Tuesday, September 20, 2011

" Moneyball " Movie A Homerun

I was able to see an advance screening of the new baseball movie “Moneyball” on Monday night and came away a ton more impressed than I expected to. Most of the baseball related movies leave a lot to be desired. Moneyball scored very well using my criteria.

My most important criteria for evaluating a movie is the believability. Since the movie is “based on” the true story of Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane, it remained to be seen how much the writers and producers “based on”.

The opening sequence sent up a red flag, with Beane shown visiting the Cleveland Indians’ office to discuss trade possibilities with key management people. It was “real” in terms of looking very much like the Indians’ offices would or do look like. Yet, I don’t know of General Managers actually visiting another team’s office for trade talks. Later in the movie, a trade discussion sequence was all done via telephone in support of that point. A few minutes in, I was expecting more bending of the truth.

However, it is important to note that this one stretching of the truth was significant to the remainder of the movie, thus giving that sequence an important purpose. And I was pleasantly surprised to report that this turns out to be the only ‘red flag’ of the entire movie.

Moneyball takes us through an entire off-season leading into and through the next full baseball season, using the actual teams, the names of the real players, coaches, managers, and other baseball personnel. The serious baseball fan will recognize that the real stadiums were used, some real video, and that excerpts from actual game broadcasts were used. You’ll hear from the likes of Bob Costas, Marty Brennaman, and even a couple of clips of the late A’s broadcaster Bill King (who was calling some of the A’s games during the season taking place for the movie). Even a conversation early on between a player agent and Beane sounded very real.

Several of the in-game scenes were telecast recreations to include the actors in the movie portraying specific players, coaches, and managers, but were convincing, especially with some actual video and audio mixed in. This all added to the believability factor.

The acting is excellent throughout. The directing is also very good, as I don’t recall thinking that any of the scenes or sequences are too long or unusually short. No problems with the lighting or print quality. At just over two hours, the length of the movie is acceptable, picking up more points from me because I don’t feel it was cut short or that it ended because it had to like a lot of other movies do. (Sorry, but anything less than 2 hours is too short for a movie.)

There is no female nudity in this movie. In this instance, it is because there is very little adult female interaction with the key players in the movie. (Thus, it is not like some movies where there should be nudity but some actress won’t do it and it makes an entire movie less believable.) Actually, the major female role is that of Beane’s young daughter, via an excellent portrayal by a child actor that I’m sure will go on to many more movie roles.

As well executed as the movie is, most of the credit should go to the writers and researchers who included so many true-to-life elements and clearly went for accuracy while unfolding this story. The player and management conversations, the player charts and statistics, the lineup cards, the clubhouse scenes, and the stadium scenes were portrayed as real as possible. If you go see the movie, you’ll notice.

Moneyball is the best baseball movie to come along in many years. Even if this was not a true story, it would still be believable. Your decision on whether or not to go see it should be based on how much (or how little) of a baseball fan you are. This is not a “The Natural” or “Field of Dreams” where the hardcore baseball fans are reminded of the fantasy and the lesser baseball fan thinks it’s fun. If you are not much of a baseball fan, it won’t mean as much to you.

If you are at the very least a casual baseball fan, Moneyball is a game winning homerun.

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