Moneyball reviews

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Re: Moneyball reviews

Postby Damien » Mon Dec 26, 2011 1:28 am

I love baseball -- it's the only sport I really care about. And I had been looking forward to Moneyball -- until I saw that the dreaded Aaron Sorkin co-wrote the screenplay. So I've stayed away from it, but since it's a given that the movie will be up fot at least Best Actor and Screenplay, I'll bite the Sorkin bullet and watch it when it's available for 5 bucks on pay per view.
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Re: Moneyball reviews

Postby dws1982 » Sun Dec 25, 2011 1:33 pm

Finally caught up with this yesterday and liked it much more than I expected. I don't really care for baseball--and fear that, since I'm a teacher, I may end up a baseball coach at some school that couldn't find anyone better--but I liked the way it portrayed the inner workings of baseball team management. I liked the statistical stuff (could've easily heard more about that), and thought it was a pretty good time overall, but it reached its conclusion and then it simply wouldn't end. They had to hammer home several more minutes of validation for Billy Beane, even though we already got the point over the first two hours of the movie.

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Re: Moneyball reviews

Postby nightwingnova » Sun Dec 04, 2011 8:20 pm

Anyone who saw Moneyball should not have been surprised at Brad Pitt's win as best actor at the NYFCC.

More women, thus votes for being a "pretty boy?" Frankly, Michael Fassbender is more classically handsome and unveiled his best asset to boot.

Unfortunately, The Artist may be delayed here until X-Mas; so I cannot compare Pitt with Dujardin.

I can say that while Fassbender bares himself raw emotionally, Pitt creates a rich, full character. I've seen videos of the real Beane. Pitt does fine in recreating him.

Clooney is good and sometimes better, but does not fill his character with the missing bio of what makes Matt King tick and how it has impacted his relationship with his family.

I would like to compare the other competitors for best screenplay with Moneyball, though. Moneyball is energetic and sharp, like The Social Network. But, there is a struggle lost near the end over how to conclude the story. There is sloppy narrative and sentiment. Finally, the story concludes, but not with the same sophisticated sharpness and clear sense of purpose that defined most of the film. It feels as if the filmmakers were uncertain how they wanted to end the movie and what they wanted to say.

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Re: Moneyball reviews

Postby Sabin » Fri Oct 07, 2011 1:15 pm

The book has been described as uncinematic. I can certainly understand. Bennett Miller's Moneyball may likely be the best possible adaptation that we could get, considering that Soderbergh's version involved a pseudo-documentary approach. The film is pretty irresistible. Much of it feels like the best montage-work in The Social Network, but because the film likens the albatross around the game's neck as this Greek Choir of naysaying, the joy of talk is clearly something innate to the subject and for my money these scenes constitute the best in the film. I was never bored for a moment in Moneyball. I laughed maybe every couple of minutes at some line of dialogue, it's gorgeously shot by Wally Pfister, brilliantly edited, and beyond anything else Nyman deserves a nomination for his scoring of the film which is a slow build but also anthemic, patriotic yet weary. Great work by him.

SPOILERS...
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...The strange thing about Moneyball, and I suppose it's somewhat true of Sorkin's other high-profile release of the past year, is that the end of the film feels like an epilogue tacked onto the end of the second act. The A's win. Then they lose. Billy meets with the manager of the Red Sox, who builds him up, makes him an offer. He doesn't want to take it because it doesn't represent what he wants: winning the last game of the season. If you don't win in the end, you don't win at all. So by definition, this film is about how we win big or lose big and go home...which is kinda baseball, isn't it? He turns down the offer, Jonah Hill shows him that amazing clip (which can't be real. is it?), and inspires him to take the offer. Then Billy hears his daughter sing on his CD and opts to stay.

You haven't heard applause like you did when that popped up in the theater I was in. And then when it said that the Red Sox won the series a couple years later and Billy is still trying to win the last game of the season coinciding with his daughter singing "You're such a loser, Dad! You're such a loser!" a chorus of Aw!s replaced the applause.

