11/12/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Live from the Toronto Film Festival: Day 2

I almost never go to parties at film festivals. Too often they're just giant clusterf**ks in which everybody and his brother is there for a free drink and a shot at hors d'oeuvres that usually amount to little more than pizza rolls and chicken wings. I'd rather spend the time watching a movie - or I need to be writing something.

But I annually make an exception for the Sony Pictures Classics dinner at Toronto, always a classy, intimate event at which the guest list is limited - and always includes the stars of Sony's inevitably quality line-up of films at the festival.

Friday night, the guest list included cast, directors and producers of Broken Embraces, The Damned United, An Education, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus and a couple of other SPC entries whose titles elude me at the moment. I was seated at a table with Lluis Homar, who costars in Broken Embraces with Penelope Cruz (who made a brief appearance at the event before dashing to catch a plane). Homar, who plays Cruz's lover in the film, was the envy of all the men at the table for sharing a couple of passionate scenes with her.

It was a delicious (if slowly served) meal and the perfect end to a day that included what may become the movie of the festival - and the film that could soon be the buzz of the fall season, though it doesn't open until Nov. 13: Jason Reitman's funny, moving Up in the Air.

Indeed, this film could easily put a second Oscar on George Clooney's mantle. He plays a corporate terminator - no, not a hit man but a guy whose company is hired to handle large-scale lay-offs for companies without the balls to do the firing themselves. It's the best performance of Clooney's career, one that eclipses even his amazing work in Michael Clayton and Syriana, playing a guy who spends all of his time on airplanes and who dreams of reaching the 10-million-mile mark for frequent flyers, which would make him part of a group more exclusive than the number of men who walked on the moon.

Directed by Jason Reitman, Up in the Air puts Reitman at three for three, in terms of movies that manage to be both smart and wickedly witty (Thank You for Smoking and Juno are the previous two.) Up in the Air suddenly leaps to the head of the Oscar pack for the fall season, a rueful comedy that taps directly into the national zeitgeist.

Almost as good in yesterday's line-up: A Serious Man, the Coen brothers' wonderfully weird comedy about Jewish life in the suburbs of Minneapolis in the summer of love, 1967 (where the Haight-Ashbury scene seems unimaginable).

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