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'SHOULD WIN' VIDEO ESSAY SERIES: Best Actor Brad Pitt, MONEYBALL

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by Ali Arikan & Ken Cancelosi
February 9, 2012 7:21 AM
21 Comments
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[EDITOR'S NOTE: Press Play presents "Should Win," a series of video essays advocating winners in seven Academy Awards categories: supporting actor and actress, best actor and actress, best director and best picture. These are consensus choices hashed out by a pool of Press Play contributors. We'll roll out the rest of the series between now and Friday. Follow along HERE as Press Play picks the rest of the categories including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Supporting ActressBest Supporting Actor and Best DocumentaryImportant notice: Press Play is aware that our videos can not be played on Apple mobile devices. We are, therefore, making this and every video in this series available on Vimeo for these Press Play readers. If you own an Apple mobile device, click here.]

Narration:

Brad Pitt is one of the biggest movie stars in the world. But he is also a fantastic actor. His phenomenal range has allowed him to play delirious and zany, as in Twelve Monkeys, but also understated and restrained, as in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Those films brought Pitt a Best supporting actor and a best leading actor Oscar nomination respectively, but both times, he went back home empty-handed. This year, Pitt is once again nominated as best actor in a leading role Academy Award for his performance in Bennett Miller’s Moneyball. Press Play believes that he deserves the Oscar, and, in this video essay, we will tell you why.

In Moneyball, Brad Pitt plays Billy Beane, the legendary general manager of the Oakland A’s, who reinvented the way baseball players were hired during the 2002 season. There is real mystery to Pitt's take on Billy Beane. He loves the game, but knows the game is changing. He knows he has to get wins in order to keep his job, and is more than willing to modernize for that reason. But he also knows there is something you can't calculate about the game of baseball. The scenes of Pitt driving to work or sitting in the locker room show a man who is constantly trying to figure out the odds and knowing deep down that there are some things you can't figure out.

Brad Pitt’s performance is an almost old-fashioned, movie star one. In another universe, one could imagine Jimmy Stewart or Cary Grant taking the part. He brings to the role an assured quality on overzealous, yet understated, lust for ultimate success that was forged in the fires of years and years of failure. He's charming and cheeky and funny, and very good looking (despite the hideous early naughties’ haircut and lumbering fashion sense). Pitt brings a subtle comedic take to what could have been a rather boring central role; his various dealings with other managers, his scouts and players, betray genius-level timing and mimicry.

Pitt plays him as a nexus of frustration: he never made the big time, so he tries to make up for that lost opportunity. He is clever, though: he knows that he is unable to see the forest for the trees as evidenced in the final conversation with Peter Brand, a composite character played by Jonah Hill; as well as the earlier exchange with his precocious daughter, but that's what obsessive-compulsive people are like. They know what they're doing is irrational, but they have to keep doing it.

Ali Arikan is the chief film critic of Dipnot TV, a Turkish news portal and iPad magazine, and one of Roger Ebert’s Far-Flung Correspondents. Ali is also a regular contributor to The House Next Door, Slant Magazine’s official blog. Ken Cancelosi is writer/photographer living in Dallas, Texas. 

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21 Comments

  • Gaspar Marino | February 21, 2012 6:21 PMReply

    Difficult category...all deserve the nominations and maybe a win, I would have liked to see Michael Fassbender in place of Gary Oldman though.

  • Timmy | February 16, 2012 10:56 PMReply

    seriously??

  • Chalkie | February 21, 2012 11:44 PM

    Precisely.

  • daniel | February 12, 2012 12:45 PMReply

    I've seen 4 out of 5 of the nominated performances for best actor.
    In my opinion Clooney and Pitt did a good job, but didn't give oscar worthy performances.
    Oldman was great as always and I think he is rightfully nominated for an oscar.
    Dujardin in my opinion is the one of the 4 performances I've seen that deserves to win the oscar.

    I haven't seen Bichir's performance in A Better Life, so I can't comment on that.

