Yes, my fellow Oscar pundits are talking about the rising fortunes of the top trio in the awards race, “The Artist,” “War Horse,” and “The Descendants.” All along, I have been puzzled by why they aren’t taking another Oscar contender more seriously: “Moneyball.”
Is it because it’s an unpretentious studio-backed drama about baseball? I will argue that although the movie adapted by Steve Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin from the wonky bestseller by Michael Lewis is certainly set in a baseball milieu, that is not what it is about. (Here’s my interview with director Bennett Miller.)
The movie is going to show serious staying power in this Oscar marathon for several reasons. First, it’s well-reviewed. Anecdotally, it’s popular among Academy voters, who regard Pitt’s performance as one of his career best. They also respect director Miller, who steered his old friend Philip Seymour Hoffman to a best actor prize for “Capote.” Inside the film community, “Moneyball” earns serious points for emerging intact from a particularly arduous studio development process as an entertaining yet serious, dramatic yet funny film based on a hideously challenging subject.
While the Golden Globes may resist this very American movie, they do tend to like Brad Pitt. “Moneyball” should wind up on many year-end ten-best lists, score with the producers, directors, writers and actors guilds. And it should also land the following Oscar nominations: Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor and Supporting Actor. The movie, while visually adept, is up against robust bigger-scale competition in many of the technical categories, such as Spielberg’s “War Horse” and Scorsese’s “Hugo.”
And Sony is turning on the wattage on their awards campaign. Here’s TOH’s coverage of Sunday’s Q & A with stars Pitt and Jonah Hill. The rotund comedian seemed a long shot to play the “Moneyball” statistician based on Paul DePodesta, who at 24 became assistant general manager of a major league baseball team, who was to be played by Dimitri Martin in the Steven Soderbergh version. Identified as a funnyman since he broke out in David Gordon Green’s “Super Bad” at age 21, Hill is now 28; he’s slimmed down, and wants to take his career seriously. He cites the Duplass brothers’ “Cyrus” as a turning point for him that led to Catherine Keener pushing him to Bennett Miller. He also credits family friend Dustin Hoffman for steering him toward studying drama at The New School in the first place. Hill models himself on funny dramatic character actors like Hoffman, Bill Murray and his “Cyrus” nemesis, John C. Reilly.
During filming, says Hill, Miller would have a “spiritual metaphysical conversation about every scene. We’d talk about everything except what was going on in the scene. We talked about words not being what you’re saying.” One day he was presented with ten pages of new Steve Zaillian dialogue and had to ask the entire production to wait for him as he memorized his new lines in the parking garage inside his locked car.
While Hill will return to comedy with Green’s upcoming “The Sitter,” he’s hoping that after “Moneyball,” he will be looking at a wider range of options. His equally slimmer friend Seth Rogen, for one, is directing him in “Robopocalypse,” and he is partnering with Mark Wahlberg on “Good Time Gang” and co-starring with star-on-the rise Channing Tatum in “21 Jump Street.”
The entire flipcam interview with Hill is below.