Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Moneyball: The Movie

This is not a book review, and it's not really even a movie review. I don't see enough movies to even know where to begin or to trust my judgement. I've even been accused (falsely) of not liking movies. They just aren't my thing. But of course I had to go see Moneyball, and it was semi-mandatory to see it on opening night. I am also the sister of a minor star in the movie: my sister was one of the (few thousand) people who served as audience members for the movie, so I felt it imperative to get out there and support her. I actually felt all immediate family members should have received free passes, but apparently Brad Pitt and Sony Pictures had different feelings.

The movie was disappointing. I searched the entire time for my sister and couldn't find her, so I am tempted to give the movie the score of "career minor-leaguer", but this would be biased. Instead, I will set aside my personal relationships and give a more appropriate and better score of "4.50 ERA." My boyfriend, a movie connoisseur (and aforementioned accuser), loved Moneyball, and couldn't understand why my main concern: Moneyball, the movie, was lacking in baseball. I think our main difference in understanding were the following: a) he's not a Student of the Game, and b) he had a more realistic expectation of the movie because baseball is not Life for him. (Also, I think he likes almost every movie he's ever seen. Possibly including "Waterworld.")

Without spoiling the movie for you, though there is nothing really to spoil since Moneyball is based on a) a book almost everybody has read and b) a baseball season we've lived through, the following would be my movie review, if I did that sort of thing.

Walking in, I was expecting either the story of BeaneBall/Moneyball or an A's movie, which, thinking back, was too much to hope for. The movie was actually The Billy Beane Story, also known as A Brad Pitt Vehicle (which I understood much more clearly when I saw that the movie was produced by Brad Pitt.) (Incidentally, google accepts "Pitt" as a real word, which suggests that google agrees with my assessment: Moneyball and life revolves around Brad Pitt.) The fat guy, Jonah something-or-other, as Beane's assistant, was awesome- and the closest thing to making the Story of Moneyball. The best part in terms of a baseball movie, and the I appreciated most, was that Art Howe was absolutely skewered and presented as a royal ass. I don't know how he'll take that now, but Art Howe- the man(ager)- is a royal ass, and he was done to absolute perfection in the movie. (Note: Art Howe hated the movie. Link via the sister/star.) It's easy to see how the post-Howe managerial hiring decisions have been made: A's managers are managers who are gonna listen to Billy Beane, even on things that are left up to managers on Every Other Club. The best part in terms of watching as an A's fan were the two or three clips of Bill King announcing on radio. i seriously almost cried. I think one of the calls was during the 20 game streak, and he was announcing (Korach was in there, too) the A's joining history. It was an amazing flashback. Bill King was The Man.

Towards the end of the movie, and this is spoiler-ish but nothing that's not obvious current events, Billy Beane is portrayed as a hero for turning down an amazing sum of money from the Red Sox to be their GM and sticking with the low-budge A's. As movies go, this is a sweet touch. As reality goes, it's still true, but hard for a 2011 A's fan to swallow with the current ownership and Beane appearing to have given up on the A's (and possibly BeaneBall) altogether. In the meantime, the Red Sox have clearly stuck with it (or a version of BeaneBall+money) and made it work. The Red Sox have a vastly larger budge, of course, but it seems like BeaneBall either has failed- the A's don't win- or the A's aren't using it anymore. For a much more sophisticated analysis, read the (as always) incisive write-up at the Todd Van Poppel Rookie Card Retirement Plan. The movie ends sweetly, but almost a decade later, the adoption of BeaneBall doesn't feel so sweet in Oakland.

Here's the short version:

Brad Pitt is the Hideki Matsui of the 2011 A's. Gets a select number of audience members to the theatre who otherwise wouldn't come to see a movie about baseball economics. They will be happy because he's in Every Single Scene and disappointed because the movie is boring. He works out a lot and his muscles are shown a lot so they might be cheered up.

Baseball fans will go see the movie will be bored because there's not enough baseball. Bill James and BeaneBall fans who go to see the movie will be disappointed because there's not enough math, and the A's don't win the pennant. (They shoulda known this ahead of time.)

A's fans will go see the movie, but only two of them will wear their shirts in the theatre, if they go outside of Oakand, and one of them will be named themacinator. They will be so excited to see their favorite stars portrayed by actors they've never heard of, and to see Mt Davis full. Then they will remember it is a movie.

Recommendation: see it, because you can't not. But don't get your hopes up.