Director: Bennett Miller
Writer: Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin , Based on "Moneyball" by Michael Lewis
Cinematographer: Wally Pfister
by Tory Maddox
I returned to Moneyball about a week after I saw The Big Short. I had forgotten about Philip Seymour Hoffman’s great performance as Art Howe, the Oakland A’s manager. I forgot about how they used natural actors as the scouts around the strategy table, discussing who’s a strong player and who’s not, looking to one player’s ugly girlfriend as a sign he lacks confidence and how it could impact his performance. I forgot about the subtle dynamic between Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) and his daughter Casey (Kerris Dorsey), who in an absolutely beautiful scene plays guitar for her dad. I didn’t pick up so much on Pitt’s vulnerability the first time around; how he simply just wants to make his daughter proud in a way that is so pure and so real that it could easily bring tears to anyone’s eyes. He doesn’t want to fail, and he particularly doesn’t want to fail in front of his daughter.
Similar to The Big Short are the fascinating characters, and great dialogue. This was of course penned by Steve Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, and yet it plays so similar to The Big Short, which makes me believe that it’s really Michael Lewis who’s the voice behind these stories. I hope all of his movies eventually get adopted, as beyond the directing, performances, score, or photography is a story that sucks you in from the first minute. Seeing Michael Lewis in THR’s roundtable, sitting across from the more rambunctious and traditional Hollywood type director Adam Mckay (who in fairness, became more interesting and less pretentious as the interview went on). Lewis is a very humble, normal, and nice looking man; like your next door neighborhood, or a modestly successful businessman from your nearest city. He’s a master at finding a good story with amazing characters doing very complex things, offering an uncanny ability to make them accessible even while presenting dense and challenging information. I saw The Big Short three times in two weeks. I’ve never done that with a movie ever. And while Christian Bale’s performance was flawless, along with many of the others, it was the information I wanted to understand that warranted the back-to-back viewings. Moneyball does the same and that's a testament to Lewis' storytelling prowess.
For a sport that’s all about records, the longest winning streak is often more exciting than most World Series (2016 not withstanding). I got into baseball last year, and the first thing I learned was how much there is to learn. I have gotten past the immediate superficiality of the game, discovering a strategy and psychology at work in all the great games, allowing them to function more like stories; rivaling even the best films and fiction.
The A’s don’t go onto the World Series, and we learn that the big money teams quickly adopted similar moneyball practices. Although I love baseball, there’s something that’s less exciting when you consider how much mathematics and big data now go into choosing players. The great feud between those who don’t trust the formulas and insist that the decisions are all about the gut, analyzing the player’s humanity rather than their skill, is now over. Instinct is now far less relevant. The film is very much a harbinger of the tech infiltration that would enter our lives years later (the book was written in 2003). Baseball can no longer live without it, and Michael Lewis saw it years before we’d ever notice. Can't wait for his next adaptation.
BELOW: Scout instinct vs. Big Data
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