Video Review: Moneyball

I haven’t watched a movie on DVR/video in several months. One of the issues is that it becomes too easy to treat it like well, a video, stopping and starting at will, something substantially different than going to the movie theater and watching a film from being to end, without interruption.

Two things, though, converged to make the preferred viewing methodology possible last Sunday. A friend of mine who had Netflix received the Moneyball DVD in the mail, but would not be able to watch it over the weekend because she’d be out of town. Then my wife and daughter went to a play (at Steamer No. 10, for you locals), allowing me the opportunity to watch Moneyball as though I were at the movies. Well, not quite, with my 20″ TV screen, but otherwise, more or less the same. And I REALLY wanted to see this, having just missed it in the cinema.

Moneyball is the story of the Oakland A’s baseball team that competed in the American League with teams such as the New York Yankees, who had about thrice the payroll as the A’s.

Inevitably, not only did the poorer teams lose in the playoffs, if they got there at all, but their free agents tended to flee to the richer teams for the big contracts. Such was the case in 2001, when, after the A’s lost to the Yankees in the playoff, Jason Giambi signed with the Yankees and Johnny Damon with the Boston Red Sox.

A’s General Manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), once a big-league prospect who washed out, had difficulty trying to engineer a particular trade with another team. Beane identified the guy who essentially put the kibosh on the deal as Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), who uses statistical information called sabermetrics to evaluate and select players for teams, a concept Beane embraces; the scouts and manager Art Howe (a scarily accurate Philip Seymour Hoffman), not so much. So the season became a struggle between concept and execution.

I liked this movie. It wasn’t jammed packed with excitement, except baseball excitement, but told a compelling story. It may be true that you don’t need to know the game to appreciate the narrative, but I know my knowledge of the game most definitely enhanced my enjoyment. Perhaps it was the aspect of rejecting the “conventional wisdom” and taking a chance on a belief system was that non-baseball fans related to, and I can definitely see that.

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