America’s national pastime, baseball, has been the subject of an endless amount of movies through the decades. Most people can attest to never watching an actual game but knowing all the rules of the sport. Moneyball continues to educate us on the ins and outs of the game, offering a few new revelations here and there. But what’s even more fascinating about Moneyball is how it managed to sneak its way onto the Oscar list.
Director: Bennett Miller
Cast: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman
Genre: Sports Drama
Age Restriction: PG-13
It was an odd year at the Oscars this year, with most people questioning the reasoning behind the nominations. While Moneyball is unlikely source material, it barely passes on being original and, with films like Drive and Warrior taking a back seat; it certainly feels like an unworthy choice. It was nominated for in six categories including Best Actor, Best Actor Supporting, Best Film Editing, Best Picture, Best Screeplay (Adapted) and Best Sound Mixing. And even though it dodges the usual soppy, clichéd sports drama fitting it still comes across as just slightly above average.
Based on the bestselling book by Michael Lewis, Moneyball tells the story of unsung hero Billy Beane, the general manager for Oakland Athletics. His techniques modernised baseball in the 2002 season by using statistics to draft valuable overlooked players. Thanks to the help of a young Yale-educated economist named Peter Brand, Beane discovers a unique gap in the sport and fights his scouts, the players and his coach in his determination to change the game. “I hate losing more than I love winning”, yells Beane, eager to prove that he is not a failure.
“People who run ball clubs, they think in terms of buying players. Your goal shouldn’t be to buy players, your goal should be to buy wins. And in order to buy wins, you need to buy runs. You’re trying to replace Johnny Damon. The Boston Red Sox see Johnny Damon and they see a star whose worth seven and half million dollars a year. When I see Johnny Damon, what I see is… is… an imperfect understanding of where runs come from. The guy’s got a great glove. He’s a decent leadoff hitter. He can steal bases. But is he worth the seven and half million dollars a year that the Boston Red Sox are paying him? No. No. Baseball thinking is medieval. They are asking all the wrong questions. And if I say it to anybody, I’m-I’m ostracized. I’m-I’m-I’m a leper. So that’s why I’m-I’m cagey about this with you. That’s why I… I respect you, Mr. Beane, and if you want full disclosure, I think it’s a good thing that you got Damon off your payroll. I think it opens up all kinds of interesting possibilities,” Peter explains to a wide-eyed Billy, but to the guy next door it just sounds like complex math meets sports.
The film is built around Pitt’s performance as the pensive Beane, flashbacking to his failed past in the major leagues and following his current relationship with his daughter from a failed marriage. Equally impressive is Jonah Hill, who strips off his foul-mouthed comic routine and delivers a believable performance as the number-crunching deputy. Special mention should also be made of Philip Seymour Hoffman, who remarkably manages to say more with a grunt and a cold stare than plenty of the actors out there.
Critics from around the globe are raving about the beautiful subtleties of Moneyball, calling it a masterpiece. I beg to differ. It’s not a bad movie at all. But it certainly isn’t worth all the hype.