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Oscars 2012 Behind the Scenes: Taking a page from Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian's 'Moneyball' script

Each year, the Oscars recognize A-list talent we regularly see on-screen, on the red carpet, and in tabloids. But the Academy Awards also reward those who work behind the scenes: the writers, editors, costume designers, and others who help create trophy-worthy movie magic. This Oscars season, we’ll be toasting those off-screen artists by delving into the hidden secrets that helped create the on-screen magic that we — and the Academy — fell in love with. There’s a reason why Aaron Sorkin, Steve Zaillian, and Stan Chervin earned an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay for their work on Moneyball: It was — pun absolutely intended — pitch-perfect. From quiet, human moments to high-stakes drama on the baseball field to statistical jargon, the Moneyball script struck a nerve on every level. For more access backstage during this Oscars season, click here for’s Oscars Behind the Scenes coverage.

When it came to penning the adaptation for Michael Lewis’ 2003 bestseller Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, which chronicled the Oakland Athletics’ game-changing 2002 season at the hand of GM Billy Beane, there may have been no team better suited to bring the technical tale of sports triumph to the big screen than Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian (with story by Stan Chervin). Sorkin was fresh off an Oscar win for Best Adapted Screenplay for making another wordy true life story seem downright enthralling with The Social Network, while Zaillian spent the better part of 2011 turning the wildly popular book The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo into a big-screen thriller.

Oscars 2012: Watch videos for the major nominees

While you should see all the nominated films by Oscar night, Feb. 26, of course, here’s a good place to start, with clips from all the Best Picture, acting, and director nominees.

First up, the trailers for the nine films nominated for Best Picture:  READ FULL STORY

'Moneyball' star Jonah Hill on awards season consideration: 'I think I'm still shell-shocked'

Of all the actors in the running for the Academy Awards this year, the one who is most gobsmacked to find himself in the thick of consideration has got to be Moneyball star Jonah Hill. As the taciturn numbers cruncher who convinces Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) to adopt a radical new system of recruiting low-valued players, Hill gives a subtle, muted performance that fans of his voluble and vulgar characters in Superbad, Knocked Up, and The Sitter wouldn’t recognize. (Fans of his nuanced performance in the indie film Cyrus, however, may not be so shocked.) The role has won him the best reviews of his career, nominations for the SAG Awards and Golden Globes, and according to Hill, the surreal experience of having people tell him he’s in the awards season horse race, even months before Moneyball had hit theaters.

“All I know is that since July, people have been saying to me, ‘Awards, XYZ’ in interviews,” says Hill, sitting in a nondescript office on the Sony Pictures lot, while a screening of Moneyball plays for awards-season voters nearby. (The film comes out on DVD and Blu-ray today.)  READ FULL STORY

'My Week With Marilyn', 'Tinker Tailor' lead BAFTA longlists

With 16 inclusions each, My Week With Marilyn and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy are leading the pack in the longlists for the 2012 British Academy Film Awards, which were announced today. In addition to making the cut for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay, both films have their stars in contention. (Marilyn‘s Michelle Williams, Kenneth Branagh, Eddie Redmayne, Judi Dench, and Zoe Wanamaker, as well as Tinker Tailor‘s Gary Oldman, Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Firth, John Hurt, and Kathy Burke, are all on the acting longlists.)

Following Marilyn and Tinker Tailor for the most entries on the BAFTA longlists were The Iron Lady (14), The Artist, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Midnight in Paris, War Horse (13 each),  The Help, Hugo, Drive (12 each), and The Ides of March and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2 (11 each.) Notable exclusions from the BAFTA longlist include Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Melancholia, and Martha Marcy May Marlene, while major Oscar contender The Tree of Life earned just one mention in the cinematography category.

The longlist kicks off the first round of voting for the BAFTAs, which includes 15 entries in most categories. The five nominees will be chosen from these longlists in the second round. However, there are only five for animation and documentary in the first round of voting.  Nominations in all categories, including the shortlist for the Rising Star Award, will be announced on Jan. 17. Check out the entire BAFTAs 2012 longlist, including Original Screenplay, Adapted Screenplay, Documentary, Foreign Language Film, and Outstanding British Film here.  (Note: * marks  the five chapter picks.) READ FULL STORY

AFI Top 10: 'Dragon Tattoo,' 'Bridesmaids' in; 'Extremely Loud' out

The American Film Institute has announced its annual list of the 10 best U.S. releases, which last year predicted nine of the eventual 10 Best Picture nominees. On the list this time are nine expected contenders: The Descendants, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Help, J. Edgar, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, The Tree of Life, and War Horse. But the AFI also included one very interesting dark horse: Bridesmaids. Missing from the top 10: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, Beginners, Drive, The Ides of March, and Young Adult. UPDATE: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 was eligible but the AFI committee decided to give the entire Potter series a special award instead.  READ FULL STORY

Box office report: 'Dolphin Tale' jumps into first with $14.2 million; 'Lion King' now 10th highest-grossing film of all time

The Lion King finally gave up his box office throne, and now another animal reigns supreme!

