Thursday, September 22, 2011

Brad Pitt – Movies Spotlight – September 2011

Brad Pitt, 47, has established himself as an A-list actor, starring in both blockbusters and prestige films in Hollywood. In September, he stars in Moneyball. It is about the Oakland A’s baseball general manager Billy Beane – the first GM to use sabre metrics to build a competitive team on a budget. The film is directed by Bennett Miller and written by Aaron Sorkin. It looks to be a possible contender for a Best Picture Oscar nomination.

Early Career:

Pitt began his career in 1987 with un-credited parts in No Way Out and Less Than Zero. He had struggled to establish himself early on, and took acting lessons from Roy London. He made his TV debut in 1987 as well with a guest appearance in Growing Pains, and then got a four-episode part in Dallas. The next year, he got his first leading part in the Yugoslavian-U.S. co-production Adriatic. He continued to take guest roles on TV and parts in smaller movies until he got his first big break with a supporting part in Ridley Scott’s Thelma & Louise in 1991. His character’s love scene with Thelma (played by Geena Davis) defined Pitt as a sex symbol beginning his career as Hollywood’s latest heartthrob. He next took the lead in Cool World (a more adult version of Who Framed Roger Rabbit), but the film was poorly received (though, at the age of 11, I remember eagerly anticipating seeing it). His next big break came in the form of playing one of the leads in Robert Redford’s A River Runs Through It. His performance made him a star in Hollywood, even though Pitt considers it one of his weakest. Now a hot commodity, he took the lead in Kalifornia and a small supporting role in Quentin Tarantino’s first produced scrip True Romance. These two roles built upon the goodwill he accumulated setting him up to be not only a huge star in Hollywood but also an acclaimed actor.

Critics Take Notice:

In 1994, Pitt’s career took an even more significant jump forward with his leading performance in Interview with the Vampire (based on Anne Rice’s novel). However, while the film was received well by moviegoers and critics alike, many critics were not pleased with Pitt’s performance. He also made Legends of the Fall in 1994. The film played mixed reviews, but critics praised Pitt’s performance and he received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor. Primarily being viewed as a heartthrob by moviegoers, he decided to play off-type and take a supporting role in Terry Gilliam’s sci-fi opus 12 Monkeys. The role allowed Pitt to show a different side of himself as an actor, impressing many critics and winning the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor and receiving an Oscar nomination as well.  In 1996, he took a supporting role in Sleepers. While it was a small role, his performance was a highlight for critics. Pitt took on another offbeat supporting role in Guy Ritchie’s 2000 gangster film Snatch. His gypsy boxer is almost completely unintelligible, but while the film was not as well received by critics as general moviegoer, everyone loved his performance. It also showed off Pitt’s knack for comedy. These five films not only grew Pitt’s popularity among moviegoers but also put him on many a critic’s actor’s to watch list. But, it was his collaborations with director David Fincher that made him an A-list star.

Hollywood Stardom & David Fincher:

Fincher cast Pitt in the lead of his second feature film, Se7en. The film made a fully-fledge star out of Pitt (both with critics and moviegoers) and an auteur director out of Fincher. It grossed more money internationally (and second most domestically) of any of Pitt’s films up until its release in 1995. It also showed off the range that Pitt had as an actor, as his character was deeply flawed. The film is still considered to be a classic (and by many as the best of Pitt’s career). Fincher made The Game next, but then cast Pitt in the co-lead with Edward Norton in his next film Fight Club. Pitt plays Tyler Durden, a role that required a lot of physical work to prepare for, and one that is among his most iconic. While the film was not praised critically upon its release, it has a cult following and is on most critics’ Top 100 films of the Decade lists. These two films with Fincher not only made Pitt a bigger star in Hollywood, but more importantly gave him a ton of acclaim for critics and avid film lovers. In 2008, he again worked with Fincher, taking the lead in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. He is wonderful as Benjamin Button, a man who ages in reverse. It is a masterpiece of a film and Pitt received tons of acclaim for his performance, with nominations for Best Actor from the Academy Awards, Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild. Pitt’s collaboration with Fincher is so profound to his career that if you had to take five films to best represent it, three would be his films with Fincher.


