Plot: What’s it about?
For the first fifteen years of my life I wanted to be a baseball player. I suspect that most kids did at one point in time. Ironically enough, as I got older, I did play sports but they weren’t team-oriented. I swam, played tennis and golf. Still, baseball is, has been and I venture to guess that it always will be the American past time. And, above everything else, baseball is a game of statistics and numbers. For every player that’s played the game, they’ve got a set of stats on them that can tell you where the pitcher threw the ball, if he swung and missed and if there was a hit. Numbers are everything. Nowhere is this more relevant than in Michael Lewis’ novel “Moneyball.”
After losing the 2001 Divisional Playoff to the New York Yankees, the Oakland A’s lost three of their marquee players: Johnny Damon, Jason Giambi and Jason Isringhausen to larger market teams. Sensing that these players would be next to impossible to replace on the A’s budget (a meager $40 million) General Manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) had to resort to some rather avant garde options. After a failed recruiting trip with the Cleveland Indians, Beane recruits Yale economic prodigy Peter Brand (Jonah Hill). The two come up with a system based on On Base Percentage. For those unfamiliar with baseball, the more your players are on base, the greater chance of them scoring and thus the better odds that your team will win. This leaves a bad taste in the mouths of the traditional scouts who rely on instinct and the attractiveness of the players’ girlfriends. Out of the gate, Beane’s system doesn’t seem to work and with the lack of cooperation by team manager Art Howe (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) the prognosis doesn’t look good. But after a bit of re-tooling, the A’s start to win some games and eventually put together something that’s not been done in the history of baseball – a twenty game winning streak. This does, of course, beg the question…does this do any good if you can’t win the entire season?
I loved “Moneyball” though I’m a bit bias and pretty much love every baseball movie. Like most other sports movies out there, it doesn’t contain a lot of actual “play” but that’s not really the point. Brad Pitt, while not bearing any sort of striking resemblance to Billy Beane, does a phenomenal job with the role. His understated performance might garner him another Oscar nomination and given the critical and commercial success of the film, anything’s possible. Jonah Hill does a great job here as well and perhaps he’s trying to shed the comic roles that made him a star. The real focus here is the sport of baseball and the different approach that revolutionized the sport. It’s amazing that no one ever thought to look at the game from this perspective. As has been so often said, you don’t have to like baseball to be a fan of “Moneyball.”
Video: How does it look?
Is it me or do more films seem to utilize the more narrow 1.78:1 aspect ratio? Hmmm. Well as you might have guessed the 1.78:1 AVC HD image for “Moneyball” looks good. Visuals are crystal clear with only some arbitrary shots having some grain associated with them. Detail is very impressive, so much so that we can actually see some, GASP, wrinkles in Brad Pitt’s face! Say it ain’t so! Is Pitt showing some signs of aging? It happens to us all, I suppose. There are some archived footage shots from 2001 and 2002 that look intentionally grainy but by and large this is consistent with what we’d expect from a day and date Blu-ray release.
Audio: How does it sound?
The DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack has a few moments in which it shines, though the movie is essentially dialogue driven. There’s a scene that stuck out when baseball player David Justice is hitting balls in a batting cage and each “thwack” sounds pretty impressive. There are a few isolated sounds that make use of the surrounds but the front stage shoulders the burden of what this track has to offer.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This two disc version of “Moneyball” offers enough supplements that the casual viewer will perhaps want to pick it up but hard core fans might hold out for a more robust edition. Still, we do get a blooper where Brad Pitt “loses it” as well as a few featurettes. The real Billy Beane is interviewed (he’s still General Manger of the A’s) and he gives us a rundown of what we saw on screen. “Drafting the Team” and “Moneyball: Playing the Game” are likewise very informative though I did enjoy “Adapting ‘Moneyball'” with writer Aaron Sorkin. For those that view their films on a PS3, there’s also a theme included with this release.