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Unloading the Backpack: Why Up and Up in the Air are Two of the Most Important Films of 2009 (Part 5 of 5)

February 26, 2010

By John C.

It’s been an Oscar season like February 2nd in Groundhog Day. It’s one of the longest in recent memory, and just keeps going on and on and on. But in just over a week, it will be over. Though Avatar and The Hurt Locker are the ones to watch, Up and Up in the Air are the two films that I keep thinking about. Their themes transcending their genre’s and mediums, creating universal meditations on our relationships, and who we choose to spend our lives with. Make no mistakes, these are two of the films that impacted me the most.

Up is only the second animated film to ever be nominated for Best Picture, and Up in the Air is Jason Reitman’s third film, and his second to be nominated for Best Picture.

In Up in the Air, frequent business traveler Ryan Bingham asks us to weigh our lives by how well they would fit into a metaphorical backpack. First he asks us to load up all our material possessions, until finally we get to the people we know. “Our relationships are the heaviest components in our lives” is what he warns us. True, they are the heaviest, but they are also the most complex and important. If you pack light than you may lose nothing should the rug be pulled out from under you, but you’ll also be alone.

Logically, when packing a backpack, what’s heaviest should be at the bottom, but rightfully what’s most important should be at the top. So if what’s most important is also the heaviest, than leave out what you don’t need, and the weight will even out.

Bingham’s character late realizes that “Everyone needs a co-pilot”. Should something happen to the flight, then your co-pilot will always be there to help you back up.

In Up, Carl Fredrickson always dreamed of an adventure. But once his beloved wife, Ellie, passed away, the adventure they always wanted to take would never happen. When his house is at risk of being bulldozed, he takes it to the skies, with the help of millions of balloons, not wanting to lose any of the objects that he shared with his late wife.

Our relationships do weigh us down, but just enough so we’re kept grounded. It is at the moment when we are finally able to say “It’s just a house” that we are able to keep our memories, but let go of our past. Carl and Ellie’s life together may have kept them from literally going “up in the air”, but it became the adventure they could have never dreamed of. The objects ended up weighing him down, yes, but make no mistakes it was through his relationships that he was truly able to go up. We should not get rid of our backpacks, like Bingham suggests at the beginning of Up in the Air but later realizes this is not the solution, but we should certainly reconsider what we put in.

In an Oscar season like this, we’ve really got to ask ourselves, what is the most important film to carry with us in our backpacks?

Up is nominated for 5 Oscars.

Up in the Air is nominated for 6 Oscars.

(Part 1) Avatar so Popular, that other Contenders are Blind Sided

(Part 2) Voters are Educated, but these Contenders are Relegated to the 9th District

(Part 3) The Basterds’ Hurt by the Locker’s Lock

(Part 4) Contenders both Precious and Serious

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