Great stuff. But it's for a great character study with a great overarching theme, and that is not Moneyball. Through giving us flashbacks of Billy's life we understand what drives him forward: he is a loser. He lost. He was not a baseball player, never was, and he is haunted by it. Mystery gone. I don't agree with Sonic about Brad Pitt's performance. He's quite good, not Oscar-worthy but we'll see worse candidates this year. It's that he is playing a mythic creation, and the very gate of his walk screams THIS MAN HAS PROBLEMS WITH LOSING AND HE HAS BEEN LOSING FOR THE PAST QUARTER CENTURY. With Pitt, the idea should be: the closer we look, the more we see. After we've seen everything there is to see in these flashbacks, the closer we look the more we see a bullshit human interest story that times valuable time away from intriguing parallels between Billy Beane and Peter Brand, who are not given enough time together. The film is about an old dog learning new tricks, right? On some level? The very image of Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill standing next to each other (and Jonah Hill very rightly plays the film like he is standing next to Brad Pitt) is incredibly funny, but they're shortchanged in the time they are given to bond. This is time where Pitt's ethos could more organically come out and develop. Because they want to more carefully define Beane's center, he loses it. As if being Brad Pitt wasn't enough for Billy Beane!

It's great fun. And it's full of romanticism that can't really be held down by some bad, understandable mistakes. Jonah Hill won't be nominated. It doesn't appear as though he's really doing anything on-screen, but he has never been better. I usually think that Philip Seymour Hoffman blows everybody else off the screen with his actor-isms, but he dials everything down wonderfully in this film to play a coach, someone who just inhabits every room like he is aware of his power. And in a wonderful small role, Chris Pratt (who kills it on Parks and Rec every week) plays Halleburg as such a lovable knucklehead. It's a lock for nominations. The film has basically been number one for two weeks in a row (week-long). Picture, Director, Actor, Adapted Screenplay, and Film Editing at least. Original Score, Cinematography, and Sound Mixing likely at most.

Also, I don't watch baseball.
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Re: Moneyball reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Sun Oct 02, 2011 12:58 am

I'm an easy target for this movie, being not only a baseball fan but a reader of Bill James long before Billy Beane. I'm so immersed in this stuff that I can't pretend to know how an average audience member will react.

But I enjoyed the movie almost thoroughly (though I do agree with Sonic, the closing segment seems indulgent -- it was the first moment I was aware of time passing). It throws around alot of the basics of sabremetrics, but that's, in a sense, just the film's MacGuffin; what the story really is, is the Man with the Idea/Invention who can't get the hemmed-in-by-tradition world to accept his new and liberating idea. I'm not actually as fully sold on sabremetrics-as-gospel as Beane appears to be (I'd argue that some of the things the old school scouts are arguing for -- defense and athleticism -- are things that, by their absence, helped bring about the sabremetrically engineered Red Sox's awful collapse this year), but, in the film's terms, Beane is the gallant young hero fighting for the future, and I was happy to root him on. The film makes it easy, filled as it is with funny, enjoyably banter-ish scenes, especially between Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill (their rapid-fire "phone calls initiating trades" scene is like the best of vaudeville).

I think I get what Sonic is saying about Pitt...that his character isn't really defined enough that we know what certain things mean to him (including his final decision), leaving the film without a vivid center. Yet, despite that, I think, scene to scene, he does wonderfully relaxed, pleasurable work. For years people have looked upon Pitt as the heir of Redford, and this is his most Redford-like performance -- it's a role you can easily imagine Redford having taken on at a like point in his career. And Jonah Hill, who I've often found a bit annoying, is pretty perfect in a sidekick role of the sort for which the supporting actor category was originally designed.

Not high art, not a movie that reinvents the wheel, but a very solid, absorbing, witty narrative that makes for memorable viewing.

