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Moneyball

A 2011 movie directed by Bennett Miller.

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Moneyball works

  • Oct 14, 2011
Rating:
+4
Is it more surprising that a movie was made of Moneyball, Michael Lewis's great account of how Billy Beane made the A's a winning baseball team by finding undervalued players, or that it took so long to do because of Hollywood's sausage-making machinery?  Perhaps what is most surprising is that the result is really, really good.

First, this isn't really a movie about baseball (yes, that's the second time I've used that phrase today--see my review of The Art of Fielding, the best-selling book by Chad Harbach)--but I have empirical (well, OK, only one data point, so its more anecdotal) proof in this case, because my son, a confirmed baseball hater but big Brad Pitt fan, says this is the best movie he's seen so far this year.  And some critics and baseball purists have said that both the book and the movie, but particularly the movie, overstate and oversimplify the value and uniqueness of Billy Beane's approach.  The point of this review is not to quibble about those fine points.  The point is this--every GM now users Moneyball techniques, and the movie and book are both valuable and entertaining introductions to the concept.

Brad Pitt perfectly captures Billy Beane as the  tortured and frustrated former can't-miss prospect as Lewis described him in the book.   Nervous tics, compulsive eating (Pitt seems especially adept at this; reference the Ocean's series!), refusal to watch the games, all make Beane a riveting character.  Jonah Hill plays the nerdy stat geek who crunches the numbers for Beane and finds him the undervalued players that fit the payroll.  Hill and Beane seem to develop a genuine relationship, to the point where by the end of the movie their banter seems so lose it could be unscripted. 

The traditionalist scouts play the bad guys attempting to thwart Beane's new approach, and they are such an easy mark that the movie doesn't quite ring true to life here, just enough to knock one point off my rating.  However, in defense of the movie, it is the case that the resistance to recognizing the value of new statistical analysis was very strong, and took years to overcome around baseball.  While the movie does stack the deck against them, the results are in, and Moneyball won, so the case can't be argued into the ground.  This is, after all, entertainment, not documentary film-making. 

And entertaining it is.  The movie moves at its own pace, not the driven or inevitable pace of most sports redemption movies.  It is much smarter than the usual type of the genre, and in fact does have somewhat of a documentary feel to it at times, but never strays from the story that it is determined to tell.  I would expect Moneyball to get nods for Best Picture, Brad Pitt for best actor, and Hill for best supporting actor, and all would be well deserved.  Moneyball isn't a loud drama driven by three-dimensional special effects, a star-packed comedy, or a blockbuster series.  Its just a good small film.  Go see it.

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October 15, 2011
I liked this one as well; the script and the direction was real strong.
 
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More Moneyball reviews
review by . September 25, 2011
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review by . October 19, 2011
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review by . September 23, 2011
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Todd Stockslager ()
I love reading and writing about what I have read, making the connections and marking the comparisons and contrasts. God has given man the amazing power to invent language and the means to record it which … more
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Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game (ISBN 0-393-05765-8) is a book by Michael Lewis, published in 2003, about the Oakland Athletics baseball team and its general manager Billy Beane. Its focus is the team's analytical, evidence-based, sabermetric approach to assembling a competitive baseball team, despite Oakland's disadvantaged revenue situation. A film based on the book starring Brad Pitt was released in 2011.
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