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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Posnanski: Moneyball The Movie

“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.

The District Attorney Posted: September 22, 2011 at 07:06 PM | 44 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: athletics, baseball geeks, business, media, reviews

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. Mash Wilson Posted: September 23, 2011 at 04:17 AM (#3933807)
I don't know. Is Brad Pitt really THE most bankable movie star around?
   2. Random Transaction Generator Posted: September 23, 2011 at 05:01 AM (#3933823)
I don't know. Is Brad Pitt really THE most bankable movie star around?

I'm not sure if he's the most "bankable", but he might be the most consistently good actor that headlines films.

Will Smith was probably the most bankable for a while (with his annual summertime blockbusters).
   3. J in the Slope Posted: September 23, 2011 at 05:03 AM (#3933827)
I'll agree with Simmons that it is indeed Will Smith (sadly).

The Movie Star
   4. Rollie Fingers' moustache Posted: September 23, 2011 at 07:00 AM (#3933843)
Yes Will Smith right now is the most bankable star which is why we are going to be subjected to "I am Legend: 2" unfortunatley which is set up to be a prequel.
   5. The District Attorney Posted: September 23, 2011 at 03:04 PM (#3934020)
The all-time leaders in average gross are amusing, because it is basically a list of people who appeared in a particular franchise -- I see Harry Potter, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean, Transformers, and Marvel movies -- and did little else.

(I thought John Ratzenberger [every Pixar, Empire Strikes Back, Superman I & II] would be #1 or close, but he's 26th.)

Taking all those people out, your highest grosser per film is... Mike Myers. But his career has really cratered. Smith is the next "real star" on there. I think he has to be the choice.

(On a cumulative basis, the most bankable actor ever is... Frank Welker. Cartoon voice guy. Otherwise, it's Samuel L. Jackson. Being in 84 films helps. Otherwise, it's Tom Hanks.)
   6. Nasty Nate Posted: September 23, 2011 at 03:15 PM (#3934033)
I had absolutely no idea that Ratzenberger was in Empire Strikes Back....
   7. The Long Arm of Rudy Law Posted: September 23, 2011 at 03:20 PM (#3934038)
John Cazale would have to be the leader in whatever the term is for bankability of the quality of a film.
   8. PreservedFish Posted: September 23, 2011 at 03:32 PM (#3934048)
I think the obvious place to take this discussion is whether or not "bankable" describes, uh, past value or true talent. Will Smith's numbers are huge because he only appears in would-be blockbusters. He doesn't take supporting roles or do quirky projects. Simmons goes over this in the piece.

The most "bankable" star on earth is the guy that would make the most money for Boring Movie X. It may indeed be Smith.
   9. Banta Posted: September 23, 2011 at 03:55 PM (#3934064)
Frank Weller is one of my heroes. Its unbelievable how many voices he's done.
   10. El Tigre Astride A Space Camel Posted: September 23, 2011 at 04:09 PM (#3934077)
Yes Will Smith right now is the most bankable star which is why we are going to be subjected to "I am Legend: 2" unfortunatley which is set up to be a prequel.

Shouldn't that be I Am Legend 0?
   11. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: September 23, 2011 at 04:13 PM (#3934084)
Shouldn't that be I Am Legend 0?


Or I, Too, Am Legend?
   12. PreservedFish Posted: September 23, 2011 at 04:18 PM (#3934087)
Before I Was Legend
   13. El Tigre Astride A Space Camel Posted: September 23, 2011 at 04:19 PM (#3934089)
I Was Legend Before You Even Thought Of It
   14. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: September 23, 2011 at 04:23 PM (#3934091)
I had absolutely no idea that Ratzenberger was in Empire Strikes Back....


He played next to Dustin Hoffman.
   15. villageidiom Posted: September 23, 2011 at 04:32 PM (#3934099)
The Phantom Legend
   16. Smiling Joe Hesketh Posted: September 23, 2011 at 04:32 PM (#3934100)
Cliffy's Star Wars profile.

