Miller. Bennett Miller walks the line between supreme, gifted craftsman—and artist. He makes adult dramas—often deemed “important”- but that is a description- neither a compliment nor insult. They are certainly never moralizing or patronizing. The performances and scripts (which he doesn’t write) are almost always up for best actor or best writing and deservedly so—however, it is no coincidence it is Miller at the helm behind the camera and now, after fifteen years and three films, there is a consistency in his work—at least the patience in rendering the works and the specific subject choices. His strength is his per film average. He has made three films- Capote, Moneyball, and Foxcatcher. I think you could make a really strong argument for all three being his best, and all three being his worst. He’s never going to make a Blade Runner or a Magnolia and that’s ok—certainly at spot #248 here there is room for the consummate professional with impeccable taste—with enough patience and detail to deliver great films. He may never make a masterpiece, but it seems almost equally improbable that he’d ever make an unarchiveable film at this point either. I’m very confident his next film will be excellent.


Best film: Capote  …. though for Miller they are all virtually tied

  • It is stunning portrait of Truman Capote with a triumphant performance by Phillip Seymour Hoffman
  • I wish there was more of it but there’s some strong juxtaposition of establishing shots and transition editing with the open cold Kansas prairie landscapes with the posh NYC skyline (and then beautiful Spanish vacation spot later)
  • PSH is the reason this film is excellent—it goes far beyond impersonation and mimicry—of course the voice and the laugh is studied—but PSH absolutely disappears- one of the greater “chameleon” performances showing an actor’s range
  • Keener is very solid as Harper Lee- she grounds Truman and her insight guides us as the audience
  • The scenes at parties where Truman is entertaining are excellent—charisma, narcissism, and he’s manipulative, effeminate and genius– it is studied and dissected here by Miller and PSH
  • Many intimate scenes—complex – well arched and nuanced characters in complex relationships (Perry played by Clifton Collins Jr. is excellent)
  • Bennett Miller makes very good films—strong writing, great acting

there’s some strong juxtaposition of establishing shots and transition editing with the open cold Kansas prairie landscapes with the posh NYC skyline (and then beautiful Spanish vacation spot later)

total archiveable films: 3

top 100 films:  0

top 500 films:  0

top 100 films of the decade:  0

most overrated:  Bennett Miller does not have an overrated film. Nothing on the normal TSPDT consensus top 2000— and then when you look at the TSPDT 21st century list they’re all a little underrated actually. Capote is #21 of 2005, Moneyball is #30 of 2011…. and Foxcatcher is the worst in terms of being underrated …

most underrated :  Foxcatcher is #31 of 2014 on the TSPDT critical consensus and that’s 20 slots or so too low. Like all three films from Bennett Miller- I think there is a serious argument that it is his strongest film actually.

look at the lighting here- this level of detail requires further study — striking

easily one of the best shots of MIller’s career- a painting- this from Foxcatcher

Foxcatcher in general feels like it could have been shot by Pakula (with Gordon Willis)– a stunner here

gem I want to spotlight :  Moneyball

  • Bennett Miller’s sophomore effort here proves his debut, 2005’s Capote was no one-man acting triumph—this is another first-rate film
  • Miller pulled out all the stops when putting this film together. He grabs Brad Pitt- one of the top 25 actors of all-time- for the lead, taps Wally Pfister as the DP, the screenplay is written by Sorkin and Steven Zallian (Schindler’s list), even gets PSH from Capote to play the thankless role of Art Howe
  • Mychael Danna’s score is superb- a riff on Trent Reznor’s Social Network masterful score but a splendid one on its own
  • One reason you know Miller is a strong filmmaker, is he combines Excel spreadsheets, a baseball highlight montage and Jonah Hill voiceover and it gives you chills it’s so exciting- that’s powerful
  • It was Jonah Hill’s dramatic breakout but he shows off his comedic timing here as well- he clearly has chemistry with Pitt- their scenes together are fantastic
  • Billy Beane is not easy and I don’t know if another actor pulls it off with our alignment with him in spite of his snarkiness—plenty of Sorkin’s snark- the “this is not a discussion” and “adapt or die”
  • Dialogue-laden, baseball montages— but I like the oner through the locker room tracking Pitt
  • Twice with the guitar with daughter- great scenes
  • Formally strong- reoccurring shot in the car with the profile of Pitt
  • 6 oscar noms

Bennett Miller’s sophomore effort here- Moneyball proves his debut, 2005’s Capote was no one-man acting triumph—this is another first-rate film

stylistic innovations/traits:                             

  • Portraits of real life public figures- but over a shorter period of time than the lifetime biopic rags to riches or birth to death clichés. You get the feeling Bennett Miller hates those films (sorry Ray). Truman Capote, Billy Beane, and John du Pont—idiosyncratic (at best) men, monomaniacal figures—singularly possessed- both dangerous and genius (ok- maybe not du Pont).
  • Long incubation periods between films, serious films- sublime acting performances
  • Specificity in the details—from the performances to the décor to the location shooting backdrop. But Miller isn’t overly interested in expressionism, realism or telling the story lyrically either
  • He’s a master collaborator (he got Pitt, Sorkin, Pfister together for one film) — he’s a B- version of Villeneuve

top 10

  1. Capote
  2. Foxcatcher
  3. Moneyball


By year and grades

2005- Capote R/HR
2011- Moneyball R/HR
2014- Foxcatcher R/HR


*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film

MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film

HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film

R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives