t’is the season to see movies!

Compared to Christmas Day movies in past years, – Syriana, Million Dollar Baby, Gran’ Turino come to mind – Up in the Air pales by comparison. But it’s better than it could have ended up. George Clooney is always a pleasure to watch, though in this film he seems much more like George Clooney playing George Clooney than some of his deeper character roles.

That said, Up in the Air doesn’t settle for pat story lines and simplistic romantic solutions. When Clooney’s character shows up unexpectedly at the home of the woman he’s been sleeping with across the country, she turns out to be married with kids, reversing gender stereotypes. It’s the woman who’s the cad, or is that cadette? And when, at the end, he begins to understand his own human need for connectivity, he is left “up in the air,” again a rejection of a simple romantic resolution of the story. A good movie, many chuckles, some tears, not a great movie.

Two girls become women. The Young Victoria and Precious tell the stories of dramatically different 17-year-old girls who, in their own time and place, find their voices and assert their inner values. The Young Victoria is a somewhat facile look at Queen Victoria, her childhood, her ascension to the throne of England at the age of 18, her courtship and marriage to Prince Albert. If you like Masterpiece Theatre – and I do (it’s a girl thing) – you’ll like the romance and lush costumes of this period piece – and I did, though a shot of insulin would have helped counteract the saccharin story.

Precious is a gripping story of a black, morbidly obese, illiterate, physically and sexually abused girl in Harlem who is identified by her math teacher and school principal as someone who could benefit from attending an “alternative” school. Impregnated for the second time by her abusive father, she labors against all odds to enroll at the school, go to classes, and learn to read and write. She keeps a journal and even writes poetry. Her struggles to free herself from her appallingly messed up welfare mother, her insistence on caring for her two kids, and oh, yes, her learning that – thanks to daddy – she is now HIV-positive -all of that leaves you with a dry mouth, misty eyes and a knot in your stomach.

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