Future Classic Movies: Round 2

To recap really quickly, the Future Classic Movies (FCM) Blogathon involves predicting films that will still be drawing audiences on TV, or a chip in our brains, or whatever form of communication exists, 30 or 40 years from now. All of the films were made during or after 2000; these will be as old then as the ones we watch on TCM now.

My FCM Round 2 pick is Moneyball (2011). It begins with a playoff disaster. In the 2001 post-season, the Oakland A’s squander their two-game lead over the New York Yankees, who win three games in a row. Their general manager, Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), sits in the home stadium, flicking a transistor radio on and off, almost afraid to hear what’s going on. A couple weeks later, losing his best players on the free agent market, Beane is begging the A’s owner for more money. No way, he’s told. Make do with the lowest payroll in the league. His scouts are all older guys whose info on the players is half speculation and half gossip. When Beane takes a meeting with Mark Shapiro of the Cleveland Indians, he notices that all the older guys always look to Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), a “player analyst” in the front office.

After the meeting, Beane grills Brand (in a parking garage à la “Deep Throat” in All The President’s Men). The latter admits that he has a radical, economics-and-statistics-based system for baseball: buying wins. That is, buying runs. Brand says, “Baseball thinking is medieval. They are asking all the wrong questions.” Beane is impressed. He hires Brand away from Cleveland and together they start to remake the A’s for the 2002 season. But there’s plenty of resistance, naysaying, and defiance from the scouts and the manager, Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman), who is on a 1-year contract and knows a poor season could end his career. He’s downright insulting about this new way of putting a team together. The big scary doubts of the fans on talk radio are interleaved with flashbacks from Beane’s crash-and-burn career and scenes from his current complicated personal life (ex-wife with smug husband, sweet daughter he doesn’t see enough).

Pitt and Hill were both nominated for Oscars and I was surprised by this when I finally saw the movie. The acting in this film is pretty much the definition of natural, which the Academy doesn’t always reward. I definitely agree with whoever said that unless Brad Pitt is in a movie right at the moment, everyone forgets that he is in fact a great actor. He is excellent here. Hill adds little touches — fidgeting, nervous looks — that make his Brand real (though the character is a composite). One of my favorite moments is when Brand is on his way out of Howe’s office and says, “You want this door closed?” Chris Pratt as catcher (turned first baseman) Scott Hatteberg gives an authentic performance as a guy scared out of his mind.

The film’s cinematography is beautifully done by Wally Pfister, probably better known for his work with Christopher Nolan.

I’m not the biggest baseball fan in the world (though I do like going to Comerica Park) but if you like baseball, there’s enough behind-the-scenes intrigue about how deals are done to keep you interested. (“He’s talking to Dave Dombrowski! Wow, Steve Schott!”) Moneyball is really three movies, and Bennett Miller’s command of music, sound and closeups prove that there is crying in baseball, at least for me: the rise and fall and rise of a washed-up baseball player (Beane); a behind-the-scenes history of a baseball revolution; and the eternal struggle of originality and creativity against “we’ve always done it this way.”

Because if The Artist is about dealing with change, so is Moneyball. Or more accurately, it’s about the perseverance, determination and courage to not just adapt, but to change the rules, the situation, the world. That is of course what Beane did — he may have doubts about the new system, but he never really wavers. The film is a dramatization but his concepts were adopted by the Boston Red Sox and, two years later, they broke their 86-year World Series drought. And some underfunded political campaigns have been taking a look at Bill James’ “sabermetrics”, which paved the way for Beane’s system, and applying the former to their election races. And that is some consolation to anyone trying to find their way in a constantly changing world. And that is why, in 30 years, people will still be watching Moneyball, along with these other FCMs:
Big Fish, Happy Accidents, The Namesake, The Science of Sleep, and Walk the LineThe Motion Pictures

The 40-Year-Old VirginImpassioned Cinema

Requiem for a DreamThe Warning Sign

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless MindPG Cooper’s Movie Reviews

Almost FamousJourneys in Classic Film

City of Life and Death – Mark

Pride and Prejudice and Tinker Tailor Soldier SpyReveal Something More

NorthforkLeft to my own devices

18 thoughts on “Future Classic Movies: Round 2

  1. Love Eternal Sunshine, Requiem, and Almost Famous. I whole heartily agree with their inclusion. Thanks for running a round 2, Paula.

    1. You’re very welcome and thanks Max! I’m always surprised at how many of the FCMs I haven’t seen, I’ll definitely be catching up with those 🙂

  2. Moneyball huh? Can’t say I was a big fan. Your write-up is pretty good though, makes me think twice about the film. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to participate.

    1. Thanks and you’re welcome PG! I knew Moneyball wouldn’t be a very popular choice, and that people would probably be questioning my sanity, but also liked it enough to go out on a limb with it 🙂

  3. Woo hoo, part 2! Sorry I’m not participatin’ this time Paula, but maybe for Part 3? 😀

    Well I’m not a baseball fan, even less of a Brad Pitt fan, so sorry that I’m not interested in this film. I enjoyed reading it and I’m glad you think it deserves to be a classic. I just think that all the baseball facts and stuff would be lost on me and the cast isn’t interesting enough to draw me in.

    1. I appreciate that honesty Ruth! I don’t really like baseball either, but the movie isn’t really about baseball. If you don’t like Brad Pitt though, that may be a dealbreaker as he is in nearly every scene LOL Thanks for stopping by and no worries about this time, I’ll definitely pester you for Round 3 doll 🙂

  4. Moneyball is an excellent choice! That is one of my favorite movies from last year, and what helps make it so great is that you don’t even need to be a baseball fan to enjoy it. And thanks again for inviting me to take part in this blogathon. It was good fun!

    1. Gosh thanks for saying so. I was feeling a little lonely here LOL & yep, I am living proof that you don’t need to know or care about baseball to like it 😉 We just don’t get that many big studio pictures where the story is on a small scale but has such huge implications. Thank YOU Eric for being in the blogathon, I have a really good time with it & i’m glad you did too 🙂

  5. Hi, Paula!

    Cool choice and excellent critique of a film that didn’t really have enough Time Over Target.

    1. Thank you Jack, you’re very kind. Do you mean it wasn’t really marketed well? I don’t believe it was, but you may have something else in mind 🙂

      1. Hi, Paula:

        ‘Moneyball”s ad campaign should have bought more space in prime time. The film didn’t stick around long enough for word of mouth to spread. Could and should have stayed longer in theaters. Or gone back to the limited release and Art House theaters afterwards.

        Hope this helps rather than confuses.

        1. No, that helps. I agree! It was really quietly released, I had to look it up on IMDB to find out when. I wasn’t really of its existence until Oscar time. Whoever was in charge of marketing didn’t seem to really know what to do with it. I think part of it may have been that it wasn’t easily classified. Shilling it as a baseball movie would have backfired, I think, because as we know, it’s not about baseball. So….yeah 🙂

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