Cinema Connoisseur: Moneyball hits into unassisted triple play
We are just a few short weeks away from Hollywood's biggest night of the year, the Oscar ceremony. As a serious film reviewer who is so close to becoming a voting member of the Academy (if Steven Spielberg and Carrot Top die, I'm in), I took on the daunting task of reviewing every single film that appears on this year's ballot. Unfortunately, I got sidetracked watching some films about sharks and bikini carwashes, and was only able to make it through two films. So over the next two weeks, I'll be taking a look at two of the contenders who will be prospecting for some gold on February 26. This week, I'll be giving my take on Moneyball.
Brad Pitt stars in the real-life story of Billy Beane, General Manager of Major League Baseball's Oakland A's. The film is up for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Pitt) and Best Supporting Actor (Jonah Hill). Yes, that Jonah Hill.
Oakland is a small market team that continually comes up short to big spenders like the New York Yankees. So Beane, with the help of his whiz kid Assistant GM Peter Brand (Hill), decides to try a different strategy after losing three big-name players. Rather than just trying to go out and buy highpriced players to replace them, they take a sophisticated mathematical approach that places an emphasis on the not-so-sexy stats such as on base percentage. So for those of you who find baseball boring, fear not, this film also features math!
The team struggles initially, and the press calls for Beane's head. But somehow this ragtag group of players manages to win an American League record 20 games in a row. And they then follow this wave of momentum into the playoffs... where they lose in the first round. Wow, that was anti-climactic.
The biggest problem I have with the film is that it is celebrating a pretty miniscule accomplishment. Sure, the team won a bunch of games in a row, but so have the Harlem Globetrotters. In fact, the Globetrotters have won somewhere in the neighbourhood of 2,000 straight games. Where is their movie?
The A's lost in the first round of the playoffs. Just like they did the year before. And the year after. In fact, in the 10 years since this radical approach that was supposed to change the world of baseball was implemented in Oakland, they have made the playoff three times, and only won one series.
So I spent two hours watching a film about an experiment that didn't work — maybe Director Bennett Miller should come make a movie about my grade 6 science project, another experiment that failed. In order to make the film more interesting, a little embellishment would have helped. Like, instead of losing in the first round, they should have won the World Series. And then they should have gone on to win the Intergalactic Spaceball Super Series, if only to hear a bunch of clever lines about beating Uranus.
The sport of baseball has been the subject of so many great films. Classics like Major League 3: Back to the Minors, The Bad News Bears Go To Japan and Air Bud: Seventh Inning Fetch have delighted filmgoers and brought a certain prestige to the grand old game. Then along comes a nothing happening film like Moneyball that taints the very reputation of the game that legends such as Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds played so proudly.
Oakland A's? More like Oakland F's!