Every year, I get wary of the inevitable film set in a sporting arena where an underdog player or team must triumph against adversity to become unlikely heroes. As accomplished or heartwarming as many of these films can be, they never seem to be able to break free of the conventions that we've all seen a hundred times. While I can't say that "Moneyball" isn't inspired by the genre, I will say that it looks at the phenomenon from a decidedly different angle. Based on Michael Lewis's non-fiction account of the same name, this is actually an intriguing story ruled by the business of baseball as opposed to the emotions the game elicits. As such, it seems like something entirely new. Director Bennett Miller (Oscar nominee for Capote), along with heavyweight screenwriters Aaron Sorkin and Steve Zaillian, has created one of the brainiest and least sentimental baseball films you're likely to see. "Moneyball" tells the true story of how the Oakland A's GM Billy Beane rebuilt the team for the 2002 season with enormous financial constraints using computer analysis and statistics. While admittedly, this might not sound like a particularly sexy plot--it was a pivotal moment in sporting history well worth documenting. And despite knowing the outcome, the film is never less than fascinating.
"Moneyball" refers to the inherent unfairness in the sport as teams with deep pockets can rule the game by outspending their smaller competitors when selecting the top tier players. When Oakland lost its powerhouse line-up, the team was left scrambling for replacements. Eschewing traditional recruitment methods, Beane (Brad Pitt) placed his trust in a new assistant (Jonah Hill) that had a new way of looking at statistics to determine the game's most undervalued players. Against all advice, he assembled a team of misfits that no one thought could succeed--including his own manager (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who constantly challenged and opposed Beane. What happens at the start of the season only cements the team as a league (and national) laughingstock and has the country thirsting for Beane's sacrificial blood. But against all odds, things start to gel and history is made.
Pitt plays Beane with a world-weary grace. It may, in fact, be his most grounded performance to date. Aloof at first, we see how he thaws to his own superstitions to become an invaluable part of the club. Through flashbacks and interludes with his daughter, we see different sides of a man who has dedicated his life to the sport. Jonah Hill plays it straight as the assistant who is instrumental to the team's new direction. Hill is surprisingly good, deadpan even, and he and Pitt develop a chemistry that is as unlikely as it is effective. Hoffman has a small, but vital, role and is spot-on. The actors that comprise the team all turn in solid work as well, but fundamentally this is Pitt's picture from start to finish. And understatement is the name of the game. A smart screenplay, an interesting topic, effective performances--it's all handled with a refreshing minimum of schmaltz (a key element in many sport's films). By tackling the back office side of baseball, "Moneyball" sets itself apart as a true original. A film that doesn't just love the game, but really understands it (foibles and all). A rarity and a surprisingly adult entertainment, about 4 1/2 stars. KGHarris, 12/11.
on January 19, 2012
I really don't understand baseball. Like it, but don't really understand it. I can watch the game and understand superficially what's happening, but I don't get the strategy and, of course, it's all strategy. So, I went to see this in the theater and loved it and then just rewatched the blu-ray. Loved it, and only partly understand why. One thing: You can't take your eyes of Brad Pitt. Not because of his good looks, but because he's just utterly charismatic and engaging. Jonah Hill is an unexpected but perfect casting choice. But, overall, it's a tribute to the filmmakers that a movie that shouldn't work this well works this well.
on November 29, 2011
"Moneyball" is based on true events, and provides valuable insight regarding the on-field and off-field dynamics of the Oakland A's Major League Baseball Club.
This film has the capacity to engage viewers who are familiar or unfamiliar with the sport, based on the avant-garde approach to managing resources that is utilised by Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), which any person in business can appreciate.
The narrative is also inspiring, as the viewer is presented with what seems like impossible circumstances for the A's to be successful, yet through innovative thinking high performance is achieved.
Brad Pitt provides a solid performance, as does the entire cast, and the viewer is entertained with plenty of humour and quality drama.
This movie is a win for baseball, as it has the capacity to introduce new people to the game from all over the world.
