Kerry Dorsey sings Lenka’s The Show in a scene from Moneyball . . . image courtesy of thepeachtreedance.blogspot.com
*An occasional series devoted to glories found at London Public Library branches here & there.
JBNBlog enjoyed Moneyball via the LPL . . . but the non-baseball fan in the house saw it much more clearly as a portrait of a man on a quest (Brad Pitt terrific as a fictionalized version of Oakland GM Billy Beane) marked by tossing stuff incidents, lonesome solo drives, confrontations with associates. little joy even in a 20-game winning streak, ambiguous relationship (how happy are they really?) with the daughter from a failed marriage etc. … it’s an even better movie than JBNBlog realized because of all that.
Pitt/Beane’s Sancho Panza is Jonah Hill as a Yale grad who sees the real numbers in baseball & helps steer the fillm’s version of the 2002 A’s toward them. Hill’s character is even able to show a bit of film/truth to Beane. It shows a ballplayer failing to realize he’s hit a home run. Now that’s a happy ending. Of a sort.
For JBNBlog, the sight of baseball guru Bill James on screen in a black&white photo & off-screen as a formidable influence on the Pitt/Hill characters’ approach to baseball is a memory lane train.
Back in the day, ie. 1984, as a naive sportswriter JBNBlog was lucky enough to have Bill James — who was already a major figure in baseball analysis — pick up the phone in Kansas a number of times . . . no sufferer of fools, Bill hung up abruptly when I innocently asked which shortstop Alfredo Griffin (then a Blue Jay) was keeping in the minors . . . that’s what you get if you don’t do your homework or just pay attention basically & realize the Blue Jays should have Tony Fernandez at short .. . which they did in 1985-1986-1987 (the years I covered MLB for the LFP) & into the World Series-winning 1990s.
That said, Bill James’s books are mostly excellent & he is such a good writer (unless it’s about world history) they are recommended even if you think you don’t like baseball or baseball books …. one thing that has always irked me is there would be a bill James snotty saying that if you don’t know what On Base Percentage is you shouldn’t be reading this book (I know, I know — just part of his charm, but really!) … anyway, OBP is treated as the Holy Grail of stats in Moneyball … & in case you need some prep work, here is a definition, courtesy of fangraphs.com … complete with Moneyball reference
On-Base Percentage (OBP) measures the most important thing a batter can do at the plate: not make an out. Since a team only gets 27 outs per game, making outs at a high rate isn’t a good thing — that is, if a team wants to win. Players with high on-base percentages avoid making outs and reach base at a high rate, prolonging games and giving their team more opportunities to score.
The formula for OBP is simple:
OBP has become synonymous with the book “Moneyball” because at in the early 2000s, teams weren’t properly valuing players with high OBPs and the Oakland A’s could swipe talented players for cheap. These days, every team has come to accept how vitally important OBP is to their success, and that particular “market inefficiency” has been closed.
… there, now we can read Bill James without being told off … intriguingly, JBNBlog’s favourite team the Baltimore Orioles don’t seen to be OBP believers, having a mere .311 OBP … thanks espn.com … the Orioles have pitching, defence (I guess) & hit lots of home runs … maybe the OBP deficiency will catch up with us .. but for now. go Baltimore.
Back to the movie …director Bennett Miller gets a JBNBlog nod for drawing such an intense yet laid back on the surface performance from Pitt & other fine performances from Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman as “Art Howe,” (not a fair or accurate version of the Oakland manager who feuds with Beane/Pitt, but a dramatically effective one) and Chris Pratt who hits a big home run. Literally. As the saying goes.
Many reviews praise co-screenplay writer Aaron Sorkin . . . JBNBlog will see Miller as the auteur (despite not knowing much about him), just as Beane is presented as the auteur of 2002 A’s.
Here are details from sonypictures.com . . .
Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) challenges the system and defies conventional wisdom when his is forced to rebuild his small-market team on a limited budget. Despite opposition from the old guard, the media, fans and their own field manager (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Beane – with the help of a young, number-crunching, Yale-educated economist (Jonah Hill) – develops a roster of misfits…and along the way, forever changes the way the game is played.
Aaron Sorkin, Steven Zaillian
BASED ON A WORK BY
Scott Rudin, Sidney Kimmel, Andrew Karsch, Mark Bakshi
Brad Pitt, Michael DeLuca, Michael De Luca, Rachael Horovitz
Brad Pitt, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Wright, Jonah Hill
Here is Reuters on Moneyball when it was at 2011 TIFF:
BC-FILM-TORONTO-MONEYBALL (TV, PIX) Brad Pitt aims for home run with ’Moneyball’
By Christine Kearney and Bob Mezan
TORONTO (Reuters) – Brad Pitt has turned to the insular world of baseball economics for his latest movie and yet the Hollywood heavyweight is a relative rookie in terms of obsessing over one of America’s great pastimes.
The A-list actor is one of the top draws this week at the Toronto International Film Festival for the launch of his new drama, “Moneyball.” He plays Billy Beane, the real-life general manager of Major League Baseball’s Oakland A’s, who is famed for reinventing the game by running a competitive team in a cost-effective way.
Pitt told Reuters that he learned to appreciate the nuances and complexities of the game while making the movie, helped by several meetings with 49-year-old Beane, but he is not your typical baseball fanatic. “It’s shameful how little I know about baseball, but what I know about it, I got — it was a pop fly in the fourth grade — 18 stitches,” he told Reuters, referring to getting hit by ball when he was just a kid, opening a flesh wound.
“I find it really tranquil when it is on (TV) in the background now…There is a reason why it has become our national pastime. It’s a team sport yet at the same time it is an individual battle.”
The film’s creators want movie audiences to see that ”Moneyball” is not just another tale in the vein of “The Natural,” “Major league” or other baseball films that have become ubiquitous in U.S. theaters.
They are banking on Pitt, 47, to transform Beane’s use of bland statistics and mathematical tables into entertaining movie fare. And for that, they’ve tailored the story of the Oakland A’s into a tale of beating the odds.
“We are always looking for undercurrents in films, what is going on underneath it,” Pitt said, adding that “Moneyball” is ”much more than a baseball film” and more of “an underdog story. You have a justice story.”
AN UNDERDOG’S TALE
The film with a budget of $47 million was adapted by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of ”The Social Network,” from the Michael Lewis book “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game.
It begins with Beane coming off a highly successful 2001 season where the small market A’s lost baseball stars including Jason Giambi and Johnny Damon to big city teams with lots of money such as the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.
Beane recruits an unathletic Yale graduate, Peter Brand (played by Jonah Hill), and the unlikely duo push a novel approach of using statistics to scout players who will create a competitive team at far less cost.
It may seem like inside baseball to some, but Pitt and Hill said the story of Beane and Brand should appeal broadly to moviegoers who aren’t necessarily fans of the game.
Hill said he showed it to friends “who couldn’t care less about baseball and they all adored it…It is really about values and underdogs and life choices.”
Pitt believes that, statistics aside, the spontaneity of the game which lures fans to ballparks isn’t lost in the film.
“These guys apply science to it and yet the magical happens when you least expect it, which was true for their season,” he said. “It’s a magical game, no question.” Early reviews have been generally favorable. The Hollywood Reporter said the movie “looks good perhaps not for a home run but certainly a long double or even an exciting scoot around the bases for a head-first triple.”
Daily Variety compared it to Sorkin’s “Social Network,” saying “the story isn’t as electrifying. ’The Social Network’ was about a highly unusual alpha dog; Moneyball is the story of a highly unusual underdog. No one remakes the world here. But someone does remake the grand old American game of baseball.”
(editing by Bob Tourtellotte) REUTERS