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Double dose of George Clooney in Toronto, what else!

Those attending the Toronto International Film Festival can be excused for a bout with double vision when it comes to a doubleheader of films by the Festival's most papparazzi-friendly presence, George Clooney. The fair-haired actor is the star of two high profile films that made their debuts here earlier this week.

In THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS, directed by Grant Heslov, a reporter (played by Ewan McGregor) tries to lose himself in the romance of war after his marriage fails, but gets more than he bargains for when he meets a special forces agent who reveals the existence of a secret, psychic military unit whose goal is to end war as we know it. The founder of the unit has gone missing and the trail leads to another psychic soldier (Clooney) who has distorted the mission to serve his own ends. The war comedy, to be released by Overture Films, is a timely comedy on America's on-going involvement in overseas conflicts. It is easy to see why Clooney was attracted to the off-beat, politically subversive material, but reactions to the film here were definitely mixed.

Clooney's second role is already generating Oscar buzz, for both his bravura performance and for the film itself. Directed by JUNO's Jason Reitman, UP IN THE AIR finds Clooney in adorable/satiric mode as a corporate downsizing expert whose cherished life on the road is threatened just as he is on the cusp of reaching ten million frequent flyer miles and just after he's met the frequent-traveler woman of his dreams (played by Vera Farmiga). Adapted from a best-selling novel, the film deftly mixes high comedy with serious drama, to offer a portrait of the downsized dreams of a corporate climber. The film, which opens in theaters in November, is sure to be in on the Oscar hubbub at year's end.

Aside from the films themselves, Clooney's presence in Toronto has been the stuff of speculation. Papparazzi surrounded the parties that George supposedly attended, the restaurants where George and company went dining and the drinking spots where George and amigos washed down their filets mignons. Whether "le Clooney" was at any of these locations was not clear, but the sidewalk scramble and traffic nightmares generated by the star's few days in Toronto were points of conjecture and irritation for visitors and residents alike.

by Sandy Mandelberger, Festival Dailies Editor

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