Ah, the sweet fall season has arrived. While most around the country are gearing up for some football, I am privy to another time honored tradition, Oscar season. Ironically, I don’t care a whole lot for sports in general. I have come to accept the game of football as a way of life for the rest of my life having married into Steeler Nation, but I have always had a sweet spot for baseball. While some may claim this to be one of the more boring sports, maybe it has something to do with the fact that it’s the only sport I played when I was a kid. Granted, it was only for one little league season, but there’s no denying this is where that seed had to have been planted.
Growing up I was the brains of three siblings. Academics was where my specialty lied and I did not try to pretend it was on some field. Perhaps this is why a film such as Moneyball scores a home run for me. When you have a critically acclaimed filmmaker at the helm, Bennett Miller (Capote), backed up by two Oscar-winning screenwriters, Steven Zaillian (Schindler’s List) and Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network) adapting the Michael Lewis novel, I’d say the decks are stacked in your favor. Having Brad Pitt, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Jonah Hill playing on your team only closes the deal.
It’s pretty easy to skimp on synopsis when everyone has known the story for ten years now. Billy Beane (Pitt) is General Manager to the Oakland A’s and has had his team gutted after losing a big elimination game. Budget restrictions keep Beane from being able to afford to replace the trio of Jason Giambi, Jason Isringhausen, and Johnny Damon. Beane seems to be the only person who realizes that there’s “rich teams, poor teams, fifty feet of crap, and then them,” when it comes to money. Beane enlists the help of Yale Econ wiz kid Peter Brand to build him a winning team – including Scott Hatteberg (Chris Pratt) and David Justice (Stephen Bishop) – with the budget they have based on Bill James’ system of sabermetrics.
Now Beane and Pete are up against the teams own scouts and coach (Art Howe, played by Hoffman) who are up in arms as the team delves into the season with a huge losing streak. Reason being that Art refuses to play their game of statistics. But it doesn’t take long before Beane gets his way, thanks to trading off Art’s starting lineup. Now the A’s are off on their 20-game-winning streak leading them back to another fateful elimination game. On the sidelines we get great moments between Beane and Pete (who gets to learn how to cut players and talk their owner into more money for trades), and Beane with his daughter Casey (the adorably charming Kerris Dorsey).
Director Miller sure makes the 133-minute runtime fly by, in quite the same way that David Fincher pulled off last year with Sorkin’s Social Network. He also employs a lot of the same tone which should surely help them come voting time. Same can be said for both Pitt and Hill who have surprisingly amazing chemistry and it’s nice to see Miller keep the tone light and extremely comedic. The film could never be classified as a straight comedy, but you are certainly laughing the whole way through. So over the next few months, while everyone else is sitting around waiting to see if their team makes it to the Super Bowl, I’ll be patiently waiting to see who makes it to a Best Picture nominee. Although Super 8 still remains my favorite film of the year that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the “best” film of the year. And while I still have yet to see both Drive and 50/50, I’d say Moneyball is a pretty good bet.
Photos courtesy Columbia Pictures