Hunky Dory

(Ethan Gates)– Somewhere in the middle of “Moneyball,” the second-best sports movie of the year (“Warrior” kicked some serious ass, though apparently I was the only person who went to go see it), I found myself wondering: when did Brad Pitt get so…good?

...also, homeless?

It’s not that Pitt never had talent, of course; looking over his work from the 90’s, you remember how he was phenomenally kooky in “12 Monkeys” and always stood out in David Fincher films like “Se7en” and “Fight Club.” But until fairly recently, most people would’ve thought of Brad Pitt as an actor second and a very good-looking man first, right? And sure, there were some bright spots along the way, but look back at that IMDB resumé again: seriously, “Meet Joe Black” is not a good movie. Yet sometime in the past five years or so, Pitt clearly went to his agent and said, “hey – I want to be taken seriously now.” And so he went from endless “Ocean’s” sequels to working with Terrence Malick, the Coen brothers, and Alejandro Iñarritu.

Perhaps Pitt was taking his cues from his compatriot in hunky celebrity, George Clooney. For a long time, Clooney was known either as “that hot guy from ‘E.R.'” or “the Batman with nipples.” Then suddenly he went from endless “Ocean’s” sequels to working with Terrence Malick, the Coen brothers, and Anton Corbijn. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m sensing a pattern here.

Never forget.

I don’t know why I find these particular two tales of career reinvention compelling. It is not as if I can in any way justify empathizing with Brad Pitt and George Clooney, two of the few legitimate movie ultra-stars left on this planet (though obviously I’m waiting for the announcement that I have been crowned Sexiest Man Alive to come any day now). But standing now on the edge of my college career, waiting to be thrown out into the great empty pit of “Careers You Can Pursue With an English Major,” I find it vaguely comforting to think that there will always be time to shake things up a bit later in life. Other people may define you by one particular job or personal quality, but you never have to be locked in to that. There’s always Terrence Malick.

Three to Think About: The Best of Clooney/Pitt/ClooneyPitt

1. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)

2. Burn After Reading (2008)

3. The American (2010)