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Entries in Moneyball (17)

Monday
Dec302013

The Secret Year of Spike Jonze

[Editor's Note: Tonight's guest column comes from Andy Hoglund, previously featured in reader spotlight. Here's his choice for "Entertainer of the Year"]

Spike on the set of "Her"

As we sign off on the final moments of 2013, the same names have repeatedly been uttered as defining this year in entertainment. From Miley twerking, to Kanye’s limitless ability to stimulate conversation, to Sandra's space solo, and so on, they've all had their moments. Overlooked thus far is 2013’s quintessential utility man in pop culture—the equivalent of Chone Figgins (versatile infielder/outfielder who finished 17th in American League MVP balloting in 2005). This all-around talent has worn multiple hats this year in film and music, some of them unsung. Spike Jonze may still not quite be a household name in 2013. He should be.

The deep impact Jonze achieves with a project as ambitious and heart-wrenching as Her should be no surprise. After all, his first feature length film, Being John Malkovich, was a touchstone of one of Hollywood’s most audacious years. Rather than pursue a work schedule along the lines of the prolific Steven Soderbergh, Jonze has released only three films since that impressive debut in 1999.

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Feb182012

Just Enjoy The Show

Cope and Dalton have made another spoof video of the Oscars. This one is just as offensive, though less consistently funny, than last year's (the presence of Inception in 2010 helped for the alternate reality comedy).

 

My favorite skewerings are of the self-pitying The Descendants and the eliptical structure of The Tree of Life "the earth. a dinosaur. a shoe. Sean Penn" and the "Rise of..." twist on the All Hell Breaks Loose finale is fun.

You know it's alternate reality and satire when Woody Allen runs screaming through the crowd. Everyone knows Woody never attends the Oscars! 

If you're interested, here's their satirical jab at the forthcoming Oscars...

I want my money back. I want my money back. just enjoy the show ♫

Tuesday
Feb142012

Curio: Oscar Unsheets, Part III

Alexa here.  With less than two weeks till the Oscars I'm spotting more and more fabulous unsheets (or fan poster art) inspired by the nominated films. (See last week's post for some criminally overlooked films). This week I'm moving on to the Best Picture nominees.  Interestingly, The Help seems to be one of the nominees most posterized this year; is it the lure of illustrating pie? 

The Help by Hector Pahaut.Here are some of the best celebrations of the Mississippi Maids, along with some key-themed designs for Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, mathematical minimilism for Moneyball, and evocative staircase imagery for The Descendants. Click for more.

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Feb022012

Distant Relatives: Rocky and Moneyball

Robert here w/ Distant Relatives, exploring the connections between one classic and one contemporary film.

Most of the time in life we view ourselves as underdogs. Nobody really feels like an expert or a person of power. As such, the only way to succeed beyond our wildest dreams is to overcome the powerful, like Apollo Creed's pompous entourage or the well established like MLB's back rooms of smokey scouts. The two films we'll look at today enjoy utilizing the well worn tropes of the sports genre or to be more specific the redemption story sports genre and give us characters who are surrogates for us to be and for us to root for. Rocky, possibly the most famous sports movie of all time, certainly the most famous sports film to ever win Best Picture, tells us the story (as if you didn't know) of small time boxer Rocky Balboa, a normal downtrodden guy given a shot to box World Heavyweight Champion Apollo Creed in what's essentially a gimmick match when Apollo's appropriate challenger gets injured and a quick replacement is needed. In Moneyball we follow Oakland A's General Manager Billy Beane, a man with the unfortunate and nearly impossible task of assembling a small market, low budget baseball team that can compete with rich teams like the New York Yankees. With help he institues a system high on formulas and equations and low on traditional baseball intuition. Naturally, everyone expects him to fail. So our David and Goliath storylines are set up, and even with us the viewer naturally leaning toward the Davids of the world, is this enough for us to root for them?
 
Getting a chance at the champ of Boxing is a pretty lucky break for Rocky. And having a job in professional Baseball doesn't exactly evoke sympathy for Beane. This begs the question, how to really get us behind our protagonists. Well, these films could paint them into saintly perfection, beatify them as all-great heroes, or they could present them as multi-layered individuals, men with faults, faults that we understand, faults that we too possess. Consider Rocky Balboa. It's clear that the opportunity he has handed to him has little to do with his own cunning. The man hasn't exactly grabbed life by the horns. He's a shy, quiet guy, nervous around women, unlikely to make it much farther than he already has. As for Beane, he has somethign of a sad history in baseball. As a young man, eager scouts with big promises presented him an opportunity (and paycheck) that he couldn't refuse even though, as it turned out, he wasn't quite pro material. Was it right for Beane to dive headlong into his impending disaster? Maybe not. But would you have turned it down? Perhaps you're not like Rocky. You're not shy and shabby. But you've felt like a failure before. And maybe you're not like Billy Beane. Maybe you don't care about Baseball. But you've longed for a dream, even when you know it wasn't to be so.


