Saturday, October 8, 2011

What I Saw: Moneyball

What I Saw: Moneyball

I fully admit that I’m not much of a baseball fan, but I went to see Moneyball anyway, assuming that it would try to make some deep statement about the human condition, or at least provide an uplifting crowd pleaser. While the movie made a valiant attempt, it didn’t succeed for me on either of these levels. Nevertheless, the film was enough of a box office success to predict that Hollywood will start churning out baseball movies like they're on steroids.

At one level, the story is about a new revolution in the business of baseball. I’m usually down with revolutions, but this time I just didn’t care. And perhaps it was because the revolution was specifically about the business, not the game. As a pure underdog story, I simply didn’t buy into the premise that I should root for one owner’s set of overpaid athletes over another owner’s set of overpaid athletes simply because one was more overpaid than the other. Nor did I care that a man who had risen to be the general manager (and partial owner) of such an establishment might have regrets about not being even more successful.

At another level, the story is supposed to be about statistics versus emotion, science versus romanticism. I had trouble believing that as well, even during the scenes when Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill humiliate the older scouts for their backwards ways. Let’s be honest: the older strategies were based upon a certain type of “science” too. And in a few years or a few decades, someone will come along with yet another, even newer strategy that will put this new one to shame.

In the end [NOTE: SKIP THIS PARAGRAPH IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW ABOUT THE ENDING], the most interesting aspect of the film was the fact that Pitt’s character could not fully embrace the “pure science” method and gave into his own emotions--whether for the team or for his daughter. But even this felt underdeveloped. Should emotion guide your goals and statistics guide your methods? Does this mean that the science is flawed because it fails to account for the human dimension? Is Pitt’s character doomed to eternal failure (ie. only being a minor millionaire) because he refuses to allow his destiny to be determined by the same salary rationale as his players? Or is it the message of the film that baseball doesn’t matter that much, in which case, why did I just spend two hours learning about the intricacies of the game?

Oscar Chances:

In a strange way, gauging this film’s Oscar chances requires the same sort of strategy that the movie portrays: We have to consider both statistics and emotions. Statistically, Sorkin, Zaillian, Pitt, Seymour Hoffman, Miller and Pfister should never be counted out. On the other hand, we have to consider both the emotions of baseball fans, as well as the fickle nature of the Academy that often forgets about September releases by the end of the year. Even though I was not very impressed by the movie, I’m objective enough to know that Academy members just might go for it.

Adapted Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian (currently ranked 4)
Lead Actor: Brad Pitt (currently ranked 5)
Best Picture (currently ranked 9, but below the required 5% threshold)
Film Editing: Christopher Tellefsen (currentlry ranked 10)
Supporting Actor: Jonah Hill (currently ranked 19)
Cinematography: Wally Pfister (currently ranked 20)
Supporting Actor: Philip Seymour Hoffman (currently ranked 23)
Score: Mychael Danna (currently ranked 25, likely to drop in next predictions)
Sound Editing (currently ranked 28, likely to drop in next predictions)
Sound Mixing (currently ranked 38)
Director: Bennett Miller (currently ranked 44)

My Lamb Score: 2 1/2 out of 5 Lambs
What is a lamb score? Click HERE to learn more.
Read more of my reviews HERE.


  1. Thoroughly competent movie but it doesn't really get above that in any aspect. I doubt it gets anything Oscar-wise except maybe for Adapted Screenplay.

  2. It may not feel quite like the classic baseball movie others have achieved, but it’s certainly pleasant enough to be enjoyable even by non-sports fan, and features great performances from Hill and Pitt. Good review my man.

  3. Castor, I hope you're right. I didn't enjoy the film as much as the baseball fans seem to have. I can see Pitt sneaking in for a nomination because, well, he's Pitt, and he'll end up with lots of precursor love from the groups that vote based on star power over performances (I'm looking at you, Golden Globes). But I really hope that Fassbender, Shannon or Gordon-Levitt steal his spot when it comes to the Oscars!

    Dan O.--Thanks for the love, man!

  4. I really enjoyed this movie!

  5. Thanks for checking me out. I didn't enjoy it as much as others, but can understand why some people loved it.

  6. Interesting to hear the thoughts of someone who doesn't like baseball. I liked the film more than you did, but it is quite possible a lot of that had to with that I was surprised they were able to adapt a very uncinematic story.

    As for Oscar prospects, I think the screenplay and Pitt are in (I think DiCaprio is the most likely to be snubbed among the expected 5 in that category). I also believe that at this point the film will make the top 10 but not the Best Picture nominee list.

    I do think, however, that you are underestimating Bennett Miller. It is definitely a writer's film but Miller is respected in the industry and if the film catches on at all, he will get in.

  7. Thanks Ryan! You're probably right about Miller. I haven't updated that category in a while, so will likely raise him in my next set of predictions.