71. Moneyball

Based on a true story, Moneyball stars Brad Pitt as Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland Athletics who is left with a shrinking salary cap to form a formidable team for the 2002 Major League Baseball season.  As premiere players like Johnny Damon and Jason Giambi fly the coup after elimination by the New York Yankees in the 2001 post season, Beane is stuck with a mediocre team and shortsighted talent scouts-not to mention an unhappy manager with a soon-to-be-expired-contract in Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman).

While Beane attempts to shuffle the deck of his team, he encounters a bright young player analyst (Jonah Hill) on a trip to meet with the Cleveland Indians.  The analyst turns out to be Peter Brant, a Yale graduate in economics who is obsessed with baseball and identifying value players.  Beane is impressed with his drive and ambition and buys him from the Indians as they attempt to build a team with brand new rules, focusing on players with solid on base percentages above most other statistics.

As Howe and the scouts pan the team’s new approach, the 2002 season begins abysmally and the losses pile up.  As the middle of June rolls around, the team is 12 games back from first place in the American League West division, and Beane resolutely guarantees a comeback, which begins a historic run for the Oakland A’s and examines just how far a team can go with a tiny salary cap and talented management.

With Moneyball focusing mostly on backroom deals and the pitfalls of building a successful baseball team, the film feels refreshingly different than most other sports movies.  It is sharp and witty and funny when it needs to be, but never succumbs to any of the rehashed ideas and motifs that baseball films continually produce.  Brad Pitt is dashing, charming and defiant and it was great to see Jonah Hill step outside of his comfort zone and play a new character that doesn’t rely on sarcasm and dick and fart jokes.  With a highly entertaining few weeks of Major League Baseball going on, Moneyball is a wonderful accoutrement for the autumn and you don’t even have to be a baseball fan to enjoy the ride.

4 stars out of 5

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Categories: 100 Films

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