Oscars Snub 'Moneyball', Eric Chavez Okay With It

If you ask me, Brad Pitt got robbed by the Oscars.

He should have been nominated for his performance in Tree of Life, but wasn't.

He should have won for his performance in Moneyball, but didn't.

Hey, life goes on and it's probably not so bad for Brad Pitt, most days.

But it wasn't just him who took the collar Sunday night, as both Tree of Life and Moneyball were shut out, completely. The latter film was nominated for four significant awards: Best Actor (Pitt), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (Jonah Hill), and Best Picture. And I thought it might well have deserved the former two awards. The latter, though? Moneyball is certainly a better movie than some that have won Best Picture, but that's a little like saying Don Mattingly belongs in the Hall of Fame because High Pocket Kelly's already been elected.

To my mind, a Best Picture should essentially be perfect (unlike the ideal Hall of Fame baseball player, who need merely be great). I saw a few essentially perfect movies last year, and Moneyball wasn't one of them. Just ask Eric Chavez:

Chavez says he still talks to Beane regularly and, back to the movie, he added that Pitt couldn't have been more dead on in his characterization of the GM, whose own self doubts led to failure as a projected five-tool player once drafted high by the New York Mets.

Like many observers, Chavez said that Phillip Seymour Hoffman's depiction of then manager Art Howe couldn't have been more fictional.

"It was completely opposite," he said. "Physically, not even close. Demeanor, not even close. Art was very quiet. Not very outspoken at all. I never heard one thing about a contract dispute during that time. The way some of the guys were portrayed in the clubhouse I wasn't very fond of, either.

It's funny, I didn't even know Art Howe and I figured Hoffman's depiction couldn't have been more fictional.

Since I didn't wind up writing my usual thing about movies, here's my current Top 10 list of 2011 releases:

1. The Artist
2. Martha Marcy May Marlene
3. The Trip
4. The Descendants
5. Tree of Life
6. Take Shelter
7. Contagion
8. Moneyball
9. Hugo
10. Midnight in Paris

(Which doesn't include documentaries; if it did, Buck and Cave of Forgotten Dreams would be in there.)

You probably know how much I enjoyed Moneyball. I don't know that there's anything they could have done that would have pushed it past Tree of Life, in my mind. But a better, more human version of Art Howe might well have bumped Moneyball up a spot or two, for me. But that version is in there and will be forever, just like Jar-Jar Binks.

During the 20-game streak, go back and look at the numbers put up by Tejada and myself. Our number four or five starter went 5-0."

We checked. It was the late Cory Lidle, who was actually 3-0 during that streak. Tejada batted .379 with three homers and 17 RBIs. Chavez hit .329 with six homers and 28 RBIs. They both played in all 20 games. To the chagrin of Chavez, none of that was mentioned in the film.

"Part of Hollywood has to go into a movie to make it interesting for the normal fan," Chavez said. "I'm happy it was a success. But for somebody who was there, you just want it to be portrayed for what it was."

True. But they generally don't make movies for the people who were there. Sometimes decorum does demand it; for example, I suspect that Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg felt a certain fealty to the actually experiences of the soldiers depicted in Band of Brothers. But even there, great liberties were taken.

One can understand Chavez's frustration, though. There's an Oscar-nominated movie that's ostensibly about a team that won 103 games and Chavez was one of the five most valuable players on that team and yet he's hardly mentioned at all. Somehow I've misplaced my DVD, but I believe the only time we sort of realize he's actually on roster is during Billy Beane's walk-and-talk, when he pauses briefly and tells "Chavy" to stop swinging at lousy pitches. (In fairness to the screenplay, Chavez did lead the A's with 119 strikeouts that season.)

But again, the movie wasn't made for the guys who were there. Not even for Scott Hatteberg and Chad Bradford. It was made for Brad Pitt, and it was made for us. And most of us seem to have liked it quite a lot.

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