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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Well, when purchasing my ticket I expected to see a good movie about baseball. I was rewarded with just that. Overall I thought the film excellent, both as a finely crafted film and as a representative of baseball. To demonstrate that I had no preconceived prejudices, I can say that I'm not really a fan of professional sports any longer. My fond memories of baseball are mostly from playing the game when I was a kid. We lived in a neighborhood with a lot of boys, all of whom were involved in sports and we played baseball a lot. But, that was the 1950's and times have changed. No one now days can hold a candle to The Mick. The film centers around the Oakland A's in the early 2000's and it's controversial General Manager, Billy Beane, skillfully played by Brad Pitt. The premise is the real story of how, with an extremely small budget for a professional sports team, he managed to win a surprising number of games, including setting an all-time major league record of 20 consecutive wins. The method used by Beane was not of his invention, having already been around in theory and known as "sabermetrics". The crafting of the team into that form is credited to have been begun by Beane's predecessor, Sandy Alderson. Beane himself was thrust to the forefront as the focus of a successful 2003 best-selling book "Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game"; which ultimately led to this film. The film was very well done, really succeeding in sucking in the audience to it's ebb and flow. The audience I was in clearly enjoyed the film, there was a lot of laughter in the right places and applause at the end, which is rare enough. The setting had the look and feel of realism and the same with regard to the actors portraying the players. There was a fairly long list of good character actors peppered throughout the film, all of whom added considerably to the film's realism. But the lion's share of the film, and the credit for it's quality, goes primarily to it's major stars, Brad Pitt, Philip Seymour Hoffman playing Team Manger Art Howe, and Jonah Hill, as the fictional character Peter Brand who is said to have been based on Paul DePodesta who was Beane's assistant during the period covered by the film. Hoffman is great as usual but played his character a bit understated. Jonah Hill nearly ran off with the attention altogether while he was on screen. But Pitt clearly controlled the central attention and did so with ease and excellence. He managed to make the character look smart, fair and quite human. Pitt's humanity was helped by the presence of tidbits of his family life, mainly focused on his relationship with his 12 year old daughter, well represented on screen by the young Kerris Dorsey as Casey Beane. The interplay between them added a lot of humanity to the film that would have otherwise been lacking. There was a small part played by Robin Wright as Beane's ex-wife Sharon. It was the closest anything in the film came to a romantic involvement. Many of the character actors made important contributions, such as Stephen Bishop as David Justice, Chris Pratt as Scott Hatteberg and Brent Jennings as Ron Washington. There was even a cameo by Joe Satriani playing his guitar as superbly as usual. Leaving the theater I thought that one would have to have at least a working knowledge of the game of baseball to get the most out of the film. I wondered how it would play to someone without that knowledge and I think a lot would be lost, but it would still be enjoyable for it's basic story of struggling to overcome long odds to achieve something good and the exploration of the people and personalities involved. That's a pretty good accomplishment for any film to make and this one does it with a lot of fun and class.
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
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.
Surprisingly, this movie is less about the baseball game than the game
of baseball. What is striking about this movie (and it's not about
outs) is the raw audio sound technique used in this movie that is
usually found in documentaries than feature films which helps make this
movie come alive. There is a the ambiance of background sound and the
echo that seems to resonate and bring the movie closer to the audience
and present a much closer to realism experience. There isn't that much
actual continuous footage of baseball in this movie, but rather the
management of it. The heightened personal and emotional tension is
carried throughout the movie and Director Bennett Miller has put
together this compelling very intimate portrait of a man played by Brad
Pitt and his statistician in an unusual angle of the game of baseball.
Somehow the almost overly brief snippets of scenes and background of current events and story are blended together along with poignant flashbacks will edited into some meaningful, main storyline without ever creating the idea of that the additional footage has someone been shortchanged. Bennett Miller apparently in his wisdom was able to capture the primary message of the movie, developed an accompanying background, and maintained the singular story around the entire movie, the art of carefully scriptwriting and editing.
Even without the formulaic all-American ending, Bennett Miller was able to wrap this movie into a complete feeling of wholeness for a feature film. Miller made excellent use of silence and editing choices in keeping the camera going just long enough for the more in-depth, substantive emotional impact of a scene to sink in. Miller seems to have brought a new found vision of a approach that brings a more connectiveness and meaningfulness to film-making, especially to interesting stories of reality that aren't even about the biggest and most momentous achievements of humanity and bringing them captivatingly to the big screen.
