Watch the whole thing HERE!
Posts Tagged ‘Moneyball’
“I think I can comfortably say we were all very happy when the movie was over,” says Channing Tatum of making the crime drama Foxcatcher.
Based on a true story, the movie begins with former Olympian Mark Schultz, played by Tatum, training to regain the glory of his past achievements. When he accepts multi-millionaire John du Pont’s (Steve Carell) offer of sponsorship he begins a journey that will end in world championship glory and murder.
Director Bennett Miller wanted Foxcatcher to be the follow-up to his Oscar winning biopic Capote. When he first approached Tatum to play Schultz the muscle bound actor was best known as the eye candy in teen comedies like She’s the Man and dance movies like Step Up.
“I think the first time I read the script I just didn’t understand why you’d want to make the film,” he says. “There’s no resolve to any of this. No lesson learned. It’s way more complicated than that. It’s actually more close to life. It is a portrait of something that happened. I don’t think I was anywhere near to understanding the story or the character. I think I did a lot of growing in those seven years. I fell in love with this idea of attempting this.”
The actor threw himself into the role, studying wrestling, which he says is impossible to fake on screen—“It is just a melee but you get used to being inside that melee.”—and even destroying a hotel room in one powerful scene.
“I told them, ‘Whatever is in that room probably won’t come out not broken.’ That is all from Mark Schultz. He told me he would punish himself so badly after losing that he would make losing so much worse than any physical pain he was going through in the match so he would never want to lose again.”
He kept up that level of intensity for the whole shoot. “It just never stopped,” he said, not even when his wife, actress Jenna Dewan, came to visit.
“My wife was pregnant and she came to Pittsburgh during [the shoot],” he says. “She was supposed to stay a week but left after the second day. She was like, ‘Nope. It is not healthy for me to be here. You’re in a weird place. It’s OK but I’m just going to go now. Love you! Call me at least once a night before you go to bed and we’ll be fine.’”
Watch the whole thing HERE!
If nothing g else “Foxcatcher,” a true-life crime drama from Bennett Miller, director of “Moneyball,” is an exercise in the transformative nature of an under bite. Jutting out his jaw changes Channing Tatum from movie star handsome to thick-necked gym rat Mark Schultz, one third of a story of murder and America’s wealthiest family.
Based on true events, the story begins with Schultz, a gold medal-winning wrestler at the 1984 Olympics, training with his brother David (Mark Ruffalo) to regain the glory of his past achievements. Out of the blue he is contacted by John du Pont (Steve Carell), multi-millionaire and sports enthusiast with a simple but grand offer. The patriotic du Pont asks Schultz to put together a team of wrestlers, who would train at a special facility at Foxcatcher Farms and establish America’s dominance at the upcoming Seoul Olympics. Schultz signs for $25,000 a year–“I just said the highest number in my head.”—beginning a journey that will end in world championship glory and murder.
Even though this is a true story that more or less follows the public record of events I’ve left the synopsis vague so as not to spoil the film’s climax. In doing so I also failed to mention the growing sense of alienation and the slow burn of psychological dysfunction. A pall hangs over the entire film, building toward the culmination of the action that is shocking not only in its randomness, but in its volume. Miller has made a quiet, restrained film, one that demands the viewer to lean forward to appreciate, so when three loud gunshots ring out they shatter the quiet in a jarringly effective depiction of violence.
But for as effective as that scene is, the build-up is demands patience. The leads are uniformly great—particularly Carell who, as a repressed man used to getting what he wants and winning, whether it is a world championship title or play wrestling at a party, hands in a career re-defining performance—but the studied precision of the direction bogs down the pacing. If Miller edited the VERY long pauses in the conversations between Mark and John he could have trimmed half-an-hour from the running time. Some will find the start-and-stop delivery adds to the film’s surreal feel, other will simply find it tedious.
“Foxcatcher” is buoyed by interesting, unexpected performances and an unnerving tone but adds little to the examination of the complex issues that lie at the center of the story. Unchecked privilege and moral decadence are on display but the underlying pathology of the piece remains a mystery.
The message behind “Draft Day,” Kevin Costner’s last sports flick, is that technical ability is one thing, but having heart is just as important. It’s a key message for the story but also vital when considering the movie as a whole.
This film is technically proficient, but loads of technically proficient flicks aren’t as entertaining as this one. This movie works particularly well because it has heart, just like the players that Kevin Costner’s character recruits for his football team.
On the day of the NFL Draft, Cleveland Browns general manager Sonny Weaver Jr. (Costner) is faced with some tough choices. His team is not doing well, sports radio talking heads are beating him up for ruining the franchise his late father, the legendary coach Sonny Weaver Sr, built up and his girlfriend (Jennifer Garner) is angry with him. His future and possibly the future of the team hinges on one deal; a massive trade for hotshot quarterback Bo Callahan (Josh Pence).
Like “Moneyball,” “Draft Day” scores authenticity points by casting a number of sports figures and insiders playing themselves. Cleveland Browns Center Alex Mack appears as does San Francisco 49ers defensive player Delon Sanders, but it’s the supporting cast of professional actors who really score a touchdown.
Frank Langella, playing the anything-for-a-buck owner of the Browns plus Ellen Burstyn and Dennis Leary as Sonny’s mother and grumpy coach respectively, are all great. Sean Combs as a smarmy sports agant didn’t even bother me. But of course, this really is Kevin Costner’s movie. He’s easy to watch at the best of times but particularly so when he’s in the genre that works best for him, and that’s sports movies.
He plays Weaver much differently than Brad Pitt handled real life manager Billy Beane in “Moneyball.” Unlike Beane, who used an algorithm to put a team together, Weaver works on a combo of instinct, experience and guts, which makes for an all round more emotional trip for him and the audience. “There’s no such thing as a ‘sure thing,”” the movie tells us. “All that matters is your gut.”
