Wilson Post Blogs
Oscars Preview Part II: 'Midnight in Paris' and 'Moneyball'
By PATRICK HALL
The Wilson Post
Sunday marks the 84th annual Academy Awards and while I already tabbed ‘War Horse’ to win Best Picture, I expect ‘Midnight in Paris’ to win two Oscars for the legendary Woody Allen and surprise contender ‘Moneyball’ to grab an Oscar for young actor Jonah Hill as well as Best Adapted Screenplay.
‘Midnight in Paris’ is a film written and directed by Allen, about struggling writer Gil Pender, played by Owen Wilson, who while on a trip to Paris, falls in love with the city, and takes an unorthodox journey every midnight. Pender meets all of his favorite artists, writers and longs for the “Golden Age” of the 1920s.
The film delivers many of Allen’s famous humor side-by-side with a strong look into the notion that the past always seems more romantic than the present. For Gil, 1920s Paris was the only time worth living in, and while he finds inspiration and joy in his time-traveling midnight strolls, he also discovers important truths about himself and the life he’s living in the present.
Gil is a funny and interesting character, whose personality is made all the more likable through the absolute deplorable individuals that surround him. His wife Inez, played by Rachel McAdams, her parents and pretentious ex-boyfriend are nauseously condescending.
After enduring daily ridicule and embarrassment from the cast of jerks in his life, Gil finds excitement and friendship with characters such as Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali. Also, he falls in love with a woman named Adriana, played by Marion Cotillard.
Nostalgia is present in every one of us, and for Gil, he realizes it’s different for everybody, but always, remains just out of reach. He soon realizes the present can be pretty spectacular, with the right people to share it with.
Wilson gives a splendid performance, which I consider the best of his career. Gil is so sincere and almost childlike in the company of his artistic heroes and I see a piece of Gil Pender in all of us, which makes him so relatable.
‘Midnight in Paris’ is nominated for four Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Art Direction. I’m saying ‘Midnight’ wins at least two of those nominations, including Best Director and Best Original Screenplay.
The prediction I’m most confident about is Best Original Screenplay. Allen knocked this script out of the park, especially with dialogue that is full of humor, intelligence and lofty dreams.
Each character is developed, shaped and polished throughout the film, even the deplorable ones, whose company you can’t stand. The legendary artists, writers and musicians are given brilliant dialogue that could characterize each one if you randomly chose a single line for each.
I’m also giving Allen the nod for Best Director over some tough competition. Allen has only won one Oscar for Best Director (‘Annie Hall’ 1977), but I think ‘Midnight’ will give him a second.
The second film on my watch is ‘Moneyball’, directed by Bennett Miller, which is nominated for an astounding six Academy Awards, including, Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role, and Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Sound Mixing, Best Film Editing and Best Writing Adapted Screenplay.
I’m taking a risk and picking ‘Moneyball’ to take home Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Jonah Hill as well as Best Adapted Screenplay.
The film stars Brad Pitt as Billy Beane, general manager for the Oakland Athletics baseball team, who in 2002 hires a Yale graduate, Peter Brand, played by Hill, to search the thousands of professional baseball players to find the best talent for the cheapest amount of money.
Beane is criticized in the media and by his head scouts, who stick to the old ways of player evaluation and don’t buy into what is known as “sabermetrics,” which uses statistics and empirical evidence to weigh a player’s worth. The team eventually went on to win 20-games in a row, an American League record, and make the playoffs after a deplorable start.
Along the way, Beane and Brand develop a friendship of their own and a relationship with the players as they educate them on the value of advanced statistics, giving each player confidence and their best performances on the field.
Beane carries with him a disdain for big-money ball clubs and the idea that a scout can look at a player and gauge his monetary value through gut feeling. His desire to win and his anger at having a limited budget, drive him to take confidence in Brand’s methods, eventually buying into them without question.
Hill steps into a big role with this film, leaving the high school comedies behind and puts on a convincing performance as a guy who understands baseball, complex mathematics and enjoys the thrill of both.
The true worth of Hill’s performance is his ability to complement Pitt’s character as each learns from one another throughout the film. Brand a shy and at times awkward character, which works very well beside Beane’s loud, audacious manner.
The intelligent and fascinating script makes ‘Moneyball’ so much more than a sports film. It’s a look into business, the notion of conventional wisdom versus a new thought process, and the screenwriters masterfully create a balance to avoid drowning the viewer in statistical mumbo-jumbo.
‘Moneyball’ is my pick to win Best Adapted Screenplay as well, stealing the Oscar from critic-favorite ‘The Descendants.’ The film is based on Michael Lewis’ novel Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game.
Quickly, I’ll throw out that I expect ‘The Help’ to take home both Best Actress in a Leading Role (Viola Davis) and Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Jessica Chastain). George Clooney I expect will win Best Actor in a Leading Role for ‘The Descendants.’
Martin Scorsese’s film ‘Hugo’ may win three of its 11 nominations: Best Art Direction, Best Film Editing and Best Visual Effects.
Now on Sunday I’ll get to kick back, relax, and hopefully not watch all these picks prove to be way out of left field. I’ll be back at the reviews of current films next week!
Both ‘Midnight in Paris’ and ‘Moneyball’ are available to rent and both are rated PG-13. ‘Midnight’ has a runtime of 94 minutes and ‘Moneyball’ has a runtime of 133 minutes.