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Vol. LXV, No. 39
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
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For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

YOUR COCK-A-MAMIE PROGRAM IS WORKING!: Billy Beane, (Brad Pitt, left), confers with Peter Brand, (Jonah Hill), the young ivy league educated economist Beane hired to help analyze the potential performance of baseball players. The computer program, called Sabermetrics relies upon statistics that are ignored by the common wisdom used by baseball experts to evaluate players.

Brad Pitt Delivers Quality Performance in Baseball Biopic

Kam Williams

Even though this delightful biopic has arrived in theaters before the beginning of the Oscar season, Brad Pitt will be a serious contender for an academy award. He is sensational as Billy Beane in this uplifting, David vs. Goliath saga revolving around the amazing performance of the Oakland Athletics during the 2002 season.

The A’s general manager (GM) revolutionized baseball that year by fielding a team of underdogs who managed to beat the odds by reaching the playoffs. Billy knew their feat was no fluke since there was a mathematical method to his madness.

Based on Michael Lewis’s bestseller of the same name, Moneyball describes how — unlike the other major league franchises — Beane put together the team’s roster by relying solely on statistics instead of listening to the team’s scouts. Truth be told, the beleaguered GM had adopted the unorthodox approach because three of his best players, Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon, and Jason Isringhausen had become free agents.

As a team playing in a small market area, and therefore with a modest budget, the A’s simply couldn’t afford to match the mega-salaries being offered by perennial World Series contenders like the Yankees, Dodgers, and the Red Sox. So, on the advice of his young assistant, Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) — an ivy league educated economist he’d hired away from the Cleveland Indians — Beane relied upon a state-of-the-art system of computer analysis known as Sabermetrics.

The analysis method ignores conventional baseball wisdom such as scouting reports, batting averages, and RBIs in favor of less used indicators like slugging and on-base percentages, which apparently have a higher correlation to wins and losses. Beane relied upon the computer’s rating of players and hired castoff players that other clubs were happy to get rid of.

However, he had a hard time selling the strategy to his hard-boiled manager, Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman), who initially refused to cooperate with what he considered a ridiculous innovation. Although, he ended up embracing the assortment of castoffs he was given, and led the team to victory.

Directed by Bennett Miller, Moneyball was adapted by academy award winner Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network), a gifted storyteller with a knack for inspired dialogue and compelling character development. He deserves accolades for the way in which he humanizes his protagonist by having Billy exhibit a sincere regret over his failed marriage and the toll the divorce takes on his 12-year-old daughter Casey (Kerris Dorsey).

As a result, the audience comes to care as much about the resolution of the strained father-daughter relationship as as it does about the outcome of Oakland’s historic baseball season. How long can the A’s computer-assisted miracle season last? Will Billy and Casey ever reconcile?

Excellent (****). Rated PG-13 for profanity. Running time: 133 minutes. Distributor: Columbia Pictures.

For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

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