Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill sat for a q & a last night with Entertainment Weekly‘s Dave Karger after a screening of Moneyball at Sony Studios. I’m not ignoring what they said or the still-potent pleasures of the film, but the standout moment was Pitt’s gentle handling of a strange, inappropriate confession from a gloomy guy in the left-front row who said he’d been feeling depressed and was “contemplating suicide.” Everybody in the room whispered “what the fuck?” but Pitt took it in stride and offered a nice brotherly reply.

Brad Pitt at Sony’s Cary Grant theatre following last night’s Moneyball q &a.

Here’s a super-dark YouTube clip with decent audio of the depressed guy. (It starts at the 42-second mark.) Cool-hand Pitt delivered a common-sense riff about the up-and-down-ness of things, and in a relaxed, no-big-deal sort of way. He gave the guy a little “chin up” and “I know it’s tough but it’ll get better.” The sound system was really echo-y so it’s hard to hear much but Pitt said that “life is cyclical…when you’re up and you’re up and when you’re down you’re down…it is tough, man…it’s tough…but man, it’s cyclical.”

After the discussion broke Pitt was mobbed by fans (mostly women) looking for photos and a word or two, but Pitt went over to the sad guy (whose depression, I gather, was over job and money prospects) and talked with him a bit more.

The Pitt-Hill discussion followed a 6:30 pm showing of Bennett Miller‘s Moneyball, which — yes, we need to do this once again — is still easily, absolutely and obviously the best film of the year so far, or is at least tied for that distinction alongside The Descendants.

It’s 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 and 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?

Pitt, Hill, Karger.

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.

Here‘s the mp3 but good luck with understanding it due to an echo effect caused by the Sony tech guys. Pitt, Hill and Karger’s voices were audible to those in the first few rows, but their amplified voices came out of a pair of speakers in the rear which created a delayed-echo effect. Pitt would say “I’d like-like to give-give credit-credit to Bennett-Bennett Miller-Miller,” etc. Plus the mikes didn’t work half the time. (Pitt threw his to the ground.) Plus there was no light on the trio so you couldn’t really see much.

I’m sorry but the Sony tech guys get a failing grade and five demerits each. If I was their boss I would ream their ass.