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A 2011 movie directed by Bennett Miller.

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  • Sep 23, 2011
There is a tendency in Hollywood for their movies to have a deeper meaning. If a movie were just about zombies it may be tough to get a broad audience into the theater. So what people tend to do is add a metaphor like zombies that really stand for consumerism or lack of individuality or some B.S. like that. Or they will put in a handsome lead to attract women who may otherwise not want to see a monster movie. Moneyball has every opportunity to do these things as well and while it may touch upon these ideas this is a baseball movie about baseball stats. If you like baseball, hate the Yankees, or find mathematics interesting you'll probably like the movie. That is what the movie is about and while it has a David and Goliath feel with a charismatic Brad Pitt in the lead this is a baseball movie. And how could you hate America's Pastime?

A big contributing factor to the success of the movie is the writing team behind it. When the source material is a look at stats and analysis you need strong writing to engage the audience and that is what Steve Zallian brought to the original script. Once the script was finished they brought over Steven Soderbergh to make the film and he made several changes to the script including interviews and having the players play themselves despite the age difference, the studio was not a fan. So they took him off the project and instead brought in Bennett Miller who has worked on dry material before and squeezed Oscar juice from it with Capote. Once they found a director who would make a more traditional movie (rather ironic considering what the movie is about) they brought in Aaron Sorkin to complete a fianl draft of the script. Usually with too many chefs in the kitchen you create a mess, here it works out and while it seems scattered at times, especially the end, I believe it works to make a compelling story.

As for the story I found some objection to it and what they left out. For those of you who don't know what Moneyball is about, it is based on the true story of the Oakland A's during the early 2000's while their team was good despite the lack of resources (read: money)that teams like the New York Yankees or the Boston Red Soxs have. Billy Beane the A's GM and a former player who had been highly touted coming out of high school abandoned the old method of scouting based off looks and feel and subscribed to an anaylytical, subermetric approach to forming a team. In other words he wasn't looking at batting average and speed like other organizations he wanted player who could get on base and could hit for power. The formula was basically the need to get people on base and keep your opponent off. In the movie they focus on getting men on base but during their run they had three of the best pitchers in baseball on the mound in Barry Zito, Mark Mulder, and Tim Hudson which is arguably a bigger reason they won then the batters they were able to scrap together after Jason Giambi and Johnny Damon left. I understand why they were left out of the movie as they were already on the team and had nothing to do with Beane's negotiations and front office moves, but to completely dismiss them from a movie about why the A's were winning is a little ridiculous.

Obviously nerding out a little there, but besides that the movie is strong. Sorkin writes a script as you would expect with plenty of great dialogue. Brad Pitt plays Billy Beane perfectly in a mix of a confident businessman with plenty of self doubt. His character refuses to watch the games as he believes he is cursed. The need to win the last game of the season keeps his head churning and his confidence in check. Pitt is able to be a character that can walk into a room with a confident swagger then leave it with nothing but doubts and remorse in his eyes. They also choose to include his daughter in the story, in an attempt to humanize a man who needs to be vicious when cuts need to be made.

Beane's right hand man is Peter Brand who is based on Paul DePodesta and is played by Jonah Hill. Hill does fantastic opposite Pitt, and while known for his comedy is able to slow his performance down as a man who lacks the swagger that Beane has but believes that his system is right for the organization. He nails his deadpan delivery and is able to participate in a great give and take with the lead actor. Philip Seymour Hoffman also makes an appearance in the movie as a manager who still believes in the old way of doing things and often clashed with his GM. That dynamic could have been interesting to explore but I imagine that confrontation ended in real life once the team started winning. Chris Pratt also stars in the movie as former catcher and current first baseman Scott Hatteberg, Pratt is always all kinds of charming and he is no different in this movie.

There isn't a whole lot of baseball action in the movie as it is more about the front office moves but there is enough to wet your whistle. The scenes in which we actually do see baseball are shot in different manners almost every time we see it. But since this story is told from the perspective of the GM who doesn't watch the game we only get slivers of action. We also see different shooting techniques from when he is interacting with people to when he is alone which reflect his two states of mind. When he is with others they use normal shooting techniques but when alone, they show Beane's disjointed thoughts and constant questioning of his moves using quick cuts and close ups that help us to further get in the character's head.

Not everyone is going to like Moneyball, it moves slowly and there is not a lot of action to it. But the writing is compelling, the banter and interactions are funny, and the actors are all charming, plus it is a movie about baseball stuff. For all the reasons above I liked the movie, and even if you are not into baseball maybe you will like the movie as well. Much like the movie the producers were able to get the most talented people to play for their team and create a winning formula. B+

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September 26, 2011
This looks like a good movie.
September 26, 2011
It was
September 25, 2011
I definitely want to check this out as both a Bay Arean (but, Giants fan) and someone who hates the Yankees. I'm glad that it didn't disappoint. Great review!
September 23, 2011
Thanks for the history on the makings of its script. Sorkin is involved, so I am interested. Seen through the eyes of a GM? Sounds pretty nice. Hoffman is a terrific actor so I'll probably see this one either tomorrow or Sunday. Thanks for the very thorough review.
September 24, 2011
Sorkin is a great reason to see it. But Hoffman is only in it for maybe 10 minutes, so don't let him be the reason. I recommend it though
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Quick Tip by . October 08, 2011
Brad Pitt leaves his pretty boy roles behind and plays up his acting chops. Overall good story and strong acting by everyone, especially Philip Seymour Hoffman. It has Oscar written all over it as a movie and for various members of the cast and crew. However, I could have done without so many cutesie kids and the lighting in the guitar store scene was more distracting than mood setting.
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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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