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Thursday, September 22, 2011
“They broke down Chad Bradford’s pitching style”... wannabes.
There are baseball details so real that no other filmmaker would have ever dared even try it. They broke down Chad Bradford’s pitching style. They use the key sabermetric phrase “small sample size.” They spent a good chunk of the movie talking about Beane’s fascination with left-handed specialist Ricardo Rincon, for crying out loud. And then, on the other hand, they have a whole movie about the 2002 Oakland A’s without even subtly mentioning Miguel Tejada, who happened to win the league MVP, or Barry ZIto, who happened to win the Cy Young. Brad Pitt fans will leave the theater feeling pretty sure that the 2002 Oakland A’s won 103 games because of Scott Hatteberg and Chad Bradford.
My friend Scott Raab says that to enjoy baseball movies, you have to turn your baseball mind off because “of all our sports, it’s the most complex and indecipherable. I love it so.” I think he’s right. There’s just something about Moneyball, because of its subject matter, that promised a kind of realism that would appeal to baseball geeks like me. In some fun ways, the movie delivers those details. In others, it disappoints. But I suppose it’s really unfair to ask that sort of statistical precision and depth from a Hollywood movie when, to be honest, you don’t get it from most Major League Baseball teams.
Moneyball is a funny movie. There are three or four scenes that made me laugh out loud…. There are at least three lines that I have quoted to friends since the movie ended…
... Moneyball has good performances… [Phillip Seymour] Hoffman is so good that part of me wished the whole movie was actually about Art Howe (Call it Art-pote or something). Jonah Hill seems to have a great time playing the geeky assistant general manager.
And Brad Pitt really is a lot of fun as Billy Beane. In the end, I don’t actually think he’s playing Billy Beane, the A’s GM… But his characterization of Beane is so likable, while being defiant, that it works…
This is a pretty long movie—more than two hours. And there are a lot of scenes where nothing happens. We spend a good chunk of time alone with Billy Beane in the car. There are plot swings that don’t go anywhere. There’s a lot of actual baseball footage—probably more than has ever before been in a major motion picture. And, let’s face it, some of the crucial questions of the movie are: (1) Will Beane be able to acquire Ricardo Rincon? (2) Will the A’s beat a terrible Kansas City Royals team? (3) Will A’s manager Art Howe realize he should have Chad Bradford, and not Mike Magnante, as the first man out of the pen?
These aren’t exactly, “Will Luke be able to destroy the Death Star,” or “Does Ilsa choose Rick or Victor” sorts of questions.
Yes, Moneyball was quite unlike any movie I’ve ever seen. I saw it on back-to-back nights in Oakland—once at a quiet press screening, the second time at a rowdy Premiere with all the stars of the movie in the audience—and the truth is that I generally liked it both times—a three-out-of-five star kind of enjoyment. As a movie fan, I didn’t really mind the trumped up drama. It’s a movie, and often a funny one.
... As a baseball fan, I didn’t like the movie DESPITE its questionable baseball turns. As a baseball fan, I liked it BECAUSE of its questionable baseball turns.
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