Now Playing: The Film That Just Might Reinvigorate Baseball

At first glance, ‘Moneyball’ may look like just another sports movie with star power. In reality, it’s a romantic story about a man and his passion for the game. As odd as that may sound, it works perfectly on every level. Watch out, Oscar. Here comes your first curve ball of the season.

If your job was to create and manage a winning team, but the odds were unfairly stacked against you, what would you do? You can come up with a million ideas that might work, but Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane decided to try something unconventional that ended up revolutionizing the way the game is played.

In 2001, the A’s lost the division championship to the New York Yankees by one point. The A’s were functioning on a low budget of only $38 million. The Yankees, on the other hand, were spending $120 million. That hardly sounds fair, right? How can a team with one-third the budget of another be expected to buy the same expensive, high-quality players as the team with the deepest pockets? They can’t. So Beane hired recently-graduated economist Peter Brand to apply the theory of “Moneyball” to way the A’s recruited for the 2002 season.

Moneyball works like this: Each player is given a numerical value for each of his statistics. When those numbers are plugged into an elaborate algorithm, a few more numbers are produced that show said player’s complete value – how good is he at getting on base and how many runs he gives up to opposing players. Another algorithm compares those numbers with the already existing team members, giving your team an all-around score. As long as that score is higher than that of the competing teams, you win. Theoretically. Moneyball had never been put to the test, but Billy Beane and Peter Brand gave this expensive experiment a season-long trial in 2002 – and, surprisingly, it started to work.

Even if you’re not a fan of the sports drama genre, there are a few things you need to know about ‘Moneyball’ before making up your mind to see it or not. First, Brad Pitt gives an Oscar-worthy performance as Billy Beane. Along with ‘Tree of Life’, Pitt just might receive two Best Actor nominations this year.

Second, Jonah Hill actually plays a restrained character; he’s not just playing himself. Even though I never thought I’d say it, Hill is actually a pretty decent actor when he’s given a good role in great screenplay.

Which leads us to the third and most important reason why you should see ‘Moneyball’. The film was written by Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian. Sorkin’s name should be recognizable from last year’s ‘The Social Network‘, while Zaillian wrote ‘Schindler’s List’ and a handfuls of other very strong screenplays.

In comments last week, I was coyfully asked if director Bennett Miller misses the mark and ruins a brilliant Sorkin script. To answer that question, no. Not at all. In fact, Miller seems to understand the rhythm, tone and pacing of a Sorkin script just as well as David Fincher did with ‘The Social Network’. If it wasn’t for the lack of Fincher’s trademark style, you could very well mistake ‘Moneyball’ for having been directed by Fincher.

The one thing that I’m trying to get across is that you must get out there and see ‘Moneyball’ as soon as possible. I caught a screening of it a few weeks back and have had the hardest time sticking to the review embargo. It’s one of those rare films that you can’t help but talk about after falling in love with it. There isn’t a single valid excuse that should keep you from seeing it. Go. Now.

Rating: ★★★★★


  1. I guess the trailers must not be selling this right. They make it look like the most boring movie ever made. I fell asleep in the middle of one of the 30-second TV spots.

      • I wish I’d ignored Oleanna. 🙂

        Considering his recent extremist political conversion, I may well be ignoring a lot more of Mamet’s work in the future.

        • Jane Morgan

          I just read Mamet’s book on politics. All the interesting parts were biographical. The mob, and the Playboy stuff.

          Do you boycott artists if you disagree with their political insanity?

          One of my friends saw ‘American Buffalo’ in 83′, with Al Pacino.

          Would you have refused to watch that, if Pacino was a Reaganite?

          • I don’t generally boycott artists based on their personal politics, unless they let those politics affect their work. Mamet’s writing is all political, and he’s the type liable to want to preach about his revelation to the world.

          • Jane Morgan

            That’s not a position I would expect from a critic.

            If you were conservative, would you boycott Aaron Sorkin?

            You don’t care if artists preach, as long as its your team’s talking points?

          • We’re getting a bit off the topic here, but in my experience, when people swing from one extreme end of the spectrum (regardless of which side they start from) to the polar opposite in no time at all, claiming that they’ve have a revelation and now see the light, that generally signals a breakdown of some sort. We’ll see what happens with Mamet.

          • Jane Morgan

            David Mamet is the new Mel Gibson?