  • Matt | February 12, 2012 8:37 AMReply

    I'm surprised by all of the adulation for Bradley Pitt. Moneyball is a good film but there is nothing remarkable about it. if this award is about performances this year i really think that the award should go to Demian Bechar for A Better Life without hesitance. Has anyone else seen it?

  • Sean | February 11, 2012 12:06 AMReply

    Pitt is great, but I'd give it to the Old Man this year.

  • Samantha | February 10, 2012 8:31 PMReply

    I'm sure it's a great performance, but you're not even going to mention the other performances in this one? What about the brilliant performance that Gary Oldman put in, or how wonderful Jean Dujardin is in a modern silent film? Not even a word about them?

  • Samantha | February 11, 2012 1:26 AM

    Well, the only reason I was really surprised they didn't mention the other performances is due to the fact that the other essays about who should win did make mention of the other nominees. I hardly think my question called for an attack, and the use of excessive, completely capitalized words. Brad Pitt is a very fine actor, who has been passed over in years past; but, if there is a list of actors who have been overlooked for stellar performances Gary Oldman belongs on that list, as well, so it's not a very valid argument. These awards aren't meant to be about past performances anyways.

    Mime is acting, by the way. To dismiss it so cavalierly is to deny the foundation of modern cinema. He managed to express the same emotions and to tell a story just as well as if he had used words. It could have easily turned into an over-acted nostalgia piece, but Jean Dujardin managed to avoid that quite well. Yes, it is still a nostalgia piece, but I think a story of an actor be lost in changing times is still rather relevant.

    I cannot comment on Brad Pitt's performance in Moneyball, cause I, unfortunately, did not get to see it. I really wanted to, and can readily believe that he gave an amazing performance, because he is an excellent actor. I love watching his movies, especially Fight Club. Tree of Life I felt was not so much about the performances, which were good, but more about the art of the film.

    If you want to see a really great performance that was not nominated for an Oscar this year, I would check out Michael Fassbender in Shame. He is an exceptional actor, and it is a very powerful film.

  • Kaylem | February 10, 2012 9:55 PM

    Why in the world would other nominees performances be mentioned here? This video essay is called WHO SHOULD WIN...not...WHO'S IN THE RUNNING! In the modern era, The Artist comes off as an interesting and unique film chronicalling an time gone by, but by NO MEANS does any of its actors deserve the Oscar. Mime is not acting, though a vallient effort it was by Jean...and while we're talking about it, they can stop shoving the annoying movie down our throat with the INCESSANT Oscar campaign commercials. As for Gary Oldman, he's a fine actor, but so is Pitt...as evidenced by TWO of his movies (TREE OF LIFE and MONEYBALL) being in consideratin for so many awards, and his having been dismissed for his previous stellar performances in BABEL, JESSIE JAMES, BENJAMIN BUTTON, TWELVE MONKEES, LEGENDS OF THE FALL, SE7EN, and of course..FIGHT CLUB.