With both films presenting simlarly sympathetic heroes, we come to the equally unscalable stakes. Apollo Creed is unbeateable. Not only has no other boxer ever defeated him, no boxer has ever stayed on his feet through an entire match. For Rocky to defeat Creed would be unprecedented. As for Beane, a the baseball experts so spitefully remind him, no one has ever so untraditionally assembled a team. To do so with success would change the sport. To lose for both of these men would most likely mean their livelihoods. Balboa would become the sucker who was creamed by Creed. His boxing career, not to mention his health could be wiped out, just as he's finally finding someone special and worth providing for. Beane too is on the brink of becoming the laughing stock of a sport he's spent his entire professional life in. Even if he were lucky enough to stay in the business it would mean demotion and relocation and all at the cost of his loving daughter's constant worry. With odds like that, the terrifyingly tense scene is set for these men to succeed. And here's the thing: in both cases, they don't.
 
But of course they do. In typical, yet still well structured sports-film fashion, there are things bigger than winning and losing. In both the cases of Balboa and Beane, their success is measured differently than first expected. Balboa famously "goes the distance" against Creed, still losing but avoiding the KO. Similarly Beane doesn't win the World Series with his team of misfits. But he does break the all-time American League winning streak, a feat probably harder than winning the World Series, and in doing so creates a team that becomes a baseball phenomenon. In both cases this could be a ploy, a pander. Telling we, the audience, who traversed the film's long path in the sympathetic shoes of our protagonists that even when we fail against impossible odds, we can still be winners. But say what you will about the sentimentality of these movies (and you're probably saying it more about Rocky than Moneyball), I don't think it's a pander. What we have are two films that break out of easy sports categorizaion by allowing our heroes to achieve something greater than what can be measured by a simple sports storyline.  
 
This is what makes both films such successful redemption stories. They present us with a similarly likable character, impossible task and unexpected victory on new terms. So if you find yourself pondering if all of the sidetracks into Beane's personal life were really necessary or chucking at Rocky's much parodied shouts of "Adrian! Adrian!" remember that these are the elements that make these films sink or swim. They're the personal stories that emphasize the intimate in the shadow of the impossible. They create tensino. They create excitement. They make you hold your breath.


 
Other Cinematic Relatives: The King's Speech (2010), Cinderella Man (2005), Chariots of Fire (1981), Hoosiers (1986)

 

Wednesday
Feb012012

Oscar Symposium Day 1: Tinker Tailor Party Guys

Welcome to the Annual TFE Oscar Symposium! The Film Experience is proud to introduce the following guests (in alpha order): Ali Arikan chief film critic for Dipnot TVNick Davis Assistant Professor of English and Gender Studies at Northwestern University and the brilliant mind behind Nick's Flick Picks;  Mark Harris author of the instant classic "Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of New Hollywood" and Oscarmetrics columnist at Grantland; Kurt Osenlund Managing Editor at Slant Magazine's The House Next Door. And I'm Nathaniel Rogers, of course, your host here at The Film Experience. We started our conversation on Sunday night and here it is for you.  

NATHANIEL: Gentlemen. If I had access to the Windsor font I'd list us all in alpha order in white lettering on the same black title card Woody Allen style so that there won't be any tragic Corey Stoll business where the Screen Actor's Guild leaves one of us out when our inevitable Best Ensemble nomination arrives. Instead, as per Nick's suggestion, we're all pictured in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy's conference room. That indelible orange soundproof wall! How did this movie miss an Art Direction nomination?

Despite this visual trapping, I don't for one moment want anyone reading to picture us all as "gray little men" in uncomfortable stuffy suits, withholding. (I am generally too exuberant for secrets and would make a terrible spy.) Though I love Alberto Iglesias compositions for that movie, I'll readily admit that the score inside my head this very moment is more John Williams. Before the opening credits are even over, that man will hit you with the climax, and I'm excited to begin.