After its solid $19.2 million debut last weekend, Warner Brothers’ 3D family film Dolphin Tale jumped into first place this time around, dipping just 27 percent to $14.2 million. The film, which earned an “A+” CinemaScore grade, is playing very well to families, and it should continue to enjoy small drops (which is a shame if you’re a pun-happy box office writer dying to use the word “dive!”) in the weeks to come. After ten days, Dolphin Tale, which cost $37 million to produce, has earned $37.5 million. READ FULL STORY

Box office preview: 'The Lion King' defends its throne against four newcomers on busy weekend

Simba always said, “I’m gonna be a mighty king, so enemies beware!” I always figured he was talking about Pride Rock — who knew he was actually talking about the box office?!

For the last two weekends, The Lion King 3D has been an unstoppable force at theaters, and it has racked up an impressive $66.4 million in just 13 days. Despite the arrival of four new releases last frame, Lion King managed to retain its box office throne, but will it be able to do the same thing this weekend, when four more new releases — 50/50, Dream House, What’s Your Number?, and Courageous — hit theaters? It could be a very close battle, as six different films have a legitimate shot at coming in first place. Who will reign supreme?

Check out my weekend box office predictions after the jump: READ FULL STORY

'Moneyball': How audiences fell back in love with screenwriting. Plus, Brad Pitt's sexiest dimension

Moneyball, the crackerjack true-life baseball movie starring Brad Pitt as the quirky, embattled, visionary Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane (a name born to be a movie character), took a lot of people, including me, by surprise. A baseball drama with a star as big as Brad Pitt might have seemed like the perfect summer movie, so you had to wonder a bit why it wasn’t one. Then too, given the film’s late-September, quasi-no-man’s-land release date, it didn’t exactly sound like awards material either (though people have already started to talk about it in that way). Baseball movies, for whatever reason, have historically been underachievers at the box office (Moneyball‘s $20.6 million take makes it the all-time opening-weekend champ for a baseball flick), so the expectations were at a relatively low ebb when I first saw the movie a couple of weeks ago at the Toronto International Film Festival. (What was a baseball movie doing at TIFF anyway?) Yet from that moment, right up until this very moment, I have yet to meet anyone who’s seen Moneyball who doesn’t like it a lot. The picture is incredibly shrewd entertainment, lively and original and full of surprise, directed and acted with great passion and skill. READ FULL STORY

Jonah Hill on 'Moneyball' and being an underdog: 'I was at the bottom of a list of other actors you'd expect to see in this part.'

For anyone who might not be a giant baseball fan or who (like me!) is scared off by anything to do with math or statistics,  you should know that Moneyball is a movie for everyone. The movie premiered last night at the Toronto Film Festival and is based on the 2003 Michael Lewis book chronicling the Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) and his attempt to change baseball’s methodology when it comes to picking its players. “It’s not a movie about baseball, it’s a movie about value and being undervalued and underdogs and life,” says Jonah Hill, who plays Beane’s assistant GM Peter Brand. “It’s set against this beautiful cinematic backdrop of baseball, and baseball is a metaphor for whatever business or situation you may be in.” READ FULL STORY

Toronto Film Festival: Ryan Gosling in 'The Ides of March' and Brad Pitt in 'Moneyball' are movie stars at the tip-top of their game

Since I didn’t go to the Toronto International Film Festival last year, I missed out on the unveiling of the Bell Lightbox, the festival’s sparkling new venue/headquarters/bustling nerve center (it houses five state-of-the-art movie theaters). Naturally, I was curious to experience the place, and having watched two movies there on my first day, I can report that it’s very damn cool — in fact, it’s an elegant dream of a cinemathèque show palace, sort of like a mall megaplex designed to look like the Museum of Modern Art. It’s got an airy glassed-in Stanley Kubrick feel, with sloping long walkways, tall ceilings and endless white walls, and theaters that are anything but arid. They’re invitingly moody, dark, sensual, and spacious, the screens covered up, before each showing, with a lush red-velvet curtain (made even lusher by ruby-red footlights) that looks like it’s going to part to reveal some David Lynch bizarro-world nightclub act. READ FULL STORY

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