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I liked the idea of the film, I like Brad Pitt as an actor, and I love IT and statistics, and I love sport, so this film had all the ingredients for me right? Wrong... This was a much-laboured film, that could and should have progressed at 150% the speed at least. There were far too many self-indulgent shots of Brad Pitt from afar trying to evoke thought and understanding, it just didn't work, at least not for me. For the last hour, I wanted to know the outcome, but I also wanted to put the film on 2X speed, because there was simply no tempo. Even the excellent Seymour-Hoffman was unable to shine with a small part in this forgettable film. Without Pitt, I would have given this film a 2/10..
Sometimes you hear about a movie and you say, well, that doesn't sound
at all interesting, but so many people say it's great that you watch it
anyways. That's what happened in the case of Moneyball, a movie that
combines two things I have little interest in: sports and statistics.
Unfortunately, while my instincts aren't always right, in this case they were dead on. While there are interesting moments in the movie, like Billy Beane doing some fancy horse trading, I just never connected with this movie. Brad Pitt was rather bland and even though the script was co-written by Aaron Sorkin, I found the dialog flat. The story is interesting, but it seems to move so slowly; I think I would have been better off reading the book.
Sometimes a movie can be riveting even though its subject matter is unappealing, but this isn't one of those movies. If you love baseball and statistics then this movie may be great, but I could have done without it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Moneyball can easily compete with some of the greatest baseball movies
and is arguably one of the best films of 2011.
I'm not a sports guy and I'm always baffled when people get so upset when their team doesn't win. However, I was able to understand the mindset and feel the agony of Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt).
This true story based on the 2003 Michael Lewis book, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, shines a different and less romantic perspective on the sport. With a strong theme of taking down the system and fighting the established order, Billy Beane takes a risky yet revolutionary step into combating the deep pockets of large baseball franchises.
Brad Pitt (Se7en) and Jonah Hill (Superbad) are outstanding together and develop an on-screen friendship that feels legitimate. Casting Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Magnolia) as Oakland A's manager Art Howe is unfitting. Art Howe has a physique of someone that could field a couple grounders whereas Hoffman would fall on his fat ass. Interestingly, Art Howe has expressed displeasure with the portrayal of his character in the book and the movie in which he is seen as a stubborn traditionalist.
Moneyball offers a multitude of entertaining facets with an exceptionally well-written screenplay that even non-baseball fans will enjoy.
An extremely competent film, with sharp writing and editing, convincing acting, and a great basic story.
That's hardly the words you would use for a great classic like "Citizen Kane" or even "Fight Club." Like that Facebook movie "Social Network," you have here a gripping series of events with a hero and a huge opportunity and the movie makes it pop and crackle--even though on the surface it seems like it couldn't possibly be exciting. I mean, lots of board room or back room conversations, lots of brooding about the future. There isn't even a noticeable romantic line to add that personal layer.
All of this attests to the raw ability of the movie makers, mostly the director and writer.
The director is who, Bennett Miller? A relative outsider with two other movies to his name, I think people are starting to perk up to him. His first movie, "The Cruise," few people have seen, but it shows his hand in its attraction to a true situation with insight into contemporary American culture. (It's free on Netflix right now, if you are open to a kind of straight up black and white documentary.) His second movie, "Capote," takes us into heartland America and shows he can command a more complicated scenario, some high end acting talent, and edgy crime stuff already part of literary lore and make a compelling sometimes brilliant movie. (Part of the brilliance belongs to Philip Seymour Hoffman, frankly, but the movie is handled with unusual intelligence overall.)
So now "Moneyball" with Brad Pitt, who anchors it with yet another confident, believable performance from him. The world of professional baseball is automatically interesting to many people. And so is the idea of a lone renegade bucking the system, any system, and succeeding (or almost succeeding, at least). Then there is the astonishing winning streak that builds in the center of the movie with inevitable drama (like the one used by more than one movie when Joe DiMaggio was his streak decades earlier). This is great stuff, and it's hard to go wrong.
