Moneyball hits a home run
I want to start this by stating one clear fact:
Most movies based on true sports stories are generally awful.
There, I said it. For some reason, Hollywood puts its spin on things and make the movies less than factual. As a sportswriter, it really irks me. It makes me feel like I know too much for my own good or that the movie-makers are just plain idiotic.
For example, in “Cinderella Man,” a topic I happen to know a little about, Ron Howard , yes the Oscar-winning Opie Cunningham that we all grew to love, made James J. Braddock’s son 9 years old for some reason and had a scene where the kid stole a salami and Braddock made the kid return the salami to the store owner from where he stole it. Only problem was that when Braddock shocked the world and beat Max Baer for the heavyweight championship of the world, Braddock’s three children were 4, 2 and an infant. No 4-year-old, not even Baby Face Finster, is stealing a salami.
They also had Mae Braddock traveling from North Bergen, N.J. to Long Island City, N.Y. to give her husband encouragement before the fight. Well, how did she get there? Motor car? Subway? Taxi? She wasn’t there the night of the fight, especially with three toddlers at home. In fact, she hated to watch her husband get beat up and hardly ever saw him fight in person. Especially after Baer bragged in the pre-fight hype that he was going to send the “Cinderella Man” home in a body bag. She was truly worried about the well being of her husband and was not present for the big fight. Besides, she had no way of getting there.
There are other examples. In the recent “Secretariat” movie, it made it look as if Peggy Chenery put everything she owned into the horse and if the horse failed, the family would lose the farm. No such thing. The year before Secretariat won the Triple Crown, the Chenery family owned Riva Ridge, who merely won both the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes. How could they overlook that major point?
There are others, like two hideously poor Babe Ruth movies, the first one with William Bendix and the second one with John Goodman. Neither looked like a baseball player at all, never mind the greatest player to ever live.
There are other awful biopics that are too painful to list. A litany of disappointment, one after another.
So when I saw the advertisements for “Moneyball”, I have to say that I was very skeptical. And the commercials were so diverse. Some showed the movie as a comedy and others portrayed it as a heart-warming drama. And then there was Brad Pitt, who never impressed me at all with his acting skills. He was a pretty boy, but certainly no DeNiro, Pacino or even Leonardo DiCaprio.
Needless to say, I had absolutely no hope or expectations for the movie. But as a sportswriter and a baseball fan in the truest sense, I felt obligated to go see it.
And all I can say is “WOW!” I was blown away. I was captivated by Brad Pitt’s portrayal of Billy Beane, who I’ve had the chance to interview a few times and he’s even more eccentric and out there than Pitt played him to be. I came away with a better appreciation of Pitt as an actor. He was brilliant.
As for the movie, I was amazed at the precise, almost fanatical sticking to the details that director Bennett Miller worked into the movie. I mean, he had to teach some actor how to pitch with the bizarre, submarine style of Chad Bradford, to the point where I sat around to watch the credits to see if the players actually portrayed themselves.
In most sports movies, the opponents are complete afterthoughts with the names on the backs of their jerseys not synching with the real names. Not the case here. Miller even had an actor playing Twins reliever Eddie Guardado who pitched exactly like Guardado.
It was so totally uncanny for a sports movie and so true to life.
I’m not going to give away anything else, other than go see “Moneyball.”
It already climbs into my list of the best sports movies of all-time. Pitt is definitely worthy of an Oscar nomination in a role that he obviously thought he was fit to play, considering he admittedly said he knows nothing about baseball, yet served as the movie’s executive producer, sinking his own cash into the project.
It’s definitely a ”must-see” and it’s the best movie I’ve seen since “The King’s Speech,” which swept last year’s Oscars. Take my advice. Go see it as soon as you can. You will not be disappointed.
You can read more of my work at http://www.hudsonreporter.com, http://www.theobserver.com and http://www.dailyrecord.com. The Observer this week has articles about the Kearny-Harrison soccer matches at Red Bull Arena. I also did an interesting piece for the Daily Record about Madison football players who double in the marching band. Check them out.