Feel free to change the setting at any time (the magic of cinema) but we begin at Tinker Tailor's sad little Christmas party (Don't ask me to explain why MI6 is hosting this party to which it was not invited). All the Best Pictures just walked in. Let's mingle. Who will you avoid? Who do you trust implicitly? Where do you see tension brewing. I think it only looks like Midnight in Paris is friendly with The Artist and Hugo. He secretly judges them for trusting so fully in their own nostalgia.

MARK HARRIS: I'm enjoying this party--who doesn't love wide lapels, long sideburns and ugly plastic eyeglass frames? As for who I'd avoid: The Artist, because I'm pretty sure it'd come up to me, lick my face, hump my leg, do a little dance at my feet, and instantly want to be best friends. Too much too soon--stop being so ingratiating and let me get some punch! I think I'd go seek out The Tree of Life--the cool movie glowering in the corner that nobody's talking to because it never gets invited to parties like this.

And I would be very cautious about eating those little tarts that Octavia Spencer is passing around on a silver tray.

ALI ARIKAN: I've just been talking to "Midnight in paris," who makes for a splendid company.  That guy's full of pithy anecdotes about literary figures of yore.

Well, let's stay at that Christmas party at the Circus.  My favourite scene of the year is set there, when a spook dressed as Father Christmas and sporting a Lenin mask, leads the troops in a rendition of the Soviet National Anthem as Smiley discovers his wife's infidelity.  That's one of the two times where Smiley lets his emotions out (the other being his angry "What are you, then, Bill?" at the end of the film), and we can see how devastated he is.  Oldman's nomination was well deserved. But that film was robbed on so many fronts.  Art direction, as you mention, as well as direction and a supporting nod for Tom Hardy, who is magnificent.  

KURT OSENLUND: Being in any sized room with Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is, in my opinion, too close. Moneyball and I are already flashing each other von Sydow-style hand signals. 'Is this guy bothering you?' 'YES.' We meet on the dancefloor, and tap a bit with Jean Dujardin, before heading to see what Smiley is staring at out the window. Is that...Harvey Weinstein? Smooching with Oscar voters?

More including The Artist, critical wars, Moneyball, Songs, and elevating your film...

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Jan242012

How We Did On Our Predictions! How About You?

I am not one to put too much stock in "scores" for Oscar Predictions. It's more exciting to predict something fewer people saw coming and this is why, I think I'm much better at "year in advance" predictions than most pundits; I don't always embrace the "sounds good on paper" options. But there's a flip side! My willingness to take risks always hurts my stats somewhere down the line. Nevertheless we have to take stock. It's fun to survey where you soared and plummeted each year. On average I'm completely happy with my track record. Here are my hits and misses!

I had a sensational batting average with Moneyball

My Perfect Scores
Supporting Actress. I knew Janet McTeer was stronger than people were guessing. She's a gender bender and Oscar loves drag. She totally steals the movie and Oscar loves Grand Theft Movie. Plus, it's a moving role with modern resonance.
Best Director. I figured Terrence Malick was too much of a god among directors for his peers to pass up.
Cinematography. Though I'll readily admit that this didn't feel too terribly tough to predict.
Moneyball and The Artist and Hugo and A SeparationI guessed their every placement correctly...which seemed risky with two of them.

Incorrect Guess That I Was Still Kinda Right About
I knew that if Rooney Mara prevailed it'd be Tilda taking the dive. Tilda Swinton joins Sally Hawkins from Happy Go Lucky in the exclusive sorority of  "People With More Precursor Notices Than One Could Possibly Dream of But No Oscar Follow Up" ...It's a very long name for a very tiny club.

Abject Failure
Wow did I ever miss on Original Song this year. Even with five guesses I couldn't manage 1 correct one. But then, this category is the worst. The documentary branch and the foreign film branch get the most push back each year on needing guidance and rule adjustments but it's actually the music branch that's in dire need of infrastructure work. More on that in the podcast (coming in a couple of hours. It's uploading). I also made a mess of the Documentary Feature category where I only guessed 2 correctly (Pina and Paradise Lost 3).

The Single Thing I Feel Stupidest About Missing
John Williams double nomination for score. I only guessed War Horse. I predicted him to get his umpteenth double nomination for practically the whole year until the precursors and other pundits convinced me to jump on the Dragon Tattoo train which I never felt right about (in that particular category) since Reznor & Ross's Oscar success with The Social Network felt like such a wonderful anomaly. Wonderful anomalies rarely repeat themselves.

