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Friday, 20 April 2012

DVD - Moneyball directed by Bennett Miller

Star rating – 8/10

As the Premier League season draws to its nail biting end (interest declared now as a 100% blue and nervous Man City fan), you may well be wondering how teams such as Newcastle United have achieved such great results this year with a team assembled on a relative shoestring. Well, look no further than the DVD of Moneyball for all the answers. And before you ask, no, you don’t have to understand baseball to appreciate it at all.
This is the true story of how the total underdogs of American baseball in 2001, the Oakland Athletics, took the league by storm, and very nearly won it too, by making use of statistics and analysis in a way never before seen in sport. This film is an adaptation of the book by the brilliant Michael Lewis, who manages to turn to the credit crunch and the near collapse of the Euro into page turning thrillers. And it doesn’t harm this film’s cause that it features Brad Pitt, who gives a simply fantastic performance as Billy Beane, the failed baseball star turned General Manager of the A’s. 

Oakland are really struggling at the bottom of the league - think Wolves with knobs on – when Billy accidently stumbles across an analyst with an freshly earned economics degree from Yale, who holds the key to unlock the winning formula.  Jonah Hill is fabulous as the unassuming Pete, who is able to analyse players records in a totally unique way, so that a team like Oakland with scant resources, are able to assemble a team of players that no-one else wants to buy, and turn them into winners. This goes against everything that is the accepted norm in the sport – when players are bought according to ridiculous criteria such as their girlfriends’ looks - ‘Ugly girlfriend? = no confidence – not bought’.

Beane is a complex, bittersweet character, who is battling not only the club hierarchy, but his own demons. But his partnership with Pete in finding value in players that are universally rejected using complex mathematical formulas is a great story. Pitt plays it brilliantly, and the story is all the more fantastical for being true. And, although as a Man City fan I really shouldn’t admit this, there is a great morality tale in finding value in the rejected, and in allowing money not to triumph in the end. Stirring stuff of dreams. Now, what about those weekend fixtures...

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