Does Moneyball get on base?
Going in to Moneyball (*** 1/2), I was scratching my head trying to figure out how they were going to make a crowd-pleasing Hollywood movie out of a story that doesn’t have a happy Hollywood ending. It turns out they did it with a little narrative jujitsu that focuses the story on a whole other element that ultimately pays off in the end… sort of. As real life baseball GM Billy Beane, Brad Pitt says: “If you don’t win the last game of the season, nothing else matters.” He learns by the end of the film, however, that sometimes people are too dumb to realize they’ve succeeded when they thought all along that they failed. It’s all about finding value in unexpected places. That’s what the film is trying to put across anyway, but I’m not sure they’ve completely succeeded.
Having said that, audiences surveyed who saw the film opening weekend are giving the film an “A” CinemaScore. Are they responding to the story or are they just charmed by the likable, laid back star performance by Brad Pitt and his chemistry with his opposite Jonah Hill (who is wonderful)? I don’t know. It probably doesn’t matter. People like it.
Me? I liked all the little individual character moments the best and almost none of the actual baseball stuff. I’d also have rather seen them tell a fictional tale cut from whole cloth rather than something ostensibly based on reality. The reality was just a distraction, especially how it was necessarily simplified. Sure, narratively it works like gangbusters to have the entire Oakland A’s season hinge upon whether Scott Hatteberg plays first base or not, but sorry, it just didn’t. As much of the credit for that season goes to characters who were never mentioned in the film because they don’t fit the message.
I don’t know, I’m kind of talking in circles here. I’m trying to reconcile the more enthusiastic response of people I know to my own more tepid reaction.
On DVD this week, I rewatched The Maltese Falcon and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou in order to fulfill my role as guest on the latest episode of The Projection Room podcast. Falcon is one of those comfort food movies for me. I can put it in and watch it any old time and be perfectly happy. It’s always familiar yet always seems to reveal a new nuance each time I see it. Still, it always boils down to the chemistry for me between Bogart, Greenstreet and Lorre. I chose Life Aquatic to fill the Movie Gems segment of the podcast, not because I think it is Wes Anderson’s greatest, but simply because I believe it’s underrated and deserves a second appraisal. As I said in the podcast, it’s true that Anderson haters will find the movie to be fingernails on a chalkboard, but it works surprisingly well for me. It drags a bit 1/3 to 1/2 of the way through, but at a certain point it just clicks and it all comes together. It’s not my favorite, but it’s much better than it gets credit for from people who believe Anderson peaked with Rushmore.
Also on DVD, I rewatched Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs. Partly because of the remake, partly for the upcoming episode of the 3-Way Moviegasm Podcast and partly because I’d like to do a Page to Screen treatment of it, the novel and the remake sometime down the line. I’m not sure if or how that’s going to work though since it’s already ballooning in my mind to a wider look at Peckinpah, particularly the controversy surrounding the violence in some of his best known films. I’m going to have to revisit some of his other films and fill in some of the ones I’ve never seen (like Cross of Iron) but I’m going in with the theory that his blood lust is overemphasized because of the violence in a couple of his best known pictures (Straw Dogs and The Wild Bunch) while conveniently overlooking gentler pictures like Junior Bonner and The Ballad of Cable Hogue.
That’s all from me for now this week. Now it’s your turn. See anything worth talking about since last weekend?
Filed under: The Watercooler