  • ShouldWinFan | February 9, 2012 10:39 PMReply

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! This video was great, and I hope you choose Terrence Mallick for Best Director for TREE OF LIFE as well...but back to Brad. When Brad Pitt's character was talking to his manager in the dug out, and couldn't get him to play the players he wanted him to play, HIS FRUSTRATION WAS PALPABLE. When Brad Pitts character in JESSE JAMES paid a late night visit to one of the men he thought wanted to kill him, it was an AMAZING PERFORMANCE OF RESTRAINED INTIMIDATION. When Brad Pitts character in TRUE ROMANCE went from laid-back pot-head to alert fast-talking with the cock of a mobsters gun, it was with the smooth transition of a seasoned pro'. When Brad Pitt character was talking to his kids on the hospital telephone in BABEL, I felt something. When Pitt's character, TRISTAN, was talking to his brother on the porch in LEGENDS OF THE FALL...and he said "..You take that back..or we're not brothers!..", I felt something. When Pitt's character in FIGHT CLUB (TYLER DURDEN) kept getting punched in the face...but just kept on laughing..harder and harder...I flinched, ..but emotionally, I felt something. Somehow, it signified the STRENGTH OF WILL. When Pitt's character in SNATCH (MICKEY) was haggling about selling the caravan truck, I REALLY BELIEVED the double-talk of his character...HE ESSENTIALLY CREATED HIS OWN LANGUAGE WITH ITS OWN CADENCE AND RYTHMS...AND IT WORKED...and I can go on and on about the performances that either blew me away, or made me think about my life! Everyone, and I mean everyone both undervalues, and over-exposes Brad Pitt. Its such a curious thing...and it happens to no one else in Hollywood. Women seem flustered or flirtatious when they interview him, and men seem like they're trying hard to be his best friend! It's impossible to view an UNbiased interview with him without cringing at the uncomfortableness he must be feeling to be treated with such defference. That said, Brad Pitt is under-valued in terms of his intelligence, personal wisdom, and acting skills, and over-exposed in terms of his personal life and romantic choices. This is a dangerous cocktail. Brad is constantly persued and written about, but for all the wrong reasons. The public, in turn, ends up feeling like he's being shoved down our throats, and therfore, ends up pre-judging and punishing him by accepting the melo-drama that the media puts out on a weekly basis. Its hard for Brad to rise above the tabloid portrayal, and the public wrongfully ends up wanting a screen character that will eclipse or mirror the cartoonish one that's been foisted on them by celebrity journalists...and I use that term loosely. I'm pleased to see that someone has taken up the cause of Brad Pitt having earned the Oscar this year, but I don't think even HALF of all his amazing performances were covered in your video essay. Nice try though. GO BRAD!

  • Chalkie | February 9, 2012 9:12 PMReply

    Nail on the head, Sophia. Pitt has never been more than an occasionally competent actor, and yes, that "phenomenal range" comment was indeed laughable. He's always been a hollow, insipid and dull actor, although there has been the odd successful moment (Fight Club, Jesse James). The praise he's gotten this year for his shameless Oscar-baiting has truly been a head-scratcher. To mention him and Newman in the same breath is another rib-tickler.

  • LIGAYA | February 10, 2012 1:17 PM

    @CHALKIE: You lost me with your "babe" remark.

  • Chalkie | February 9, 2012 10:13 PM

    "I submit that there are plenty men like you who wait for the chance to criticize gorgeous men like Brad Pitt simply because you wish you were him. Sadly, you're not...and never will be."

    Hmm. I think this comment says as much about you as mine says about me. Actually, if you'll look a bit closer you'll see that I thought his performances in Fight Club and Jesse James were successful. (And for what it's worth, I also thought he was fine in Burn After Reading and The Tree of Life). And for what it's worth the words 'hollow, insipid and dull' weren't an attack on him personally (by all accounts I've heard he's a half decent sort). Additionally, jealousy isn't my thing, babe - a lot of my favourite actors from now and the past are/were matinee idols (including, if you hadn't guessed it, Newman).

  • Laymenator | February 9, 2012 9:50 PM

    Your comment is curiously hostile, bordering on meanspiritedly bitter. I respond with the realization that the value of an Artist, much like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder, but words such as 'hollow', 'insipid', and 'dull, seam unreasonably harsh in light of the unprecedented media spotlight that shines on A-list celebrities today. Its a wonder any of them can turn out decent performances, as we, the audience, are constantly bombarded by tabloid lies and unsubstanciated rumors which are masqueraded as legitamate news stories. I argue that this would make ANY A-list celebrity with a family shun any interaction with people who may only want to sell stories and pics to the papparrazzi, thereby lining their pockets. What does this have to do with acting? Well how is an actor supposed to portray humanity in its sincerest form when everyone around them cannot be trusted? Makes studying human behavior, a MUST for an actor, pretty difficult. Brad has been in the business for over 25 years, and thats a long time to survive under these conditions...and having the public still fascinated to see what you do on-screen. The fact that SNATCH, BABEL,LEGENDS OF THE FALL, TREE OF LIFE, SE7EN, TRUE ROMANCE...and YES, OCEANS ELEVEN didn't show you the range Pitt is cabable of is evidence of your apparent blind bias against him. Even Newman didn't hit one out of the park in EVERY role..so why would you hold Pitt to a higher standard. Some people only attribute 'catty' behavior to women, but I submit that there are plenty men like you who wait for the chance to criticize gorgeous men like Brad Pitt simply because you wish you were him. Sadly, you're not...and never will be.