But Miller goes not merely avoid going wrong. He gives this just enough velocity and just enough breathing room to make it fast and comfortable. You inhabit the movie, you root for the heroes, and you feel the situation more than you thought you could, at least on paper.
The other main influence is the writer, or properly writers (two of them), though Steven Zaillian is listed first in the credits. Zaillian has a whole slew of highly regarded films on his resume--Schindler's List, Gangs of New York, the new Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, on and on--and he clearly has given "Moneyball" the slick, smart dialog and story line. But the other writer, for the usual reasons, has gotten the bulk of the attention because (I think) he's been recently associated with "Social Network," and that's Aaron Sorkin. (His one other recent credit is the decent Mike Nichols film, "Charlie Wilson's War." He mostly known for writing much of "West Wing," which is pure television, even if very good television.)
But it boils down to a handful of really talented folk putting together a modestly constructed, very smart and engrossing film about something far more fascinating that you'd have ever dreamed. It won't change your life, but it's a must see kind of movie for a quiet night.
For the several billions of people who find baseball the most boring sport in history, this film very cleverly and with grace shows how baseball was made even more boring, using science. Brad Pitt, really, the entire cast is very good, very good. Brad Pitt could do a movie about the making of the first cereal box and it would probably be great. Brad Pitt as the leading character takes us inside the psyche of a very unique manager of corporate assets, which is what a baseball team is at the bottom line. The dedicated dinosaurs he must contend with are expertly played by a great cast, they seem like real sports managers, and perhaps they are. Hoffman does a great job of acting as an immovable object, and he does it with a minimalist approach that is really convincing and artful. In the end the boring sport of baseball plays back field to dreamers pushing at their dream against formidable forces of public opinion, corporate pressure and certain failure. The story transcends the sport of baseball and shows us what might happen when we open up to change and stand our ground. On a good day, Mickey Mantle would have approved, which is probably why the film opens quoting the legendary ball player.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As an Englishman who has never seen a live game of baseball I enjoy movies about the game and reading about charismatic teams/players such as the Jackie Robinson Dodgers and the Ted Williams Red Sox. Brad Pitt I can take or leave. In Moneyball I am more than happy to take Pitt who turns in a thoughtful performance that owes absolutely nothing to his celebrated good looks and everything to observation. This is one case where baseball really is a metaphor for the road we all travel on the journey of life and poses thoughtful questions such as can we deliberately choose to be a winner when the world - and possibly even our friends, family and ourselves, perceive us as losers. Only four names in the cast were known to me and one of them, Robin Wright, has less than five minutes of screen time but the other three, Pitt, of course, plus Philip Seymour Hoffman and Jonah Hill, make a great combo and get strong support from virtually the entire cast. One of the finest films of the year.
My only ever baseball experience was memorable for being unmemorable. I
sat in what I was told was a 'bleacher' seat. In my native England, a
bleacher seat would be a prime location from which to view a live game.
But bleacher seats are so named because there is no roof covering them,
allowing the sun to bleach the riff-raff who occupy them. I walked out
before half-time (if indeed there was a halfway point).
Bennett Miller's 'Moneyball' has good and bad points, just like his 'Capote'. Sure, there are parts which engage, but there are also parts which repel.
Brad Pitt plays Billy Beane, general manager of the real life baseball team the Oakland Athletics, or Oakland A's. They're a middle-of-the-road sort of a team, destined for nothing except mediocrity. After losing their big chance of winning a championship title, Beane has to sell some of his key players to keep the club financially stable. Only, if he does that he can kiss goodbye to any chance of winning anything again.
The intriguing thing about 'Moneyball' is that it takes us from the pitch, through the locker rooms and further until we get to the back office where the real game is played a game of backhanders and backstabbing. 'Moneyball', I think, introduces to the screen the quirky concept of sport management via a computer.
