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Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) challenges the system and defies conventional wisdom when his is forced to rebuild his small-market team on a limited budget. Despite opposition from the old guard, the media, fans and their own field manager (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Beane - with the help of a young, number-crunching, Yale-educated economist (Jonah Hill) - develops a roster of misfits…and along the way, forever changes the way the game is played.
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I found out right away: I liked it immediately.
Brad Pitt shines as A's general manager Billy Beane. While dealing with the realities facing the 2002 team, he also reaches back into his past, where he was arguably the most talented high school prospect in America coming out of high school--only to fail to pan out as a big league player. Yet, as a general manger, he has clearly made his mark, as the A's, on his watch, went on to be a serious contender at the turn-of-the-century, contending for the World Series for nearly a decade. Despite the team's recent struggles, Mr. Beane has never stopped trying to field a competitive team in light of the team's meager payroll, aged stadium, media market, etc. Mr. Brad has come a long way as an actor and really showed me a lot in this role.
Another person who showed me a lot is Jonah Hill, who earned his Oscar nomination, amongst the many this film received and earned in addition, as A's assistant GM Peter Brand, who is based in part on Paul DePodesta, who actually held the position with the A's at the time. Brand really brought a lot to his role as the assistant who helped opened Mr. Beane's--and baseball's--eyes and minds to the possibilities of saber metrics as a way and means of evaluating player talent as opposed to the time-and-true conventional methods of player evaluation and talent. It is very hard to believe that one of the more foremost younger comedians in entertainment today would make this role so dramatically believable, but Jonah pulls this off with quiet passion and aplomb.
Even Phillip Seymour Hoffman does well as Art Howe, who was in what would be his final year as A's manager. He is able to convey the frustrations he feels with a team he is handed to manage and keep together given all he is able to work with by the team's GM. Even more understated by Mr. Hoffman's standards, the less-is-more approach for Howe plays well here.
I like the way this film unfolds. Using some key players from this team as actual characters, namely David Justice, Scott Hatteberg, Miguel Tejada, John Mabry and Chad Bradford, amongst others, the season blends into one of curiosity and hopefulness in hoping the A's are able to work this plan of theirs out. The film also blends actual game footage into the mix as well, using actual A's broadcasters of the time--and even now--throughout the game portions of the film. Though knowing how the film will end, for those who followed the team as I did back in 2002, even bringing back such sweet memories, the journey is one which never grows old, tired, repetitive or boring. This is a movie which begs to be seen--and can be seen again. The Blu-ray Disc presentation is a solid one, with a fine, clear 1080p picture and a very strong DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack. Even the extras are worth viewing in comparing some of the actual characters vs. their film counterparts.
This move hits a home run!!!! No, it hits a grand slam!!!! Go see this movie!!!!!! Buy it for your collection--regardless of whether you are a baseball fan, a fan of good movies--or just both!!!!!