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Baseball by the numbers
9/10 Moneyball tells the story of the 2002 season of the Oakland Athletics, a team that rose to notoriety because of its low payroll and unorthodox player selection. Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), a former player turned general manage, grows tired with the ancient, inefficient ways of the game he has committed his entire life to. When a transaction goes awry he stumbles across Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), a Yale, economics graduate who believes he has a system to rating players based on numbers.5 years ago
Billy and Peter begin trading, signing, and grooming the team based on data, not scouting, something that other members of the team are not fond of, including Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the team's manager. Billy and Peter's system defies current baseball logic, but when the club starts to win games with players like Scott Hatteberg (Chris Pratt), David Justice (Stephen Bishop), and Chad Bradford (Casey Bond), the eyes of the country turn to Oakland, where only seeing is believing.
What happened in Oakland back in '02 was incredible. It shouldn't have happened if you ask the right people, and other people will tell you it means nothing. Well, it did mean something it has changed the way people think about the game for good. You couldn't just go out and look at a kid to see if he would be a star or not. There were more stats to consider than home runs, strikeouts, and batting average. The game was expanding and becoming more and more a battle of logic.
The film's structure is centered mostly on Billy Beane, but the most exciting parts for me were about the system. Writer Aaron Sorkin, who a few months back accepted a slew of awards for his screenplay The Social Network, tosses out jargon that baseball fanatics go crazy for. For the general audience, that's where Billy helps out. Peter explains the system and has to break it down more for Beane (i.e. the audience) so everybody on screen and in the seats is on the same page.
Pitt's portrayal of Beane won me over. He completely caught me off guard. I know Pitt can act but I remember him for performances that were very complex on the outside. Aldo Raine (Inglourious Basterds) with his pronounces chin, squinty eyes, and thick accent. Benjamin Button (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) who grew younger as he got older. Jeffrey Goines (12 Monkeys) who couldn't sit still let alone focus on one subject in a conversation. Yes, he was nominated for all these performances, but in a performance like this there is something bubbling under the surface. All of his characters to an extent have something going on underneath, only this character, Billy Beane, is so normal and calm on the outside, yet when he is alone we can see pain and frustration.
His supporting cast of Hill, Hoffman, and the slew of ball players and colleagues, help turn this baseball team into the world of Oakland Athletics. Hill and Hoffman especially play perfect compliments to Pitt's sunny exterior. Hill is quiet, timid, and very smart. Hoffman is cold, weathered, and stubborn. Pitt is able to play off of both temperaments and make their scenes together pop off the screen.
The one thing that this movie has going for it is the lack of actual action on the diamond. There are some great scenes of actual baseball, one at bat by Hatteberg in particular struck a chord with me, but for the most part the action is behind the scenes. There is enough for a sports junkie to get their fix and enough drama and with Beane and his family to entice any average viewer into the theater. I can't think of many target groups that wouldn't find it interesting, except for children, due to language and complexity of some of the dialogue. All in all this is one movie that will please a lot of people, and more importantly a lot of different people, sort of like The Blind Side, only the movie is actually really good.
More than a game of numbers
9/10 It has long been said that professional sports are more a game of politics than an actual game. Major League Baseball is not just a game of money, but in "Moneyball" it's a game of numbers versus a game of people. It's callousness at its highest when general managers trade away people as if they're objects with little regard for them or their family. Brad Pitt as Billy Beane, the GM of the Oakland As, seems to take that even further, treating people as if they are only numbers, and yet there was something refreshing and humanistic about the whole thing.5 years ago
It's 2001 and Oakland has just lost to the New York Yankees in the playoffs, not surprising, seeing as their payroll was 76 Million dollars less. The humour of "Moneyball" starts in the off-season when the team can't afford to keep their top players and Beane and his experienced scouts start tossing around some free agent ideas. One guy is no good because he frequents strip clubs too often, another guy is no good because his girlfriend is ugly, and on down the list they go. But then Beane meets Yale-educated, economics-, mathematics-, and computer-whiz, baseball fan, Peter Brand (Jonah Hill). He has no experience and he doesn't know these players. He doesn't know if they stand funny or if they swing ugly. He only knows their stats and their salary.
A lot of people took offense to Beane's approach of degrading players down to the sum total of their on-base percentage and runs-in potential. But I liked it. Since the game of baseball isn't changing any time soon and players will always just be elements that can help win games and make more money, why not view them as numbers rather than as people with ugly girlfriends? Like Peter Brand, I like numbers.
