Brad Pitt, “Moneyball” making Oscar waves ahead of release – AWARDS ALLEY

By Sean O’Connell Bennett Miller’s “Moneyball” opens in theaters tomorrow, giving mainstream audience members a chance to see Brad Pitt as Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane, who introduced a revolutionary (though some might argue “controversial”) new way to pay baseball players into the major leagues.

Ever since the film’s premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, however, talk on awards-tracking sites has involved a “will he or won’t he” approach to Pitt’s performance, as well as to the film as a whole.

I went on record in my review about Pitt’s multi-faceted turn, saying that “Moneyball” dropped him smack dab into the Best Actor race. I’ll get to see Miller’s film for a second time tonight and will be able to confirm whether I was on a “festival high” (always possible), or if Pitt’s performance really stands tall with the likes of fellow Oscar contenders George Clooney, Jean Dujardin, Michael Fassbender and Gary Oldman.

In the meantime, other Oscar analysts are weighing in regarding “Moneyball’s” chances ahead of the film’s opening.

Jeff Wells, this morning, puts Miller’s film at the top of his Best Picture guess, including “Moneyball” in Actor, Supporting Actor (for Jonah Hill) and Director, as well.

Movieline’s Oscar Index puts “Moneyball” at No. 8 in its weekly guess at a Best Picture Top 10. Pitt, meanwhile, is in for Best Actor, and Hill is in at No. 5 for Best Supporting Actor. But the site emphasizes how early we are in the process.

Gold Derby’s also on Pitt’s bandwagon, but adds a wrinkle, saying the actor could run – and receive support — for his turn in Terrence Malick’s “Tree of Life.”

It’s early. But “Moneyball” is in the discussion. Will it stay there after anticipated films like “War Horse,” “The Ides of March,” “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” and “J. Edgar” screen?

We shall see.

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