Now a big star in Hollywood, Pitt started to take roles in blockbuster and Hollywood A-list star vehicles. And while these films are mostly not very good, they did make him an even bigger star (placing him among the top 10 male actors). First up he co-starred with Harrison Ford in the action thriller The Devil’s Own. It was a box office success but a critical failure (as many action films are). Next, he starred in Jean-Jacques Annaud’s epic Seven Years in Tibet, which played to negative reviews and box office disappointment. The same could be said for his next: Meet Joe Black, co-starring Anthony Hopkins (it is probably my least favorite of all Pitt’s films that I have seen which numbers 30). Continuing the streak of bad Hollywood films, in 2001 he starred opposite Julia Roberts in The Mexican (probably my second least favorite of his career), but of course it did well at the box office. Working again with Tony Scott (who also directed True Romance), he starred with Robert Redford in the spy thriller Spy Game. Then, he had his first Hollywood critical and box office hit with Steven Soderbergh’s ensemble theist flick Ocean’s Eleven. It also starred George Clooney, Julia Roberts and Matt Damon. He followed it up with his biggest commercial hit of his career (so far) playing Achilles in Troy (funny side-story, apparently filming was delayed for several weeks due to an on-set injury to Pitt’s Achilles tendon…What are the odds?). He then co-starred with (future wife) Angelina Jolie in Mr. & Mrs. Smith, the second biggest commercial hit of his career (the film was released in 2005, and is commonly thought to be behind his breakup with then wife Jennifer Aniston). He also made two more Ocean’s films (Twelve and Thirteen) during that time. He continues to make blockbuster films today, though not as frequently. His last was 2010’s Megamind.

Great Movies with Great Directors:

With the string of huge commercial hits, Pitt has become a powerful force in Hollywood, which has allowed him to be more selective about his project and having the ability to get films made in the studio system. As a result, he has worked with excellent filmmakers on fantastic films since 2006 beginning with Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s Babel, an ensemble piece about communication and cultural differences between people. It received seven Oscar nominations and won Best Drama at the Golden Globes. Pitt was nominated for Best Supporting Actor. Next, he starred as Jesse James in Andrew Dominik’s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. It is a stunning performance by Pitt (probably my favorite) and a beautiful film. He won the Best Actor Award at the 2007 Venice Film Festival for it. Returning to comedy, Pitt took a supporting role playing a truly stupid man in the Coen Brothers’ (Joel and Ethan) Burn After Reading. Pitt’s performance was called his funniest to date (not that he had done much comedy). Making another black comedy of sorts, Pitt starred next in Quentin Tarantino’s brilliant Inglourious Basterds as Aldo Raine, the head of a group of Jewish American resistance fighters during WWII (it is probably my favorite film Pitt has made, or The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – both are in my top 25 of the last decade). This year, he starred in Terrence Malick’s (brilliant or terrible depending on who you ask) The Tree of Life, which won the Best Film at the Cannes Film Festival. Additionally, Pitt has produced a number of great films through his company Plan B – mostly films he stars in, but also two acclaimed films he did not star in (as well as others): Academy Award Best Picture winner Martin Scorsese’s The Departed and Matthew Vaughn’s Kick-Ass.

Upcoming Projects:

Pitt currently has two films slated for release in 2012, and a ton that he is rumored to be attached to in the future. First, he stars in Cogan’s Trade. Working again with director Andrew Dominik, the film is about a professional enforced who investigates a heist that went down during a mob-run poker game. Next, he stars in Marc Forster’s World War Z (yet another zombie movie…At least it is not vampires). It is about a UN representative who interviews survivors of the great zombie war (of 1812…Not really). 

Career Highlights:

1)      True Romance (1993) – supporting [Blu-ray, DVD, Streaming]
2)      Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (1994) – lead [Blu-ray, DVD, Streaming]
3)      Se7en (1995) – lead* [Blu-ray, DVD, Streaming]
4)      Twelve Monkeys (1995) – lead [Blu-ray, DVD, Streaming]
5)      Fight Club (1999) – lead* [Blu-ray, DVD, Streaming]
6)      Snatch. (2000) – lead [Blu-ray, DVD, Streaming]
7)      Ocean’s Eleven (2001) – lead [Blu-ray, DVD, Streaming]
8)      Babel (2006) – lead [Blu-ray, DVD, Streaming]
9)      The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) – lead* [Blu-ray, DVD, Streaming]
10)   The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) – lead* [Blu-ray, DVD, Streaming]
11)   Inglourious Basterds (2009) – lead* [Blu-ray, DVD, Streaming]
12)   The Tree of Life (2011) – lead [Blu-ray, Streaming]
*Editor’s picks

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