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Re: Moneyball reviews

Postby Sonic Youth » Tue Sep 27, 2011 8:01 pm

As I was writing the final paragraph of a pretty lengthy review, I accidentally lost the page and didn't save a word of what I wrote. I probably won't have time until the weekend to re-write and submit. So, before I throw my laptop out the window, let me quickly summarize:

I can't see too many people outside of North America embracing this film, unless they happen to be baseball fans themselves;
Since I'm a fan, I was a willing sucker for most of it;
The devastating first five minutes should resonate with any sports fan, regardless of the sport, who's seen a favorite team make the championship round but lose;
That said, the final twenty minutes is a deadening indulgence;
In between is a standard underdog film. But the underdog is not a baseball team. It's a business model. But since it's piggy-backing on a baseball context, I bought into it;
After a day's reflection, I couldn't tell you why I bought into one particular business model over the other, but since the film passionately regards baseball as a religion, I was perfectly happy to be enticed into their way of thinking;
Brad Pitt may very well win the Oscar. He will definitely be nominated. He doesn't deserve it. He's the film's greatest weakness, and because of this, the film fails as a character study.
The rest of the cast, in its entirety, is sterling.

But I said it far more eloquently than this. Fucking dammit...

Now excuse me while I watch three or four games simultaneously.
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Re: Moneyball reviews

Postby Damien » Thu Sep 08, 2011 10:39 pm

I was so looking forward to this picture until finding out that Aaron Sorkin co-wrote the screenplay, Forgetaboutit.
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Re: Moneyball reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Thu Sep 08, 2011 9:32 pm

And, Screen Daily.

Moneyball
9 September, 2011 | By Mark Adams, chief film critic


Dir: Bennett Miller. US. 2010. 126mins


Brad Pitt invests Columbia’s behind-the-scenes baseball film Moneyball with a quiet sense of dignity and commitment, and while there is a whole lot of subtle drama and elegantly staged moments the film is too one-tone to grip and never quite as thoughtful as it appears on the surface.

Intriguing and beautifully presented and featuring a mature and compelling performance by Brad Pitt.
The casting of Pitt and Jonah Hill will aid profile - the film has been talked up as an awards contender for some time - but whether a subtle baseball drama can work in territories with little knowledge and/or interest in the sport is a moot point. The underlying rags vs riches story of a poorly funded team slugging it out against super-rich competition has been told before, but here Moneyball relies on character studies rather than home runs, meaning much will rely on Pitt’s star power rather than the usual clichéd sports movie moments.

Screenwriters Aaron Sorkin (on a roll from last year’s The Social Network) and Steven Zallian have astutely adapted Michael Lewis’s non-fiction book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, which details the controversial scheme by the Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane (Pitt) to turn baseball on its head by selecting players by crunched statistics rather than old-fashioned scouting.

Impressively directed by Bennett Miller (who made Capote) the film sees Beane recruit nerdy Yale economics graduate Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), who has formulated a defiantly complex formula (inspired by baseball statistician Bill James’ Sabermetrics, which analyses players through empirical evidence and player statistics) and between them the pair start rebuilding a team for the A’s 2002 season.

The film’s choicest moments come as Beane and Brand sit in a room full of old and grizzled seen-it-all, done-it-all scouts and baseball experts - the former heartbeat of the old recruiting system - and tell them which players they will be bringing in.

For a moment the film looks like it is heading into Bad News Bears and Major League territory as it appears a bunch of unwanted misfits are to be the core of the new look team. But shrewdly the film spends little time with the team, instead dwelling on Beane - who had failed as a pro-player, but worked his way up the scouting ranks - and his relationship with Brand as they look to change baseball forever.

