Alluring cinematography makes 'Moneyball' a hit (VIDEO)
Inspired writing, adequate actors recount ultimate underdog tale
Following the Oakland Athletics' successful 2002 season, Moneyball recounts the trails of Billy Beane, the team's general manager, who attempts to change the game of baseball through sabermetrics. The film is rated PG-13 for some strong language and is available for purchase on Amazon, iTunes and at most local stores.
In honor of the 84th Academy Awards, The Feather will be reviewing each of the Best Picture nominees, excluding The Descendants, due to its rating. Although the films were all released in 2011, the reviews serve to refresh viewers' memories before the Oscars, Feb. 26.
"How can you not get romantic about baseball?" asks a starry-eyed Brad Pitt in his Oscar-nominated portrayal of Billy Beane, the Oakland Athletics' current general manager (GM). Watching Pitt struggle to assemble a competitive baseball team on a miserable budget, I couldn't help but ask myself the same question.
Following the A's successful 2002 season, Moneyball, written by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin and directed by Bennett Miller, is the epitome of an underdog story. Though this extremely cliché premise deterred me at first, within the first five minutes of the film I was glued to the screen.
Moneyball opens following the A's crushing defeat to the New York Yankees in the 2001 American League Division Series. As Beane struggles to accept his team's loss, three all-star players are picked up by the Yankees and the Boston Redsoxs, leaving the A's completely gutted for their upcoming season. With only a few million on their player payroll, Beane is financially left with very few options for his team's immediate future.
Miraculously, however, Beane stumbles upon a game-changer in the form of Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), a young Yale alumnus with a degree in economics. Upon first glance, Brand seems completely out of place for Major League Baseball (MLB), but his influence in a trade Beane attempts to make with the Cleveland Indians forces him to take notice of the young maverick. Luckily for Beane, his instincts pay off.
It turns out that, after graduating college, Brand began to expand upon a radical idea of evaluating a baseball player's value through sabermetrics. Basically, as Brand explains, you win a game through runs, so a player's on-base percentage (OBP) should give you a decisive advantage over your opponent.
Naturally, this new methodology upsets the more conservative members of the MLB, which include the majority of the A's managing staff. The rest of the film focuses on Beane and Brand's struggle to reshape the way baseball is played, which not only gives the A's a almost-division title, but also an American League record for most consecutive wins.
What had kept me from seeing Moneyball when it first came out in theaters was its premise, plain and simple. Several sources had told me that the movie was a two-hour discussion between Pitt and Hill about meaningless statistics and baseball theory, and that I would be better off with skipping it. However, after renting the movie on DVD, I discovered I really had missed out on a cinematic gem.
The athletics and statistics of Moneyball were presented in an interesting and engaging fashion. From a writing standpoint, Zaillian and Sorkin did an excellent job of explaining the concepts presented in the film through the characters' dialogue, making sure to provide an elucidation for anything the viewer might have been confused about.
Furthermore, with Moneyball, Miller seems to have discovered a beautiful way to keep viewers engaged throughout a dialogue-driven film: multimedia. Employing a heavy use of baseball clips and interviews, Miller constructs a film that seems to genuinely retell both the groundbreaking and heartbreaking elements of the A's almost-triumphant 2002 season.
In fact, the majority of the film's greatness is due to a combination of this extraordinary cinematography and its musical score. By incorporating wide, panoramic shots with a sombre soundtrack, the entire film radiates emotion. Throughout the whole of Moneyball, you can't help but experience the A's passion and drive as they contend in the American League and become one of the game's most iconic teams in history.
"Throughout the whole of Moneyball, you can't help but experience the A's passion and drive as they contend in the American League and become one of the game's most iconic teams." --Nick Avery, '12
While I personally found the film to be fantastic, there are some recognizable flaws. First, both lead actors seemed way too in their element throughout the movie. Though it was comical to watch the Pitt and Hill's banter on-screen, I think it distracted from the overall story. Instead of seeing a mature Beane mentor Brand in the ways of professional baseball, all I could focus on throughout Moneyball was the actors, rather than their characters.
Additionally, I felt as though Zaillian and Sorkin rushed through the most significant part of the movie's plot: the A's winning streak. While I understand that Moneyball's theme focused primarily on the imperfect scouting system of the MLB, the filmmakers could have honestly committed another five minutes to the most inspirational part of the movie.
With that, I now come to the part of the review where discuss the Academy Awards Moneyball will win this weekend. But, honestly, if 2011 hadn't been such a weak year for cinema, I doubt it would have received a single nomination.
Nonetheless, this is the beauty of a movie like Moneyball. The fact that, ironically, a story which follows a dark horse baseball team can become an underdog in America's most significant awards show is a testament in itself. Although Moneyball will undeniably not clean up at the Oscars this year, its awe-inspiring account of a baseball dream team and is reward enough for me.
Moneyball runs for 133 minutes and is rated PG-13 for some strong language. The film is available for purchase on Amazon, iTunes and at most local stores.
For more movie reviews, read the Feb. 15 article, 'Tree of Life' examines faith, ethics (VIDEO).