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Moneyball

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Scott Roberts
Moneyball
on Sep 26, 2011 at 2:30:18 pm

I predict Moneyball will be one of those movies that will receive a lot of awards nominations, but not win anything. It just has that feel to it. It never tries too hard and dips into Oscar bait territory, but it also falls short of being something truly special. With Aaron Sorkin writing (some of?) it, it most certainly had touches of a Social Network vibe, but this will hardly have as lasting legacy as the Facebook movie (I assume) will have. Moneyball is an entertaining movie, and has a good message. And frankly, that’s all it really needs.

From someone who does not care at ALL about baseball, Moneyball managed to not only hold my attention, but keep me riveted. And I think it probably benefited from the fact that I know nothing of baseball history, and didn’t know how it was going to end. I couldn’t even tell you who won the MLB championship last year, that’s how little I care for the sport. But this movie isn’t so much about the actually enduring a boring game of baseball, but more the behind the scenes action of building a sports team, which always interests me. This could have been about the statistical building of a soccer team and it would still be pretty interesting. In addition to that, it also touches the romanticism of baseball, and the mystique of the sport. That’s how I can enjoy baseball movies, but not an actual baseball game. There is some sort of magic surrounding the game that would make me enjoy any “history of baseball” documentary, yet I would fall asleep during an actual baseball game.

In terms of the actual baseball action, Moneyball plays more like an ESPN highlight reel than it does the long, slow pacing of an actual game. But even more than that, it plays as a character study of Billy Beane. It’s very interesting how they played into his history to show how it shapes his current situation. Beane is kind of unlikable, but at the same time, you understand why. He’s sort of a guy with his back against the wall his whole movie, and he has to stand his ground. It was nice that they included his daughter into the movie, as it made him more human.

Brad Pitt does a great job playing Beane, as expected. The dude is a natural. I think there were a few moments of Aldo the Apache squinting and smooth talking, but Pitt plays the whole movie pretty cool. Jonah Hill is more than adequate as Brand, an economic expert who teaches Beane how to build a team with statistics instead of traditional scouting. The best scenes in the movie, in my opinion, are the one just involving Pitt and Hill changing the game of baseball while bonding. And Philip Seymore Hoffman is vastly underused as the disgruntled manager of the team on the last year of his contract.

The movie flies by at a great pace, and that’s probably just because it sucks you in so well. It's witty, smart, and has many humorous moments sprinkled in there. Didn't feel like it was over 2 hours. They do a great job making you care about the characters and what they will do next. I take it if you don’t have an interest at all about sports, it might be more difficult to be engaged by the film. But as a sports fan (and again, not a baseball fan), I assure you the film is undeniably intriguing. It took a few interesting approaches to the cinematography and the editing, but nothing crazy. It’s not as standardly constructed as, say, the Blind Side, but not as brilliantly constructed as the Social Network. But I don’t see a whole lot of replay value here. Much like the message of the film, Moneyball’s legacy will be that of a nice achievement for sports movies, but not a champion. If you’re looking for a movie to see in theaters right now, I’d without a doubt recommend Moneyball. That is, if you haven’t seen Drive already.

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Mark Suszko
Re: Moneyball
on Sep 27, 2011 at 1:00:24 am

Some of the critiques I've heard from sports fans is that the movie and the book that inspired it, gave short shrift to the fact they had some pretty good pitchers all along. That's a minor quibble, compared to the major story surgery that happened in, say "A Dolphin tale", where character genders, races and ages were all casually swapped out for nothing more than better demographic appeal.

I liked Moneyball from the first time I saw the trailer, and the trailer pretty much gives the movie away, but I do plan to see it anyhow. I think most baseball movies I can think of don't concentrate too much an the game but on the teams and personalities anyhow. They use Baseball as the metaphorical skeleton on which to hang their story. As an experiment, try taking away the baseball aspect and seeing how this movie's structure would compare in other genres.


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Jeff Breuer
Re: Moneyball
on Sep 28, 2011 at 11:03:03 pm

The movie's witty Sorkin dialogue is really what moved this picture for me. I laughed a lot, and yet I really felt for the characters and the situation, I never felt like these were not real people during the movie. The movie had fantastic pacing as it ebbed and flowed through witty banter, suspenseful games and deals and the anger and frustration of the loss. "I hate losing more than I like winning," I really felt that. The music played into all of the pacing as well.

As with The Social Network, I felt the ending was just sort of a place where the movie stopped and it could have been book ended better. I also felt a few parts with game play were odd where the hollywood actors in the crowd had hollywood lighting, but the game was flat like stadium would be, then it would seem to cut with what looked like studio shots of the game being played. I'm sure it was artistic, but I felt a bit of a disconnect from the reality of it. All-in-all, however, those are much lower on the scale of what matters when compared to the great acting, pacing, dialogue, etc. Good movie, I agree.

Jeff


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Mark Suszko
Re: Moneyball
on Jan 25, 2012 at 5:10:29 pm

Saw Moneyball last night, awesome movie. Though Sorkin left the project, his flavor remains in much of the dialog and even somehow int he shooting, the many long walking pieces thru extended sets have the "Sorkin feel".

Jonah Hill was surprisingly good. It was weird seeing Chris Pratt, one of the cast of "Parks and Rec" as the first baseman, but he was great. I also recognized the step-dad from his role in "Todd Margaret".

I enjoyed the underplayed, quiet performances all-around, gave it a real authenticity, and the argument scenes between Bean and his Scouts and coaches all rang exceptionally true and realistic.

The overall plot was pretty pro forma, from the undisguised foreshadowing of the daughter's little song in the music store, thru the various beats and acts, to the song bookending the picture. But it was very well-executed.

My wife would not stop mentioning Pitt's imitating Bob Redford thruought the film, and no doubt the lighting and framing was helping that. I thought the lighting on the game footage was a little too dark for the night game scenes. It made it seem like they played in twilight when the DP turned off halh the stadium lights... and the thing is, it's a unique kind of atmosphere, playing at night under very flat, blazing stadium lights on the field, contrasted to the darkness all around. It lends an "on-stage" other-worldliness that's special, and I missed that. But there was some Oscar-worthy shot framing going on, I loved the long shot of Hill walkign down the curved wall with his shadow.

I don't really have strong passions about baseball, or most sports, but I loves me a well-told tale, and Moneyball excells at that.


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Stephen Smith
Re: Moneyball
on Sep 20, 2012 at 2:57:40 pm

I played baseball as a kid and was the worst person on the team...and the other kids made sure I new it. I don't like baseball. A matter of fact, during the last baseball game that I went to I was board after I was done with my hotdog. That being said, I really enjoyed this film. I found the story really interesting and I was surprised that it took the baseball industry that long to finally do what they did, which made the stakes even higher. This film has a 95% tomatometer rating and it deserves it. This has a great theme that can be applied to many other walks of life and that is why I think this film is enjoyable for people who are and are not baseball fans.

Stephen Smith
Utah Video Productions

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