Dir. Bennett Miller. U.S.A. 2011.

If you sign up to LOVEFiLM using the 30 day free trial then you watch tv online and stream movies through either your computer, Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and even your iPad.

Talking Pictures alias







About Us


The first baseball game I ever saw was in Yankee Stadium when I was ten years old. At that time, the Yankees had players now considered baseball immortals: Phil Rizzuto, Joe Dimaggio, Tommy Henrich, Charlie Keller, and others. The Yankees closer was Joe Page who, when summoned into a game, always climbed over the bullpen gate like a little boy, awestruck with wonder. All were products of the traditional scouting system, operating without the benefit of knowing a player's slugging percentage, on-base percentage, or a pitcher's WAR (wins above replacement). Scouts had to recommend players based on past performance, personal observation, and something intangible - their best sense of who would and who would not make it in the major leagues.

Those days are past, however, and today every team uses a computerized analysis of a player's value called “sabermetrics,” which is supposed to provide information such as how often a player will get on base. This new approach is dramatized in Bennett Miller's Moneyball, an entertaining and often moving film that may be an early contender for an Oscar Best Picture nomination. Adapted by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin from the book “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game” by Michael Lewis, the film stars the charismatic Brad Pitt as Billy Beane, a former player who became the General Manager of the Oakland Athletics  in 1998, and who changed the game forever.  

Using authentic recreations as well as archival footage, Moneyball opens in 2002, one year after the Oakland Athletics were eliminated from the playoffs by the New York Yankees. As GM, Beane has the daunting task of replacing three of his key players, including Johnny Damon and Jason Giambi, who signed with Boston and New York. In flashbacks, we learn that the young Billy Beane (Reed Thompson) was heralded by scouts as a “five-tool” player who signed him out of high school in 1979, convincing him to give up a full scholarship to Stanford to play for the New York Mets. The scouts guessed wrong on this one and, after a brief and unsuccessful career as a player, he turned to scouting and then management.

Perhaps bitter about his history with scouts, he now chides his scouting staff for their efforts to find bargain replacements for his departed stars, and makes a plea to ownership for more money. Things take a sharp turn, however, when Beane has a chance meeting with Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), an Economics graduate from Yale University, who is working for the Cleveland Indians. Brand is a disciple of Bill James, the man who developed sabermetrics and who had come to believe that a player's ability to get on base (on-base percentage) through a combination of hits and walks was more important to the team than just his batting average.  

After Brand tells Beane that there's “an epidemic failure to understand what is really happening” in the game, Beane snatches him away from the Indians and appoints him as his personal assistant. Together, they use statistical analysis to seek out players whose value to other teams may have diminished, and who are now available at a lower price. Beane immediately receives strong opposition from his manager, Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a veteran who is also upset about his one-year contract, and some flack from his chief scout Grady Fuson (Ken Medlock), who feels threatened by the new approach and considers it detrimental to baseball. 

Beane is depicted in the film as being volatile and aloof, unwilling to travel with the team for fear of becoming too close to the players. In spite of his cold exterior, however, the scenes with his ex-wife (Robin Wright), and his musically-talented teenage daughter (Kerris Dorsey) show him to be a warm and caring person. The game of baseball is his passion and, even when his team goes on a record breaking winning streak in 2002, he maintains that nothing matters to him except winning the final game and that his real goal is to change the way teams are constructed.  

Supported by outstanding performances, especially those of Pitt and Hill, Moneyball stays away from sports clichés and always seems fresh and alive. Today, nine years after 2002, the year in which the film is set, sabermetrics has become an accepted part of the game. Unfortunately, however, in the same way that the quality of a film has become less important to the studios than its appeal to target audiences, baseball teams may have become too reliant on statistical analysis. While it can never completely reinvent the game, it extends its reach today, not only in the recruitment of players, but also in day-to-day decision-making where “playing the percentages” often trumps common sense.  

Though statistics are useful as a tool, baseball will never be a science. It is a game of measureless intangibles, of emotion and desire, of late inning heroics and dramatic comebacks. Unscripted and unpredictable, it is a game of grace and skill, “a ballet without music, a drama without words.” To a ten-year-old, “the stuff as dreams are made on.” The poet Wordsworth asked, “Where is it now, the glory and the dream?” It is still there and will always be, but, perhaps like contemporary society, the scientist and the artist are struggling for its soul.


Howard Schumann

Search this site or the web        powered by FreeFind
Site searchWeb search
   Home | News | Features
    Book Reviews | About Us