|Original concept art for Hugo.|
5. Moneyball (PG-13) - 133 minutes
Starring: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill
Director: Bennett Miller
This was number 31 on my most anticipated list mainly because I enjoy Aaron Sorkin's writing. He's one of the few screenwriters in Hollywood that's consistently good. It didn't hurt that Brad Pitt was in the lead role either. But a film about baseball scouting and a team that doesn't win the World Series? That was a tough sell for sure, but the movie does a fantastic job of creating a great narrative arch for Brad Pitt's Billy Beane.
It a great redemptive tale about a man who's been shafted by the system. You see this play out throughout the movie as it provides flashbacks to Beane's past and the promise that he was going to be one of the greatest. The movie is great at pointing out the flaws in the system of baseball and how one idea can change the game forever. It's actually pretty awesome that it's a sports movie, but doesn't actually focus on the game itself. It's all about the players and the inner-workings of baseball management. Sorkin is great at depicting life behind-the-scenes - he's done that with Sports Night, The West Wing and The Social Network. And this is what makes this movie so engaging - it's a world rarely seen.
I'm not a huge baseball fan, so I didn't know the actual story of the Oakland A's. I was pretty sure they didn't win a World Series, but I was nevertheless rooting alongside them to have a dream season. The film does a good job of pacing and it never felt slow despite its subject. As for the performances, I thought Pitt and Hill deserved their nominations - they're really quite good together. The movie thrusts them together and their chemistry works. Jonah Hill plays it great as the awkward new kid in the ballclub. There are some really funny moments and the scene where Beane is working other team managers to get a player he wants is so whip fast and entertaining, you will have to watch it at least twice to really absorb all that's going on.
The film doesn't dumb itself down to make it easier to understand. There's lots of baseball jargon thrown around and it all has an air of authenticity to it. It's a movie that has a magical feel to it, unlike the other two movies I mentioned earlier. I've successfully avoided any baseball puns, but to hell with it, this movie hit it out of the park! That feels better, I just had to get that out.