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Brad Pitt Oscar debate swirls around “Moneyball” – AWARDS ALLEY

By Sean O’Connell
Hollywoodnews.com: Has this year’s race to fill Oscar’s five Best Actor slots already been settled? In September?!

No, not by any stretch, though it does seem – at this stage in the game – that the Best Actor category is more crowded than any other field as we continue to track performances and films that will be singled out by Academy voters.

Following successful runs through Telluride and Toronto, “The Artist” and “The Descendants” appear to have made contenders out of Jean Dujardin and George Clooney, respectively. Some believe Leonardo DiCaprio has an excellent shot for Clint Eastwood’s “J. Edgar,” though the movie has yet to screen. The same goes for Gary Oldman in Tomas Alfredson’s “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” though positive words out of Venice are all we have to go on at this point.

After those four, speculation runs rampant. Can Owen Wilson ride the coattails of Woody Allen’s beloved “Midnight in Paris,” which many say has a shot at Best Picture? Can Fox Searchlight get the mesmerizing Michael Fassbender into the discussion for “Shame,” or will the graphic nudity be a problem for older Academy members? Will “Rampart” push Woody Harrelson into the race? Does anybody remember Paul Giamatti’s fantastic “Win Win” turn? Does Ryan Gosling have a shot for “Drive” or “Ides of March?” Then there are weighty performances from the likes of Tom Hanks (“Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”) and Matt Damon (“We Bought a Zoo”) yet to drop. Will they gain traction?

But the discussion as of late, what with “Moneyball” ready to open next Friday, involves Brad Pitt and whether or not he’s a “lock” (as much as anyone can be a lock in September) for one of five slots.

I raved about Pitt in my own “Moneyball” review, writing that he gave “a charismatic, bulldog performance” as Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane, and one that should catapult him into the Best Actor field.

From my review:

To that end, Pitt couldn’t play Beane 10 years ago. His own experiences as an actor solidify decisions he makes as a performer in Miller’s film. Pitt’s face, always handsome, is now interesting enough to hold the screen if Miller chooses to linger on it for long stretches, and Pitt has learned how to say a mouthful without using any dialogue. It’s a great performance in a solid movie. If “Moneyball” hits a triple, Pitt smacks a home run over the left field wall.

Others disagree. Jeff Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere entered into a kitty-cat fight with Kris Tapley and Anne Thompson over a perceived slight of Pitt’s “Moneyball” performance. (They didn’t diss Pitt, for real, but these petty squabbles are all too common in Oscar Tracking Land.) At least Tapley had the good sense to state, “And again, it’s September. Insane that this could be so narrowed down yet.”

Insane, indeed. But it will be interesting to see how Pitt’s possibilities rise or fall with “Moneyball’s” release next Friday. Could Pitt be in line for his third Oscar nomination? Or will he, like Beane, be looking for that proverbial “Big Win” on the last day of the season?

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About Sean O'Connell

Sean O'Connell is a nationally recognized film critic. His reviews have been published in print ('The Washington Post,' 'USA Today') and online (AMC FilmCritic.com, MSN's Citysearch) since 1996. He's a weekly contributor to several national radio programs. He is a longstanding member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Southeastern Film Critics View all articles by Sean O'Connell Association (SEFCA).

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  • September 17, 2011 | Permalink |

    Brad Pitt absolutely deserves that nomination!! He also did a great job in “The tree of Life”. I believe he deserves a nomination for Moneyball

  • September 17, 2011 | Permalink |

    Russel Crowe won with gladiator…This film released at May..it isn’t something crazy,if he good enough it is extremely possible…

  • September 17, 2011 | Permalink |

    I agree. Kelly. It shouldn’t matter when a film is released. If the performance is worthy, it should be nominated.

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