It's a movie about doing more with less, so I think we're just supposed to ignore the irony that they needed an excessively high budget to make it. In fact, it cost Sony Pictures more money to make this movie than it cost the Oakland A's to field their entire team for a season. Oh well, only one lesson for Hollywood at a time, and I still liked the movie.
For a movie about people trying to change the game of baseball, it's only fitting that they are changing the sports genre. This isn't about the team and how many games they're going to win. As in all cases, they win some and they lose some. And we really only meet one player, the rest are just names thrown in the air. The movie is about Billy Beane, a real person, and a multi-dimensional character. At first he realizes that he is going to have to play the game with more than just money, and then after he makes it about numbers too, he finds a balanced statistical and personal concept.
"Moneyball" says that the game is about money, but the movie is about people. Writer Aaron Sorkin knows how to write people, and as evidenced by "The Social Network" (2010), he also knows how to turn computer-programming into riveting cinema. We find humour in the least-expected of places, we find heart in the least-expected of people, and 'Moneyball" gives us a completely enjoyable movie that becomes so much more than numbers.
Worth admission even if you care squat about baseball
5/10 Just caught this at the Toronto Film festival. It is undoubtedly one of the higher quality dramas in 2011. At its heart is a baseball-centric docu-drama, but even folks with zero baseball knowledge/interest can enjoy and be moved by this movie.5 years ago
Jonah Hill's performance in the film is phenomenal, and this may be the break that that young actor has been joshing for. His portrayal Peter Brand, a Yale Economics major and full time computer nerd is beyond believable, you practically swear that you know him personally a few days after the movie.
The role of Billy Beane, played by Brad Pitt, is an incredibly demanding one. While there are tons of dialog, hack arguments, display of physical rage, etc; it is the silent story telling, emotional turmoil, change-of-heart reflections, pupils-triggered catharsis, and so on that are the toughest to convey and requires a well-seasoned character actor. This is easily Brad at his widest acting range - and you see all of it in a little over two hours.
To be totally honest, I have not been tracking Philip Seymour Hoffman's acting career until this film. His portrayal of the ready-to-exit Oakland A's coach Art Howe, caught between "the for-sure old money" and the "crazy senseless new reality", convinced me that they couldn't have casted this part any better. Hoffman delivers on every single scene and you literally sweat his frustration along with him. This foil to Brad Pitt's character is actually effective enough to save several heavy- drama exchange where Brad's delivery falls slightly short of the mark.
This is an "onion" movie, constructed purposely to be entertaining on many levels. It can be watched purely as an entertaining account of modern baseball history - how player statistics became one of the most important factors determining financial success in modern baseball.
For more sentimental audience it tracks the journey of a man, forced to embrace change and disappointment as he fumble aimlessly through life etching out an unremarkable career first as a failing professional player, then small-time scout, and washed-out General Manager; only to finally wake up - and find himself becoming one of the greatest living innovator of the modern game.
Finally, for the abstract-at-heart, and those who knows or cares little about the game of baseball (like yours truly), this is a tale of an industry under irreversible change; a documentary of the conflict between innovators who brave the slings-and-arrows to map out the new ways, and the old stalwarts who goes all out to protect their crumbling turf.
At this historic moment in time, the message really hits a home-run! Other than baseball, we've recently witness similar changes and conflicts played out in public across the automobile, music distribution, movie distribution, book distribution, home computer, banking , and many other industries. Every unemployed in a vanishing industry can easily identify with the old Billy Beane, it is how Billy leverage his disappointment and experience, to turn his life around that we can all aspire to.
A worthy note is the soundtrack for the movie, grass-root simple and heartfelt, it sent me looking for the album on itunes - only to realize that the movie has not been officially released yet.
