Malibu Film Society to screen Oscar-buzzing films

The Messenger

The Malibu Film Society is gearing up for the 82nd Academy Awards presentation on March 7 by offering two of last year’s greatest buzz generators this weekend: “The Messenger” and “Up in the Air.”

“As we ramp up for the awards season, there’s been a big local demand to see the top contenders,” MFS Executive Director Scott Tallal said. “Theater availability is limited in Malibu so this is exactly why the film society was formed.”

The two films will screen at the Malibu Jewish Center & Synagogue on Saturday, beginning at 5 p.m.

“Up in the Air,” already recipient of six Golden Globe nominations, is a dark comedy co-written and directed by 32-year-old Jason Reitman, who exploded onto the national scene with his feature directorial debut, “Thank You for Smoking.” Reitman adapted that acidly funny commentary on corporate lobbyists from a book by Christopher Buckley, garnering a Golden Globe nomination for Best Picture, an Independent Spirit Award for Best Screenplay and a Writers Guild nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Reitman earned an Academy Award nomination as Best Director for his next film, “Juno,” about a pregnant teenager, and has worked overtime since then, either directing, producing or writing feature films and episodes of the top NBC comedy series, “The Office.”

“Up in the Air” stars George Clooney as a corporate hack hired by CEOs too timid to fire their own employees. His character, perennially unattached Ryan Bingham, finds his own position threatened by a young upstart (Anna Kendrick) who envisions a system of terminating employees via teleconferencing, just as Bingham is realizing the gaps in his life resulting from being noncommittal.

Though the subject seems to showcase the current economy perfectly, Reitman started adapting the screenplay back in 2002, at a time when Wall Street was on a winning streak and America looked fat and happy. The pathos of the condition of the American worker of today is caught in interviews with real employees who have just been fired, which Reitman uses almost as a Greek chorus in the film.

Reitman, son of accomplished director, producer and writer Ivan Reitman, seems to be in the right place at the right time when it comes to capturing the cultural zeitgeist of the moment. Whether examining the real life dilemmas of teens faced with unexpected pregnancies or the choices made by paid lobbyists to satisfy a corporate business culture, Reitman zeros in on the angst of today.

“The Messenger” tells the story of a returned Iraq war veteran, directed and co-written by Israeli journalist and screenwriter Oren Moverman.

The film won a Silver Bear for Best Screenplay at the Berlin International Film Festival and co-star Woody Harrelson was nominated for Best Supporting Actor by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (which gives out the Golden Globes). “The Messenger is also expected to garner a number of Academy Award nominations.

“We’re very excited about these films,” Tallal said. “It’s all leading up to our big gala screening of the Oscars in March.”

Both films will screen this Saturday at the Malibu Jewish Center & Synagogue located at 24855 Pacific Coast Highway. “The Messenger screens at 5 p.m. and “Up in the Air” at 7:30 p.m. There will be a 45-minute break between films. Tickets are available for one or both screenings, with discounts ($5 off) available when purchased online in advance. Tickets can be purchased and more information found online at