Moneyball: Smart & worth the wait.
Posted by athomeatfenway on September 24, 2011
My wife, Little Lee, spoke to me across the sheets & mattress as we made the bed the morning after seeing MONEYBALL.
“I enjoyed it. I like Baseball movies.”, she said softly.
“There will be people who do not like it, Lee. What about them ? Why do you think they won’t like it ?”, I asked.
“They will say it was a movie about all that Baseball stuff, and to some people Baseball is boring.” She paused. “I like Baseball. But I don’t like to sit and watch it. It’s too slow.”
MONEYBALL’S Director, Bennett Miller, isn’t a Baseball fan anymore. He was a Yankee fan as a kid. Perhaps he either moved away from Baseball to enjoy the instant gratification of some other sport, or to concentrate on his art. Or girls. Or pot. Or whatever. Point is, I ask you, could they not find a Baseball obsessed Director in these United States whose artistic gifts were equal to those of Miller?
MONEYBALL has its work cut out in terms of converting non-baseball fans into followers of what John Thorn refers reverentially to as Our Game. And that will be true from New York to L.A..
This isn’t Jimmy Fallon charming the pants off Drew Barrymore in FEVER PITCH.
MONEYBALL is a cerebral movie. And It excels at rendering the Michael Lewis book as film.
As any Film As Literature college course may teach you, moving from book to video requires compression. You must dramatize the story using half of the information due to time constraints.
MONEYBALL is top notch at telling this story. Billy Beane, failed former high draft pick of the Mets is now the young GM at the small market Athletics. After the 2001 season, the BoSox & Yankees raid the A’s via free agency, subtracting from Beane’s roster power, runs, speed and relief pitching. Beane asks the owner for more budget to rebuild. The answer is NO, and Beane puts into motion a plan to use Bill James’ SABRmetric analysis to uncover undervalued and undercompensated players. Beane believes in this approach, in part, because he has no other choice, and because the other 29 MLB teams consider Bill James an oddity, a hoax, a laughable, chubby geek.
Thus, 29 teams use archaic player selection criteria while Beane goes cutting edge.
Against much resistance, Beane wears down the old school thinkers around him on the A’s. He must bully Art Howe, his manager, alienate his Scouts, and trade players to make it happen.
In the heat of rebellion against him, Beane yells, I JUST DON”T GIVE A SHIT while fans call for his firing on talk radio.
That Cole Porter song is playing in my head. They all laughed at Christopher Columbus when he said the world was round. They all laughed when Edison recorded sound.
It’s a beautiful story about finding a new and better way to do things and overcome great opposition.
Make sure you read the book first. It will ground you a little bit in simple and fascinating measurements.
Here’s a good one you will find only in the book. Scott Hatteberg is at the center of the story. Art Howe didn’t want to use him. Billy Beane did want to because Hatte had a high OBP. James’ postulates that getting on base is more important than anything else when it comes to producing Runs. Paul DePodesta and Beane run a computer program that plays out an entire season with Scott Hatteberg getting all the at bats for the A’s. That digitized team of Hattebergs scores more runs than the real New York Yankees. It’s in the book. Not the film.
So read the book before you see the movie. The background is enlightening. You shouldn’t be disappointed with anything from the book that they left out of the movie.
I give MONEYBALL an A+++. And I am amazed that Hollywood made the film at all.
Little Lee squirmed in her seat at the movie during the trailers, adjusting her posture to minimize the pain from a lower back strain with which she has been dealing.
“Lee, if you’re not OK, we can go. I’ll ask for a refund. We’ll see the movie another day.” I had waited for months to see it. But MONEYBALL wasn’t more important than my wife.
“No, that’s OK.”, she said, her brows arching over beautiful brown eyes. “I like a smart film.”
So that’s what this is, I thought to myself. A smart film.
That ought to kill it at the box office. Brad Pitt or not.