long ago. All I've done is ask f..."

No, of course, everyone has the right to ask for clarification, but to ask someone to summarize a film you haven't seen to give you proof is, I don't know how to word it, strange? Bizarre? Weird? Obviously, if you haven't seen it and I'm citing it, my summary would not be objective. It would present the parts that confirm my statement. Therefore, I took your request as being almost belligerent. Why would someone seek affirmation from a biased source, especially, since your tone conveyed that you didn't believe what I had said (which, in itself, is fine: I love discussion of opposing ideas AND I was only speculating and suggesting in the first place.) When you kept on insisting that I give you lists of movies or the like, yes, I took it as harping. If you didn't intend to be construed as being belligerent or as harping, or as if you took umbrage at me, then I apologize for misconstruing your comments.

Your introductory question, "So which movies have you seen.." was virtually sneering. A neutral question would have been like, "What movies ridicule marriage? or "In what ways do movies ridicule..."

The way you phrased it implied that that virtually the only person who judged movies to be anti-marriage was me. Otherwise, why ask what movies I saw... If there is a possibility that movies do convey certain attitudes, the normal questions are the neutral ones that ask for movies anyone could have seen. In other words, if it is possible that some movies can be objectively interpreted as conveying that attitude, you wouldn't have limited the list only to those I've seen.

Actually, you should have called me on my word choice. Ridicule is not a felicitous lexical choice and I should have used a word that isn't so semantically loaded. I'm not asking to be excused for that error, but must say that I write these posts as if I'm just casually conversing. I don't write then out beforehand and often just express thoughts on the fly, which is not admirable. However, you were the one who introduced the term condemned marriage, which is as bad.

In any event, I harbor no ill feelings towards you or anyone else. I'm a retired professor and what I loved about teaching was the constant discussion of issues, with students often disagreeing with me and I having to defend my points -- and, yes, sometimes the students won the argument or at least made me revise my own. I really missed the discussing when I retired, but a friend introduced me to Goodreads which really filled the gap for me. I love the discussions. Yes, I love it when people agree with me, but I also love it when they don't. I could have just ignored your comments, but I chose to respond.

However, in the absence of some solid research, and refining terminology, I don't see where this thread can go further at this point. It may crop up again. Someone may start a thread solely devoted to this question. Someone might be publishing a book soon which treats of this matter. Maybe such a book exists and I haven't come across it.


message 30: by Tom (new)

Tom | 5419 comments Elaine, I see no "sneering" in my question about which films you'd seen that ridicule family and declare long term marriage outdated. I thought I'd phrased the question as neutrally as I could. My apologies to have caused offense.

You also say this:

"No, of course, everyone has the right to ask for clarification, but to ask someone to summarize a film you haven't seen to give you proof is, I don't know how to word it, strange? Bizarre? Weird?"

I see nothing "strange? Bizarre? Weird?" in anything I wrote. I asked how the film ridicules family and declares long term marriage outdated. Surely there's nothing bizarre or weird about that. It seems remarkably clear to me. And believe me when I say that I didn't want or expect a doctoral thesis on the subject. A quick paragraph would have sufficed.


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