  • Conor | February 9, 2012 6:08 PMReply

    Feels like there's more of an admiration for the character of Beane than Pitt's performance here. While it is a very good and enjoyable turn, there are better and more deserving nominees. Would have been interesting to see this but with a focus on Oldman.

  • terri | February 9, 2012 10:39 AMReply

    I think his protrayal of a 'real' person was more than competent and was one of restraint and charm. However, I think his role in Tree of Life was even more demanding. Along with The Assassination of Jesse James and Fight Club , other movies for which he should have won is Babel and Inglorius Basterds. (I also loved him in Snatch) So many of his roles are unconventional and different. Alas, I think, his recognition by the Academy Awards might go the route of Paul Newman, receiving a honorary Academy Award for his body of work later in life (ironically that was the same year he actually won an Oscar for Color of Money, 1986 after 32 yrs of some remarkable work). I hope I'm wrong.

  • brace | February 9, 2012 10:22 AMReply

    I hope Brad Pitt wins the Oscar, because he is a big movie star and a good actor, but I think you overpraised (or I should say gave too much depth to) his performance in Moneyball. He was good as he usually is, but there is nothing exceptional in his performance or the movie itself. But, like I said, he really should win. And he definitely is one of the biggest movie stars in the world and Oscar, as an industry award, should go to movie stars, considering that it was never really about the performances or the best achievements in film (cause there is no such a thing)

  • Jamey DuVall | February 9, 2012 9:43 AMReply

    I think Pitt's work in 'Moneyball' is the movie star performance of 2011; charming, intelligent, measured, and fully lived in.

  • Sophia | February 9, 2012 8:54 AMReply

    Brad Pitt is competent in Moneyball and nothing more, some of his line delivery in particular is atrocious. I don't even think he deserved a nomination for this role, especially when compared to some of the performances that were overlooked. But then this is Hollywood and as Baran suggests given his 25 year career and thus standing in the business, how could they not nominate him? The Assassination and Fight Club are the only two films in which I was completely convinced by him and would argue that he was derseving of consideration for. To describe his range as phenomenal is laughable, however. Give praise for the roles he chooses, but his career is very hit and miss.

  • Kay | February 9, 2012 10:03 PM

    Brad Pitt has been quoted saying that he likes to 'switch it up' with every role, and play something completely different than the last role he has done. With this method, I think most definitely runs the risk of being 'hit or miss', as you stated, but I think its a healthy risk to take when you're an actor. THE DIRTY LITTLE SECRET IS THAT 80% of movie actors out there play the same role over an over again. This is mainly because of the studio heads lack of vision, but also because actors find that the public favors them playing one particular character, however, not so for Brad Pitt. Pitt has been able to be critically and financially sucessful while playing MANY characters, and if he wasn't so good-looking, I dare say he'd have received that Oscar a few years ago. The part of Billy Beane is deceptive, as it fools the undescerning viewer into believing that they are seeing an effortless, simple performance, when in fact, they are witnessing a subtle, introverted, emotionally-humble, well-paced and well-crafted performance by a VETERAN. No bells and whistles, nobody dies, nobody dying....just the everyday struggle of a middle-aged man contemplating his next move towards survival...just like the rest of us....brilliant.

  • Baran Zoral | February 9, 2012 8:26 AMReply

    Eventhough portraying Billy Beane is not Pitt's best work, I do agree that he should win the award. Not particularly because he is the best at the category or the years performances, but because he deserves an Academy Award. He's been contributing to cinema for almost 25 years, he has lots of roles that were overlooked by the Academy.

    I don't believe in Oscars but I do believe that Brad Pitt deserves the recognition after working so hard to prove he is not just a pretty face. Pitt brings depth and credibility to every role and makes you feel close to the character no matter how ridiculous the situation is.

    Congrats on the video essay, keep up the good work!

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