Brad Pitt‘s Moneyball performance isn’t just a lock for a Best Actor Oscar nomination but a likely winner, I believe. The reason is Pitt’s other big 2011 performance — an unhappy, frustrated, dictatorial suburban dad in Terrence Malick ‘s The Tree of Life. It’s been touted by many (including Grantland‘s Mark Harris in a well-hidden 12.20 post) as the better of the two, and yet Pitt’s awards heat is all about Moneyball. Bottom line: No other potential Best Actor nominee has a similar two-for-one equation going on

“Given a role with such wrenching father-son dynamics, it must have been tremendously tempting to play only the red-meat stuff [in The Tree of Life] — the explosions, the clenched need for control, the abusiveness, the small tyrannies,” Harris writes. “Pitt does all that impeccably, but he never forgets that the inadequate father he’s playing is also a man who cares for his children, who teaches them things, who can’t bear not to be a good provider. Pitt doesn’t soft-pedal the character’s potential for cruelty, but he lives so deep inside the role that even when he’s behaving monstrously, he lets you see the self-loathing, the sense that he’s nursing a wound that will never heal.

“Nobody in the supporting-actor category did more nuanced, layered, complicated work this year. But instead of being at the center of the discussion, his performance is on the fringes, because the system has decided that Pitt will be ‘taken care of’ with a Best Actor nomination for Moneyball. He deserves that nomination. He deserves this one even more.”

Update: A cople of hours ago a friend wrote that “George Clooney, of course, has two films too including Ides of March so Pitt isn’t the only one with two perfs in the Best Actor ring, and Clooney has an advantage having written produced , directed and costarring in his. You might want to make note before your commenters do.” I replied that he was right, of course, “but Clooney’s Ides performance is nowhere close to Pitt’s Tree of Life performance in terms of layered gravitas and praise for same…not even close. It’s a fine Clooney performance, but nothing to drop your pants and go crazy for.”