The biggest reason why I can't recommend this film over other ones currently on release is Brad Pitt. When it comes to Beautiful Brad, I'm in a minority. I don't think he's a great actor. He's more a personality, as De Niro would say. If you look at his filmography, I bet you couldn't name a film where if he wasn't in it it would be a poorer picture for it. 'Fight Club' is as good as he'll ever be. And I bet my journalistic career that he will never win a competitive Oscar.
Aaron Sorkin and Steve Zaillian's script is weak by their standards. There are lines of dialogue which stand out, but you can always spot good lines in an ordinary script. Zaillian is used to adapting his screenplays from books, whereas Sorkin has the skill to write one from scratch. The script isn't poor, you understand; it just isn't worthy of either man.
Beane's shrewdest managerial decision is to poach Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), a player analyst from a rival team. He's a softly spoken, obsequious young man, who's a bit of a dark horse. He has an economics degree from Yale and understands baseball better than anyone else Beane has ever known.
Brand explains to Beane that throughout history baseball managers have been wrong. They are blinded by celebrity to the extent that they dismiss most players because of their age, appearance or personality. Brand persuades Beane that, if they view players as statistics rather than as celebs, they can assemble a championship-quality team. You could say that Brand is the brains behind the A's' recovery while Beane is the face. Naturally.
Sorkin or Zaillian (who knows which?) does manage to slip some nice dark humour into characters' lines. This along with Jonah Hill's performance would be a reason to watch the film. In real life he's an extrovert, so it must have been hell to speak only when spoken to. In one scene, Beane points to him all cool and managerial-like, tacitly wanting to him to confirm something he's said in a meeting. Brand points to himself and says 'Do you want me to speak?'. The whole audience loved this kind of gag.
A quick-fire negotiation scene featuring Beane and Brand is impressive. Or do they speak so quickly that the scene only seems impressive? Either way I won't be watching it a second time to find out.
The film focuses on too many different characters. It gets lost in its own details. Toning down the success the A's' go on to achieve would have made sense (20 consecutive wins, although true to life, is too schmaltzy to be taken seriously in a film). It's a sporting cliché otherwise.
The ending was a sell-out. I gather Beane wanted desperately to win with the A's. As a player he was as star manqué, so winning a championship with them as GM would be his salvation. The offer made to him by the Boston Red Sox was so similar. They, too, were a losing side who needed Beane to take them to a championship. He could have easily gone back to the A's; it's not like they would have turned him down. (The Red Sox used his (Brand's) model anyway and won the title without him.)
I don't want to sound like I hate Brad Pitt (I don't think anybody does), but I have to be honest. Speaking honestly, then, how long does the camera have to be held on Pitt's eyes before he sheds a tear? His way of conveying the regret his character has is to exercise more than any of the players and break a lot of things. Also, can anybody tell me why Pitt eats in virtually every scene of every film he's starring in lately? What kind of trademark is that? This is a man who topped a great actors poll above Brando a few years back. And people wonder why I'm so cynical about the state of cinema.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Many of my regular readers occasionally have complained that a lot of the reviews I write are somewhat negative. I try to explain that most of the films I express an opinion about have gathered just a dozen comments (or less) from other people. I feel it is a greater contribution to the knowledge database of humankind to provide the 16th slant on PAINTBALL (4 out of 10) compared to the 99th critique of MONEYBALL (10 of 10). Apparently there are quite a few people who do not care to see movies meriting just 1, 2, 3, or 4 stars of 10, let alone write about them. However, I will make an exception in the case of MONEYBALL, a movie guaranteed to send shivers up the spine of anyone who ever played organized baseball, softball, or other-ball on a ball diamond as a youth. Unlike THE NATURAL (where Robert Redford wields his "Wonder Boy" bat to a few musical notes still heard each season in nearly every major league park, and more than a few minor league ones), MONEYBALL is based on the true history of former Detroit Tiger Billy Beane. There is a brick in front of Comerica Park in Detroit which reads "Billy Beane, OF, 1988." Everyone remembers 1988 was the season after the Tigers lost to the Twins in the ALCS, but led their division by about a 100 games before going a million-game losing streak. Well, in 2002 Billy Beane general managed the Oakland A's to a 21st Century record 20-game winning streak, against all odds. (Meanwhile, the Tigers had passed on hiring Beane to head their think tank, choosing instead the folks who would enable an American League record 119-loss season in 2003.) The only way MONEYBALL could be more perfect would be to subtitle it "Cry of the Tigers."
