Sunday, January 29, 2012



PRELUDE: Brad Pitt is the only A List star with two films in the running for Oscars®. How rare is that? Almost never happens, everyone will tell you. Pitt, himself, is nominated as Best Actor for Moneyball and is in direct competition with his best friend George Clooney. With Moneyball and Tree of Life both receiving nominations as Best Picture, Pitt is riding high. His co-star Jonah Hill in Moneyball lucked out and got himself a Best Supporting Actor nomination. Film Editor Christopher Tellefsen got a nod for his work. Sound Mixing saw Deb Adair, Ron Bochar, Dave Giammarco and Ed Novick pick up recognition. Famed screenwriters Steve Zallian and Aaron Sorkin added to their kudos by reaping a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay, with Story by Stan Chervin.

Tree of Life picked up the aforementioned Best Picture nomination as well as a Best Cinematography nod for Emmanuel Lubeski. No picture makes itself, so Terrence Malick got a Best Director shout from the Academy.

REVIEW: Whenever anybody mentions seeing a baseball movie to me there is usually a groan and a sigh. To me, baseball is slow and boring and lacks the excitement of the football field. There have been some good baseball movies in the past. Field of Dreams  with Kevin Costner comes to mind as does the classic 1948 film The Babe Ruth Story with William Bendix. Anthony Perkns looked at the dark psychological side of baseball in Fear Strikes Out when he played real-life Jim Piersall in 1957. But blonde and handsome Tab Hunter brought joy back to the playing field when he sang and danced in the Technicolor musical Damn Yankees with voluptuous Gwen Verdon in 1958. Susan Sarandon played a school teacher who wavered between choosing a rookie or an experienced baseball payer as her lover in Bull Durham. Kevin Costner and Tim Robbins were the two guys in contention in this 1988 comedy. Other than those cited, no others elicited excitement or interest. That is, until MONEYBALL came along.

Brad Pitt stirs up interest whenever any of his films appear. He’s a genuine superstar and can get people into theaters in droves as did the leading men of the Golden Age of Hollywood. Still handsome though showing signs of wear and tear with a few wrinkles here and a few bags under the eyes there, ladies will still swoon at his charming manner and schoolboy looks.

Moneyball is the story of an underdog and not a winner at the beginning of the movie. Pitt plays Oakland A’s real-life General Manager Billy Beane. The team is a losing proposition has no money to expand or buy good players, and is about to go under. It’s Beane’s  task to save the team.  The catch is that Beane doesn’t even like baseball—he never watches a complete game-- but he comes up with a scheme to re-work the game of baseball and benefit his losing team.

When Beane meets Yale economics graduate, played winningly by comic actor Jonah Hill, they put their heads together to analyze players and use statistics to get the team into the playoffs. The two completely opposite men use mathematics and equations to develop a secret weapon. Hill is excellent in his wariness of Pitt and his off-the-cuff manner. But the two polar opposites combine to make an exciting duo that will be finally vindicated. Pitt and Hill are very funny together, and it’s a pleasurable experience to watch the two acting masters together for the first time.

Philip Seymour Hoffman sports a shaved head and is made up to look like an old man in his role of grumpy team manager Art Howe. One can never fault Hoffman’s performances, and he deftly captures Howe’s disdain for Pitt’s managing skills, while looking for a way to save his own butt. Special mention must be made for young actor Chris Pratt, who is ditzy player Scott Hatteberg, a catcher who can’t throw, hit, or run, and is terrified of the ball itself. He’s a comical and naive character just wet enough behind the ears to be appealing and sympathetic.

One can’t help rooting for the underdog team, and the hope is that the Pitt-Hill mathematical scheme will pay off to help them win games. Overall, the film is a very enjoyable and at times, exciting, story about the good old American pastime, baseball.  Go see it, You will enjoy it because it is funny, dramatic, thrilling, and satisfying. Columbia Pictures.
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