And while that core concept sounds dramatic, in fact the film potters along in an engagingly scattershot manner offering up some nice bits of dialogue rather than any action or emotional highs. Beane is estranged from his wife (played in a one-scene cameo by Robin Wright) but close to his guitar-playing daughter (Kerris Dorsey) and has a quirk that he refuses to watch games for fear of jinxing the team, but these are the nearest we get to any real character insight.

Brad Pitt is watchable and engaging as the fast-talking and committed Billy Beane, adopting his Oceans Eleven quirk of eating and drinking in pretty much every scene, and while Jonah Hill is spot-on casting as the chubby and nerdy baseball buff, there is nothing about any kind of personal life. Philip Seymour Hoffman (who starred in Miller’s Capote) features as the team’s shaven-haired coach Art Howe, but is largely wasted in a role that asks him to argue with Bean a little, but spend most of the time in the dugout watching his team.

Sports fans may well get a kick out of the behind-the-scenes machinations that drive professional baseball - and baseball fans may well love the whole obsession with statistics - but the film eschews any real attempts at traditional dramatic arcs but simply moving along at a gentle pace trading on attention to detail, performance and smart dialogue.

As the Moneyball reaches its climax the filmmakers can’t quite resist a couple of home-run moments - what baseball film would be complete without one? - but never surrenders its determination to make the back room boys the ‘heroes’ rather than the over-paid players. And while intriguing and beautifully presented and featuring a mature and compelling performance by Brad Pitt, Moneyball is oddly never as engrossing as the subject matter suggests it should be.

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Re: Moneyball reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Thu Sep 08, 2011 9:30 pm

Hollywood Reporter

Moneyball: Toronto Review
2:10 PM PDT 9/8/2011 by Kirk Honeycutt

Bottom Line
A baseball movie for people who dislike the sport as a desperate general manager and an economics grad turn baseball on its head.

Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill make an unlikely comedy team as they play real-life characters who revolutionized the way big-league baseball people look at their sport.
The comparisons to The Social Network aren’t hard to miss -- the same producers, the film’s writer Aaron Sorkin (along with the estimable Steven Zaillian) and a book about a revolutionary concept that became a game-changer. And yet Moneyball is a different sort of movie. The focus gets split between two male protagonists and the story isn’t as electrifying. The Social Network was about a highly unusual alpha dog; Moneyball is the story of a highly unusual underdog. No one remakes the world here. But someone does remake the grand old American game of baseball. And the movie does achieve something nearly impossible: Someone who doesn’t even like the sport may care about Billy Beane and the 2002 Oakland Athletics.

With Brad Pitt playing Billy and Jonah Hill as a Yale economics grad whose analysis of players helps that small-market team reach the playoffs when everyone else writes them off for dead, Columbia Pictures looks good perhaps not for a home run but certainly a long double or even an exciting scoot around the bases for a head-first triple. Overseas markets are probably a wash, however, except in baseball countries such as Japan or certain Latin American nations.

The movie is based on the Michael Lewis book, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, which explained how Beane, an ex-big leaguer and GM of the A’s, put together a playoff team despite having three of his star players lured away by teams brandishing big bucks. He did this not by watching men swing bats or run bases but by looking at reams of statistics that told him which players could produce the most runs while forcing opponents to score the fewest. It’s safe to say that few if any GMs today ignore such data.

Sorkin and Zaillian, however, cut through all those equations and mathematical formulas to tell a relatively simple story: How a guy with almost no chance of winning develops a secret weapon. This would be a terribly young and highly unathletic Yale grad, Peter Brand (Hill), who sees an entirely different game than scouts and coaches do. Where an old-timer sees a guy with a beautiful swing or an ugly girlfriend — the latter means the player lacks confidence, you understand — Peter looks for a guy with a great on-base percentage. After all, more guys on base mean more opportunities to score.

Coming off a highly successful 2001 season, the A’s are, in Billy’s words, “organ donors.” The Yankees and the Red Sox, teams flush with money, flash the cash and scoop up all of Oakland's best players, making off with what seems like the heart and brains of the team.

