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Category: Steven Zaillian

Is 'Moneyball' an Oscar heavy-hitter?

Brad Pitt in 'Moneyball,' which played at the Toronto International Film Festivalf
"Moneyball" played well on Thursday at its media and industry screening at the Toronto International Film Festival. Thanks to it being truthful to its real-life story, it doesn't have the kind of rousing finale that invites standing ovations, but many viewers admired it as expert filmmaking. Given the pedigree of its creators –- director Bennett Miller ("Capote"), writers Steven Zaillian ("Schindler's List") and Aaron Sorkin ("The Social Network") and star Brad Pitt ("Babel," "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button") -– it's clearly an Oscar contender, but how serious?

Pitt hits it out of the park as Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane. He gets to emote largely here -– his character is freighted with worry, glowing with love for his daughter, hurling furniture across rooms -– but he has a problem. Because he's portraying a sports figure, the role doesn't have artsy pretension. By contrast, his rival role this year in "The Tree of Life" does have that. Yes, Pitt is lead in "Moneyball" and supporting in "Tree of Life," but if academy members wish to hail him only in one role, it will probably be in "Tree of Life."

A double nomination is not impossible, though.  As recently as 2004, Jamie Foxx was nominated in the supporting slot for "Collateral" the same year he won in lead for "Ray."

But this film's big Oscar problem is that it's about baseball, a topic that hasn't done well at the Oscars. Historically speaking, a baseball flick did win at least one Academy Award -- film editing for "Pride of the Yankees" (1947). True, it was nominated for 10 more, including best picture and actor (Gary Cooper) that year, but failed to score. "Field of Dreams" (1989) was nominated for best picture too, but it lost. "Bull Durham" (1988) and "The Natural" (1984) struck out in the top contest completely, despite widespread belief that they might get nominated.

-- Tom O'Neil

RELATED:

"Moneyball" comes to bat after lineup changed midgame

Brad Pitt's "Moneyball" swings for the fences [Trailer]

Films big and small head to Toronto festival in search of buzz

Photo: Brad Pitt in "Moneyball." Credit: Sony Pictures

 


Sundance 2011: With 'Martha Marcy,' Fox Searchlight tops day of deals

Martha
The acquisitions kept coming Monday at the Sundance Film Festival.

Fox Searchlight acquired its second picture of the festival, buying worldwide rights to Sean Durkin's “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” with plans for a 2011 release. The movie, which tells of a woman seeking to recover from time in a dangerous cult, has gained particular acclaim for star Elizabeth Olsen, who is emerging as one of the breakouts of this year's festival.

The company last night also acquired the teenage drama "Homework," starring Freddie Highmore and Emma Roberts.

The deal for "Martha" came on the heels of several smaller buys. On Sunday night, IFC bought its first movie of the festival, scooping up the Patrick Wilson spiritual infidelity drama, "The Ledge." National Geographic Films will release Kevin Macdonald's "Life in One Day," a distillation of numerous user-generated videos sent in from around the world. And Magnolia Pictures has teamed with Participant Media to buy the New York Times documentary "Page One."

A number of key titles remain in play as of Monday afternoon, including the star-laden dark comedy "The Details," horror film "Silent Hose" and fundamentalist comedy-thriller "Salvation Boulevard."

— Steven Zeitchik in Park City, Utah

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: 'Martha Marcy May Marlene.' Credit: Sundance Film Festival.


Steven Zaillian to receive WGA's lifetime achievement award

Zaillian

Oscar- and WGA Award-winning screenwriter Steven Zaillian ("Schindler's List") is set to receive the 2011 Screen Laurel Award for lifetime achievement at the Writers Guild Awards West ceremony. It will be held Feb. 5 at the Grand Ballroom at Hollywood and Highland.

Besides writing and co-writing screenplays for "Awakenings," "Hannibal" and "The Gangs of New York," Zaillian has written and directed the films "Searching for Bobby Fischer," "A Civil Action" and "All the King's Men." His latest project is the adaptation of David Fincher's remake of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo."

-- Susan King

Photo: Steven Zaillian in 2006. Credit: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times



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