Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Moneyball (2011) And My 10 Favorite Movies About Baseball
Moneyball arrived to theaters this past weekend, and according to the box office report, it showed to moderate but underwhelming fanfare. Being sandwiched between two Family Films (a re-issue of The Lion King and a Movie about Dolphins) isn't perhaps the best place for a Film that headlines such a big star. Given it's underdog story, perhaps it's most fitting.
Plot: Brad Pitt stars as Billy Beane, the Oakland Athletic's General Manager who shook up baseball by taking an unorthodox approach to casting the big game. Because the Oakland A's just lost three of their star players and have the smallest amount of money to fund their team in all of Major League Baseball, Beane, along with Yale Grad and economics whiz Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) look largely to their own theories based on statistics to pick players who have been under-appreciated and underutilized.
Moneyball is a refreshing change of pace for the Sports Movie. This is a Film about intellect and emotion rather than one that simply wants to stir it's audience. It's also one of incredible focus. Eschewing the usual angle on relationships and team member dynamics that so many Sports Films fix on, Moneyball instead sets it's sights almost entirely on Billy Beane and his endeavor to get together an unlikely though winning ball club... and perhaps win some personal accomplishment in the process. Much like The Social Network, this Picture is about a pursuit of someone's vision. And while there are some nice moments of Beane connecting with his daughter, the film relies on the drama and tension of his struggle.
Jonah Hill's wet behind the ears Peter also makes a great counterpoint to Pitt's skillful confidence as Beane. The two, with very different performances and dynamics, make for a great Cinema team. The film never relies on jokes or positive one-liners to derive the comedy as the script by Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network) & Steven Zaillian (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) is far too sharp for that. The writers keep the banter witty and the dynamics between it's characters honest and observant.
Though it's based on true events, the Picture manages to surprise and take a genre into new territory. A Sports Film that doesn't easily fall into cliches but remains entertaining, candid and appropriately tense. Moneyball is a real winner.
Though I'm not the world's biggest fan of Baseball, I still remember greatly the days of my childhood where I was taken to Mets games and I felt that buzz and excitement all around me. I have an appreciation for the game, and I hope that it's players, financial backers and fans will strive to keep it pure and fun.
Here are my 10 Favorite Films that revolve around Baseball:
Additional Props to:
Although it was universally hated when it came out, I still like Hal Ashby's The Slugger's Wife (1985).
How can I not mention Major League (1989)? That silly baseball comedy always entertains.
And speaking of silliness, it doesn't get anymore of that than the inspired/over-the-top BASEketball (1998) David Zucker and star Trey Parker & Matt Stone's hybrid Baseball/Basketball comedy that satirizes those sports and their over-the-top spending, branding and merchandising.
BASEketball Opening Scene from on Vimeo.