But in a rival team’s office, Billy happens to meet Peter. Having really nothing to lose other than games he’s bound to lose anyway, he buys into Peter’s approach to player evaluations.

This happens in the movie rather too abruptly, but Billy is, quite rightly, portrayed as an unusual GM. First of all, he played the game, which few usually have. Then he’s a maverick and loner without much relationship skills — he’s divorced and lives only for the game — or reliance on anyone but himself. He chews tobacco constantly, a really filthy habit, and pays little attention to opinions unless they coincide with his own.

The movie proceeds through the improbable 2002 season with continual flashbacks to Billy’s own story — how he was a can’t-miss player (played by Reed Thompson, who looks uncannily like a young Pitt), who signed for big money rather than accept a Stanford scholarship. But this never works as intended. Since Beane wound up working longer in the game than many of its stars, this was hardly a bad decision.

There also are attempts to drag in his personal life, a wife (Robin Wright) now remarried and a daughter (Kerris Dorsey). These would be superfluous scenes were it not for a winning performance by young Dorsey.

The heart of the movie lies in the vindication of Billy’s big gamble. This gets personified in two characters: the team’s manager, Art Howe, played by the magical Philip Seymour Hoffman as a grumpy old man looking out for his own self-interest, and Scott Hatteberg (Chris Pratt), a lame-armed catcher transformed into a first baseman to get his terrific on-base percentage into the lineup. Scott is at least as doubtful as his manager, but the movie gives you the sense that Beane willed this player — and this team — to success. You keep looking for the devil who bought Billy’s soul but here, truly, the only devil is in the statistical details.

Don’t like to see too much baseball, you say? Well, join Beane. He never watches a game. He stays in the clubhouse, catching moments on radio or TV or gets text messages from Peter. So the movie is about a master working behind the scenes like a political strategist or boxing trainer, not about the game itself.

The scenes between Pitt and Hill are all delights as they struggle to find a working language and then a means to impose their newfound will on the most tradition-minded of sports. It’s a great comedy act, with Pitt insisting that Hill complete his thoughts or amplify their concepts to the slack-jawed baseball scouts.

So, the film fits nicely into the realm of The Bad News Bears or Major League, of underdogs who shock the world. Director Bennett Miller, who coaxed a satisfying movie out of unlikely material with Capote, puts Moneyball through a workman-like pace. If the movie fails to achieve the knockout punch of Social Network, this may be because another film altogether was originally imagined. Steven Soderbergh was set to direct Zaillian’s script when Columbia pulled the plug due to concerns with the budget and changes in the original screenplay. One can only wonder what that version would look like as Soderbergh, like Beane, is not one to do things according to old formulas. Nevertheless, this Moneyball stands on its own as a strong, rewarding effort to pull unusual personalities and a timeless story from a welter of Inside Baseball.

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Moneyball reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Thu Sep 08, 2011 9:25 pm

Variety

Moneyball
Throwing the conventional sports-movie formula for a curve, "Moneyball" defies the logic that auds need a rousing third-act championship game to clinch their interest.
By Peter Debruge
'Moneyball'

Throwing the conventional sports-movie formula for a curve, "Moneyball" defies the logic that auds need a rousing third-act championship game to clinch their interest. Instead, writers Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin resurrect the old adage "It's not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game" to drive this uncannily sharp, penetrating look at how Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane helped reinvent baseball based on statistics rather than conventional wisdom. Sparing auds the technicalities but not the spirit of financial reporter Michael Lewis' business-of-baseball bestseller, "Moneyball" should appeal beyond -- if not always to -- the game's fans.
Whether or not Hollywood wants to admit it, there's an undeniable parallel between big-studio economics and Major League Baseball, in which the big guys in both fields are split when it comes to making decisions: Old-timers do it for the art, basing their judgments on gut instincts and years of tradition, while a new class of business-school grads crunch the numbers, using statistics to make smart bets. Surely the irony isn't lost on Steven Soderbergh, who developed Zaillian's script in a more avant-garde direction, which would have blended documentary-like interviews with dramatic re-creations.

