Brad Pitt

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The film is set during the last months of World War II in April 1945. As the Allies make their final push in the European Theater, a battle-hardened U.S. Army sergeant in the 2nd Armored Division named Wardaddy (Brad Pitt) commands a Sherman tank called “Fury” and its five-man crew on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. Outnumbered and outgunned, Wardaddy and his men face overwhelming odds in their heroic attempts to strike at the heart of Nazi Germany. – Wikipedia


Back in the early days of Oscarwatch we had a rule: it wasn’t about advocating; it was about predicting.  It wasn’t about what SHOULD win; it was about what WILL win.  But all of that changed as the Oscar watching industry grew.  Now, just like internet dating, there is no stigma to it.  The best way to write about the Oscars, I figure, is to advocate – the reason is that there are simply too many voices out there predicting so that it has become very nearly a pointless echo chamber.  At any rate, most bloggers kind of sort of do advocate even when they’re trying hard to.  You can see a bias coming from a mile away.  But over at Indiewire’s Press Play they are doing a series on Should Wins – and they’re really wonderful. They make a good case here for Mr. Brad Pitt (the clips remind me of what a great, great movie Moneyball is):

Viola Davis for the win:

You can watch the entire 53-minute conversation at Meanwhile, yesterday Moneyball passed the the $100 mil worldwide baseline. True to the equations of the film itself, home runs aren’t required to win the box-office game. For a movie in its 11th week of release, Moneyball has enjoyed a remarkably gracefully slope in terms of weekly drop-off percentage. (Thanks to re-expansion to more screens last weekend, it’s numbers actually doubled from the previous week.) With $73mil domestic already banked, these extra innings put Moneyball moneywise well within comfortable scoring territory.

Jonah Hill, Dave Karger, Brad Pitt

Photo posted on JustJared

I was invited to a special screening for Moneyball on the Sony lot.  If you’ve never been there, or don’t live on the Westside, it’s quite a trek out to Culver City.  I’m almost always late, and I can’t find the right driveway, not ever.  Once on the lot, I often get lost trying to find the right theater, and then get lost again trying to find my car.  It’s never my favorite place to see a movie (that would be the Academy’s theater on Wilshire in Beverly Hills — it’s the place movie lovers call Heaven) because I hate driving those freeways — the 405, the 10, Overland exit, Motor Avenue and then finally, there’s Sony.  But it was worth it this time because I was getting to see one of the best films of 2011: Moneyball.

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One of the threads running through this year’s Oscar race is the single father who must pull things together for the sake of his kids.  This is especially poignant in three films – Moneyball, The Descendants and We Bought a Zoo.  It’s even funnier that it happens to be George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon, the Oceans gang, but also the Sexiest Men Alive troika.  Remember how Clooney and Pitt were campaigning for Damon?

Another thing they have in common, other than caring for their children – all three have daughters, only Damon has a son — is that they cry.  Both The Descendants and We Bought a Zoo, those tears are brought on by their personal relationship. In Moneyball, the tears are more about happiness, disbelieving happiness that things worked out, for once, in Billy Beane’s life.  Of all three of these characters, only Brad Pitt’s Billy Beane is digging himself out of failure.  Clooney and Damon have suffered blows — leaving them to raise their children alone.  But Pitt isn’t raising a child so much as he’s trying to, finally, making something of himself.

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Why does it seem like the beginning of October is already too late to push through an Oscar contender?  If you’re a big star in a big movie you’re already on the radar of those who write about Oscar buzz, a thing that increasingly has no there to it.  But if you’ve just given the performance of your life in a movie nobody has seen how does your publicist get enough people to see your performance to find a spot for you in the already crowded acting or Best Picture categories?

