Moneyball and The Tree of Life go head-to-head for Best Picture
by Cassie MacKenzie
For a few years, Brad Pitt has had so many labels—from sexiest man alive to heartbreaker to superdad—that it was easy to forget that he was, in fact, an actor. Brad chose 2011 to remind us of his abilities, putting two incredibly diverse performances on the table. With Moneyball and The Tree of Life, each grabbing a nomination for Best Picture, Brad has appeared in just over 20% of the year’s best films (granted you agree with the Academy). Here’s my rundown of the two films and what they have to offer moviegoers.
The Tree of Life
I hated this movie. There, I said it, although it’s not as blasphemous a statement now as it was when the movie first came out and everyone was busy praising director Terrence Malick’s “vision” and “artistry.” The movie “follows the life journey of the eldest son, Jack (played as an adult by Sean Penn), through the innocence of childhood to his disillusioned adult years as he tries to reconcile a complicated relationship with his father (Brad Pitt).” At least, this is what the movie does according to Fox Searchlight. I, on the other hand, watched in increasing frustration as a parade of nonsensical (although very beautiful) imagery was paraded before me on screen with little or no link between scenes and a plotline so non-linear that the movie actually dips back into prehistoric times.
Despite its pretentiousness, the film is somewhat redeemed by its strong performances. Brad easily takes on the role of a harsh, unforgiving father, and Jessica Chastain presents the meek wife/bold mother duality with subtlety and grace.
More art piece than film, see this movie if you’re comfortable sitting back and letting the imagery wash over you, moving from moment to moment. Avoid it, if, like me, you like your movies to follow a more linear plotline.
I loved this movie. If you’re tempted to stay away from the film because it’s a “baseball movie,” I encourage you to ditch these preconceptions: as Sony Pictures puts it, “Moneyball is a movie for anybody who has ever dreamed of taking on the system.” Frustrated by the constant loss of his best players to teams with seemingly endless cash flow, Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) takes his tiny budget as far as it can go and reinvents his team based purely on statistics. Brad makes this unlikely subject interesting by bringing Beane to life onscreen with swaggering (but not overdone) confidence. I wouldn’t immediately consider Brad for the role of corporate underdog, but shame on me for doubting his versatility: he excels in this film, definitely earning the nod for Best Actor.
Avoid this movie if any mention of sports turns you off entirely, but otherwise I think Moneyball has it all: great performances (though Jonah Hill’s nomination seems over the top), a classic underdog storyline, and an accessible look into the surprisingly fascinating world of corporate sports. And for the ladies…Brad Pitt workout scenes! Hello!