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Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill in “Moneyball” – TIFF 2011

By Sean O’Connell The thing about the Toronto International Film Festival is that the annual event can be used as a high-profile launch for a film that’s going to reach theaters a week or two later.

This year, Sony is bringing the talent behind Bennett Miller’s baseball drama “Moneyball” to TIFF so Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill can flash their grins before the world’s top entertainment journalists. Can’t make it all the way to Toronto? No fear. “Moneyball” will open in theaters on Sept. 23.

But will Miller’s film stay in the awards discussion after TIFF draws to a close? We won’t know until we check it out at the festival next week. Let’s preview it below.

Previous TIFF previews can be found by visiting our bustling Awards Alley.


The Plot: Miller’s film tackles the true story of major league baseball manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), who crunched the salary figures of the Oakland A’s to create a behind-the-scenes economic process that came to be known as “small ball.” But Beane’s revolutionary methods fly in the face of traditional baseball practices, earning him the scorn of the league.

The Cast: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Robin Wright, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Chris Pratt

The Director: Bennett Miller (“Capote”)

The Scoop: Michael Lewis’s book “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game” had a huge impact on major league baseball. Like Beane’s unconventional methods, it helped change the game. I’m anxious to see if Miller’s film can have a similar effect. Our nation also rallies around baseball movies. Will “Moneyball” rival “The Natural,” “Bull Durham” or “Eight Men Out” to become one of the finest baseball films in Hollywood history?

Awards Potential: “Moneyball” could clear the fences in multiple awards categories, depending on how it plays. We’ve been waiting for Miller to follow up 2005’s “Capote,” which earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Director and scored Hoffman his first Academy Award. Could he get back into the Best Director discussion? “Moneyball” co-screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s coming off an Oscar win for “The Social Network,” and we’re wondering if his lightning can strike twice. And while Pitt worked a foot in the door with the Academy by scoring his second nod with “Benjamin Button,” it’s unclear if Beane is an awards-worthy role of just a chance for the actor to cut loose and have a little fun.

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