I have already reviewed six out of the nine nominees for the Best Film Oscar, which will be handed out during the big ceremony tomorrow: Hugo, The Descendants, War Horse, The Help, The Artist and The Tree of Life. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is not yet released here, but two films have been released last year that I’ve managed to miss out on so far. So here are brief catch-up reviews of Moneyball and Midnight in Paris.
Moneyball (dir. Bennett Miller) is the story of baseball manager Billy Beane (what a name!) – played by Brad Pitt – who manages the relatively poor, bottom-of-the-league team Oakland A’s. Despite his efforts, Beane sees all his best players being lured away by rich teams such as the New York Yankees, and is unable to replace them on his modest budget. It is only after he meets computer nerd and economic Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) – who has come up with a statistical analysis of players that values players who are overlooked by anyone else – that Beane is able to put together a team that can win. Eventually, because by radically rethinking baseball Beane and Brand alienate the entire club, and the wins don’t come easy.
Moneyball is very decent, and a very good sports movie, even though there is very little sporting shown. But a best picture nominee? I could think of a number of films that are more deserving of such honor. I enjoyed myself, but not much more than that. And while the nomination for Best Actor for Brad Pitt is more or less deserved (he’s not going to win anyway), the one for Supporting Actor for Hill is a joke. Hill’s role is small, one-sided and without any meat to it. He was being applauded for lpaying a role different to the usual nerd he plays in Judd Apatow like comedies. But his Peter Brand is just a very bland, grown-up version of that same nerd. Americans, ts.
Midnight in Paris is said to be Woody Allen’s best film in twenty years. I would not know as I have not seen everything he has done in that period. But I do question whether that justifies nominating the film for an Oscar. Sure, the writing nod (Best Original Screenplay) makes sense, as much of the dialogue is zingy and entertaining. But ultimately the film lacks the pull or punch to stay with you for more than an hour afterwards.
Owen Wilson is surprisingly un-annoying as the American bread-writer-with-literature-amibtions in love with a fairy-tale version of 1920sParis. And who is mysteriously drawn into that world, populated by the likes of Hemingway and Dali, when the clock strikes midnight. However, his impersonation of a 1970s/80s Woody Allen is also very uncanny, and I would have preferred novel, original character. There is some surprising, and surprisingly funny, supporting casting being done. For instance with Adrien Brody’s rhinoceros-obsessed Dali and Kathy Bates’ friendly matriarch Gertrude Stein.
Allen’s best in twenty years? I’ll believe that. But Moneyball and Midnight in Paris, despite being completely acceptable, show that the decision, some years ago, to have more than five nominees for Best Picture does not necessarily produce added value for every year’s award ceremony.