We have to close the blast shield doors tonight!
   17. Darren Posted: September 23, 2011 at 04:42 PM (#3934110)
I'm No Legend, But Perhaps, One Day, a Surprising Series of Events Will Lead to Me Becoming One
   18. Lassus Posted: September 23, 2011 at 04:42 PM (#3934112)
I Am Tim Curry
   19.   Posted: September 23, 2011 at 04:52 PM (#3934124)
The all-time leaders in average gross are amusing, because it is basically a list of people who appeared in a particular franchise -- I see Harry Potter, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean, Transformers


Johnny Depp might be a good choice. I know a few dozen people (mostly female) who would go to a movie of Johnny Depp reading the phonebook.
   20. Magnum RA Posted: September 23, 2011 at 05:01 PM (#3934134)
That's Cliff from Cheers? He's made a hell of a career for himself.
   21. JE (Jason) Posted: September 23, 2011 at 05:03 PM (#3934137)
I had absolutely no idea that Ratzenberger was in Empire Strikes Back....

I remember watching the underrated "A Bridge Too Far" a few years back and spotted Cliffy playing one of Redford's officers as they prepared to cross the Waal River near Nijmegen. IIRC, he bought it with a bullet to the eye.
   22. My name is Votto, and I love to get blotto Posted: September 23, 2011 at 05:22 PM (#3934160)
Franchise films like "Pirates" or "Twilight" or "Harry Potter" are definitely the blockbusters these days. Pitt is in the top 5-10 "movie stars" out there, along with guys like Leo, Matt Damon, Clooney and Johnny Depp.
   23. NJ in DC (Now with temporary employment!) Posted: September 23, 2011 at 05:26 PM (#3934165)
Pitt is in the top 5-10 "movie stars" out there, along with guys like Leo, Matt Damon, Clooney and Johnny Depp.

Putting someone like Clooney on this list and excluding Will Smith makes no sense to me. I certainly believe he has far more cachet as a headliner.
   24. My name is Votto, and I love to get blotto Posted: September 23, 2011 at 05:31 PM (#3934169)
Yeah, Will Smith had already been mentioned. So had Depp (but I hadn't read #19 when I posted). I'm sure I'm forgetting someone obvious too.
   25. Dag Nabbit is part of the zombie horde Posted: September 23, 2011 at 05:32 PM (#3934170)
Taking all those people out, your highest grosser per film is... Mike Myers. But his career has really cratered.

And it's the second time his career really cratered. Between Wayne's World II and the first Austin Powers movie, he was on the outs completley.

I always think of JOhn Ratzenberger as the guy who crossed the river w/ Robert Redford in A Bridge Too Far.

Oh, and apparently post #21 beats me to it!
   26. Misirlou's been working for the drug squad Posted: September 23, 2011 at 05:34 PM (#3934173)
I remember watching the underrated "A Bridge Too Far" a few years back and spotted Cliffy playing one of Redford's officers as they prepared to cross the Waal River near Nijmegen. IIRC, he bought it with a bullet to the eye.


Along those lines, I always get a kick out of seeing Uncle Leo in Kelly's Heroes
   27. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: September 23, 2011 at 05:40 PM (#3934183)
I never saw Uncle Leo in anything other than Seinfeld, but Jack Klompus has good roles in Birdy (1984 -- he seems just like he does on Seinfeld) and Straight Time (1978 -- he seems much much younger).
   28.   Posted: September 23, 2011 at 05:41 PM (#3934184)
Hey fatty, I got a movie for ya -- A Fridge Too Far.
   29. JE (Jason) Posted: September 23, 2011 at 05:44 PM (#3934186)
I always get a kick out of seeing Uncle Leo in Kelly's Heroes

"Oddball! Hello!"
   30. Avoid running at all times.-S. Paige Posted: September 23, 2011 at 05:44 PM (#3934187)
My biggest problem with Brad Pitt is he has diction problems. He's also not an especially dynamic actor. I'd probably go with Johnny Depp as the most bankable, good actor going. What's interesting is that I'm confident that there are a lot of better actors out there who have never appeared in big movies or when they have they've played bit parts. But MLB certainly has the best baseball players in the world right now. Of that I am sure.
   31. Mash Wilson Posted: September 23, 2011 at 06:41 PM (#3934249)
I might get roasted for saying so, but I thought Pitt was pretty damn good (and not entirely Pitt playing himself) in Troy. If you can overlook the most painfully bad romance plot not written by George Lucas I have ever heard of. Which I guess you have to blame him for somewhat since it seems to mostly be in that movie because, hey, we have Brad Pitt here, he's got to have sex with someone.

