CATEGORIES Hot Topic
Has there ever been an Oscar contender quite as topical as Jason Reitman's latest critical juggernaut 'Up in the Air'?

Named Best Film of 2009 by the National Board of Review last week, 'Up in the Air' is "a timeless movie that's utterly of its time," trumpets the Washington Post.

Revolving around a corporate downsizer (George Clooney) who jet sets around the nation laying people off, the acclaimed dramatic comedy (comedic drama?) features numerous gut-wrenching scenes of employees swallowing the bad news. Has there ever been an Oscar contender quite as topical as Jason Reitman's latest critical juggernaut 'Up in the Air'?

Named Best Film of 2009 by the National Board of Review last week, 'Up in the Air' is "a timeless movie that's utterly of its time," trumpets the Washington Post.

Revolving around a corporate downsizer (George Clooney) who jet sets around the nation laying people off, the acclaimed dramatic comedy (comedic drama?) features numerous gut-wrenching scenes of employees swallowing the bad news.

For a sense of heightened realism -- not to mention great back story -- Reitman cast actual laid-off workers to deliver testimonials in which they vent about their pink-slip frustrations. Reitman found them by placing newspaper ads in St. Louis and Detroit for a documentary on unemployment. "It would get aggressive, emotional, angry, sad," Reitman told the Associated Press.



Reitman's clever casting idea is only one of the reasons critics are swooning over 'Air' (the film is currently registering an approval rating of 89 percent on the movie review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes). But in a nation reeling from a recession, and with an unemployment rates hitting double digits for the first time since 1983 (it was 12 percent in November), are audiences ready to shell out money for a movie whose hero fires people for a living? Moviegoers already resisted Michael Moore's rabble-rousing financial doc, 'Capitalism: A Love Story,' which underperformed with $14 million at the box office.

The film's award buzz will certainly help, with some prognosticators labeling it a front runner in the Oscar Best Picture race, or at the very least, a shoo-in for a nomination. Then there's its debonair leading man, Clooney, who has fans and admirers across all demos. And as much as the film deals with the harsh realities of the modern job climate, at its heart there's also a love story between Clooney's character and fellow traveling exec Vera Farmiga.

In the awards race, 'Up in the Air' distinguishes itself from other contenders ('Precious,' 'An Education') in how deftly it handles a timely topic. The movie creates a transient mood: deep unease, without predictability. Reitman has said that the film's timing was coincidental; he started writing the screenplay in 2002, long before the economy crashed and unemployment started to climb. Walter Kirn's book 'Up in the Air' on which Reitman's script is based came out in 2001.

Little did either know they were writing the perfect story for 2009.