Moneyball

With the baseball playoffs just around the corner, fans are eagerly watching highlight reels and checking box scores to see where their teams are in the standings. If you’re in New York, Philadelphia or Detroit, you’re probably gloating over the fact that your team has clinched their division and are sending mocking texts to your friends whose teams are sweating out the wild card spot. If you’re in Chicago, you’re probably just grateful that summer is finally over and you can move on to something more productive, like repeatedly slamming your hand in a car door.

Baseball has been romanticized on film in many different ways. The against all odds walk-off homer into the lights of The Natural, the aria-soundtracked comeback of The Bad News Bears, the sob-inducing poignancy of “Hey, Dad, wanna have a catch?” It stirs something inside us and calls up memories of games shared with loved ones or the heartbreak of dropping the fly ball that allows the winning run to score. For a game that involves mostly standing around, there’s an awful lot going on.

Moneyball is the latest feature film to try to capture the magic of what makes baseball work. The film has received rave reviews from most major critics and chatter about another possible Brad Pitt Academy Award nomination has been discussed on many move related sites. I’m a big fan of baseball as well as Brad, so I was eagerly anticipating this film.

Except that it even though it’s about baseball, it’s also about math. And statistics and averages and probabilities, and while I realize that all of these things are critical components of how a team grinds out enough wins to make it to the World Series, it doesn’t mean I want to watch a movie about any of them. This theme is actually addressed in the film, as they discuss stripping the romanticism out of the game and building a team based solely on on-base percentages. I guess if you’re a stat freak this information is fascinating, but I just found it dull. There wasn’t any actual baseball in the film until more than halfway through, and that focused on the Oakland As twenty game winning streak. I didn’t find Pitt to be particularly interesting and he’s developed this strange habit of eating throughout his films. He also did that in Snatch and Ocean’s Eleven – I can’t tell if it’s how he develops a character or if he’s just hypoglycemic.

Aaron Sorkin was one of the screenwriters on the script but I couldn’t recognize his voice in it. This was disappointing because I thought he did such a great job of taking a similarly dry concept such as writing code and making it soar in The Social Network.

Maybe I’m too right-brained to enjoy this film. I was a design major in college so that I wouldn’t have to take math, so there is that. But I want the exploding scoreboards and Kevin Costner making passionate speeches about the sweet spot while he paints Susan Sarandon’s toenails. I want to feel the excitement of the walk-off homerun or the agony of the double play when my team is down by one in the ninth with only one out and two men on. Baseball may live and die by statistics, but if that is all that matters, logistics say that the Cubs should have won a World Series by now. I think I’ll go slam my hand in a car door now.

Barf Bag rating: ZERO BAGS
Jalapeno Rating: ZERO PEPPERS

I know this is a vomit/movie site but since we’re on the subject of baseball, I’d like to recommend a terrific new book that uses the game as its subject as well as a metaphor for just about everything else. It’s called The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, and while it may have a few paragraphs about statistics, most of the story is about fielding whatever hardballs may come zipping at your forehead when you’re looking the other way.

By the way, there is a new feature on the site supplied by WordPress. In the bottom right corner of the page, there is a tab marked Follow. If you click it, it will notify you whenever I post a new review. Because you won’t want to miss a single, golden word!

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6 Comments

  1. It’s not really 5 :31 am. It’s 6:32 p.m.

  2. Trying the follow thingie

  3. I don’t see the follow button. Oh well, it’s much more fun to suddenly think, crap, I’m going to be seeing Chris, better read the blog in case she asks.

    • Follow button is in the lower right hand corner, if you’re not signed in at wordpress. If you are logged it, it shows up at the top. Weird that you don’t see it. Do you see it on Juno?

      • Aha, it’s because I was logged in. I didn’t look at the top, just where you directed me! However, you seem to have signed me up? I didn’t click anything, but I got a “subscribed” email.

  4. Very well written and informative.

    Yes, I leave comments without personality.

    I heard that the bigger a fan of baseball you are, the less likely you are to enjoy the film.


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