The Ides of March & Moneyball

Clooney and Pitt are not content with being the most handsome guys in a room…and that’s mostly a good thing. With Brad producing two of the finest films of the year and George continuing to stake out a claim as a director, these not-so-young anymore hunks(Pitt’s 48 and George is almost 51), ensure longevity with their perpetual branching out. Also, chances are they will face off against each other in the coming Oscar race for Best Actor, although not all of their work in 2011 is quite top tier. Case in point: “The Ides Of March”. It is Clooney’s fourth film as a director after flying out of the gate in 2002 with “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind” and then his 2005 critical darling “Good Night, and Good Luck”. He took a real chance with both of those as neither promised to be mainstream…and it paid off beautifully(is there anything he CAN’T do). But has he gone soft? Now, most are aware of his politics, so he’s a natural choice to portray a Presidential hopeful. And “Ides” begins promisingly with some peeks at the inner workings of just how these campaigns apparently go. Then why drop the ball and devolve into cheap melodrama in the film’s second half? Suicide, medical procedures…that’s not how these things play out in real life, so why stoop to that here? I’ve never seen a production of the play this is based on(Farragut North), so I can’t speak for how closely “Ides” follows the stage work’s narrative. But these things play out much sloppier in actual scenarios, and(despite a late-film nod at a sort of “sign of things that still may come”)”Ides” refuses to get down in the mud. Ryan Gosling is right for this, and Paul Giamatti & Phillip Seymour Hoffman splash their roles with the perfect dollops of wisdom plus exhaustion. Marisa Tomei, Jennifer Ehle and even the hit-or-miss Evan Rachel Wood lend fine support. And Clooney certainly exudes the no bullcrap uber-confidence of the sort of man that I would WANT to vote for for President. So, the acting is more than solid. Too bad the script chickens out just when the ball gets rolling.                   A different kind of inner-workings look arrives with Bennett Miller’s “Moneyball”, and the film and Brad Pitt, thankfully, have no intention of bunting like “Ides”. Pitt plays real life general manager Billy Beane—and Brad makes the whole damn thing fly. Between this and “The Tree of Life” in 2011, I’m just about ready to call Mr. P a great actor(I refuse to throw that G word around too much). Pitt ticks like a clock here and you believe every move and emotion of his failed ballplayer. Sure, they throw in some sentimental father-daughter stuff to make the medicine go down, but it stops just short of getting too syrupy. Jonah Hill takes off the comedy gloves and shines dramatically for a change and Phillip Seymour Hoffman provides the perfect dollops of wisdom and exhaustion(he’s good at that, I guess). The sabermetric approach the film(and book of the same name)champions may or may not be a workable baseball template as far as I know, but you will get a kick out of following the intricacies of the rolling out of the approach that supposedly enabled Billy Beane to help the 2002 Oakland A’s win a record 20 straight games. Baseball tends to be one of the most romantic of filmed sports cinema(boxing right there with it, of course), and “Moneyball”‘s traditional-style chronicle of a non-traditional technique makes for an unconditional entertainment. Indeed, this year’s Best Actor race could end up being a play at the plate.       “The Ides of March”   Grade:   C           “Moneyball”    Grade:   A-


3 comments on “The Ides of March & Moneyball

  1. I agree completely in being disappointed in the Ides of March and it’s unrealistic and cheap melodrama. I had high hopes despite the foreknowledge that this was a film about being disillusioned with politics and hope, etc – a thinly veiled, “We had such high hopes for you, Barack.”

    So, are you predicting a best actor race between Pitt for Moneyball and Clooney for Ides? Or are you thinking that Clooney will get the nod for The Descendents (which I saw yesterday and look forward to your review)?

  2. Clooney for “The Descendants” and Jean Dujardin for “The Artist” are the favorites. Pitt for “Moneyball” is in the running if the top boys cancel each other out. But the smart money is on George. ML

  3. http://www.theshiznit.co.uk/feature/if-2012s-oscar-nominated-movie-posters-told-the-truth.php

    I don’t expect you to agree with all of these, which is why I look forward to your response. Warning: this took FOREVER to load.

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