And yet the result -- which puts the focus back on Beane (Brad Pitt) and the Ivy League-educated wunderkind (Jonah Hill) who helped him rewrite the rules -- is plenty artistic with "Capote's" Bennett Miller at the helm. Without comparing drafts of the screenplay, it would be tricky to say where Zaillian's contributions end and Sorkin's begin, and yet there's no mistaking the latter's touch for electric dialogue. As in "The Social Network," he takes conversations that have no business being entertaining and leaves us hanging on every word.

What "Moneyball" doesn't do is waste a lot of time on the field. It's nearly all talk, as Beane goes from losing the 2001 World Series (after which richer teams poached the A's three most valuable players, Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon and Jason Isringhausen) to leading the American League West a year later. The problem was how to assemble a winning team on an impossibly small budget; the solution involved rethinking how baseball scouts evaluate players.

In reality, that makes for a lot of math. On film, Miller manages to explain it by flashing equations and spreadsheets beneath dialogue anyone can grasp. The veteran recruiters -- depicted as a bunch of crusty, chaw-spitting geezers -- talk the "same old good-body crap," judging players by how they look, who they date and how they behave off the field. Beane and Peter Brand (Hill) focus on just one thing: OPS, or "on-base plus slugging," the sabermetric statistic that best describes a player's ability to score runs.

Depicting more than just the clash of old vs. new, the film captures the moment nerds took over what had always been a jock's domain -- all the more fascinating when you consider that Beane, who passed on a Stanford scholarship to sign with the New York Mets right out of high school, had been a prize athletic specimen back in his day. Strategically timed flashbacks offer glimpses of that talented young hopeful (played by Reed Thompson) meeting with recruiters before striking out in the big leagues. But Sorkin likes to present the theme and then undercut it with a line of dialogue, as when Athletics scouting director Grady Fuson (Ken Medlock) berates him, "Twenty years ago, a scout got it wrong and now you're going to declare war on the whole system."

A big enough name to get the movie greenlit (the way Sony chief Amy Pascal, not Soderbergh, saw it), Pitt sheds any trace of movie-star vanity by allowing himself to be seen as a has-been with a bad haircut. Beane knows he's sticking his neck out by backing Brand's numbers-based strategy (the kid, based on Paul DePodesta, had never even played the game), and yet Beane's job is to give the theory a chance against the objections of manager Art Howe (a surly and skeptical Philip Seymour Hoffman), fully aware that everyone would dismiss their logic if the team were to lose.

While a hopelessly awkward-looking Hill provides fish-out-of-water laughs, Pitt gives a genuinely soul-searching performance. He reaches for junk food when nervous and questions himself in solitary, but his best scenes are those featuring his daughter Casey (Kerris Dorsey). During family moments, including those featuring his ex-wife (Robin Wright) and her new beau (an uncredited Spike Jonze), Pitt reveals that Beane's swagger is mostly for show and his true nature is far more sensitive than anyone who's seen him cut a player would guess. Of all the script's ingenious ways to translate the character at the heart of Lewis' book, none is more inspired than having Casey sing Lenka's "The Show."

Another approach might have treated the source material as exposition for a more conventional baseball story, but "Moneyball" is content to draw back the curtain and find drama in the dealings. Miller's low-key style suits that strategy nicely, breaking up shop-talk scenes with artful, quiet moments in which Beane steps away from the action, nicely captured by d.p. Wally Pfister. Though Soderbergh's talking-heads idea fell by the wayside, the end result does employ a fair number of documentary techniques, cutting to MLB footage to illustrate the team's on-field performance and featuring a score by Mychael Danna that echoes Philip Glass' work on several Errol Morris pics.


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