Saturday, September 24, 2011

You're so money, baby

I think Moneyball is going to be awesome.

This may surprise some of you. After all, I spent two posts in the past two weeks (here and here) explaining to you why I don't really like sports movies.

Then again, the second post dug into that argument a little deeper. My biggest complaint is with standard sports movies -- and Moneyball promises to be anything but. (Now that I think about it, my original statement wasn't that bold -- who likes the most standard version of anything?)

It's a movie about an unconventional sports philosophy, made unconventionally. If you only know that Moneyball is a baseball movie starring Brad Pitt, let me tell you a little bit more about it. Brad Pitt plays Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane, who tried to make the most of his team's miniscule payroll by using a revolutionary new set of metrics to assess ballplayers. He figured he could get some players on the cheap because they were considered castoffs by their current teams. What their current teams weren't considering was that these players had the ability to get on base, and getting on base is the most basic building block to scoring runs. Didn't matter if how they got there wasn't flashy, or whether they could play good defense (or were even suited to playing their defensive position). All that mattered was their ability to get on base, and this radical philosophy coalesced into a ton of wins at dime store prices.

So not only was Beane's philosophy unconventional (to say the least), but this movie is unconventional as well. The book it was based on, written by Michael Lewis (full title: Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game), was a best seller, beloved by both baseball fans and people who don't know a double from a double play. So why shouldn't that make for a hit movie?

Because a lot of it is about analyzing baseball stats, which can be dry as toast if you are not a baseball fan. And not even the "good stats," like home runs. Beane didn't really care if you could hit home runs, though that was certainly a bonus. He cared if you could walk. He cared if you could get hit by the pitch. He cared if you had more of a likelihood of reaching base on an error than the next guy. (Okay, that's totally out of the hands of the batter -- but if he felt it was reasonable to consider that, he would have.)

It's exactly these reasons that I think the movie might be really interesting. I already know what happened in this particular season of Oakland A's baseball (2002 -- you can look it up if you want), so I know there could possibly be some "typical" baseball scenes of game-winning homers and other moments of joy. However, I also know the A's didn't win the World Series that year (spoiler alert!) so I know it certainly doesn't end in prototypical sports movie fashion. (Not without a massive outcry from anyone who considers the truth to be sacrosanct, that is.)

So I'm thinking this movie is going to do a lot of cool stuff with on-screen representations of baseball stats. I know this partially because I actually saw a bit of one such scene in the trailer.

And this is the kind of sports movie I can get behind. A movie that uses the sport in ways that don't put paramount importance on the outcome of one final match. A movie that uses a baseball locker room for color and atmosphere and humor, not for a rousing speech by the team captain before the big game.

And it does look like it will be funny, right? I especially like that bit where Pitt says "I'll tell them" with a mouth full of food.

But another reason I'm looking forward to Moneyball is that I've actually read the book on which it was based. As I've committed myself more and more to watching movies in the last half-decade, I've sadly been reading fewer and fewer books. I was never a fast reader, but I used to get through at least 2-3 per year. I don't even want to tell you my current reading rate. In the book I'm reading right now, a book I'm re-reading, I devoured about 150 pages of it while I was on vacation in Mexico back in April. Since then I've read about 50 more pages over nearly half a year. (In case it isn't obvious, I greatly regret this priority shift and hope to make a course correction ... next week. Yeah, next week.)

So when a film adaptation of a book I've actually read does come out, I'm all the more excited to get my eyeballs on it. In this case I'm not going to be judging "how they got the book wrong," because it's not that kind of book. Really, I'm just familiar with the stories presented in Lewis' book and I want to see how they materialize on screen.

One last reason I think Moneyball is going to be awesome: The poster above. Can you judge a movie by its poster? I hope so, because this poster is so money, baby. And I'm not just talking about its lush green color.

The one thing about Moneyball that's unfortunate -- but then in a different way fortunate -- is that I'll have to wait until next weekend to see it. My friend Don will be out in Southern California next weekend for a convention in San Diego, and I'm going to meet him down there to spend Saturday night in my sister city to the south. (I don't think San Diego is actually considered the "sister city" of Los Angeles, but it sounded good when I wrote it.) We'll be catching Moneyball in a theater that's as-yet unfamiliar to both of us. We always put an emphasis on seeing a good movie together when he visits, and hopefully, this will be no exception. (Last year we saw 127 Hours and Four Lions in the same weekend-long visit -- talk about some of the best of 2010.)

Truth is, I couldn't see Moneyball this weekend anyway because my wife will be two hours east of here for the weekend on a work weekend. My son and I will be joining her for about 24 hours from Saturday afternoon to Sunday afternoon, but I'm on daddy duty both before then and after then until she gets home on Tuesday.

So the flip side of not being physically able to see Moneyball this weekend is that I will have the living room TV at my command tonight, Sunday night and Monday night.

Suffice it to say I will use that time to watch movies, not to become a better reader again. (Next week, I promise ...)

1 comment:

Don Handsome said...

I think this is the first time that we've known exactly what movie we're seeing together before I arrive in California. I’m hoping Moneyball has more in common with last year’s awesome 127 Hours, Four Lions visit than with the Secretary visit, or the Resident Evil visit, or the Shanghai Knights visit, or the Willard visit (wait…was there a Willard visit?)

I am very excited for Moneyball, for all the geek-ish reasons you've mentioned, but also because I do love sports movies when they are good and this one feels weighty and good at least it did in the one short trailer I saw. As soon as I knew I wanted to see it, I started avoiding all previews…I find the withdrawal enhances the delayed gratification of finally seeing a long awaited film. Your post was actually the first I've seen of the poster too – geez, that’s beautiful. Is this going to be the #1 movie of the year or what?

After we see Moneyball, we’re totally sneaking in to Dolphin Tale, right?