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Smooth Landing: "Up In The Air"

September 13, 2009 |  6:31 am

Who trumps George Clooney? Oprah. Or, at least she did Saturday night when Oprah Winfrey (with best friend Gayle King in tow) entered the Ryerson Theatre to sit for the first public screening of "Up In the Air." As Oprah entered the auditorium, her name spilled over the crowd like a wave, while repeated shouts and more than a few "I love you's" suddenly made it unclear who exactly the crowd was there to see.

In an attempt to settle the crowd, all of whom were watching Oprah, a festival programmer stood onstage and asked, "Please sit down and turn around." When that didn't work, Jason Reitman, director and co-writer of the film, stepped to the microphone and begged/ordered, "We gotta get the movie started!"

"This feels like home," he said  a few moments later in his opening remarks, consciously or unconsciously echoing a sentiment in the film he was about to unveil.

Reitman has now premiered all three of his feature films at the Ryerson, and he said that he asked not to be given a gala slot in the festival this year because it would mean showing in a different venue.

"I hope I premiere every movie I ever make here," he said. "It's this audience I think about when I'm writing, when I'm directing, when I'm editing -- I make my movies for you."

Perhaps it goes without saying that with an introduction like that -- and the energy of Oprah's tacit approval -- the film played extremely well to the audience.The story, based on the novel by Walter Kirn, concerns a man (George Clooney) who travels for a living, flying from city to city to terminate people from their jobs. With few connections or relationships to keep him tethered, he takes comfort in the uncomplicated efficiency of his life. Complications, inevitabaly, ensue.

The film looks to be a serious contender in this year's award race, a notion Paramount Pictures looks to be betting heavily on. Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor , Best Supporting Actress for  either Anna Kendrick as Clooney's plucky young co-worker or Vera Farmiga as his on-the-road fling he actually grows attached to -- none of these ideas sounds like outrageous speculation (for nominations at least) when considering the current awards-season playing field.

After the film, Reitman introduced a small squadron of producers, including his father, Ivan Reitman. The younger Reitman noted, "He came up with the best line in the movie. You know that line you applauded?"  -- and it won't be revealed here -- "My dad wrote that line."

After George Clooney was the last member of the cast to take to a very full stage, he joked, "I'd like to thank you all for coming to my intervention."

If there is some temptation to draw a connection between Clooney's real-life bachelor ways and those of his on-screen character, a question from the audience asked just that. Clooney feigned a belly laugh at the idea and allowed simply, "We're the same height, we have the same hair color... Thanks for asking."

-- Mark Olsen