In a league where the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox regularly
field teams with $100 million-plus payrolls, how do you field a
competitive team with a payroll that is a mere fraction of that, at $37
million? This question could have been the basis for a dry documentary,
only appealing to a legion of die hard statistical analysis baseball
geeks, but instead, it forms the basis of a film that shows a great
deal of heart and spirit which moves it into a statement I never
thought I would be making, but here goes: Moneyball is possibly the
best baseball movie I have I ever seen.
Granted, I've never seen Bull Durham or Major League, but even with that deficiency in my sports film-viewing I can say with some confidence that this is at least as good or better than Field of Dreams and at least as good or better than The Bad News Bears.
The answer to the conundrum of fielding a competitive team with a limited budget is in fact the one sought by Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland Athletics. In 2001, after sending a team to the divisional playoffs only to lose in a heartbreaking game 5 to the big market big money New York Yankees (who went on to lose the World Series to Arizona), he was losing three of his star players and he simply could not afford to replace them. He hit the realization that in order to compete, he had to re-think the way that baseball business is done. No longer could he think in terms of buying his way into the playoffs (as the Yankees seem to do every year), but instead he would devise a system that would revolutionize the way that baseball is played or at least they way a team is constructed. To this end, he constructed an unorthodox and unconventional system which at the time was completely unheard-of. Suddenly, players were valued not for home runs or batting average, but for walks and runs scored. Under this system, 3 players making 250,000 each were worth the same as one player making 7 million. And in doing so, Beane managed to field a winning team who set an American League record for consecutive wins. Critics may point out that as yet, under this system, the A's still haven't won a championship. But they were always competitive, which is more than we can say for the majority of the teams in the league who also are not winning championships and are in fact spending a lot more money.
These ideas have been around for about ten years now and are now pretty much commonplace in baseball, but at the time Beane was ridiculed for trying them. The writing is excellent (Aaron Sorkin has a screenplay credit) and draws you in even without a lot of "action." We know that Oakland will not win that final game of the series, we know that Beane will continue to strive for that elusive championship, but we still have a lot to root for and cheer for. Even my personal feelings about my own team (sigh--long-suffering Orioles fan) did not in anyway prevent me from cheering the A's improbable drive toward history. The relationship between Beane and his daughter is a nice, and helps to drive in the fact that to some, baseball is more than a game. You might even argue that this film is not so much about baseball but about the effect our choices have on our lives and the lives around us--the supposed threat that unconventional thinking presents to the status quo.
Ultimately this film is the Bad News Bears of the new millennium--a ragtag group of veterans and rookies and cast-offs come together under the visionary leadership of a general manager who dared to think outside the box. It is possible that if you have absolutely no interest in baseball, you would still like this movie for its message about resisting the urge to do what is safe and easy in favor of what is odd and maybe even crazy...and works.
Sports films... Not a huge fan of them, and don't see them much because
of the predictability of them. However, one cannot deny the impact that
some have, like for example in recent years The Fighter and Aronofsky's
The Wrestler. Moneyball can now join them and is among the best films
of the year.
The film is always intriguing, and Aaron Sorkin (whose screenplay for The Social Network was last year's best) is to be congratulated for this. It's his wonderful script that gives the film the energy. What also helps is the lack of predictability. Sure, one can't seem to hope for an 'experimental' sports film, since this is based on a true story. However, Sorkin, as well as the director, always keeps things refreshing and interesting without becoming repetitive and stale. The dialogue is brilliant of course, and the lack of 'field' action makes it even more involving so when the important ball scene comes along it makes an impact. The other big driving factor is Brad Pitt, who has had an incredible year. His performance in The Tree of Life is already among his finest work, and now this joins it as well. He portrays all of the character traits with such versatility and charisma. A great and satisfying protagonist.
Overall, I was incredibly pleased with this. It is to this day the best adapted screenplay of the year, and not surprisingly Pitt is my win in both categories for both of his films.
On recommendation from a friend, I recently saw Moneyball and thought
the movie was quite great. The storyline is intriguing to say the least
and though a lot of people already know the plot the movie made it come
to life. The cast was great and specifically Jonah Hill, who usually
does a great job in comedies, should get nominated for best supporting
actor in it. It is nice to see him make a switch to a non-comedic role
and I am sure this will greatly help his acting career.
This is one of those rare movies that everyone should like, whether they are sports fans or not. The story is so interesting that it could not have been made up and the original author of the book was well represented in the screenplay. I read some commentary that this might not be as big as The Blind Side overseas because a lot of people aren't in love with baseball, but I think this appeals to all people even if they are not a fan.
Overall, I think Sorkin did a wonderful job with the movie and picked a perfect cast-he has definitely been on a roll lately. Although I saw a matinée, I would have even liked it had I paid full price for my tickets. So, enjoy... :-)
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