Moneyball

Moneyball is a 2011 biographical sports film directed by Bennett Miller and featuring a screenplay by Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zallian. It stars Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Chris Pratt, and Casey Bond. The film is a true story based upon the 2003 nonfiction book of the same name by Michael Lewis. Pitt plays Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Beane. Beane is upset at the shape of the Oakland team following the 2001 postseason. With the help of young Yale graduate Peter Brand (a composite character based on Paul DePodesta), Beane begins to apply statistical analysis to scouting and drafting new players, revolutionizing the way modern scouting is conducted.

Moneyball combines two things in this world I have no interest in whatsoever. My math skills in every imaginable area are atrocious and I find baseball quite boring. When this film came out in 2011, despite positive word of mouth and multiple award nominations, I never saw it. I decided to watch it for the first time after recently completing a “Sports in Modern Society” course. For a film with subject matter that doesn’t interest me in the least, it is very good.

I know nothing about the politics of sports, but before Billy Beane, it was STUPID!!! Before 2002, when Beane and DePodesta started thinking statistically, baseball scouts wasted millions and millions of dollars on a day’s worth of observation. It apparently wasn’t viewed as a numbers game, but isn’t baseball the most statistical professional sport by design? Bad players can have great days, and good players can have bad days. You can’t just observe. That just seems illogical to me. As Peter Brand states in the film “Baseball thinking is medieval.”

Yes, it was. Therein lays the conflict. The scouts of Oakland do not take to this revolutionary method very well because it is so drastically different from the way things are done.

Moneyball is a drama film, and a very good one.What I didn’t understand at 15 is that Moneyball isn’t about sports or the numbers. It is about adversity. “It won’t work.” “I want Billy Beane gone.” This is about proving everyone wrong.

One thing the film does an excellent job of is setting up inner conflict. I don’t care about baseball. I care about Billy Beane, though. Billy Beane was scouted out of high school to play in the Major Leagues.They told him and his parents he was going to be the next big thing. He had a horrible career in the Majors and dropped to become a scout and later a General Manager. He gave up a full-ride scholarship to Stanford University in order to play the Majors. Everyone in the film thinks Beane’s work with Peter is part of some vendetta against the scouts because they got it wrong all those years ago. Beane tellingly never flat out denies this.If he does have a vendetta, I can’t say I blame the guy.

Sorkin and Zallian’s script is filled with moments of empathy and what I can only describe as heroism in the face of adversity. This is bolstered by excellent performances from the cast. Brad Pitt is never not a good actor. Even in bad/mediocre movies like World War Z, he as an individual cast member is great. I like serious Jonah Hill better than funny Jonah Hill, to be honest. He is a good serious actor who should really be doing more roles like Peter Brand than stupid stoner comedies like The  Interview.

The cinematographer behind this film was Wally Pfister, known for his frequent collaborations with Christopher Nolan. Pfister’s cinematography is focused and razor-sharp, like most of the elements in this film. His diverse use of camera techniques and angles makes Moneyball a very visually pleasing film, to boot.

Moneyball is a story about human beings working in baseball, not about baseball itself. It is a very emotional and human driven narrative that had me invested the entire time, and I am, in fact, an adamant detractor of the sport of baseball. Watching this film taught me to keep an open mind. I skipped this film when I was 16, and I really shouldn’t have. The subject matter does not make a good movie. A good movie makes a good movie You will enjoy this film no matter how much you may detest baseball, and chances are you will fall in love with this film if you are a person that loves baseball.

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