The Silent Gondoliers by William Goldman purports to be a fable by S. Morgenstern, who researched the history of gondoliers in Venice to discover why they no longer sang. For, lo, many years ago, the gondoliers were the grandest and most beautiful singers in the world. People came from all over to hear them sing. The story focuses on Luigi, who is an expert gondolier but a terrible singer.
Unlike The Princess Bride, the story is told in first-person by Morgenstern, who, like Goldman, interjects at times to comment. As you would expect, the book is pretty funny, and it really does read like a fable. It's extremely short, a little over a hundred pages with illustrations, and you can read it in an hour. It's no Princess Bride, but it's cute and worth checking out.
Given what happened yesterday, today was either a very appropriate or a very inappropriate day to catch a free screening of Up in the Air, the new film by Jason Reitman of Juno and Thank You for Smoking fame. Since Diablo Cody has nothing to do with this picture, it is nothing like Juno (except for the presence of Jason Bateman and J.K. Simmons) and very much like Thank You for Smoking. George Clooney plays a man with an unusual job: he flies around firing people. And he's racked up a lot of frequent-flier miles. He lives for those things. He just loves flying, the whole experience. So when a young upstart—played by Anna Kendrick, who looked familiar but I haven't actually seen before, though she plays someone named "Jessica" in the Twilight movies—suggests they start working remotely instead, he is very displeased, so his boss asks him to take her around the country and show her how things are done. How do you tell someone they're let go? That their position is no longer available? That it's really a good thing, just read this informational packet?
Meanwhile, he hooks up with Vera Farmiga, who travels just as much as he does. Could this itinerant nomad really settle down?
Up in the Air tries to do three or four things at once, which leaves everything a bit underdeveloped. Is it a movie about what it's like to fire people? To be fired? Is it a commentary on a nomadic lifestyle? Is it a romance? It's more of a character study, a peek into the life of this man as he comes to understand some things about his life, and even if everything isn't wrapped up in a bow at the end, you feel better for having spent some time with him. He's George Clooney, after all.
If you liked Thank You for Smoking, you will like Up in the Air. If you didn't like Thank You for Smoking, you...still may like Up in the Air, since it's less cynical and has more heart. It's not as slick, but the main character is more likable, and although it's been a while, I think it's funnier. It's already getting Oscar buzz, so I recommend checking it out whenever the hell it actually comes out!