I’ve been wanting to see Moneyball since it was in the theater. Of course I rarely see films in the theater anymore, as I’m not always prepared to sell off internal organs to pay to see one. So Moneyball tells the story of Billy Beane and how he and a rather unattractive overweight fellow changed how baseball is managed and played. I liked this movie about as much as I figured I would, which is to stay I liked it quite a bit. There is some unflashy but excellent acting, the directing is confident and it also seems to be a well-edited movie as well. I really enjoyed it. It was also nominated for 6 academy awards.
Should it have been nominated for Best Picture? Nope. And you know, the criteria for the most important category on Oscar night seems to be slipping. The Oscars have expanded how many films can be nominated, ostensibly to accommodate other high quality films, but all it seems to be doing is allowing films who normally wouldn’t be good enough to win a chance for more spotlight. My criteria for a movie being nominated for Best Picture: it’s good enough to someday be considered a film classic, standing the test of time so it will still hold up 30 or 40 years down the road. Will anyone care about Moneyball by this time next year? I doubt it. Now I understand you can only nominate the best films that come out, and not every year will a film be released that is destined to be a classic, but while I enjoyed this film c’mon, it’s not going to be a classic.
Best Actor? Nope. Brad Pitt does a good job, but you never actually forget you are watching Brad Pitt and only see Billy Beane. For some actors, like Jack Nicholson, this isn’t always a bad thing. However, even though you never forget you’re watching Jack he does eventually overpower you by the character he’s playing, whether he’s a killer in the Shining, a complete lunatic in Batman, a hard-as-nails colonel in A Few Good Men or a monumental ass that we come to love anyway in As Good As It Gets. Typically the goal is for the audience to see the character more than that actor. In Moneyball you just see Brad Pitt doing a baseball movie. If you want to see someone truly inhabit a character, watch Philip Seymour Hoffman play the A’s manager. He’s barely in 20 minutes of the movie yet he is so incredibly authentic you’d think he was born to play a baseball coach; when you watch him, you can see everything he’s thinking when he’s not saying a word, and you see it through the lens of his character. That is great acting in my book.
Best Supporting Actor? Jonah Hill does do a great job, but frankly I would’ve nominated Philip Seymour Hoffman if he would’ve been in more of the movie. As for the plot, when you watch the film you’re interested in what Beane is doing, as well as how he deals with the unrelenting resistance he gets from pretty much everyone in baseball. The recurring theme is “you’re destroying the game of baseball…it’s about people, not just stats…you won’t be successful.” An unintended effect was I found myself generally agreeing with these sentiments. I’m struggling with how I want to say this: I did find myself shocked to find the management side of a team deciding who they want to sign based on how a guy looks in front of the camera, instead of how he plays. That does seem inherently wrong, it should be based on playing ability, and I did my part as the audience in wanting to see change there. However I also found Beane’s new approach somewhat off-putting as well. I won’t go into his new approach in depth, but I found myself thinking that this is taking the heart out of baseball to a degree. I dunno.
Overall it’s a good movie and well-worth watching, with good performances and a very engaging plot, which in this case is a true story. Is it a great film though? I don’t think so. I use a five-star system to rate movies; in this case I give Moneyball 3.5 of 5 stars, or a 7/10.