'Moneyball': 10 Reasons Why It Should Win an Oscar

Erik ReitmeyerContributor IIIFebruary 8, 2012

'Moneyball': 10 Reasons Why It Should Win an Oscar

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    Late last year, "Moneyball" opened to widespread success, both critically and financially. Satisfying more than just baseball fans, it went on to garner six Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Best Actor (Brad Pitt) and Best Supporting Actor (Jonah Hill).

    Like the A's organization itself, the film is an underdog.  Having struck out completely at the Golden Globes and the SAG Awards, it's looking as though its chances for success come Oscar night are slim.

    Can "Moneyball" follow in the footsteps of Oscar winning sports films like "Million Dollar Baby" and "The Fighter", or will it, like the 2002 Oakland A's team, come up short in the end?

    Here are 10 reasons why "Moneyball" should bring home a statue come Oscar night.

Sports Films Have a History of Success at Oscars

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    Dating as far back as "The Champ" (1931) and as recent as "The Fighter" (2010), sports films have generally done favorably well at the Oscars.  Sports are a major part of our culture, so it makes sense that the genre would continually find itself garnering acclaim from the Academy on a regular basis.

    In movies, sports are just the vessel in which filmmakers can present stories that mean far more than just x's and o's or statistics.  In a way, the sports themselves are a tool employed by writers and directors, using the game and its methods to instill motifs or symbolism into the plot just as "Moneyball" did.  They take the game and turn it into a metaphor for life.

    It's a proven system of storytelling, one that audiences and critics always seem to appreciate come Oscar season.

The Story

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    "Moneyball" tells a story that transcends the game itself, but ironically the film preaches something almost all sports disavow.  It focuses more on the individual than it does the team.  However, it doesn't simply try to say that the best baseball players are the ones who hit the most home runs, or draw the most walks.

    The film tries to tell you to look at what's underneath.  Don't just take something at face value or what the stats tell you, and never is this more important when looking at how you rate and value yourself.

    In the film, Billy Beane, played by Brad Pitt, undergoes that kind of existential self-discovery.  He not only has to reinvent his team in order to compete, but he must first reinvent how he perceives the game he thought he knew so well.

    Beane must believe in himself and his morals enough to persevere through the tough times and stay the course knowing that what he's doing is right, despite the widespread backlash it has provoked.  By the end of the film, you learn just as much about yourself and others as you do about the game of baseball.

    It's an uplifting, underdog story that the Academy continuously goes for.

Brad Pitt Is Due

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    After previously being denied an oscar for his Academy Award nominated performances in the films "12 Monkeys" (1995), and "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (2008), Pitt finds himself once again nominated for his portrayal of the creative and cunning A's GM Billy Beane.

    The biggest difference between this film and his previous two nominations is that this is Pitt's movie through and through.  In "12 Monkeys" he only had a supporting part, and in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" he had to share the spotlight with two major players in the industry, director David Fincher and Academy Award-winning actress Cate Blanchett.  

    Here, Pitt is carrying the film.  His main supporting actor is Jonah Hill, an actor primarily known only for appearing in comedies.  In fact, with the exception of Hill and Philip Seymour Hoffman, the rest of the cast is made up of virtually unknowns including former professional baseball players and real scouts. 

    Pitt gives Beane a charisma when on the job, and just enough of a slight vulnerability when off it.  What results is a character who like his team is far from perfect, and therefor constantly interesting.

    If Sandra Bullock can win Best Actress for "The Blind Side" then Pitt can most definitely win Best Actor, seeing as how "Moneyball" is a much more critically acclaimed film, currently owning a 94% fresh rating at rottentomatoes.com, compared to "The Blind Side's" 63%.   

Jonah Hill

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    In "Moneyball," Hill is just as much Brad Pitt's right hand man as his character Peter Brand is Billy Beane's.  In the film he's presented with the extremely difficult task of having to stand up to Pitt's far more experienced acting abilities, and—giving undoubtedly the best performance of his career to date—Hill delivers.

    Though Pitt may be the bigger name, Hill is probably the film's best shot at winning on Oscar night.  His portrayal of Peter Brand, though refined, is extremely good.  He's an outsider to the sport, no doubt the nerd in high school that the jocks like Beane picked on.  Hill is able to show a subtle hesitance in Brand while never actually wavering in what he's preaching.  

    Though a dubious choice at first, Hill may in fact have been the perfect choice all along.  His serious acting was spot on, while he was able to naturally inject some critical comic relief in a drama-heavy film.

