RETRO D! (Oh no he didn't!)
Oh yes... yes he did.
Welcome back to Rated D!
A couple of months ago, Erika and I went to see a movie called Moneyball. SPOILER ALERT: A dramatized true story of how Oakland A's General Manager, Billy Beane, attempted to change the game of baseball by using an unorthodox method to draft his players.
"... Well Mister Burns had done it...
The power plant had won it...
With Roger Clemens clucking all the while...
Mike Sciocia's tragic illness made us smile...
While Wade Bogg's lie unconcious on the bar room tile...
We're talking Softball -"
Ok, so maybe that was from "The Simpsons" episode "Homer at the Bat", but still. Every now and then a movie gets pitched and the crew knocks it out of the park. Such is the case with Moneyball. Even if you're a baseball fan, it's hard to imagine creating an interesting film with well-rounded characters and a suspenseful tone when you're focus shifts from the mainstream ideas of a rag tag team heading for the world series to an inside look at General Managers interacting with coaches and owners while trading players and making deals. That's not to say that process can't be interesting or that no one cares, it just seems like a perfect documentary or an ESPN sponsored Movie of the Week. Evenso, the movie works. And more than that, it works really, really well. When Billy Beane, played by Brad Pitt (Inglorious Basterds, Snatch.), must put a team together on a comparitively pitiful budget, his outlook on the future is grim. After meeting a shy, but brilliant statistics-analyst named Peter Brand, played by Jonah Hill (Superbad, Funny People), the two embark on a risky mission: use a computer-generated analysis to build the most successful team on a budget, slangilly referred to by baseball purists as "moneyball". It's easy for a lot of people to forget that Brad Pitt is more than just a pretty-boy actor or the other half of "Branjolina". He handles his role with quiet sadness, showing a charm and confidence you want to root for while subtly displaying his insecurity and fear of failure that haunt him from the days of his youth. Uh... was that the appropriate film class answer? Jonah Hill also surprises with a brainy, serious turn that still provides plenty of laughs and showcases his skills as more than just a shock comedy actor. Great performances really propel this picture, not the least of which is given by Coach Art Howe, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote, Doubt), but my favorite thing had to be the writing. Like I mentioned before, it would be easy for the plot of this film to become so technical and statistical that you don't so much feel like you're watching a film but instead attending a staff meeting, but the screenplay doesn't let the happen. It's information, comedy, and drama are perfectly blended and leaves you hardly checking the time. While watching one scene where Billy and Peter are making high risk gambles over the phone with other team owners, I couldn't help but think, they should have given this film to screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network, Charlie Wilson's War). You can imagine my surprise when his name appeared in the credits. All in all, this one puts you in the dugout, on the wall, in the stands, on the bench, at the bat, and on the edge of your seat as you root, root, root for the down-home team. A great flick if you remember watching the season live or just like to watch the game every now and then.
To Tie It Back to Health & Fitness...
Money and sports go together like peas and carrots and peanut butter and jelly and yes I do mean all four at the same time. Though "every man needs a vice" it's important to remember that gambling addiction effects many Americans and not only that, statistically children of problem gamblers are at a higher risk of depression, behavior problems, and substance abuse. So make sure you've got your Money and Balls in check before putting them together. Or something like that.
"How can you not get romantic about baseball?" - Brad Pitt as Billy Beane
Moneyball was great. One of the best movies of 2011 so far, and since the year is coming to an end, that's saying something. The one major complaint I had is either attributed to the writers or Director Bennett Miller. His only other film that I've seen is Capote, a biopic about author Truman Capote's life while researching and writing his work In Cold Blood which starred Philip Seymour Hoffman in the leading role. That being said, I don't have much to compare his style to. Anyways, the issue I had was the device of chapter titles. Chapter Titles are a common device like the quotations in between Frasier scenes or the adjectives intermittenly placed throughout the movie Clerks. This movie uses a fantastic one in the beginning and then drops a couple in throughout the movie. In my opinion it should be used fairly consistently or not at all. However, that being my only complaint is very good thing.
REVIEW - I give it 4.5 homeruns out 5
A LIST OF FIVES -
This Week's List... Let's Have a Ball!
Non-baseball Ball Movies!
1. BASEketball - A guilty pleasure of mine. South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker aren't the best actors in the world, but what they do, they do well.
2. Monster's Ball - Billy Bob Thorton executes P. Diddy, Halle Berry's son gets hit by a car, Heath Legder shoots himself.... yeah, this definitely isn't a baseball movie.
3. Spaceballs - Mel Brooks brought us this Star Wars spoof in 1987 and it will still make you laugh today. Plenty of cheesy groaners, but he's so committed to them that you can't help it.
4. Dodgeball - There's something about this ridiculous comedy. Maybe it's Jason Bateman as the inept announcer, maybe its memorable cameos by Lance Armstrong and Chuck Norris, or maybe they just made a good comedy about dodgeball... you decide.
5. The Basketball Diaries - One of Leonardo DiCaprio's earlier ones. Less about basketball and more about drugs and darkness... but it does say ball in the title...
Horrible Bosses - There are plenty of good lines and lots of great chemisty between the leads paired with odd-ball turns including Jennifer Anniston (Friends, The Break Up) playing against type as a sexually-harassing, manipulative dentist and Colin Farrell (In Bruges, SWAT) donning a bald cap and comeover. As long as you focus on that, you won't get bogged with the details like how insane the plot actually is and how two out of the three characters have nothing of importance in their lives.
Next Up on Rated D -
We'll either shoot for the Clooney movie again but if that doesn't work out, it'll be Drive!