Oprah is sharing her birthday with 100 other people born on January 29th. Up in The Air is such a fantastic movie, George Clooney was so George Clooney. The movie reflects what is going on In America right now, it’s about job loss, disconnection and tough economic times, wrapped into a clever entertaining package. George Clooney stars as Ryan Bingham, a man who makes his living traveling across the country firing people. Director Jason Reitman, who was nominated for an Oscar for Juno, does a great job of capturing how people react when they lose their jobs. To capture the anguish of the 15 million people who are unemployed, Jason cast some real live people who had just lost their jobs in the movie. Wow.
This is Jason Reitman’s thrd movie, he is being called brilliant, sophisticated, original… he likes those adjectives, thank you. Oprah asks if he’s enjoying the ride- of course. He’s made personal films, each a story that he wants to tell, all from his heart. It is very fulfilling to do these films so early in his career. He’s wanted to do movies his whole life. At the Toronto Film Festival, Jason says that no one was looking at George Clooney becasue Oprah was in the room. Oprah denies this. Oprah marvels that Jason wrote and directed this film- he started writing it 7 years ago. She asks how he knew, if he had a premonition. He was adapting a novel by Walter Curran and he thought he was making a movie about a single man, but over the course of writing it the world changed. He changed too, he became a husband and father, which had an enormous impact on the character. The economy went from an ecomonic boom to the worst recession on record, and the film began to reflect that. Two weeks ago Jason won a Golden Globe for the best screenplay and he gave the sweetest acceptance speech saying that George was one of the greatest men he’s ever met, his wife is the fuel to his creative fire to write women, and to his mother and father for making him the man and the storyteller he is. He worked with his Dad in the film and hopes to do that again. Oprah happens to be friends with Jason’s parents, and says she can only imagine what this means to his parents. His father is the legendary producer and director Ivan Reitman, the man behind Ghostbusters and Animal House and many other defining comedies of our time. Working together was wonderful and unusual- you have to fgure out the new dynamic and seperate the father-son conversations from producer-director conversations; sometimes the two crossed. Previously, as a pre-med student- he was scared of being a director- the presumption is if you are the son of a famous director that you usually have a drug problem and no talent. He figured he’d fail on a big, public level and if he found success he’d be in his father’s shadow for his whole life. He chose medicine because no-one questions why you want to become a doctor. His father visited him and told him that being scared isn’t a reason to do anything. He persuaded Jason to go back to LA and pursue storytelling. In doing so he became the first Jewish father ever to say don’t be a doctor, be a film director.
Jason does like the title Director- it felt great the first time he was introduced as that. Oprah thought it was a brilliant touch to cast real life unemployed people in he movie. Three of the people in the movie are in the audience. The Chuck-e-Cheese line was said by Lamorris, he made up his own lines because he’d just been laid off. Jason recognised early on that he didn’t have the life experience to get this authenticity. They reached out to people who’d just lost their jobs in the Detroit / St Louis area where they were filming. They’d interview them for a few minutes then fire them on air so the person could say what they had said when they got fired, or what they’d wished they’d said on camera. Oprah asks if it was validating? They all say yes. Marlene was fired by letter after 27 years – she was lost, numb, going through the motions. After you process the news, you realise that your life changes in a day. It happened a week after the movie was being filmed at the airport. Arthur says he was a model employee, he had perfect attendance, and got along with everybody- he went through a double shocker. He believes Jason is a genius and he felt less like he was alone, this was a solid validation of the experience. He feels vindicated and appreciated. The world needs more Jason Reitmans and Oprah, people who care. When seeing the film, Arthur thought it was an opportunity for the world to see what he went through. This is more than a movie, it’s like a slice of reality at its best. Jason is embarrassed. He says it is a movie that is dramatic and comedic and is a mirror to George Clooney and a mirror to America. You’ll recognise what it is like to be a middle age person having a crisis, and you get to see George Clooney fall in love, which is nice. Oprah asks if it was shocking when Clooney came to the door? Jason says he wasn’t shocked because he wrote it, he saw it coming.
