Toronto: Moneyball and going by the numbers
Toronto gives us a peak at Brad Pitt in Moneyball
Wed Sep 14 2011
There's been lots of snobby speculation about how brilliant Moneyball would have been had it been directed by brainiac Steven Soderbergh, originally attached but booted from the project. (Are we supposed to forget how commercial Soderbergh can be when he tries?) Ignore the what-ifs: Moneyball arrives as a rousing success, an intelligent and propulsive piece of locker-room drama. Capote's Bennett Miller wisely foregrounds the acting to deliver a true-life story about math beating the scouting odds, eliciting natural work from Brad Pitt (already having a banner year with The Tree of Life.) Pitt's adventuresome Oakland general manager, working through the baggage of his own disappointing ball career, enlists Jonah Hill's stat-crunching nerd to prioritize on-base percentages. Soon come terrifically tense showdowns with Philip Seymour Hoffman's old-school coach. Does it help to be a MLB fan? Absolutely. But I'm not one especially, just an appreciator of tough talk and a real plot (for a change).
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For a movie as romantic as Moneyball is (it's in love with winning), the film is actually about doing the math. Numbers get crunched to a less-satisfying degree in Pearl Jam Twenty, which might have just as easily settled for ten years and the first two albums. Director Cameron Crowe touchingly attempts to make the case for the group's continued significance, as they flit upon political issues, the Ticketmaster battle and a penchant for ever-changing set lists as a sign of independence. Ultimately, though, PJ is far from the key band of its moment (and where's that movie?), resulting in a doc that feels padded.
Step-by-step plans have always had a home in the thriller genre, and already I've seen two fun entries. Kill List, laced with nearly impenetrable Yorkshire accents, is about an assassin getting back into the game; the movie enlivens its schematic, episodic story with some teary domestic drama and a wacky Wicker Man ending. Even better, for all its formulaic bloodletting, was Adam Wingard's You're Next, a potentially huge home-invasion shocker in the vein of The Strangers, with tons more class commentary (spoiled richy-riches get trapped in their besieged rural mansion) and a nauseating Texas Chain Saw Massacre soundtrack. The death count rises precipitously; someone's obviously paying attention to the bottom line.