If you’re not a baseball fan and you’ve never watched Moneyball because of that, here’s a great piece of news: it’s not really a baseball film; it’s a film about economics. Wait. No. That doesn’t make it sound more exciting. Moneyball by Michael Lewis is a book that changed the way baseball is viewed by fans and baseball personnel. It attempted to explain how the Oakland A’s, a team with a payroll a fraction of the size of, say, the Yankees, Red Sox, or Dodgers, is consistently in contention for a spot in the World Series. The answer is: they don’t sign players or people; they sign numbers.
The Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane became the disciple of a formula that looks for players who simply get on base. Getting on base produces runs; runs produce wins. Moneyball is the story of his crusade to change how baseball is run, and only Michael Lewis, who is the best writer on economic matters to people who have no understanding of economics (hi), and Aaron Sorkin, who can make any subject compelling and fun, could have put together a movie version of that crusade that is riveting. It’s one of Brad Pitt’s best performances, as Beane fighting the entirety of the A’s to make his vision work, and one of the film’s best scenes comes before things start to click and he stumbles upon an upbeat locker room after another loss that Beane knows he’s going to have to answer for to everyone.
Brad Pitt has already put together an amazing resume of memorable performances in the 25 years he’s been in Hollywood. Initially ogled more for his looks than talent, Pitt seems to embrace even more challenging roles as he ages, though it looks like he’s going to be on magazine covers for the rest of his life no matter how old he gets. Pitt does a fantastic job of character creation, be it Aldo Raines, Tyler Durden, Billy Beane, Tristan Ludlow, Benjamin Button, or any one of a dozen more memorable screen turns. What people may not realize about Pitt is that he is one of the most powerful producers in Hollywood. Pitt’s won an Emmy, an Oscar, and a Golden Globe, but only the Golden Globe is for acting. Similar to George Clooney and Tom Hanks, Pitt gets deeply involved in projects you may not even realize he’s attached to, and that’s a talent that may even outlive his still vibrant acting career. Continue reading Brad Pitt’s 10 Best Movies→
Robin Wright has a stellar resume of quality films stretching from 1987’s The Princess Bride to 2017’s Wonder Woman. Stellar roles have kept coming her way because she, along with Kevin Spacey, brought their star power to Netflix and House of Cards. The series’ resultant success has made quality TV roles vehicles for actresses to continue to showcase their talent past Hollywood’s ageist bias against experienced actresses. She’s created memorable characters, been an anchor in any ensemble she’s entered, and even managed to stay married to Sean Penn to an improbably long amount of time clearly demonstrating some kind of supernatural patience. Continue reading Robin Wright’s 10 Best Movies→
With playoffs getting underway in hockey and basketball, let’s turn our attention to sports movies. First of all, why the heck is it so hard to make a good movie about such a dominant part of culture? Sports movies are almost uniformly awful and the most acclaimed ones are about boxing (which I’ve excluded because then the whole list would be boxing movies) or things that are “games” rather than “sports” like poker or pool (so no Hustler or Rounders). I want to keep it to team sports. For that reason I also excluded Jerry Maguire because I don’t think of it as a sports movie so much I do a relationship movie. You could argue either way, but very little of the movie takes place on-the-field. Continue reading Top 5: Sports Movies of All-Time→
It seems inconceivable, but Phillip Seymour Hoffman is gone. One of America’s finest actors for over 20 years, Hoffman was found today by police deceased in his apartment. No official cause of death has been given, but the immediate assumption given Hoffman’s revelation that he was battling heroin addiction last year is that his death is in some way related to that most vicious of drugs. Below is the official obituary from Variety, brief because this literally happened within the last two hours:
Law enforcement officials said Hoffman died at his apartment in the West Village neighborhood of Manhattan. No cause of death has been determined but officials suspect the actor may have overdosed on drugs. The New York Post reported the actor was found with a needle in his arm.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the actor was found in his bathroom around 11:15 a.m. by a screenwriter, who called 911, the official said.
Hoffman, who won the best actor Oscar for “Capote” in 2005, most recently appeared at the Sundance Film Festival to promote his new films “God’s Pocket” and Anton Corbin’s “A Most Wanted Man.”
He was also shooting the “Hunger Games” follow-ups “Mockingjay Part 1″ and “Part 2″ in Atlanta, reprising his role as Plutarch Heavensbee from “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.
Hoffman was only 46. He was a peerless actor and an absolute chameleon on the screen, able to portray characters as varied as Truman Capote and…well anyone who isn’t Truman Capote. He joined the star-studded ensemble adapting The Hunger Games novels with Catching Fire and his character, Plutarch Heavensbee, has a significant role in the series two-part finale: Mockingjay. Shooting is still very much ongoing for those films and given how early this is, there’s no word on how much of his role was shot, but unless most of his scenes were already complete, it would seem the role would have to recast. It’s a very small concern on a day when we’re still comprehending that there will be no more new performances from Hoffman, but it’s a practical one that people are out there considering.
For only being 46, Hoffman made or was in the process of making 63 films in his career. He started making films when he was 24, so that’s roughly three a year for the 22 years of his film career. I’m very saddened by this. Another brilliant career has been shortened by drugs. My favorite Hoffman performance was as the jaded rock journalist Lester Bangs in Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous. As a way of closing this obit, so early after his passing, these were my favorite ten Hoffman films in no particular order: Almost Famous, Doubt, Scent of a Woman, Magnolia, Capote, The Big Lebowski, Charlie Wilson’s War, MIssion Impossible III, The Ides of March and Moneyball.