This moment in the Oscar race is what I always think of as the Million Dollar Baby zone.  Clint Eastwood brought that film in at a time when there were less media outlets focused on the race, as many of them are now, and when those of us who were focused on the race – it was like me, David Poland, Tom O’Neil and Kris Tapley and a few others – had our radars tuned to The Aviator, which seemed, at the time, like it might finally be Martin Scorsese’s big Oscar win (he would later go on to win big with The Departed, nothing less than one of the best films ever to win the award).  But then people saw Million Dollar Baby. I’ll never forget reading Poland’s site the day after that screening — there was simply no question what movie was going to win and win big.

What I now wonder looking back at those seemingly innocent times, with all of the chatter we have now, so many hunters stalking Oscar prey, where the demand far exceeds the supply, would we have already been well aware that Million Dollar Baby would have been the big Oscar winner? Would it be showing up on Oscar charts as the de facto frontrunner? So much has changed since then.

Either way, and for whatever reason, after Toronto it always feels like the window of opportunity to break through gets smaller and smaller as the days go by.  If you’re not considered a major contender already, by October, your chances are slim.  But they’re not zero.  Late entries can sometimes shake up the race, like The Reader did when it bumped The Dark Knight, altering Oscar history while doing so.

On today’s Off the Carpet column, Kris Tapley looks at the Best Actor race, but specifically at those performances that could be overlooked.  I had no idea he was writing this, and I was writing a similar piece at the same time (great minds…) only mine covers Best Picture and Actress too (albeit not as thoroughly as Kris…).  So you want to head over there to In Contention to read that piece.  

Oscar buzz is now and has always been something undefinable – it’s like sexual attraction: you know it when you feel it.

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For the second in our series of talks, Thelma Adams, USA Today’s Susan Wloszczyna talk about Best Actor.

Since our talk, I’ve seen Moneyball.  Best Actor is boiling down to a few strong performances out a large group of actors this year.  Brad Pitt is going to be a force to be reckoned with I have a feeling: sometimes these things just happen and it’s nothing to do with anything but a kind of organic eruption of buzz and good will. This happened for Sandra Bullock and The Blind Side and, depending on box office and final review tallys from New York and LA, could happen with Mr. Pitt.  Again, I have to kind of eat crow because Scott Feinberg (now with the Hollywood Reporter) and Jeff Wells both said so and I fought them on it.  At any rate, the more people say about it now the less of a chance it has to happen.  So, one tries not to overhype.  Nonetheless, here is sampling of our talk.

Tom Hardy? Gerard Butler? Head on over to to read up.

There is a reason we have long since married our American spirit to baseball, and a reason why it’s the only sport with any romanticism attached to it, and there’s a reason why the camera loves baseball movies.  The crack of the ball hitting the bat, that ten seconds of waiting to see where the ball will go, writing your ending off a wing and a prayer.  But it isn’t just the hit, it’s the catcher, the pitcher, the outfielder, the umpire – it’s the three strikes – it’s the boys of summer, the cheering fans, and it’s the movies.  The relationship of baseball to the big screen is as American as rolled up blue jeans, the Mississippi Delta and the stuff of dreams – the audacity of imagining the impossible.

America and baseball and movies – this enduring love story is revived once again in Bennett Miller’s subtle, effective telling of the Oakland A’s inexplicable winning streak, turning their own history around with the help of statistical analysis.  One of the key lines in the film is about money – “money is never a reason to do anything.”  Yet the big show, we know, is almost all about money – how much can you afford to pay a player to win the game?  Can you still play the game if you can’t come up with the millions of dollars it takes?

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I am often asked on Twitter that so and so says so and so is the frontrunner or is going to win and what do I think about it.  Here’s what I think: there are a lot of Oscar writers and bloggers out there with their fingers on the trigger to be out front first with such and such.  I like to think of them as millions of sperm heading for that one egg.  I guess to be right early is sort of an honor in our business.  It’s a bragging right.  I am often guilty of such things, as I’ve recently said I thought Viola Davis would win in any category she was nominated for.  The truth is she might and she might not.  But if she went supporting, Glenn Close can’t lose in lead.  So goes my own wild prediction.  There are some things that just aren’t knowable, and whether someone or a film will win the Oscar is not one of those things.

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