Moneyball Directed by: Bennett Miller Written by: Steven Zaillian & Aaron Sorkin (screenplay) Starring: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Chris Pratt
Moneyball is a movie preordained to be an Oscar contender simply by the marketing. Brad Pitt is in a sports movie, and he’s at his Brad Pittiest. The odds are in this movie’s favor to be a contender, though, not to win (yet).
Billy Beane (Pitt) would not like that. He is a man who needs to have the last word, to win the last game. As the manager of The Oakland A’s, one of the poorest teams in professional baseball, he’s willing to grapple with a new strategy: play by the numbers, not the players. Along with Yale economics alum Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), they shift the focus of recruiting new players to computer-generated results to acquire overlooked players on the cheap.
Magnolia Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson Written by: Paul Thomas Anderson Starring: Tom Cruise, Julianne Moore, William H. Macy, and Philip Seymour Hoffman
Capturing the entirety of the human experience is an ambitious goal, one that many filmmakers never really feel up to tackling. Paul Thomas Anderson thinks its third feature material. Let’s face it though, the movies are better when the focus is narrowed.
That’s not to say Magnolia is not a beautiful, often breathtaking piece of work. It is, in fact, a blueprint of sorts of the new decade of filmmaking that was to follow in the year 2000. The seemingly unrelated yet interwoven storylines of films like Traffic, Babel or Crash meet the bizarreness of network television polluting Requiem for a Dream. Bookending the film is the snarky know-it-all narrator you may know from Woody Allen films.
Doubt Directed by: John Patrick Shanley Written by: John Patrick Shanley (screenplay & play) Starring: Meryl Streep, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, and Viola Davis
Power resonates through every frame of this film. The themes, the characters, and the film making are all powerful gusts of wind sent forth from the mind of John Patrick Shanley to shake you to your core. However, it is not without one of the finest ensembles of the past several years that he achieves this.
What’s so great about this movie is that it speaks to something in everyone. Looking at Doubt as an allegory for our times, when unsubstantiated certainty lands us in an unwinnable war in the Middle East, you see something totally different than if you look at it as a critique on Catholicism’s unwillingness to change. You have to respect the material’s power to mean so much to so many different perspectives.