Most of the time Pitt just plays himself and people like him. From what I've read that appears to be pretty much the case in Moneyball as well.
   32. ellsbury my heart at wounded knee Posted: September 23, 2011 at 07:05 PM (#3934269)
Robert Downey Jr. isn't in that Smith/Pitt/Damon/Clooney class yet, but he could be. If he hadn't spent 10 years stumbling around drunk, he'd probably be there. He's as good and versatile a Hollywood actor as any of them, but he just doesn't have the string of successes in huge-grossing, critically-acclaimed movies that the others have.
   33. The Clarence Thomas of BBTF (scott) Posted: September 23, 2011 at 07:23 PM (#3934289)
Warwick Davis is your #6 in average gross. That's wacky as all hell.
   34. Banta Posted: September 23, 2011 at 07:36 PM (#3934300)
Frank Weller is one of my heroes

As you can clearly tell by me misspelling his name. Stupid Android!
   35. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: September 23, 2011 at 07:46 PM (#3934307)
Taking all those people out, your highest grosser per film is... Mike Myers. But his career has really cratered.

And it's the second time his career really cratered. Between Wayne's World II and the first Austin Powers movie, he was on the outs completley.

I'm thinking the Keith Moon biopic (and shock-the-world Oscar win) will put Myers right back on top!
   36. villageidiom Posted: September 23, 2011 at 07:46 PM (#3934308)
Putting someone like Clooney on this list and excluding Will Smith makes no sense to me. I certainly believe he has far more cachet as a headliner.
Not to me any more. The last time I was more interested in seeing a film because Will Smith was in it was probably I, Robot. That's 7 years ago. Nearly everything Clooney has done in that time is something I might not have been interested in had he not been involved. Maybe I'm just looking at a current definition of "movie star" differently.
   37. bunyon Posted: September 23, 2011 at 08:07 PM (#3934317)
I had absolutely no idea that Ratzenberger was in Empire Strikes Back....

It's a little known fact that there were only three stormtroopers for the entire Star Wars trilogy. And they were played by Henry, Jane and Bridget Fonda.
   38. Lassus Posted: September 23, 2011 at 08:20 PM (#3934325)
My biggest problem with Brad Pitt is he has diction problems. He's also not an especially dynamic actor. I'd probably go with Johnny Depp as the most bankable, good actor going.

I'd certainly subjectively disagree with this as far as being dynamic. And in fact, I'd further say Depp's diction is (significantly?) worse.
   39. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: September 23, 2011 at 08:28 PM (#3934330)
Not to me any more. The last time I was more interested in seeing a film because Will Smith was in it was probably I, Robot. That's 7 years ago. Nearly everything Clooney has done in that time is something I might not have been interested in had he not been involved. Maybe I'm just looking at a current definition of "movie star" differently.


The Simmons article linked above was a fairly interesting look at it. Smith's movies may not be the most well done or the best acted but they almost always generate a huge audience. If I were a studio head looking to draw a massive audience, Smith would be my guy.
   40. Darren Posted: September 23, 2011 at 08:36 PM (#3934340)
Smith's movies may not be the most well done or the best acted but they almost always generate a huge audience.


May not be? MAY NOT BE????
   41. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: September 23, 2011 at 08:59 PM (#3934362)
May not be? MAY NOT BE????


Like I'm not out on a limb far enough with my "the Red Sox are doooooooomed!" proclaimations for the last month?

Maybe I'll go see a Will Smith movie during Spring Training next year.

I was just thinking a few minutes ago that in just six days I'm going to be a very happy man or I am going to be unpleasant to be around. If I didn't hate virtually everyone I come in contact with I'd feel bad for the poor saps around me.
   42. PreservedFish Posted: September 23, 2011 at 09:19 PM (#3934380)
If I were a studio head looking to draw a massive audience, Smith would be my guy.


Smith's best case is the success of Hitch and Pursuit of Happyness. I didn't see either one, but maybe they bomb if they star Johnny Depp or Brad Pitt. I think it's obvious that his heavily promoted "special effects and supernatural creatures" movies could have made a lot of money with a different star in them, and possibly without any star at all.
   43. Rowland Office Supplies Posted: September 23, 2011 at 09:22 PM (#3934382)
I'm thinking the Keith Moon biopic (and shock-the-world Oscar win) will put Myers right back on top!


Meanwhile, Jason Schwartzman is: Not pushing fifty. A fine actor. A flat-out dead ringer for Moonie. And...oh by the way...an actual rock drummer. Guess it made too much sense...
   44. The District Attorney Posted: September 23, 2011 at 11:12 PM (#3934431)
Cliffy's Star Wars profile.
I like this:
"At the Mos Eisley Cantina, everybody knows his name."
?Major Derlin's Decipher trading card
Also, that article is 2,269 words longer than the Wikipedia article on "automobile."

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