            Wouldn’t that make his next few works, to a critic, twice as interesting?

            If Aaron Sorkin went from ‘Moneyball’ to writing nazi propaganda…

            I don’t know about you, but I would buy a blu-ray of that.

  2. Jane Morgan

    (1) Aaron Sorkin has never written a bad screenplay.

    (2) Brad Pitt has the most interesting filmography of all time.

    ‘Moneyball’ is chocolate and peanut butter.

    The only people who won’t love this are people with nut allergies.

      • Jane Morgan

        They took the script away from Cocaine Boy, and gave it to Scott Frank.

        There’s about as much Sorkin in ‘Malice’ as there is Mamet in ‘Hannibal.’

        • Ian Whitcombe

          Nonetheless, Sorkin is pleased on both his experience on the movie and the movie as was released.

          If we want to get truly into Sorkin crap, my contender would be the “Matthew Perry has an invisible friend” episode of Studio 60. Allegedly, that can’t be blaimed on the blow.

    • Jane Morgan

      Via The Telegraph.

      Children suffering from potentially lethal Jonah Hill allergies can now live normal lives for the first time following the success of an experimental new treatment.

      Doctors at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge have developed a pioneering therapy which effectively “retrains” the immune systems of patients who have Jonah Hill allergies so that they become desensitised to Jonah Hill.

      Trials of the technique have so far helped 20 children with severe Jonah Hill allergies overcome their life-threatening condition.

      Before the treatment, many of the young patients could not watch even trace amounts of Jonah Hill without suffering a reaction, but now the researchers claim the youngsters can safely watch up to 12 minutes a day without having any reaction.

      The clinicians are now planning to carry out larger scale clinical trials of the treatment to test its effectiveness. They also hope to develop the therapy to treat other dangerous allergies to Russell Brand, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Justin Bieber.

      They hope that the treatment could eventually become a routine way of combating all celebrity allergies.

  3. TBo

    one point? come on they’re called runs in baseball.

    also while this is getting great reviews as a movie ive heard that a lot of the true baseball stuff is slightly fudged, although thats usually the case in these “based on a true story” movies

  4. Drew

    They lost the division championship to the Yankees by one point? Wow! I didn’t know that could be possible considering that, number one, the two teams aren’t even in the same division, and number two, there is no such thing as a point in baseball. 😉

    Sorry. Couldn’t resist. 🙂

    • I don’t blame you for taking advantage of the situation. Not only am I not typically a fan of the sports genre, but sports themselves. I’d have taken the jab given the opportunity too!

  5. RollTide1017

    Yep, facts are not right in this review. A’s lost there divison by 14 games to the Mariners in 2001. They did win the wildcard and played the Yankees in the first round of the playoffs. The lost game 5 to the Yankees by 2 runs, which sent the Yanks to the ALDS.

    Other than that, good review. Still not sure about this movie though, may wait for the BD.

    • paramedic0112

      Dude, you obviously like baseball. You MUST see this movie now. It is really really good. Definitely one of the very best of the year.

  6. paramedic0112

    Saw Moneyball last night. It was fantastic! It will probably go down as one of the best sports movies of all time. I don’t even like baseball very much. This is definitely in my top five movies I’ve seen at the theater this year including Drive, Super 8, and The Way Back. I’m saving the other spot for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo ha ha. J. Edgar will probably be really good too, so I may have to rethink this list…

  7. Jane Morgan

    Luke, is the Moneyball script even better or slightly weaker than The Social Network’s?

    Where does it rank in the Sorkin hierarchy?

  8. Luke Hickman

    Jane, I’d say Moneyball’s screenplay is just as tight as The Social Network, but The Social Network is by far the stronger of the two because of Fincher. I don’t mean to discredit Miller at all. But comparing these two films is unnecessary. They are both brilliant, so it doesn’t matter which one is better. I love The Social Network. Despite receiving a screener of it, I still bought the Blu. And I’ll end up doing the same with Moneyball if Sony sends out an awards screener of it too. It’s a fantastic film of a rare high quality that isn’t too common in September.

  9. Jane Morgan

    ‘The Social Network’ also had Reznor and Ross.

    Does ‘Moneyball’ do anything iconic with its soundtrack?

    I assume not, as there hasn’t been much buzz about it.

    I wonder if that will hurt the film in award season?