Jason thanks the three unemployed people for making his film real, for saying things he couldn’t write, for helping to make a film he couldn’t have made without them. The Chuck e Cheese line was heartbreaking and real, he would never have written it. They gave the actors a run for their money and changed his film. He thanks them. Oprah says everyone should go see the film, to appreciate it and be entertained.
Oprah is going to do everything she can to stop people texting and talking on the phone when driving because it is stupid. She has everything she needs for her birthday, what she wants is for the country to shift like we did with buckling up and designated drivers. Just yesterday, Oprah had an in-your-face intervention with an audience member. Two audience members got into bad accidents texting, two totalled cars. Driving at 50 mph and texting; neither driver has done it since. One of the girl’s friends, Sarah, is addicted to her phone. Oprah tells her the way the universe works is this- first you get a a whisper, then a tap on your head, then a brick, then a brick wall. This is Sarah’s brick wall. She says the fact that Sarah is here and the people next to her got into accidents, means that Oprah would be very very frightened if she was her. She can’t get it any stronger, Oprah is in Sarah’s face. The producers follow Sarah home. Interviewed after the show, she says Oprah is a nice person but the confrontation was tough. They followed her home and had her watch the texting while driving show. She was shocked and heartbroken. The tragic real-life stories gave her alot to think about. The program made the thought a reality. Sarah is in the audience again 24 hours later. It has sunk in, she is lucky and grateful that she has not had an accident yet. She goes on stage and signs the pledge. 266 people in the audience signed the pledge today. Sarah will keep her phone in her purse in the back seat of the car.
The headline in USA Today on Monday, was that the states go after texting drivers- bus and truck drivers are now prohibited from texting while driving, bravo. Apparently the Oprah Show spoke to the Secretary of transport personally who said he signed the pledge at Oprah.com. Ali Wentworth, from the Oprah Winfrey Show admits she sometimes texts and always talks while driving. She pledges to make her car a no-phone zone. In footage, we see her put her phone in a tiny bed in the back of her Lexus and drive away. She’d usually check emails at stop lights- she says she is sweating a little and feels uncomfortable and wants cheese fries. But she works through it and shouts at texting drivers through a megaphone. She films people texting, people say they will stop and sign the pledge. Some say they are not texting but using GPS or saving a phone number. Ali is standing by, Oprah says it is difficult at first, it’s like breaking an addiction.
Ali is in DC and joins the show via Skype. Ali has not slipped in the last three days- a tip she recommends is to tell your children that they can scream if they see you pick up the phone. It works; she slipped up once and lost the hearing in her right ear. She wishes everyone a happy birthday and says she is excited that she and Oprah are now the same age. She holds up a piece of paper with the number 28 written on it. Everyone laughs. She has presents for the puppies, they are excellent collars from the store Bling for your Bitch. Oprah and Sarah talk about giving up using your phone in the car is like an addiction, Ali likens giving up her phone in the car to quitting smoking- she says listening to satellite radio or a book on tape can make the car time work for you.
Hugh Jackman sings Happy Birthday for Oprah on video. Oprah holds a puppy and stands with the audience. All the audience is getting a free 2-night stay in a Hilton hotel anywhere in the world. The audience go wild and a cake is wheeled in with all the birthday names on it. Have a great day everybody and remember Oprah’s birthday wish; make your car a no-phone zone and take the pledge on Oprah.com
WHAT WE LEARNED TODAY:
When you have everything you ever could wish for, two puppies and a mission to make the world a safer place will suffice for birthday presents.
Up In The Air is a dramatic, comedic, brilliant film mirroring both our times and George Clooney.
Texting while driving is still stupid, and Oprah is not afraid to get in the face of any offender.
Giving up using your phone is not unlike withdrawal from an addiction.
Hugh Jackman will have a glass of red wine in Oprah’s honor tonight.
A VERY QUICK SUMMARY:
Oprah’s birthday wish: sign the no-phone car-zone pledge, and get a puppy from a no-kill shelter.