Faith Review – Moneyball (2011)

Moneyball

 

Film Title: Money Ball

Reviewed By Inger Manchester

 

Year: 2011  Directed By Bennett Miller

Original release form/venue:  In theatres, national release.

Current Availability and formats: DVD rental and purchase

Genre:  Historical Drama

Story Elements:

Characters:

Billie Bean – General manager of  Oakland A’s “doesn’t watch the games.”

Recruiters/ Scouts for Oakland A’s – egos, expertise, the old way

Peter Brand – special assistant; player analysis. Yale, economics and baseball. Assist GM.         Watches games in front of the computer; numbers rule decisions.

Art Howell – Team Manager One year contract.  Antagonist- Not following instructions. Not playing the team the way Billie and Peter designed it to be played.  Dismissive attitude towards Billie Beane.

Grady – antagonist –Head  Scout .29 years of experience.  “Experience and intuition. This is how we did it for 120 years”

Bill James – writer of book statistically analyzing recruits. Hired by Boston Red Sox to end curse of the Bambino.

                          

Pacing:  Intentionally slow to make the point that making a big change like this does not happen overnight and is very difficult.  Conversations are often uncomfortable, angry and awkward. When it starts to work the movie pace speeds up. Movement is fast as the player trades are flying. The implication is that you need to move fast and smart.

Acting      Brad Pitt as Billie Bean  Oscar nominated Best Actor

                     Jonah Hill as Peter Brand Oscar Nominated Best supporting Male

                     Phillip Seymore Hoffman as Art Howe

This movie leans very heavily on the actors strong skills to portray the emotions and undercurrents of stress, doubt and fear that run through the film.

                

Special Effects:

The director focuses on boring difficult to understand computer printouts of numbers and black and white pictures and statistics to show how  unromantic this new way is compared to the old way of being on the field and analyzing the actual players. Numbers replace names.

Flashbacks to Billie Beans Childhood.      The director intentionally uses many flashbacks to the mistakes that Billie had made as a young recruit following the romantic dream of baseball.

Voice overs of the media nay sayers  as team is practicing, as Billie and Peter working together.    The director is implying that this is the situation that they were working under- heckling, doubters, and no trust in them at all.

Plot:  The Oakland A’s are losing and consistently being farmed for its better players.  With a limited budget Billie Beane sets out to create winning team.  With the gifts and talent of Peter Brand, the brain behind the solution, Billie is willing to take the chance to do things differently from the traditional methods.  In the meanwhile Billie and Peter face resistance, anger and are thwarted within his own team inside in his attempts to make things work. As Art Lowe says, “The fact is this not a game about statistics but about people,” Beane says, “We are going to shake things up”. Beane constantly is thinking what is the question we should be asking in order to solve the problem. He is willing to look at the situation from  all angles not just the traditional tried and true way. This causes huge difficulties but in the end the A’s win a record 20 games. A new way of recruiting for baseball is born.

Setting:  Late 80s – 90s early 2000. The costumes, furniture, and technology all serve to remind us that this is history and that it took place in this time range. Most of the setting takes place in the stadium in the very un glamorous offices under the glamorous baseball field. This is the side to baseball that we do not normally see- the underbody where the work is done.

 Lighting: Color is faded  when showing some scenes to put one in the mode of 80s/90s television. The   scenes brighten up when doing specific scenes.   The main characters are shown in shadow when they are in thought, which is often because the main action in the film is actual intellectual- the statistical analysis versus the emotional decision.

Sound-  Background sounds are used to deglamorize the business of baseball. Often you can hear the hum of traffic in the background. The mundane is pressing in on the situation. Sound is also used to emphasize the tone of the situation. For example a consistent drumroll during the showing of statistics or the squeaking of chairs in the conference room to show the uncomfortable situation. .

In the final scene Billie Beanes’  daughter is singing to her father on CD-“ You’re such a loser dad- just enjoy the Show”. Billy Beane turns down the 12.5 M to be general manager to stay with the Oakland A’s and “is still trying to win that last game”.

 

Intended Audience:  This movie is best understood by ages 13 and up due to the intellectual challenges highlighted by the film. Children would find this movie boring. Adults will find themselves intrigued by the emotions and obstacles that Billy faces and will most likely find parallels within their own lives.

 

Theological Themes for Conversation:

~ What happens when people are operating in scarcity mode? (Paying for cokes, do things like always done them, fear of change, anger and stress)

~ Insiders vs. outsiders (established traditionalists vs. upstart proponents of a new way of doing things.)

~ The democratization of information causing a flattening of hierarchies. Can statistics level the playing field so to speak, once everyone learns how to use them? Will this destroy the beauty of the game when it is less important to have the star players and more important to be balanced empirically?

~ The ruthless drive for efficiency that capitalism demands. Players are moved up and down like pawns.

Suggested types of Conversation:

The Presbytery is going through much change right now. Many are acting in scarcity mode and will find many similarities to the Oakland A’s of the 90’s. It would be an interesting conversation to view the scene in the conference room where the old school scouts are trying at advise Billie on the picks but Billie is trying to show them a new way with Peter. What do you think Billie is doing right? What could he do better?

The New Testament Christians also had to face fear of change. What similarities do you find in the very human reactions of anger, holding on to tradition and fear?

The use of statistics opens up a whole new way of recruiting that may not focus on the star athletes but instead build up a team statistically. Therefore the richest team may not field the winning team. This was a big change. Can you find some similarity to the popularization of the bible?  When the masses were able to read and interpret scripture themselves how did that change the institution of church?

Billie decides not to go to the Red Sox as general manager with a record breaking salary offer of 12.5 million dollars. Why? Do you think this was a mistake? The Red Sox won the World Series two years later. Using the clip of Peter when he is showing Billie Jeremy’s embarrassing mistake of not realizing the home run what can you infer about Billies actions? What about his daughters song?

 

Concluding remarks:  This current movie is a wonderful way of opening conversation about the difficulty of change and our marriage to tradition. Using baseball, a beloved national pastime, as a foil for a larger conversation about our beloved church may open many people’s minds to be more accepting or at least to the idea that we are always reforming. What reforms are happening? How are people reacting?

 

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Contributors

Rev. Tom LaBonte, Rev. Mason Todd, Rev. John Elam, Elizabeth Sigmon, Star Crawford, Rev. Jeff Smith, Rev. Noe Juarez, Erin Mills, Katie Todd, Kelly Hames, Russ Pearson, Kathy Sharp, Lisa Lewis-Jenkins, Newton Cowan, Andy Blackwelder, Kim Lee, Inger Manchester, Dr. Pamela Mitchell-Legg, Jonathan Davis, Holly Frisk, Rev. Bob Tuttle, Donna Fair, Jana Creighton, Marty Simmons, Frank Cunningham, Tommy Holderness, Katherine Lamb, Megan Argabrite, Ken Fuquay, Mark Moss, Mary Anne Welch