Baseball is like church: Many attend, but few understand
“It’s hard not to be romantic about baseball”
— Billy Beane
Many great things have been said about the game of baseball (and a few silly things, too — Just Google Yogi Berra), but the above quote wraps it all up nicely and puts a bow on top. I would argue that you’d be hard-pressed to find a sport where even a regular season game, especially one early in the season, could hold as much drama as baseball. Bennett Miller’s Moneyball opens with a playoff loss and closes with one, but it focuses on a record-setting winning streak during the Oakland A’s 2002 regular season.
Beane, played by Brad Pitt, attributes the season’s winning ways to a team-building system devised by a night watchman at a pork and beans cannery named Bill James, now an advisor for the Boston Red Sox. James’ theory is that you choose players based on specific skill sets regardless of their perceived worth and overall talent. Beane is introduced to this system by a young Yale grad named Peter Brand (Jonah Hill).
Of course everyone thinks that Beane’s lost his. . . beans. But the wins begin to pile up, and you can’t argue with wins. Well, I suppose you can. Even Beane states that he won’t be truly satisfied until they’ve won it all. Even then he’d probably just want to do it again.
We spend a lot of time with Billy Beane off the field, which is easy because we’re told that superstition prevents him from watching the games on television, let alone live. He is a doting father and an honest, hard-working guy who doesn’t take himself too seriously. I was thoroughly impressed by how well Pitt was able to disappear into the character and contribute to Beane’s high level of likeability. If you had asked me beforehand whether or not I would expect a potential award-winning performance from him I would have said no, but there it is.
Moneyball is cleverly written (The Social Network writer Aaron Sorkin was involved, after all), well-directed and perfectly acted. The only real question is whether or not it is too quiet to stand out in the crowd. Well, if the montage of Oakland’s 20-win streak doesn’t get them, then I just don’t know what would have.
Moneyball is nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor (Brad Pitt), Best Supporting Actor (Jonah Hill), Film editing, Sound Mixing & Best Adapted Screenplay
Kevin Mattison is co-editor of The Idler, and a filmmaker and videographer. You can follow him on Twitter at @kmmattison.