The Long Shot I Most Wish I'd Predicted for Bragging Rights
Max von Sydow in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. In retrospect it'll feel kind of obvious to people especially since Supporting Actor felt unstable beyond Plummer. And here we have a legendary actor in a mute role (when does Oscar not go for that?) 

Something I Both Overestimated and Underestimated.
The Power of The Weepie. I put all my eggs in The Help's basket but War Horse and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close both ate into the demographic that Mark Harris amusingly dubbed "tear duct based voters" 

My Stats
37/44 in the big eight categories 
74/104 in the categories everyone tries to predict... the sound-based categories just destroyed me! 
83/119 if you include the shorts which many people don't bother with. 

How'd you do? 

 

*purists (you know who you are!) may quibble that I predicted only 6 Best Picture nominees. But hello the number is a separate guess from the titles ;)  I listed them in order of likelihood "if 6 nominees then... if 7 nominees then... if 8 nominees then... " etcetera which means I scored 8/9 for the Best Picture nominations. Ta da! If you don't count it that way it penalizes the people who guess fewer and awards the scaredy-cats who guess ten spots to cover all their bases. 

Monday
Jan162012

ACE Eddie Nominations. Will They Transfer to Oscar?

The editors have spoken. Though editing is an artform that greatly fascinates me I nearly always take issue with the ACE nominations. More than most craftsmen, the editors in the guild and in Oscar's editing branch seem to just pick their favorite Best Picture contenders every year even in cases where the editing might not be anywhere close to its strongest element. I understand why people love Hugo for example -- I really do despite my protestations -- but even though I think Thelma Schoonmaker is one of the most gifted editors who ever walked the earth, her work on Hugo is not up to her general (very high) standards. I've discussed this with Nick several times so I know I wasn't imagining it. We were both flabbergasted at the amount of shot / reverse shots where the children just sort of stare at each other blankly in scene after scene.

There is so much dead space in that picture weighing it down. Not trying to pick on Thelma but their choices across the board just look like they were trying to catch up on the Oscar buzz.

COMEDY or MUSICAL Nominees

  • The Artist - Anne-Sophie Bion & Michel Hazanavicius
  • Bridesmaids - William Kerr & Michael L Sale
  • Midnight in Paris - Alisa Lepselter
  • My Week With Marilyn - Adam Recht
  • Young Adult - Dana E Glauberman

Another interesting point of discussion is Bridesmaids. Given the improvisational nature of the performances, it must have been hell to edit (a very enjoyable kind of hell) so points for managing and it definitely takes great editing skill to make that many jokes land. So props to Kerr & Sale (who are far from the least worthy nominee in this lineup). But, with the compliments out of the way, isn't one of the main criticisms of Bridesmaids that it feels shapeless, haphazard and that it's way too long? And isn't editing a great factor in whether or not movies feel that way?

Dana Glauberman at the Hollywood Awards last yearMy favorite nomination here might be Dana Glauberman's (pictured left)  for Young Adult. I think she's really special as editors go (see also: Up in the Air for which she was absurdly not Oscar nominated). Her work for Reitman tends to have great rhythm, the cut choices are smart and it's just tight tight tight. There is no fat on that picture whatsoever.

Will any of the comedy nominees make it to Oscar? The Artist might. You could also argue that editing is even slightly more crucial to the success of comedy (it's all in the timing) and action (it's all in the rhythms and sustained tension) than to dramatic pictures. And yet with Oscar you'll find that mostly drama is honored... because that's where the "best pictures" are located. In short, I'd like the editors to think a little harder on their selections from year to year. 

DRAMA Nominees

  • The Descendants -Kevin Tent
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Angus Wall & Kirk Baxter
  • Hugo - Thelma Schoonmaker
  • Moneyball - Christopher Tellefsen
  • War Horse - Michael Kahn

Christopher Tellefsen in the editing bayMy vote -- if only I had one -- would go to Christopher Tellefsen in a split second. Moneyball had such great easy flow, consistently engaging whether it was cutting from footage to flashback to the linear story being told, and really attuned to the nuances of Brad Pitt's star turn.

Will all of these make it to Oscar?
I truly think Tellefsen is deserving, which is why I worry he's the most likely to be dropped when Oscar nominations roll in. Argh!

ANIMATED FEATURE Nominees

  • The Adventures of Tintin - Michael Kahn
  • Puss in Boots -Eric Dapkewicz
  • Rango - Craig Wood

More nominations for television over at the American Cinema Editors official site