'Moneyball' Picks Up Four Major Oscar Nominations

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Tuesday morning, the 2012 Academy Award nominations were announced, and "Moneyball" is one of nine Best Picture nominees, with Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill garnering nods for their acting.

The 2012 Oscar nominations were announced Tuesday morning, and a little film called Moneyball racked up four big nods nods.

Most notably, Moneyball is one of nine films nominated for Best Picture. The complete list:

War Horse
The Artist
The Descendants
The Tree of Life
Midnight in Paris
The Help
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

With the exception of Incredibly Loud & Extremely Close and arguably War Horse, none of those nominees constitute surprises. The favorites in this category are The Artist -- a mostly silent film set in Hollywood in the 1920s, and co-starring a really bright Jack Russell Terrier -- and The Descendants, starring George Clooney.*

* I've seen seven of the nine nominated films, the exceptions being Awfully Close & Terribly Loud; and The Help -- and enjoyed all seven. Forced to rank them, I would go The Artist, The Descendants, The Tree of Life, Moneyball, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, War Horse. In my opinion, the first three of those films have the virtue of being essentially flawless, though The Tree of Life certainly isn't for everyone. For me, the two missing movies are Contagion -- directed by Stephen Soderbergh, who was supposed to direct Moneyball but didn't -- and Martha Marcy May Marlene, which I found similar in tone and quality to Winter's Bone, which did receive a nomination a year ago.

Okay, raise your hand if, five years ago, you thought Jonah Hill would get nominated for Academy Award before he turned 30...

No one?

Yeah, me neither. But his performance in Moneyball is one of the best things in the movie, both funny and nuanced. I thought he was actually better as the title character in 2010's Cyrus, but nobody asked me. Anyway, he's exceptionally unlikely to win, as 82-year-old Christopher Plummer looks like the big favorite for his performance in Beginners.

Rob Neyer: Live-blogging Moneyball

And then there's Brad Pitt, whose portrayal of Billy Beane garnered a Best Actor nomination. Moneyball, for all its other charms, rises and falls on Beane's character and Pitt absolutely nailed it.

Pitt's competition in this category? George Clooney, Jean Dujardin (who doesn't actually speak in The Artist), Gary Oldman in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; and Demián Bichir, who I'd never heard of until this morning. I'm sure he was good, but Clooney and Pitt are the favorites here in what The Hollywood Reporter calls "The Year of the Hunk".

It's no surprise that Moneyball director Bennett Miller wasn't nominated; the competition's awfully stiff in that category. But it's at least mildly surprising that screenwriters Steve Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin didn't get a nod for their screenplay ... somebody had to write all those wonderful words that Jonah and Brad say.

Correction! Zaillian, Sorkin, and Stan Cherrin were nominated for screenplay; the original list mentioned only Chervin, and frankly I had no idea that he was one of the co-writers. Sorry, Stan!

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