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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira:

February 22, 2012 at 9:12 AM

Oscar countdown: “Moneyball”

Oscar Sunday is just a few days away (I’m busy planning my outfit for Oscar night at the paper, which will include a very Kate Middleton-esque hat — hey, I have to take my fun where I find it), and our alphabetical stroll through the Best Picture nominees is getting down to the final few. Today brings us to “Moneyball,” a movie that everyone loves and nobody thinks will win anything. Unlike pretty much every other movie on the Best Picture list (and just wait until I get to “Tree of Life”), I haven’t met a soul who didn’t like “Moneyball” — it’s a thoroughly beguiling sports comedy that, at its heart, isn’t really about sports. Brad Pitt, in wonderfully loose movie-star mode, plays Billy Beane, the general manager for the Oakland A’s who in the course of the movie discovers (with help from an irresistible character played by Jonah Hill) a revolutionary new way to build a team. So why does this movie have no Oscar buzz at all? Partly because of the conventional wisdom that sports movies don’t win Oscars; but perhaps also because this movie has such a relaxed, laid-back feel to it. Maybe you don’t think about it too much when it’s over, except to realize how much you enjoyed it. And maybe that doesn’t create Oscars, but it certainly creates happy moviegoers.
Total U.S. box office: $75.5 million (third among the nominees; just behind “War Horse” and far behind “The Help”)
Total Oscar nominations: Six, for best picture, actor (Pitt), supporting actor (Hill), adapted screenplay, film editing and sound mixing.
Best chance for a win: Probably none of these, but not for lack of trying. In a different year, Pitt’s performance could well have been a front-runner, but that race seems dominated by George Clooney and Jean Dujardin. Hill, in a category full of beloved veterans, will have to wait his turn. And while the screenplay’s marvelous (and co-written by last year’s winner, Aaron Sorkin), it seems likely to take a back seat to “The Descendants.”
Odds of this movie creating some fabulous Oscar-night weirdness: Well, Pitt’s the one acting nominee who’s playing a character who could likely show up at the ceremony (Beane is alive and well; Hill’s character, Peter Brand, is a composite), so if he could pull a shocker and win the category we could see some nice photo ops. (Of the other real-life characters for which actors are nominated: Margaret Thatcher, played by Meryl Streep, is unlikely to show up — to say the least — and Marilyn Monroe and Sir Laurence Olivier, played by Michelle Williams and Kenneth Branagh, died decades ago.)
Where I’d rank this movie out of the nine nominees: 7, which shows that I like almost all of these movies. Hard to rank.
Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill in “Moneyball” (photo by Melinda Sue Gordon; courtesy of Columbia Pictures/Sony)



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