OSCARS: Academy Turns Out Crowd For 'Moneyball'; But Is It Best Picture Worthy?

Take it with a grain of salt. But Saturday night’s “official” Academy member screening of Moneyball seemed to draw the most enthusiasm since last May’s packed Midnight In Paris. At least judging by several unsolicited responses emailed to me by Academy members in attendance. Of course it helped that the film came in a very respectable No. 2 at the box office this weekend with just over $20 million. One Acad member told me it was “as crowded as it gets.” While another wrote, “I just went to the Academy screening  of Moneyball, and it was packed! Pretty much filled besides a few random open seats.” The make-up of the Acad crowd was described as “older than usual, and a lot of new faces” and by another member in attendance as “definitely older than I would have expected. But there was great reaction throughout the film and big applause at the end for Brad and Jonah.” Another opined that “the lighter moments played well, which as you know is always telling. The few jokes were responded to well. There was warm applause at the end. But personally I gauge baseball movies by the emotional swelling I get in my throat at least once. I didn’t get that here.”

I would say that’s because this is a sharp and cool and savvy film more about the business of baseball than anything else. This person also wondered whether Sony will move it into the Golden Globes  comedy category even though it is probably perceived more as a drama. “If it’s a comedy, that means Pitt is a lock for Best Comedy actor,” they said. I posed that question to one of the film’s consultants (who called the Academy screening a “home run”) and it hadn’t been discussed. “I can’t imagine it.” Then again, last year another Sony flick with Pitt’s wife, The Tourist, was shoehorned into comedy and got three key nominations. You never know the twist and turns of these things, particularly this early in the season. Then again, producer Scott Rudin, who has two other films likely competing in the drama categories (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close), might want to try and spread the wealth Globes-wise. I can tell you Moneyball is a LOT funnier than The Tourist, and I noticed quite a few laughs when I saw it at a Los Angeles-area theater Sunday evening for a second time.

Even though these Academy screenings aren’t a scientific barometer of a film’s eventual Oscar chances, they can be useful, particularly in gauging Academy voter interest in even seeing a contender. It’s rare to see the Samuel Goldwyn theater in Beverly Hills completely full at the official screenings. But I imagine members are starving for something thought to be “awards worthy” at this early point, especially since reviews have been so good, with an astounding 94% fresh score at Rotten Tomatoes and a nearly perfect 97% among top critics. It doesn’t get much better than that. Moneyball, however you define it, is clearly a Best Picture contender at this point, and Pitt and Jonah Hill would seem to be top contenders for acting nods.

Looking at the upcoming Academy screening schedule for October, there isn’t a whole lot of Best Picture fodder being shown. Except perhaps The Ides Of March from Pitt and Academy pal George Clooney at the Sunday matinee on October 9th. Other October official screenings with any potential at all include 50/50 next Saturday afternoon and Pedro Almodovar’s foreign-language hopeful The Skin I Live In on October 8. And later in the month some smaller “maybes” like Margin Call, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Like Crazy, and Anonymous.

Other films being presented to the Academy membership are Dream House (a horror film not even being screened in advance for critics), Margaret (delayed five years and finally getting released), Pearl Jam Twenty, Kevin Smith’s self-distributed Red State, Dirty Girl, horror remake The Thing, Real Steel (which does boast a surprisingly terrific kid performance from newcomer Dakota Goyo), Paramount’s musical remake of Footloose, nearly straight-to-DVD Trespass, the Steve Martin/Jack Black/Owen Wilson bird-watching comedy The Big Year, Oranges and Sunshine, The Women on the 6th Floor, and the long-gestating The Rum Diary with Johnny Depp. It’s unlikely any of those will elicit the same wanna-see factor with the Academy as Moneyball did this weekend. The big question now is whether this baseball movie can go where few others have: into the Best Picture lineup.

  1. Saw Moneyball at a Sat Mat here in Orlando and huge AMC Downtown Disney theater was packed. Audience loved the movie and I got a nice warm feeling from Beane’s triumph ( tho I thought he was a putz not to take Boston’s offer – talk about “winning”). Jonah Hill should get a Supporting Actor nomination or there is no justice in this world.

  2. A random sampling of some of the most crowded Academy screenings I attended: The Manchurian Candidate, The Interpreter, Cold Mountain, The 40-year-old Virgin. Number of people in attendance for at least 3 of the last 8 best picture winners: less than 200 in a 1000-seat theater. So, yeah, it doesn’t really mean anything.

  3. This movie will prove three things I’ve always believed.

    Brad Pitt is a great comedic actor.

    “Experienced” movie goers want to go to the theater. (my elderly parents loved it).

    Original stories are the future of film.

