Sunday, March 4, 2012

How can you not be romantic about baseball?

Sports movies are great because they boil all the trials and tribulations of life down to a single game or season. We follow a team or a player that overcomes some incredible odds to triumph in the end. I think the most iconic sports movies have to be the ones about baseball.  No sport has moments like baseball.
Additionally, the baseball season is the ultimate metaphor for life. Both are long, grueling grinds. Both reward patience and practice. Both can make you scream in utter jubilation. And yes, fellow Red Sox fans, both can absolutely devastate you in mere seconds.

It's gotta feel pretty good when you find out Brad Pitt is playing you.
Last year's Moneyball exemplifies this metaphor even further. This Best Picture nominated film details the life and philosophy of Oakland A's GM, Billy Beane. For the uninitiated, Beane tries to reinvent the way baseball teams are constructed by using Bill James' system of sabermetrics. Now, it's about more than that, but that's the core. And as much as I loved just about every minute of it, I was absolutely floored that my wife felt the same way. Sure, Brad Pitt probably gets 99% of the credit there, but the story is told so well I think even ardent baseball haters will be on board. It's just that good.

Now, being the dick that I am, I found myself wanting to dislike this movie. I have no idea why, but when it first got going, I was telling myself, Best Picture, really? Best Actor? Nope. and especially, Best Supporting Actor, are you f--king kidding me? I was expecting the greatness to come flying off the screen but it wasn't happening. Then my son woke up and we had to shut it down with about 25 minutes to go. So I got to think about it for two days. And when I came back to it? It had an absolutely fantastic ending. It ends how all movies should end, with the Red Sox winning the World Series. Okay, the Sox bit is a joke (sort of), but I really did love the ending. Did she actually write that song? You know what? Don't answer that.

Before I get to my next review, let's walk-off with some Yays and Boos, Scott Hatteberg-style.

  • Brad Pitt is becoming Robert Redford. Not in a career-trajectory way, but like, actually.
  • Loved when he traded Pena. Great bit...
  • ...but the Rincón trade scene? Absolute magic.
  • Fenway Park. Best ballpark in the majors. Nothing else is close.
  • Okay, I'll admit it. Jonah Hill is excellent. Yeah, I kinda think he's an obnoxious prick. But an excellent quiet performance here.
Whose nephew are you?
  • Damn you, prior knowledge! Not too many actual surprises in the baseball action.
  • Player likenesses. Um, I look more like David Justice than that dude.
  • John Henry. With all due respect, Movie Version is a pretty masculine dude. Reality...well, not so much.
  • Jeremy Giambi. Wow. You are actually worse than I thought you were. Impossible.
  • Eric Byrnes. Hate that guy, too. Get a haircut, hippie.
After seeing this, I'm now ready for the 2012 season. There's no way it can be worse than 2011, right? Wait. Don't answer that, either.


  1. It's interesting that this movie seemed to require just the right amount of baseball knowledge to be interesting. Too much and you know all the results like you do, too little and you kind of lose interest like I did. I can definitely see the Brad Pitt nomination, but the Jonah Hill one just felt like coattails to me.

  2. Great comment! You nailed it. I completely agree with your assessment of baseball knowledge vs. enjoyment of the film, but I think it's told well enough that it's (almost) universal. Good call.

    Mulling it over, I think I'm with you on Hill. You look at some other Best Supporting Actors, and Hill just doesn't do enough to warrant the nomination. I guess I just liked what little screentime he had. Wonder what movies he'll do (or not do) as a result...