This is the audio portion of our review
Sandell Stangl: Wow, an economics movie, yay! I hate economics. I just hate numbers in general.
Sandell Stangl: There were numbers in this movie but I didn't need to understand what they meant. Whenever baseball stats came up I knew the movie was telling me, "smart things are happening right now".
Joshua Efron: This movie drove me to once again consider how insufficient the term "character drama" is. We've referred to several other movies with this term, but what does it mean? A movie in which the plot serves the character rather the the opposite? A film whose purpose and intent is to provide an exploration of the psychology and emotions of a character developed in a way toward connecting situationally with our own existences?
Joshua Efron: If that's the case than this movie wasn't a personal drama, but how can we call it anything else? Oh, I've got it...
Joshua Efron: We'll call it...a "sorkindrama".
Sandell Stangl: Was this really a...movie? I mean I know Sorkin is known to break conventional rules on writing but I couldn't even tell you what the climax or midpoint was. I just can't seem to break this movie down in a technical sense.
Joshua Efron: There were two screenwriters on this film, and it's difficult to tell what each contributed, but the film was definitely awash with marks of Sorkin's approach to storytelling. The scenes that according to convention should be cut for being "unnecessary" are the scenes that he specifically writes in. He gives scant glimpses of stories tangential to the through lines the film is presenting, and although they hint at things that May Be a large influence on the characters' lives, we are not Shown them having an effect on the film. We've been trained to expect certain rules to be followed, and for the better people usually follow them. And Sorkin tends, because he can make it work, to ignore them.
Sandell Stangl: One thing that did surprise was how well Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill worked together. By that I mean, it didn't feel weird. I think this is Jonah Hill's best movie as an actor hands down and he should be proud of his performance. Brad Pitt did a good job too but he REALLY has to work hard to impress me since I expect a lot out of his acting.
Sandell Stangl: Speaking of Pitt's character Billy Beane, I agree with you that he served the plot of the movie rather than the other way around. Regardless, why didn't Billy Beane ever have a moment in which we were allowed to like him? I'm not saying I hated the guy and I certainly had sympathy for him but I never really cared if he succeeded or not. I wanted Brad Pitt and baseball to succeed in this movie.
Sandell Stangl: I know what you're thinking "Well, if you want Pitt to succeed in this movie, why not his character Billy Beane?" That's because I know Brad Pitt and I like him. No matter what role he is playing I want him to win. That is the power of well known celebrity and why I think a lot of movies now a days do not have moments in which we like the characters they play. The people making this movie knew they could get someone famous to play this role so they just didn't care. It's lazy writing and it needs to stop.
Joshua Efron: I think we may be facing a different situation with Moneyball. In 'this sort' of drama... I don't know to what degree you're supposed to want the characters to automatically succeed. Let me ask you this, how What did you think of Pitt's character Beane?
Sandell Stangl: I thought he was interesting and I felt sorry for him. I found his "in your face" personality interesting and felt sorry that he threw away college in order to become a failed professional baseball player. But I didn't "like" him.
Joshua Efron: And I'm not certain if you were supposed to like him. I think you may have only been supposed to find him interesting.
Joshua Efron: In this film, Beane is up against the status quo of team-building which consists of an incredibly entrenched methodology. He is the aggressor through most of the film, he is the one who is willing to take an entirely new approach towards the game in order to win. He is holding the mathematical key to unlocking Truth in his hand, and he is up against irrationality and chaos. But look at this another way - he is also the cold hand of science up against the humanistic art, intuition, and understanding of the human mind, and we Want To Believe that we, as human beings, are capable of having insight beyond what can be reduced to a mathematical formula - both because we want to believe in our inner strength as humans to use our wits to resolve adversity, but also because we don't want anything we put emotions and care into - anything we treat as an art - to be, effectively, won by a machine. To be won by number plugged in to a formula.
So, while we see how irrational these old men are being, evaluating players for any number of obviously irrational methods, do we really, Really want the things we do to be winnable by the cold math of Brad Pitt's approach?
Of course we do. And of course we don't. And each of the characters is in some way correct, including the teams on-field manager who keeps fighting against this insane thing Bradd Pitt is trying to do, as he upholds his job to do the best he can with the team he is given. Brad Pitt wants to the manager to put on first base someone who has no idea how to play first base. Of course the manager is going to buck and fight and resist, because No One Has Every Tried Building A Team Like This Before. It seems insane.
Sandell Stangl: Yeah, it seemed liked Baseball was the main character in this movie. Which sounds strange I know.
Joshua Efron: But I don't feel that Moneyball is a sports movie either (a sports movie meaning one designed to appeal to people and plotted to involved affection for/interest in a game, or about the emotions involved in competition, victory, failure or success). Nor do I think it's a movie about math. I actually wanted more numbers. I wanted more math.
Sandell Stangl: More numbers?! Well I guess they weren't that scary in this movie.
Joshua Efron: Complicated statistics I enjoy, though the formulas they flashed on screen were pretty intimidating. For a few moments I thought it was going to turn out to be a horror film. I also thought it was going to turn out to be a fantasy movie as well, when the Royals start dominating the A's at one point.
Joshua Efron: Really, I wanted more montages explaining the statistical analysis they were basing their approach upon. The film was able to simplify the display down because the characters were able simplify their approach - it's all about "getting on base". Does the player field well? Do they get walked a lot? Are they past their prime? It doesn't matter if they Get On Base, because that's how you win games.
In one of the more shocking and hilarious scenes in the movie (yes, hilarious - this movie made me laugh out loud numerous times, which is a challenge for a film), a room full of scouts is trying to rebuild the team after the loss of their major players, and they evaluate the players on everything from the look of their face to the attractiveness of their girlfriend. In his frustration and the insanity of it Beane (Pitt) brings in Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), an Economics graduate from Yale to build him a team that will win, by? Getting On Base.
There isn't a Message in this movie. Sorkin and to some degree Zaillian (the other writer) doesn't do Messages. He doesn't do Themes. He doesn't even directly ask questions, but they do put in enough conflict for themes to emerge in the mind of the viewer. And, intentionally or unintentionally, the primary theme of Moneyball is immediately relevant to the political discussions taking place today.
Moneyball is a movie about Logic vs Irrationality. It's about the idea of direct, rational, pragmatism. It's about basing an approach to a problem on results you can test, measure, adjust, repeat, rather than basing your problem solving on intuition, faith, and dogma.
Joshua Efron: I was surprised and overjoyed to see such a relevant and important idea emerging from the movie, which could have been "just a sports movie".
Joshua Efron: They avoided actually clubbing us over the head with anything too heavy from a sports Or a math point of view. Good-old Aaron Sorkin, Mr I-don't-actually-give-a-shit-about-anything-but-writing-scripts. Nothing he writes will ever actually explore any issue or setting because he doesn't care about any of them. He has stated he has no interest in television production, politics, facebook, the military, or sports, so I think that just about covers everything he's done, right?
Sandell Stangl: I just wanted more Brad Pitt outsmarting all those people who hated this new system.
Sandell Stangl: For me, it was just one of those movies that I liked but I don't think I ever want to see again. It was an experience that you only need to see once and seeing it again wont add anything to your enjoyment. In fact, I'm afraid if I saw this movie again, I would enjoy less since I know what will happen now.
Joshua Efron: In my opinion the best movie we've reviewed so far this year (I know that's not saying much yet, but I'll make up for it by saying it loudly). This movie is worth watching. It doesn't need to be seen in the theatre, but if you're interested enough in film to be reading this, you should watch this movie.