Nicholas R.W. Henning - Australian Baseball Author
I love baseball. Played 14 seasons growing up. Even helped win some championships. Batting was always my favorite. There's nothing more intense than standing there, staring down the pitcher, bat twisting between your palms, waiting for the ball to come whipping out of that hand at insane speeds. Fielding was good too. I mostly played pitcher, first, second, shortstop, third, left, right, and center. Plus, when my dad was the manager, every night he'd look over all of the players' stats with me and spend hours agonizing over how to arrange the team to create the perfect fun/success ratio.
What I'm saying is, I know a thing or two about baseball, so when I go to a movie on the subject, I expect a lot, and if they don't get it right, I'll tear into it with a passion.
They got it right.
But then again, it almost wasn't a baseball movie. Brad Pitt plays Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane at a time when the team's just lost its three star players. Faced with the difficulty of getting new hotshots on a bare bones budget, Beane turns to economy major Peter Brand (Jonah Hill). Brand convinces Beane that stars don't win games. Runs win games, and runs aren't scored with big hits and amazing plays in the field. They're scored by getting on base.
Beane takes this advice to heart and throws out all the conventional wisdom of baseball sages, willing to hire players who don't know anything about fielding as long as they can take pitches and end up with a walk. Most of the film is about people who think they know baseball not believing in this new system and Beane trying to stick with it in the face of early failure. Like I said, it's not a baseball movie.
But The Social Network was a movie about computer programming, and if they can make that exciting, I guess they can do it with anything. Brad Pitt helps with a great performance as the conflicted manager, and Jonah Hill is surprisingly good. The success of the film rests squarely on their shoulders, and while shots of endless statistics scrolling across a computer screen are a little cheesy, they're not that bad. As the film builds up the hopelessness of being such a monetarily poor team, you can't help but root for them. Right from the beginning, you'll be emotionally hooked, and it won't let up until the very end.
One of the cool differences about this underdog story is that the characters aren't stars. The power wasn't inside them all along. Instead, you're rooting for the players to get walks, to get hit by pitches, to hit scrappy singles, to allow runs to score on a bunt and take the easy out. The movie gets around this by making the climax not about a championship, but about the potential for a record-breaking winning streak, and man is it exciting.
Another key difference is that, for something advertised as a pure sports drama, it's surprisingly funny. I think I laughed harder at this than at The Hangover 2. In fact, I think it's the funniest movie I've been to this year.
This movie makes you believe. It's makes you believe on the same level as Remember the Titans or any of the great sports movies, except you believe not in the players, but in the power of statistics, and for some reason you care. When the other characters in the film refuse to believe, when they work at every opportunity to undermine and diminish our hero, Statistics, you want to punch them in their grubby little faces. I love when a film can really make me despise somebody, and Moneyball pulls it off.
If you love baseball or Brad Pitt or sports movies or economics or feeling emotions or laughing or good cinema in general, go see this movie. It's worth your time.
For those of us who love baseball, and even for those who don't, this is a wondeful 'feel good' film of statistics and brains versus intuition and brawn.
We find Billy Beane, played by Brad Pitt, GM of the Oakland Athletics, making it to the World Series but failing to win. In the process the team is losing three of its best players. The Athletics have a thirty million dollar cap on their players versus the Red Sox and New York Yanklees, who have hundreds of millions. Beane needs to replace these players, but the members of his scouting teams just give him the same old tired story of the players that will probably work out with practice. Beane wants another method to pick his players. At a meeting with another team he finds a young, short, chubby man, Peter Brand, played by Jonah Hill, who spouts statistics and crunched numbers to arrive at an algorithm for players who will do well. He hires Brand and changes his methods and that of his team.
Brand is a nerdy Yale graduate who looked at the strict cost-benefit analysis of baseball players. He persuaded Beane that he should hire based on key performance statistics that pointed to undervalued players. They assembled a team that seemed foolhardy at first, but during the course of a season, proved itself the biggest bargain in baseball. Beane antagonized most of his scouts, but he was proved correct. At the end of the season he is invited to Boston to meet the Red Sox owner. When he returns to Oakland he talks with Brand, and tells him, "I don't play for money, I play for the love of the game". Oh, yes, the love of what you are doing. A lucky man and one who knows and is happy with himself. A loner, a divorced man with a daughter he loves, but all in all a man who is fine living alone.