    The biggest competition for Hill will come from Christopher Plummer, who already took home the Golden Globe for his performance in the romantic-comedy drama "Beginners," starring as a father who comes out as gay after the passing of his wife of 45 years.

    History also isn't on Hill's side.  If Hill were to win, it would be the first time in five years an actor has won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor after not winning the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor.

The Team Behind the Camera

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    Aaron Sorkin, Steven Zaillian and Bennett Miller are quite frankly some of the best in the business at what they do.  All three have had their fair share of success when it comes to the Oscars, though Miller is the only one to have not won an Oscar.

    Sorkin and fellow screenwriter Zaillian were able to construct an intricate, yet easily comprehendible story using a part of sports that may otherwise have been foreign to the average moviegoer.

    When most of the action is happening behind the scenes, the dialogue is critical.  It must engage and interest the viewer, and needless to say it did.  When your film's phone calls provide excitement and drama, you know you're watching a film that had a great script and a great director at the helm.

The Editing

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    One of the more overlooked nominations for the film is in the Best Film Editing category.  What Christopher Tellefsen is able to do is seemlessly transition between the various facets of the film. He has to contend with flashbacks, and even mesh the real with the not real.

    The flashbacks of a younger Beane and the archived 2002 A's footage play out like a documentary when spliced together with the scripted action.  In a way, the film as a whole has the feel of a documentary, and it was a conscious choice by Tellefsen and Bennett Miller.  

    When the film was originally conceived, it was going to include actual player interviews.  That's a radical idea considering it's unheard of to see a feature film contain both documented footage and staged action.

    It's refreshing and impressive to see that in the end, Tellefsen was able to find a balance between the two styles that fitted the film so effectively. 

Weak Competition

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    In previous years there seemed to be clear frontrunners for each category, that can't be said for this year.  The field is wide open, best exemplified by the three nominations "The Tree of Life" was able to amass.  That film also starred Pitt, but many believed it was too elusive in meaning to realistically be considered an Oscar contender.  

    Aside from the two Pitt films, it appears as though "The Descendants" and "The Artist" have emerged as the two biggest threats that would keep "Moneyball" from taking home an Oscar.  Though both are very good films, they are from locks in any category.  That bodes well for a dark-horse candidate like Hill or Pitt to step in and steal an award.

Chaos That Was Pre-Production

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    Ok, so this probably isnt a legitimate reason why an academy member should vote for "Moneyball," but it at least deserves some recognition.

    It's fitting that "Moneyball" revolved around a team constantly changing personnel, seeing as how those behind the camera were constantly needing to be replaced.  It took Columbia Pictures over six years to finally settle on a script after buying the rights to the book in 2004.

    In that time they saw three different screenwriters and directors come on board to take control of the project before writer Aaron Sorkin and director Bennett Miller made the film audiences saw in September.

    It's a testament to the strength of the story that such a bona fide movie star like Brad Pitt would stay attached to a project for that long of a time amidst all the turmoil, and isn't that a little ironic?  Like Beane in the film, Pitt needed to believe in the material enough to see it through.  He didn't abandon the project after its initial problems, and that patience was rewarded in the end.

It's Relevance in Today's Culture

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    In "Moneyball," there are no magic cornfields or lightning-powered bats capable of knocking the cover off the ball.  There is just a team whose biggest obstacle is itself and the environment in which it must survive.

    The film is representative of what's happening in the world today.  Any American experiencing similar hardships can easily relate to the challenges Beane and company faced in the film.  America and the rest of the world is in a difficult economic predicament in which sacrifices need to be made.  

    The film's concept is just as global as the sport itself.  That's also part of the reason why the film was so successful overseas in places like Australia and Europe, where baseball isn't all that popular.  Of the ten films running for Best Picture, "Moneyball" is arguably the most relatable when trying to touch base with a wide variety of audiences.

Originality

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    What other sports film can you remember that is set almost entirely off the field?  "Moneyball" is set from an angle that focuses on and appreciates a side of the game that is almost never seen.

    What sports films usually fail to show is that what happens before the game, in the offices of the executives, is just as critical to the team's success as what happens on the field.  

    In real life there is a reason why these players are playing for this team in particular, and that's a notion that is constantly being overshadowed in sports films by some late game heroics.  The only difference is that "Moneyball" gives the viewer everything they need to know, to understand why that player was successful in that critical moment of the game.     

    "Moneyball" is essentially a deconstruction of the game. Instead of just watching a team come together over the course of the film, it watches the game itself come together, the game that's played before any players takes the field.

    It doesn't leave that extremely critical part of baseball in the editing room.