    1. Not sure if this movie really proves that Pitt’s a great comedic actor. Sure there are some funny lines in the film but most of the film is fairly serious. Don’t let anyone fool you, the movie had a some good comedic moments but this is very much a drama in every sense of the word no matter how much Sony would like others to believe. Besides I thought his performance in Burn After Reading was a much better barometer of his comedic chops.

      1. …and he diplayed terrible comedic acting abilities in that movie.
        Pitt will never be a good comedy actor. He’s average, and most of the time he playes the same character no matter the movie.

        1. Not true. He was extremely funny in BURN AFTER READING, exceedingly malevolent in THE ASSASSINATION OS JESSE JAMES…, and his performance in THE DEVIL’S OWN was superb. THE TWELVE MONKEYS and THE FIGHT CLUB also showed his talents well.

  4. no, moneyball does not deserve a best pic nomination. brad pitt is good within a certain, limited bandwidth of colors. so, no, he does not deserve an academy award nomination.

  5. Crowd was >25 and theatre was packed the first two rows were empty. What I liked is that you don’t have to love BB to enjoy the movie just the banter between the actors was enough. Damn Brad Pitt was fine in this movie. My husband asked me how old Brad was and I said mid 40’s. Since saturday, my hubby has worked out two days in a row and early in the morning, so thanks Brad!
    Brad for best actor, Jonah for supporting actor. They deserved it.

  6. With a potential for 7 nominees, does anyone really think this is not a slam-dunk nominee? A phenomenal movie — beautifully directed and once again, a brilliant script from Sorkin/Zallian paves the way.

    This may open the door for more sports-related movies, which I for one enjoy. They get a bad rap though because the perception is there’s NO foreign.

    Moneyball is much, much more than a baseball movie. It’s a brilliant character piece and it’s just beautifully done.

  7. This film is decent, not great- and definitely doesn’t deserve Oscar nominations for film or for the performances . I am all for rich subtle performances, but Brad Pitt is not compelling . The pacing in this movie is unbelievably slow and awkward . Now, Bull Durham ( Susan Sarandon deserved an Oscar nomination ) & Field of Dreams deserved Oscar nominations for Best Picture – not this overrated film. When will the media stop kissing up to Brad Pitt ( and his buddy George Clooney ) ?

  8. Moneyball will be nominated for best picture. And it will win best screenplay (adapted). As for Pitt, I don’t think his performance was extraordinary. At times he broke into his Lt. Aldo accent, which needs to stop. Jonah Hill was funny, but Oscar-worthy, not so sure. Let’s put em both down for Golden Globes.

  9. I really liked the film and think Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill are likely to get nominated. (My only reservation — will “The Sitter” turn out to be like Eddie Murphy’s “Norbit” and ruin Hill’s chances for a nomination?) I do agree that the movie does lack a huge emotional payoff.

    I’m a huge baseball fan, and I really like the film, however, I can’t see Academy voters making it a Best Picture nominee. If there end up being 10 nominees this year, then yes, I can see it making the cut. But if there’s only 5 or 6 nominees, I can’t see this scoring.

    In the end, Academy voters tend to go for Epic movies, British dramas, Period pieces, or small indie films with socially relevant themes. I don’t see them going for a really well-made studio drama about how statistical analysis changed the business of baseball. It’s just not their thing, I fear.

  10. By the way, why did they cast an actor who looks nothing like Brad Pitt as a younger version of Brad Pitt in “Moneyball”? Granted, the actor looked like the young version of the real-life Billy Beane, but since he’s supposed to grow up and look like Brad Pitt, why not at least make his hair blonder so it matched Pitt’s look in the film?

  11. Have no desire to see a movie about baseball. I’m looking forward to Johnny Depps new movie The Rum Diary and will purchase the Blu=Ray when it’s released. Can’t go wrong with Hunter S. Thompson. I read the book and loved it. I like Brad Pitt but, just not interest in anything to do with baseball.

  12. I saw moneyball, thought it was good, but not the feel good movie all the way — I think that Ides of March and jedgar will be the top films. Brad Pitt was good but over Ryan Gosling in Drive or Ides of March???? No way. Besides, i hope Leo is front runner all the way, he has long deserved to win.

  13. Pitt for an actors nom is one thing, but no way for best picture. This thing was a nice little entertaining romp that was about 20 minutes to long and at many times terribly awkwardly directed and put together.

  14. Good movie..PITT did well. Not an award winner. The script didn’t make you cry. Close but no cigar. If you want to win …you gotta make me cry………almost did……..anyway

    MIDnight in Paris..great flick BTW

    DRIVE with Gosling? Decent BUT… his portrayal was contrived. He did his best to become a modern day BRANDO with a taste of JIMMY Dean… but it wasn’t reality…

    The quietness of his character was forced..most people his age are blabbermouths. Although DRIVE might get best soundtrack ;) (lol)

Comments are closed.