This is not just a film for baseball lovers, but a film for all of us who can see that a new way, a change from the old ways is almost always a good thing.
Highly Recommended, prisrob 01-12-12
The Tree Of Life
Accepted (Widescreen Edition)
on January 17, 2012
As mentioned by my title this is a good movie and a must see for baseball fans. "Moneyball" chronicles the 2002 Oakland Athletics with their no-nonsense, savvy General Manager Billy Beane played by Brad Pitt, A's manager Art Howe played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Jonah Hill also plays as Billy Beane's genius assistant Peter Brandt. The movie begins when the Oakland A's lose in the playoffs after the 2001 season, not to mention they also lose their two highest priced talented players Jason Giambi and Johnny Damon. Since Oakland does not have the money the money to compete with the big boys(Yankees, Red Sox), Billy Beane must make do with players who weren't highly sought after.
Here's what the movie fails to mention the A's had offensive power hitter Miguel Tejada(won MVP in 2002), the A's also had 3 Cy Young caliber pitchers( Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, Barry Zito) Zito won the Cy Young in 2002. The movie makes no reference to them. The A's beat the odds and win 100 games in 2002 to make the playoffs.
on April 22, 2012
Last season after 20 years in the doldroms the Pittsburgh Pirates with a collection of little knowns on their roster found themselves in first place in the National League Central Division shortly after the All Star Break. I was rooting for them to succeed except at the expense of my beloved Phillies. Alas the dream was not to be as the Bucs wilted in the heat of the pennant race. While their success lasted it was good for baseball. Whether you are a large market team or small you break from spring training with the intention of winning the whole ball of wax. If you are a Kansas City Royals fan you don't want to be told that your team doesn't have a chance from Jump Street. As the baseball adage goes a season is a marathon not a sprint. "Moneyball" starts after the 2001 campaign where the Oakland A's fall short in the American League Championship Series. The small market A's are losing their star players for greener pastures and paychecks. General Manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) asks the owner of the A's for more money to attract suitable replacements. The money is not forthcoming. Beane, not willing to throw in the towel, decides to think outside the box. With the assistance of Yale economist Peter Brandt (Jonah Hill) they reconstruct the team with modestly priced players who compliment each other. Is this fluorish enough to win the World Series? Baseball fans already know the answer and novices would be behooved to find out. The thing I admire most about "Moneyball" is it's affinity for our national pastime. Sure the film has it's share of aracana and statistics but it gets everything right from the crack of the bat to the calls to sportstalk radio. Pitt is charismatic as the wheeler-dealer Beane. You believe he can charm a decent utility player from another team for one of his skirt chasing headaches. Hill is every geeks dream. He gets to play fantasy baseball with the Real McCoy! Philip Seymour Hoffman is effectively taciturn as manager Art Howe who has to sink or swim with the machinations of Beane. There has been much debate whether this is the greatest baseball film of all time. That would be unfair to "Moneyball" or "Field of Dreams" or "Pride of the Yankees". They are all quite different films that have baseball as a subtext. As a fan of forty years it's impossible for me to say if the movie is accessible to non-fans. Regardless, "Moneyball" hits a grand slam.
on January 17, 2012
I do not know much about baseball. I am not familiar with how baseball teams are generally managed, and the sport itself does not fascinate me. However, I was interested in the storyline depite these things, and surprised by how well this movie was written and made easy to understand even for people who are not baseball buffs. The mechanics of the baseball team management were interesting even to a clueless viewer like me. If you do not know much about baseball, it helps to watch this movie with someone who does understand the game at least a little bit - I watched the movie with my husband and he had to explain some things to me but overall we both enjoyed it and found it very good. Brad Pitt was really good in this movie.
on May 1, 2012
Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill earn their Oscar nominations with this laid-back thinking-person's movie about minimizing the influence of what you see in the face of numerical evidence to the contrary. The movie explains how ball players are overlooked by Major League Baseball for a variety of of biased reasons and perceived flaws, how other ball players (including Billy Beane) were made first round draft picks based on the same biased perceptions and unthinking prejudices rooted in baseball's traditions, and how Beane, as GM of the Oakland A's, was determined to not use the same old methodology to draft his players.
