One of the most anticipated public premieres at this year's Toronto International Film Festival had
one of the biggest stars in the world in attendance and it wasn't even its leading man. Surprisingly, George Clooney was upstaged at "Up in the Air's" debut by none other Oprah Winfrey. Yes, the media mogul was in attendance with galpal Gayle King and Paramount CEO Brad Grey. What was all the fuss about? Oscar-nominee Jason Reitman screened his third film, a dramedy that received raves after its "secret" screening during last weekend's Telluride Film Festival. Did it live up to the hype? Let's just say Paramount should have a very fun and smooth flight with this one.
When it opens in December, "Up in the Air" will win a lot of passionate converts. I'll let HitFix's Drew McWeeny review the movie in more detail, but it's a very, very good movie with memorable characters, dialogue and a contemporary story line with thematic nods to the difficult economy that will speak to moviegoers across the country. If Searchlight can get "Juno" to $143 million there is no reason Paramount can't do at least half that or more with a similarly inexpensive comedy. What should drive a lot of the attention won't just be good reviews, but awards season buzz. And as this pundit had heard, "Air" will get that love in spades.
First off, nothing is a "lock" really for the Oscars, anything can happen over the next four months. The new system makes many consultants overly nervous, but this prognosticator will be shocked if "Air" doesn't get one of the ten nominations. Now, it's not the frontrunner, it's too early to put that heavy crown on any picture, but it's in -- that simple. More intriguing isn't George Clooney in the best actor race (likely) or Reitman in the adapted screenplay and director categories (probable), but newcomer Anna Kendrick in the best supporting actress race.
Actually, any "Twilight" fan already knows Kendrick as Jessica from Forks High, but the 24-year-old didn't arrive in Hollywood out of nowhere. She turned heads with her work in the indie "Rocket Science" a few years ago and also happens to be the youngest Tony Award nominee on record having been recognized for her work at only 12-years-old. Kendrick also has a prominent role in the upcoming "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" as the title hero's sister Stacy. So, to the creative community, she's not an unknown quantity. In "Air," however, Kendrick shines as Natalie, an eager type-A manager whose miniscule real life experiences haven't prepared her for her company's primary profit center of laying off other people's employees. To be completely honest, Kendrick could have phoned this role in and still gotten positive notices on the strength of the script alone, but like Carey Mulligan in "An Education," she brings something more to her character that will have audiences talking about her as they exit the theater. Along with "Precious'" Mo'Nique, she's one of the two supporting actress candidates to really watch out for this year (although if Penelope Cruz's character in "Nine" goes in this category she's likely in too, but I digress...).
Recently, a lot of friends and colleagues have complained about the dearth of good movies coming out over the next few months. Well, if "Up in the Air" is any example, they just haven't heard of it yet. After "Air's" splash at Toronto, that's really gonna change.
For constant updates on awards season and entertainment news follow Gregory Ellwood on Twitter at Twitter.com/HitFixGregory