Santa Cruz Good Times

Saturday
Apr 19th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Major League

film_mbPitt scores in entertaining, real-life baseball saga 'Moneyball'

When I first heard about the baseball movie Moneyball, I had the wrong idea of what it was all about. The story of Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane throwing out a century of tradition to assemble a team according to strict computer analysis sounded like another instance of solid, old-fashioned values being replaced by bean-counters and statisticians—the incorporation of baseball for profit.

But, in fact, just the opposite is going on in Michael Lewis' non-fiction book, "Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game," and this entertaining screen adaptation.

The phrase "Moneyball" refers to the moribund, old-school way the sport has been run over the last 30 or 40 years, where celebrity players' salaries skyrocket into the millions, and only the richest teams—like, the New York Yankees—who can afford the most expensive players, win all the marbles, year after year. This is the status quo that Beane tilted against during the A’s 2002 season depicted in the book and film, assembling a group of inexpensive players from spare parts and leftovers, according to computerized stats, in hopes they would mesh into a cohesive team.

But the question remains of how to make a story about manipulating stats into something cinematic onscreen. Director Bennett Miller (Capote) solves the problem by casting Brad Pitt, at his most charismatic and fun to watch, in the starring role of Billy Beane. Working from a savvy, intelligent script by Hollywood veterans Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, director Miller crafts a wry and engaging David vs. Goliath tale that pays homage to the "romance" of baseball without resorting to the usual sentimental clichés.

The story begins at the end of the 2001 season, as the $114 million franchise that is the Yankees soundly trounces the $39 million A’s franchise in the AL playoffs. To add insult to injury, Oakland's star players, Jason Giambi and Johnny Damon, are immediately bought by New York. "It's like the A’s are a farm team for the Yankees," fumes Oakland GM, Billy Beane (Pitt). In the front office, his plea for more cash to offer competitive salaries is dismissed. "We're a small-market team and you're a small-market GM," he's told.

On the road to talk trades with other managers, Beane meets Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), a Yale graduate with an Economics degree at his first-ever job as a player analyst for the Cleveland Indians. Peter's laptop number-crunching so impresses Beane, he hires him to help assemble the 2002 A’s team. Instead of relying on the "experience and wisdom" of the scouts (played by real-life baseball scouts, depicted in a couple of funny scenes as selecting or rejecting players based on, say, a showy swing—despite the inability to hit—or whether the relative pulchritude of a girlfriend suggests "lack of confidence"), Beane and Brand go after second-string players picked up on the cheap with statistically proven skills the team needs—like the ability to actually get on base.

The season gets off to a rocky start, chiefly because manager Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman) stoically refuses to use the new guys to their best mathematical advantage. With his own job, and career, on the line, Beane has to out-maneuver him by trading away key players until Howe is forced to get with the program. Which leads to (in the film's most typical, yet still exhilarating Cinderella sequence) a  record-setting winning streak still unsurpassed in the American League.

I have no idea how factual the film is in terms of the personalities involved or character dynamics, although Brand is evidently a fictional character created after Beane's real-life assistant objected to being portrayed as a

“stats nerd.”  But Pitt makes a tasty little feast out of the part of Beane. A former pro ballplayer whose career in the film_moneyballmajors never quite panned out, he knows how traditional scouting sometimes goes amiss, and forges an empathetic, no-b.s. bond with the guys on the team. Pitt is also a riot in the film's most bravura scene, as Beane makes rapid-fire phone deals with half a dozen other GMs in the course of a couple of minutes to get the one player he needs, on his terms.

Well-acted, and packed with colorful backstage baseball ambience, Moneyball scores a solid hit.

MONEYBALL

★★★ (out of four) Watch film trailer >>>

With Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Written by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin. From the book by Michael Lewis. Directed by Bennett Miller. A Columbia Pictures release. Rated PG-13. 133 minutes.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Cardinal Grand Cross in the Sky

Following Holy Week (passion, death and burial of the Pisces World Teacher) and Easter Sunday (Resurrection Festival), from April 19 to the 23, the long-awaited and discussed Cardinal Cross of Change appears in the sky, composed of Cardinal signs Aries, Libra, Cancer, and Capricorn, with planets (13-14 degrees) Uranus (in Aries), Jupiter (in Cancer), Mars (in Libra) and Pluto (in Capricorn), an actual geometrical square or cross configuration. Cardinal signs mark the seasons of change, initiating new realities.

 

Sugar: The New Tobacco?

Proposed bill would require warning labels on sugary drinks Will soda and other saccharine libations soon come with a health warning? They will if it’s up to our state senator, Bill Monning (D-Carmel). On Feb. 27, Monning proposed first-of-its-kind legislation that would require a consumer warning label be placed on sugar-sweetened beverages sold in California. SB 1000, also known as the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Safety Warning Act, was proposed to provide vital information to consumers about the harmful effects of consuming sugary drinks, such as sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened teas.

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of April 17

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >

 

Growing Hope

Campos Seguros combats sexual assault in the Watsonville farmworker community Farm work was a way of life for Rocio Camargo, who grew up in Watsonville as the daughter of Mexican immigrants. Her parents met while working the fields 30 years ago, and her father went on to run Fuentes Berry Farms.
Sign up for Tomorrow's Good Times Today
Upcoming arts & events

Latest Comments

 

Foodie File: Red Apple Cafe

Breakfast takes center stage at Gracia Krakauer's Red Apple Cafe Before they moved to Aptos, Gracia and her husband Dan Krakauer would visit friends in Santa Cruz County and eat at the Red Apple Café all the time. Then they moved up here from Santa Monica five years ago, and bought the Aptos location (there’s a separate one in Watsonville) from the family who owned it for two decades.

 

How would you feel about a tech industry boom in Santa Cruz?

I feel like it would ruin the small old-town feeling of Santa Cruz. It wouldn’t be the same Surf City kind of vacation town that it is. Antoinette BennettSanta Cruz | Construction Management

 

Trout Gulch Vineyards

Cinsault 2012—la grande plage diurne The most popular wines on store shelves are those most generally known and available—Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which are all superb for sure. But when you come across a more unusual varietal, like Trout Gulch Vineyards’ Cinsault ($18), it opens up a whole new world.

 

Waddell Creek, Al Fresco

Route One Summer Farm Dinner You’ve been buying their insanely fresh produce for years now at farmers’ markets. Right? So now why not become more familiar with the gorgeous Waddell Creek farmlands of Route One Farms?