This is also a movie about how a guy (Beane) in a management position of a small-market business reframed a problem and then went about solving it. Beane recognized that the amount of money you have is less important than how you spend it, and he figured out how to spend his money to maximize the efficiency of his dollars.
Moneyball is my favorite story. I take the book on every airplane ride, I listen to the audiobook on my commute, and my boyfriend bought me the movie when it came out on DVD (we also saw it in the theater). I never tire of this story.
The viewer might want to keep in mind that this movie is a fictionalized version of the book, and the book is also probably under the genre of literary nonfiction. But I don't mind the movie's deviations from the book too much (e.g. Jonah Hill's chubby character Peter Brand in place of diet-conscious Paul De Podesta, Brad Pitt's maybe-overly-sympathetic portrayal of Beane as a genius in the clubhouse and a stand-up guy everywhere else, Philip Seymour Hoffman's unflattering portrayal of Art Howe, etc). These deviations don't remove too much from the story, or, in the case of Hill's character, the deviation adds to the message of the story, and the story is really why I like this movie/book/audiobook. I can see how the still-alive people involved in this story might be annoyed at the director, though.
The movie had a few moments of humor that my boyfriend and I laughed at in the theater (e.g. "This is how we do business in Cleveland."; Billy: "Would you rather get a bullet to the head or five to the chest and bleed to death?", Peter: "Are those my only options?"; One scout: "Who is Fabio?" Other scout: "He's a shortstop. He's the shortstop from Seattle."). Throughout the movie, the interactions and dialogue ring true (Billy: "If he's such a good hitter, why don't he hit good?").
"Moneyball", based on Michael Lewis' book of the same name, follows the 2002 season of baseball's Oakland Athletics, behind the scenes, as General Manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) meets a lot of resistance to his new strategy. In an effort to put together a winning team on a paltry budget, Beane has taken the advice of his new Assistant Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), a Yale-educated statistician, and decided to choose players strictly by the numbers. He looks for players who have particular talents but whom other teams have undervalued, so he can pick them up cheap. The team's talent scouts take a dim view of the project, and the team's manager Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is downright uncooperative.
Michael Lewis was interested in Billy Beane's story, because it paralleled the shift from old-school experience and intuition to quantitatively-motivated decision-making that Lewis experienced on Wall Street in the 1980s and wrote about in his breakthrough book "Liar's Poker". Billy Beane taught baseball that it was choosing players the wrong way, and his "sabermetric", or quantitative, approach has gained considerable following since. The name of his assistant who crunched all the numbers in real life was Paul DePodesta, and he was educated at Harvard, not Yale. The methods they used were based on the work of Bill James, who pioneered the statistical approach to baseball in the 1980s.
Unfortunately, screenwriters Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin played it safe by including irrelevant, saccharine tidbits about Billy Beane's relationship with his 12-year-old daughter in order to "connect" with the audience or to "humanize" him or some such nonsense. This extraneous material only serves to make the movie too long. The writers use a classic underdog sports team structure, which is awkward, because the battle is not being waged by players on the baseball diamond, but rather between recruitment philosophies behind the scenes. Sorkin and Zaillian have plugged a story that is not about human relationships or underdogs into a paint-by-numbers plot that is.
"Moneyball" would have done better to focus on the implications of the conflict between statistical analyses and the Old School, as this battle has been waged in many professions in recent decades. The fact that it reached professional sports, with its deeply entrenched traditions and market that thrives on nostalgia, shows how radically business culture has changed. But the filmmakers take a conventional approach, presumably to appeal to a wider audience. The writers sidestep the real conflict in favor of predictable filler. They dumb it down. It's an entertaining film but would have been a lot better had the writers done some writing instead of plugging the story into a pre-fab plot.