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If you want gain a better understanding of the operation of a baseball
club, this is the movie to watch. This movie dramatizes the role of the
general manager, the key front office person who seldom is in the
limelight but whose decisions effect the operation of an entire
baseball organization. No baseball club will be successful without an
effective general manager, but even if the g.m. is effective, there is
still no guarantee that this will produce a winning ball club because
much of what the g.m. does depends on luck. In baseball, the g.m. is
gambling on the players being able to play well, and often the gamble
fails. The players get injured, they have emotional issues, attitude
problems, labor-management conflicts, events outside of the g.m.'s
control that effect the players' performances. It happens all the time.
The field manager may be in charge of the players on the field but it
is the general manager who has overall responsibility for the team's
This is an excellent movie about baseball, as told from the the vantage point of the general manager, a vantage point that is seldom, if ever, dramatized. Yet, there is probably no job in baseball that is more critical to the success of the team then the general manager's. The GM is the guy (or gal) who is charged with the responsibility for putting together the team. The GM signs the players and makes the trades. The field manager is much more visible but it is the GM who provides the players for the field manager to manage. This movie is about one GM who is unique among GMs since he was actually once a baseball player, albeit a marginal player, who worked his way up the front office ladder. Brad Pitt does an admirable job portraying the field manager. The movie, however, asks the audience to accept a premise that is unsustainable, namely, that the GM hit upon an idea for putting together a winning team according to some kind of mathematical formula based on percentages. This idea, playing the percentages, is as old as baseball itself. Actually, the GM is effective because he can relate to the more marginal, and less expensive, players and believes that if properly managed, these players can get on base just as often as the higher priced players. This idea, too, is as old as baseball itself. Also, the GM's "system" fails, that is, his team loses in the playoffs, which sort of takes the wind out the story's sails. Nevertheless, this movie provides an excellent inside glimpse of the operation of a major league baseball team and the challenges confronting the front office in putting together a competitive team.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie is cinema at it's finest. Many were skeptical of Bennet Miller's ability to take Moneyball, a bland story about an idea put together by baseball executives. Let me say this: they were wrong. I'm not one to hand out high ratings lightly, but this film goes above and beyond my expectations. The script, penned by Aaron Sorkin, Oscar winner for The Social Network, is brilliant. He works in comedic elements well still keeping the film as dramatic as it should be. The editing is clean and well thought out, greatly adding to the effect. Pitt delivers a heartfelt and honest performance as Billy Beane, A's GM and former major league dud. He fakes his cool well when discussing ball with his fellow higher-ups, but shows that he is really soft and emotional. Jonah Hill shines, showing Oscar potential as nerd Peter Brand. He shows he can be more than some high-school idiot from Superbad. Now, where the film shines is the direction. Miller captivates a sense of excitement out of a bland story without resorting to sex or violence. His suspense is shown through tension between characters and slow development. The excitement when Scott Hatterberg (the delightful Chris Pratt) hits his walk-off home run to break the winning streak record (Completely true to real life) was so great there were cheers in my theater. The film wraps up perfectly, showing the flaws with the idea of moneyball and wrapping up Billy's personal dilemmas. Miller expertly changes what was the story of an idea into a character study of a man with as many problems as his team. Moneyball is pure bliss.
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