Tag Archives: movies

Moneyball Transforms Sport into Meaningful Art

4 Oct

Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) strolls boldly into the crowded room and sits at the head of the conference table. After concluding the 2001 season with a heartbreaking playoff loss to the New York Yankees and surrendering his top three superstars to free agency, Beane, the Oakland A’s general manager, must enter the 2002 Major League Baseball season with a new game plan—“adapt or die.” Exhausting millions of dollars for high-profile players is no longer an option for Beane’s low-income team. He can no longer trust the experienced scouts surrounding him at the table,  shifting his confidence toward a newcomer, a rookie—a nobody in the scouting world. He summons Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), a computer nerd and Yale economics graduate, to be his sidekick. Together Beane and Brand must try something new, something radical. They must change the face of a broken game.

Conceived from Michael Lewis’s bestselling nonfiction novel, Moneyball focuses on Beane’s unprecedented venture of fielding a team based solely on objective statistics. With the help of Brand’s complex player-value calculations, Beane creates a competitive lineup consisting of the most statistically-efficient, cost-effective players—players most professional scouts neglect and reject in their talent reports due to what the general manger considers subjective reasons.

With Beane the movie’s main character, manager Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman) serves as the antagonist, refusing to yield to Beane’s innovative strategy. Instead of playing Beane’s recruits, Howe sticks to his old lineup. Ironically, as the team stumbles out the gates, the misguided media places the blame on Beane’s “foolish” business endeavors, unaware of Howe’s stubborn refusal to change. Through he speaks few words, Hoffman’s brilliant portrayal of the prideful Howe clashes perfectly with Beane’s heroic persona.

Moneyball isn’t the typical baseball film. It lacks the mystic romanticism of Field of Dreams and The Natural. It leaves playful nostalgia to The Sandlot and Rookie of the Year. Director Bennett Miller (Capote) along with screenwriters Steven Zaillian (Schindler’s List, Gangs of New York) and Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network) produced a baseball film from a different league, one that relies on intelligent dialogue and subtle emotion to captivate audiences. Although the plot serves an important purpose, the relationships between Beane and the supporting characters are the film’s driving force, the reason why Moneyball is easy to respect and admire.

Like Sorkin’s script for The Social Network, Moneyball is full of sarcastic one-liners; however, none of which are intended to be overtly funny. Yet it’s easy to find humor throughout the film because audiences can connect with the characters and their flaws. They can appreciate the writers’ awareness of the reality of human nature. The fact that the audience is able to identify with the characters serves as a testament to the outstanding acting abilities of Pitt and Hill. In fact, it’s highly likely Pitt will be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor.

America’s film preference is changing. High-profile sequels and popular celebrities no longer attract audiences. For example, Knight and Day starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz failed at the box office as did Julia Roberts’ emotionless Eat, Love, Pray. In addition, critics responded poorly to Iron Man 2 and the third installment of Chronicles of Narnia. Therefore, instead of supporting plot-driven films that are created solely for the purpose of making millions of dollars, moviegoers are beginning to prefer movies centered on challenges and conflicts that reflect real life. Moneyball may be just want today’s audiences are looking for—real art full of meaning, truth, and emotion.