With three films lined up for the end of the year, George Clooney seems primed for another spectacular year of exceptional projects (and possible overexposure--but that never seems to happen to him, does it?). He plays a mischievous fox in Wes Anderson's animated film version of Roald Dahl's The Fantastic Fox; he is a mustachioed former Army man who thinks he's a Jedi knight in Grant Heslov's The Men Who Stares At Goats; and in December, he will play the lead in Jason Reitman's solemn meditation on commercial flight addiction, Up In The Air. Even for Clooney, this is an especially loaded year of prospective excellent motion pictures, and with his string of enormous success since 2005 (can we agree that his doubleheader that year of Syriana and Good Night, and Good Luck was the moment that we found out how good he truly was?), it is not unnecessary to pose this question: is there anyone bigger in movies right now than Clooney?
But despite the temptation, I won't answer that question. If only because I think it's one that everybody knows the answer to. Buzz for Up In The Air has seemingly exploded within the last few weeks, and the release of a superb trailer within the last few years has only heightened the mania. It is the third film from Jason Reitman (of Juno fame), who has shown that he can tackle the surprising depths of youngsters, and is now peering into the world of middle-aged malaise. George Clooney, always one to turn on the charm, seems entrenched within this character; his long monologue rumbling graciously throughout the whole two-minute preview.
Not to say that Men Who Stare At Goats or Fantastic Mr. Fox seems like small potatoes. I only speak about Up In The Air with more fervor because it is the flavor of the moment. I don't doubt that all three can be special (or terrible, for that matter), but that is not what is on my mind exactly. Which other actor can have this many buzzed-about films coming out within months of each other, and you're still willing to assume that he's giving first-rate performances in all of them? By the end of 2009, many bloggers and film dweebs will recount the decade's greatest films and directors, but how will we look down on Clooney? Because no other personality has dominated Hollywood more during that time span.
**Really, though, who else has the ability of playing a defeated frequent flier, an animated fox, and a middle-aged, bumbling field agent, and still look like the coolest guy in town? God, all men wish they were him.