Thursday, January 7, 2010

Jason Watches UP IN THE AIR

George Clooney stars in this Jason Reitman (THANK YOU FOR SMOKING) film as Ryan Bingham, the most frequent of frequent fliers. He works for a company that fires people for a living (so their having a bonanza right now), and that seems perfect for his cynical "keep nothing in your backpack" lifestyle--hell, he travels 350,000 miles a year (more than a trip to the moon) with nothing but a carry-on. And he loves it. He's a member of all the exclusive travel clubs--gold programs for rental cars, hotel chains, airport lounges, and especially frequent flier miles. He's on a quest for 10,000,000 miles--something done by only 6 people before him (more people have walked on the freakin' moon!)

Anyway, his lifestyle is threatened when a bright young Cornell psychology grad Anna (Natalie Keener) comes in and revolutionizes the company with a bold idea--firing people by web cam. Well, Ryan doesn't like this, and for all his complaining his boss (Jason Bateman) decides to send Anna on the road with him so she can learn the ropes.

Many things about the story are predictable--Ryan will get a kick in his cynical butt (thanks to fellow frequent flier/love interest Alex, played by Vera Farmiga), and he'll learn to appreciate his family (although frankly the scenes at his sister's wedding slow the whole film down), and there's one scene that really bugged me (spoiler alert: can we please retire the cliche of people starting an important speech and then stopping and walking off without saying anything? It was never even believable enough to be a good cliche, and I know no way to make it interesting anymore)

But there's two sides to this. Ryan's not that unlikable, and he's not that bad at relationships, he's just bad at permanence. He's actually a genius at 1-minute relationships. He sizes up Alex right away, and the scene where he fires J K Simmons is brilliant.

I'm sure this just proves I missed the point of this movie, but I identified with Ryan Bingham more than anyone else in the movie. I don't travel much at all, but I drive a pickup with the idea in mind that if things got really bad I could toss everything I need in the back and leave with at most one other person (maybe a dog). And I ended up wondering what the film-watching equivalent of 10 million airline miles is...

So let's calculate that. After a quick googling, I get that the average airspeed of a commercial airplane is ~600 mph (I couldn't find ground speed, which would be more appropriate, but let's make the poor assumption that tailwinds and headwinds cancel out and that ground speed on flights averages to 600 mph). That's (conveniently) 10 miles/minute, so 10,000,000 miles is the equivalent of 1,000,000 minutes in the air (approximately, and this isn't including bonus miles you can get through other deals--credit cards, ordering airline tickets online, etc.) Please feel free to challenge/refine my assumptions, but I think 1,000,000 minutes will be the closest big round number that's equivalent to 10,000,000 airline miles.

So anyway, I'm defining my equivalent of 10 million miles as 1 million minutes watching movies. I started this blog three years ago, but I started tracking every movie I saw in 2005. I won't count movies before then, since you don't get frequent flier miles before you join the program. Since then I've seen 1,835 movies (including this one). Estimating 90 minutes per movie (a conservative estimate, I think, and I'll try to go back and look up running times to get a real total) I'm at 165,150 minutes (unofficially).

So from now on, I'll be counting my minutes, too, and each post will include a running total of minutes. Follow me on my idiotic quest for 1,000,000 movie-watching minutes. Remember, I don't count home video, only the big screen. Let's hope the big screen lasts long enough for me to get there.

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