A high quality crowd pleaser
8/10 America's pastime has returned to the big screen and it is more witty and elegant than ever. Moneyball is the inspiring story of the Oakland A's, a team that was all but bankrupt but managed to beat the odds through intelligence and perseverance. Brad Pitt plays Billy Beane, the team's general manager who has run out of ideas on how to make his strapped for cash team successful. This is until he meets Pete Brand, played by Jonah Hill, an economic major from Yale. Brand devises a formula that analyzes players in a way nobody else does, thus revealing statistics about players that no one else can see. Beane and Brand use this formula to build up their unlikely roster of misfits. The themes of this film run deep through our aspiring minds. It's a film about beating the odds, going against the current, and standing up for what you believe is right. It is a moving and inspiring film that really only uses baseball as a backdrop for its deeper and more universal themes. It's a moving film and you don't have to be a baseball fan to love it.5 years ago
The strongest element of Moneyball is easily Aaron Sorkin and Steve Zaillian's incredibly sharp script. Moneyball brings up fond memories of 2010's The Social Network in which Sorkin pulled out all the stops in his intellectual screen writing ability. The dialogue in Moneyball moves at the same pace as any Sorkin or Zaillian script does. It has a driving cadence to it that keeps a film entirely dominated by dialogue very exciting and entertaining. Their script is lively, energetic, and diverse. Moneyball has intensely emotional scenes that compel and inspire, but then it has its lighthearted and much funnier moments that have the exact same affect. There's a lot to be said for any film that has the capability to make its audience laugh and cry in the same two hour span. Moneyball is a film like that and it all begins at Sorkin's fantastic script.
However, it is helped by the film's superb cast. Brad Pitt leads the film perfectly, creating a very interesting protagonist and driving the film in a way few leads can. He attacks his role as Billy Beane with the utmost care, respect, and sincerity. Despite all of Pitt's good looks and always recognizable celebrity face, you will have a hard time remembering that Pitt is the one acting, not Billy Beane. But, as always, where would such a strong lead be without his supporting cast? Moneyball has that supporting cast, and it finds its immeasurable talent in the most unlikely of places. I'm talking, of course, about Jonah Hill. Hill has built his career on being a comedy caricature with over the top flicks such as Superbad and Get Him to the Greek. But all that changes when Hill takes on the role of Pete Brand. His performance is stellar. He proves himself to be a true up and comer who won't find himself restricted within the confines of teen comedy.
Overall, Moneyball is your typical crowd pleaser, but it is incredibly high quality. It is so well directed, so superbly acted, and Sorkin and Zaillian's script is practically flawless. Personally this isn't the film I will go crazy about. Rather, it is a film that I will enjoy so sincerely and with all my heart. I really did love this film and my respect for it is eternal. It may be typical and straightforward in its overall themes, but the quality of the film outshines this. Moneyball is just an excellent film.
Pitt is at the top of his game
9/10 I have another rare chance to catch a film more than a day before it's national release. Usually when this happens there's a horde of folks queued up. When the doors to the theatre open, phones are sequestered, and a rush is put on to find prime seating. Those were movies starring a bunch of well less than household names. Surely a sneak to see a Brad Pitt movie would be even more chaotic. Unfortunately the waning popularity of America's pastime is as much of a deterrent as a movie star and free entertainment are agents of attraction.5 years ago
Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) is a former major leaguer turned general manager of the Oakland A's. After losing in the playoffs to the Yankees, the A's lose their stars to free agency. Billy is tasked with rebuilding despite a payroll that leaves the A's trailing the competition.
While going through the usual motions, Billy happens by Pete Brand (Jonah Hill), an economist who may have found a way to scout baseball with the efficiency the A's need. The two delve in head first, and despite some tough outings they never back down.
Pitt is at the top of his game. As an everymanor at least one that isn't played up as wealthy, a man struggling to keep his jobfrustration is clearly seen in Pitt's face. Pitt brings humanity to the ominous job of a general manager. Flashbacks of his stint in "the show" surmise his entire life, be it his divorce or relationship with his daughter Casey (Kerris Dorsey).
Moneyball is not the action-packed sports outing one may be expecting. Director Bennett Miller spends very little time focusing on the game of baseball, or even the personalities of the players. Moneyball is a movie about management. Its deadpan, forthright approach is fresh compared to the typical underdog story filled with home runs and stolen bases. There's no electrifying music or thrilling speeches, but the excitement found in a phone call is realized as well as one could imagine. I don't think any actor other than Hill could pull of his slowly clinched fist.
Like the good sports films, Moneyball shares a deeper meaning than simply winning. Immediately the value of loyalty comes to mind. The sports genre is changing, much like how the crew of this story changed talent scouting. Just last year a movie rose up about the struggle to manage a boxer, and now here's the struggle to manage a team.