Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Moneyball - Bennett Miller (2011)

  1.  Moneyball is a surprisingly engaging film about using statistical analysis, or sabermetrics, to assemble a successful baseball team.
  2. But it’s ok, it was written by Aaron Sorkin who also did The Social Network, the best film about a court case about a website that you are ever likely to see, and it was directed by Bennett Miller, whose last film was Capote.
  3. You have to wonder whether Miller even likes baseball. His depiction of it is bleak – the players are exploited, the scouts are liver-spotted charlatans, the owners are shark-eyed capitalists. Pitt’s character, Billy Beane, is unable to even watch his team play, because he’s terrified he’ll jinx their game, so the game itself features hardly at all. Ok, there are a few graphs and some montages, but that’s more or less it. In fact, Miller seems to have ended up making a sort of anti-sports movie, which is probably good thing, given that the baseball is up there with cricket and kabbadi in the wilful tedium stakes.
  4. Miller took over from Steven Soderberg, who wanted to turn it into one his of his multiple storyline films, following the car journeys of 20,000 individual Oakland As fans on their way to the stadium.
  5. You suspect Brad Pitt is the man who made this film happen, since he’s been allowed to play his favourite version of Brad Pitt. In this sense the film is of a piece with The Ides of March, and The Rum Diary. A major star shooting an eccentric, otherwise virtually un-financeable script. You might see this as A-list males bankrolling their own B-movies. But even if these films aren’t as good as they’re making out, at least they’re way more interesting than studio pictures cobbled together from green paper, CGI and market research.
  6. Aaron Sorkin is a huge Freudian. His stories are all about characters processing trauma. So Zuckerberg becomes the geek who can't relate who creates the ultimate system for mapping social relationships. Lt. Kaffee (Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men, which, yes Sorkin also wrote when he was about 15) is the lawyer who can't stand up in court because he’s so intimidated by his memory of his father, the star court lawyer, and ends up having to face down the ultimate father figure: a bristling Jack Nicholson. And here Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), the baseball player who was overrated by scouts as a young man, brings down the temple of subjective baseball analysis with sabermetrics.
  7. It's a great way of writing satisfying films, but it’s sort of misleading, because it makes it look like a situation has arisen in order that the character can process their stuff. This is an illusion, brought about by the fact that Sorkin has worked backward from the event to the trauma, when in real life the trauma happens first, and there probably isn't any kind of causal relationship anyway. 
  8. Sorkin used to like to freebase cocaine. He said ‘I had found a drug I absolutely love and that gave me a real break from a certain nervous tension that I kind of carry with me moment to moment.’ In a Sorkin film Sorkin would be a writer who learns to process his dissatisfaction with real life by writing screenplays where the dialogue is always perfectly polished and everyone has a sharp comeback ready. Miller allows his actors to hesitate, talk over one another and repeat lines which gives all the smart stuff the patina of realism. It works surprisingly well, even if you can't quite believe that people who work in baseball are anything like this entertaining.
  9. You’ll notice that Beane has a load of pictures of The Clash on the wall in his office. These are from the single date the Clash played at the Oakland  in 1982, supporting the Who - you can tell because Strummer has his 80s wide Mohican going – like in the Rock the Casbah video.
  10. Aaron Sorkin could probably write a script about eastern mysticism, field theory and kabbadi and it might even be interesting, so long as they didn't let Steven Soderberg direct it.


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  2. I liked Moneyball. Did you notice that Brad Pitt is constantly eating, in the movie? He does that in Ocean's 11 too. I think it expresses his nervous tension.