365 Movies By Day Reviews of Movies I Watch that I Feel Like Writing About

14Jan/120

Moneyball (2011)

Moneyball is the true story of Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Beane. In 2001, the Athletics advanced to the Major League Baseball American League Division Championship Game where their opening day payroll of $33,000,000 was facing the New York Yankees and their opening day payroll of $109,000,000 in an elimination game for the right to advance to the conference championship. The Athletics lose the game and the series. It is a forgone conclusion that the team will lose its three marquee players, who are all free to sign wherever the want, to bigger market cities because the team doesn't have the money to sign the players to the massive contracts that they have demanded with great statistical seasons.

Armed with the task of competing with the deep pockets of teams like Boston, New York, and Chicago, Beane is forced to abandon the age-old philosophy of trying to replace all-star caliber players with players who do the same thing, only not as good. Beane hires Peter Brand (Jonah Hill - Superbad, Forgetting Sarah Marshall), a recent Yale graduate who majored in economics and has a love of baseball. Brand has a method of evaluating baseball players based on criteria and formulas that are foreign to every other professional sports franchise  in the United States.

Brad Pitt (Seven, Fight Club) stars as Beane, a former 1st round ball player himself who, after years of futility, exits the life of a player to become a baseball scout. After years of scouting and moving up in the ranks, Beane is promoted to GM of the cash-strapped Athletics, one of the handful of franchises that he played a season with as a player. Beane is not arrogant but has a certain swagger about him. He has confidence with whoever he is talking to, whether it be a player, the team manager Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman - Doubt, Capote), the team owner, or any of the other GMs in the league. Beane is approachable, respected, and likable. He has high expectations of himself, of his players, and of his franchise. He understands that nothing will be remembered unless you win a World Series title at the end of the season. He doesn't travel with the team or even watches the games when they are being played in Oakland, opting instead to work out in the team gym.

The story revolves around the 2002 season. The intrigue in the Bennett Miller (Capote, The Cruise) directed film is will the philosophy of having players on the roster that no other team in baseball wants work or will it blow up in Beane's face? Team scouts, the team owner, Howe, other GMs in the league, and fans are dismayed when the team starts the first quarter of the season in last place. Those who aren't laughing at Beane's methods of using a computer to determine a players value are at least coming to the realization that the process doesn't work.

Pitt was nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award for his performance of Beane. His competition includes his good friend George Clooney (The Descendants), Demian Bichir (A Better Life), Jean Dujardin (The Artist), and Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) . Of the four movies, I've only seen The Descendants. And while Clooney does a great job in his movie, his performance is not on the same level as Pitt's. It would be great if Pitt is finally rewarded for his past 20 years of acting with a win.

Plot 10/10
Character Development 8/10 (a great job with Pitt and Hill, but the baseball players were just that, players. A lot of Athletics in this movie were given their last or only chance with a professional club. A few of these stories were told but weren't told very well. I wasn't emotionally connected with these players. What is ironic is that the five players that I remember being on this 2002 team were hardly mentioned if they were mentioned at all)
Character Chemistry10 /10
Acting 10/10 (Pitt knocks it out of the park and the usual clown-like Hill gives the performance of his career)
Screenplay 9/10 (I didn't read the book, but I'm sure it won't be nominated for a Best Adapted Screenplay Academy Award for nothing)
Directing  10/10
Cinematography 8/10
Sound 10/10 (Beane's daughter writes and performs a killer song on her guitar for her dad that symbolizes the movie. There is also one background track that plays throughout some of the movies more poignant scenes that are the same exact track used in the Friday Night Lights)
Hook and Reel 10/10 (doesn't take much to get hooked by a sports movie)
Universal Relevance 10/10 (pinching pennies is a reality to all of us...done on a scale like the one in Moneyball allows us to see that not every franchise is full of multi-millionaire players who don't care about anything but money)

95%

 

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