Moneyball is the best movie I’ve seen in 2012. I should preface that by saying that I haven’t seen very many movies in 2012. Underworld: Awakening and A Dangerous Method are about all that come to mind. In Underworld, there were a distracting number of exposed tracheas and not enough of anything else.
As for A Dangerous Method…it’s true that I have a strangely intense love for Michael Fassbender, and he did rock a fabulous mustache throughout the film, but he was also a pathetic bastard and there were a few too many kinky spanking scenes for me to really get into the movie. How many times does someone really need to see Keira Kinghtly in an artfully undone corset get the shit whipped out of her with a belt? Once was novelty, twice was overkill, three times made me wonder how many times they had to film that particular scene? How does one prepare as an actor for a serious spanking scene?
But Moneyball was surprisingly good. I didn’t even know the film existed and it’s always helpful not to have preconceived notions about a movie. Also, I am a sucker for sports flicks. This is a bit of a conundrum, considering how much I hate movies involving underdog animals pulling through, especially anything involving dogs or, god forbid, horses. This hatred further extends to movies where mentally challenged people succeed enough to have somewhat normal lives. I just feel like none of those topics are fair. They take the easy way right into your heart and it doesn’t impress me. And obviously, I hate them because they make me weep like a small child when I watch them.
“That horse had a b-b-b-broken leg and now it’s running s-s-s-so fast! It’s winning! Waaaaaaah.” ——–Me. I don’t have a stutter; I’m just crying too hard to speak.
This, I think, is not fair and not art.
Sports movies, though, I like. A lot, actually. They should fit into the hitting-below-the-belt-emotional-heart-wrenchers, but they don’t for me. I think they must tap into the really human, primitive part of my brain. Groups of people pitted against each other with all sorts of complicated dynamics and forces at work? I love it.
And Moneyball is clearly focused on baseball, much like the television show Friday Night Lights is focused on football. The sports are there and they’re important, but they’re really just the backdrop for some phenomenal portrayals of human existence. At its core, Moneyball is the story of a few individuals versus a big, ancient machine of money, tradition, power, and weirdly misplaced nostalgia. Brad Pitt is fighting the good fight against the old boys and their old fashioned mentality of baseball, using statistics and clever common sense. Obviously, I liked this movie.
I love movies that don’t feel like they’re scripted, and Moneyball has some of the most lifelike dialogue I’ve seen in a long time. There are awkward pauses and not so coherent speeches. People fumble for words, and I like this because real human speech is nothing like what we see in movies. We’re incoherent. We don’t finish sentences. We interrupt constantly and talk through and over each other. So much of what we say is somehow inferred by the listener who’s sharing our reference point, but all of that gets lost in most movies.
And for some movies, it wouldn’t make sense to try to recreate real life speech patterns, but for a movie that’s based on real life, it’s the only thing that makes sense. Of course the scouts for the A’s, who are just a group of sleezy old men, all unattractive and splotchy, have to sit around muttering and talking over one another. That’s what they do.
There are these moments of impeccable comedic timing, too. This movie is incredibly funny, without any hint of effort. The scene that killed me was when Brad Pitt’s character, Billy Beane, and one of the coaches, Ron Washington, go to scout an injured player who was dropped from another team’s roster. They want him to play first base, despite the fact that he was a catcher.
Billy Beane: How’s the elbow, Scott?
Scott Hatteberg: You know, it’s good. It’s really good, it’s great. Uh…I can’t throw the ball.
Billy Beane: Yeah, you’ve thrown your last ball from behind home play, it’s what I’d say. Good news is, we want you in first. We want you to play first base for the Oakland A’s.
Scott Hatteberg: Okay, woh! I’ve only ever played catcher.
Billy Beane: Scott, you’re not a catcher anymore. If you were our call wouldn’t have been the only one you’d gotten when your contract expired.
Scott Hatteberg: Yeah. Hey, listen. No, I…I appreciate it.
Billy Beane: You’re welcome.
Scott Hatteberg: But the thing…the thing is uh…
Billy Beane: You don’t know how to play first base. Scott?
Scott Hatteberg: That’s right.
Billy Beane: It’s not that hard, Scott. Tell him, Wash.
Ron Washington: It’s incredibly hard.
Billy Beane: Hey, anything worth doing is.
They kill it. The deadpan delivery and the timing are perfect. It’s a hilarious moment, and there are many, many others just like it. Maybe I’m a sucker for the dry humor, but this movie was so intelligently funny. After constantly being bombarded by the more physical and outlandish humor currently favored in the types of comedies that are produced, it was nice to be reminded that movies can still be quietly and devastatingly funny.
And Brad Pitt is good. He deserves the Oscar nod. I don’t know that he deserves to win, but there are some really beautiful moments in the film. The scenes with his on-screen daughter are wonderful. One in particular stands out: he’s in a guitar shop with her and they’re picking out a guitar. She’s a pre-teen, awkwardly proportioned and unsure of herself. She’s playing one of the guitars and humming because they’re in the middle of the shop, but he asks her to sing for him. She does so reluctantly, and his entire face lights up with pride. Like a lot of things in this film, it’s subtle, but you can tell that he loves his daughter more than anything else, even baseball. He radiates this fatherly love for her and it’s impressively believable.
Jonah Hill was funny as well. He and Brad Pitt have great chemistry and it drives the movie. I was surprised that Jonah also received the Oscar nomination; part of me thinks he was nominated because he was playing a different role than the gross-out Superbad kind of comedy, but all in all, he’s not bad.
This is a spoiler, but the A’s lose in the end. I liked that, too.
The most interesting bit for me is that they had to change all the details of Jonah Hill’s character because the real man didn’t sign off on the movie. Apparently, he didn’t like the way he was being portrayed, but can you blame the guy? Someone decides to make a movie based on your life, and Brad Pitt is cast, but he’s not playing you. He’s playing some other guy, and instead, you are being acted by Jonah Hill. I would have disagreed, too.
“Maybe Brad can play me, and then Jonah can play Billy. No? Well fuck you.”—-That’s how I imagine the conversation went.
I can sympathize with the guy, mostly because I know if they ever made a movie out of my life it wouldn’t be Natalie Portman playing me, but Molly Ringwald circa 1987.
I feel your pain Pete….or Paul….or whatever your real name is. I feel you.