Why isn’t there a film as good as Moneyball opening this fall? Some kind of adult, male-centric, amply-funded middle-class movie that really rings the bell, I mean. A film as superbly written, I mean, and directed (by the great Bennett Miller) and scored with such delicacy and finesse (by Mychael Danna). And cut with such confidence and with just the right portions of smarts, charisma, undercurrents and misty-eyed emotion.
As I wrote on 9.7.11, “It’s mystical, statistical, spooky, emotional and wonderfully original. And wonderfully ‘pure’ in a sense. The complexity mixed with the spirituality and the political reality of things…just brilliant.”
Moneyball opened six years ago, and that seems like a century ago in terms of what’s getting made these days and where the Hollywood culture is at and who’s investing in what. I’m very, very afraid that American megaplex flicks like Moneyball (i.e., ones that might turn out just as well) are never even getting their chance at bat.
Posted on 11.28.11: “Moneyball is so much finer and smarter and more skillfully directed, written and performed than all the late-arriving Best Picture twirlybirds (especially and definitely including War Horse, The Artist and Hugo) that…I don’t want to get out the hammer but is there something in the water or what? The Artist, a bright shimmering bauble and a charming, silver-toned curio, is a hotter Best Picture contender than effing Moneyball? An almost comically schmaltzy, old-time manipulative Steven Spielberg horse film deserves more Best Picture love? Are we all living inside the Truman Show dome? If so, would it be okay if I become a heroin addict?
I realize, of course, that Moneyball doesn’t deliver conventional satisfactions (no big win at the end, no Natural-style home run, no cute dog) but it’s so amazingly singular and patient and wise and masterful. The fact that Miller allows the soundtrack to go utterly silent on several occasions is awesome in itself. Unlike other sports films and their standard strategems, it probably takes a couple of viewings to really get what Moneyball is throwing.
“Plus it contains Pitt’s finest performance of his career and the best swaggering-movie-star performance in a long while. George Clooney doesn’t ‘swagger’ as Matt King in The Descendants — he’s playing an anxious, grief-struck dad who settles into a tough situation and comes out of it in a stronger, slightly less selfish, more father-like place. Pitt’s Billy Beane is also besieged and uncertain, but he’s a little more of a kick to hang with. So perhaps he’s a notch or two ahead of Clooney…maybe.
“And 28 year-old Hill slips into a new realm or membrane of some kind. His Peter Brand character is mostly about analytical brainpower, but he’s a guy who loves to stay out of things. His greatest comfort is blending in with the walls and the furniture. The pleasure of Hill’s performance is in the silences, the unspoken stuff, the stillnesses, the looks of terror and trepidation. It’s a major growth-spurt role, and absolutely deserving of Best Supporting Actor honors, partly because Hill’s decision not to do just raunchy comedies like Get Him To The Greek and The Sitter represents the best instinct or impulse that an actor can have, which is to move up the ladder by growing his or her game.”