Story wise this is a pure sports film, complete with lingo and all kinds of stats, but it’s also a mystery. As Weaver digs into Callahan’s past, questions arise, leaving the movie’s central bit of action—will Weaver draft Callahan or not—up in the air until the closing minutes of the movie. It’s not Hitchcock, but it will keep you guessing.
Sports illiterates might need subtitles to understand some of the goings on. For me it didn’t matter if I followed the intricacies of the trades because the underlying emotion that comes along with changing someone’s life by drafting them into the NFL is very powerful and well played here.
Synopsis: On the day of the NFL Draft, Cleveland Browns general manager Sonny Weaver Jr. (Kevin Costner) is faced with some tough choices. His team is not doing well, sports radio talking heads are beating him up for ruining the franchise his late father — the legendary coach Sonny Weaver Sr. — built up and his girlfriend (Jennifer Garner) is angry with him. His future and possibly the future of the team hinges on one deal: a massive trade for hotshot quarterback Bo Callahan (Josh Pence).
• Richard: 3/5
• Mark: 4/5
Richard: Mark, the message behind Draft Day is that technical ability is one thing, but having heart is more important. It’s a key message for the story but vital when considering the movie as a whole. This film is technically proficient, but loads of technically proficient flicks aren’t as entertaining as this one. This movie works particularly well because it has heart, just like the players that Kevin Costner’s character tries to recruit for his football team.
Mark: Which makes the movie the opposite of Moneyball, which celebrates rationality and scientific method. I much preferred Costner’s flawed, slightly desperate soul over Brad Pitt’s technocrat. But there were other reasons I liked the movie. Having it take place on one day gives the film an urgency that really pulls you in. And there were some nice directorial flourishes, too. I haven’t seen split screen used so well in a long time. And let’s not forget a strong supporting cast.
RC: Like Moneyball, Draft Day scores authenticity points by casting a number of sports figures and insiders playing themselves, but you’re right, the supporting cast of professional actors really scores a touchdown. I enjoyed seeing Frank Langella playing the anything-for-a-buck owner of the Browns and Ellen Burstyn and Dennis Leary as Sonny’s mother and grumpy coach respectively, are both great. Sean Combs didn’t even bother me. Of course, this really is Kevin Costner’s movie. He’s easy to watch at the best of times but particularly so when he’s in the genre that works best for him, and that’s sports movies.
MB: And it’s hard to watch Costner in this without thinking about his iconic sports roles in Field of Dreams or Bull Durham. In fact, this is often where players wind up — as coaches and managers. So there’s a through line to the character to appreciate. The only thing that bothered me was that I am not a football fan. I’ve never seen a game. So all the negotiations were like watching a game of chess without any idea how the pieces are moved. Could you follow the technical details of the trades? Or were you wishing for subtitles?
RC: Subtitles might have helped a bit, but for me it didn’t matter if I followed the intricacies of the draft day business because I think the underlying emotion that comes along with changing someone’s life by drafting them into the NFL — I found those scenes powerful.
MB: Director Ivan Reitman has had a tendency to lapse into sentiment and bathos, but he keeps these tendencies nicely in check. I loved Costner, but I was also impressed at the sure handed direction. Reitman’s working at the top of his game.
“Moneyball,” the new sports drama starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill, begins with the Mickey Mantle quote, “It’s unbelievable how much you don’t know about a game you’ve played all your life.” The legendary New York Yankees outfielder and first baseman played eighteen seasons in the big leagues but likely wouldn’t recognize the game as played in this behind-the-scenes drama.
Based on the book of the same name by Michael Lewis, Pitt plays Billy Beane, the real life General Manager of the Oakland A’s. Faced with having to piece together a pro team with a budget a fourth as large as the New York Yankees he breaks with one hundred years of baseball tradition—using scouts, instinct and guts—to find a scientific method to build a team on the cheap. With a Yale trained economist (Jonah Hill) he creates sabermetrics, a mind boggling combination of facts, figures and computer algorithms to recruit his team.
It all sounds very dry, but so did “The Social Network” before you actually sat down and watched it. “Moneyball” takes what cold be a dry subject of baseball stats and spices it up with complex, interesting characters, a compelling human story while leaving the usual sport’s movie clichés behind.
It moves at about half the speed of “The Social Network” but that’s OK we’re not dealing with the fast moving world of cyber space here but the more relaxed pace of America’s favorite pastime.
But this isn’t a baseball movie. Pitt and Hill, in a rare serious role, dominate the movie with their behind the scenes stories. Like “The Social Network” “Moneyball” places the onus on the characters and not the technology that drives the story. We’ve seen baseball movies before, but we’ve never sent the game from this angle. It’s a new take on the game, one that may leave Mantel scratching his head but should leave audiences rapt.
The Coen Brothers focused an entire film around the Uncertainty Principle in Quantum Mechanics. In A Serious Man Prof. Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) teaches his classes the principle, but desperately wants to believe, despite the equation, that life makes sense. It’s not a movie about wave-particle duality and the DeBroglie hypothesis—it’s a very human story about a man searching for answers—but the math is crucial to the story.
The same holds true for Moneyball, the new Brad Pitt movie opening this weekend. The story of a baseball team’s general manager who uses algorithms and computer-generated analysis called sabermetrics to draft his players isn’t strictly about the math, but the story wouldn’t be the same without it.
A Beautiful Mind shows how mathematician John Nash, played by Russell Crowe in the role that won him an Oscar, would visualize math problems in order to identify patterns and solve equations.
The Hangover uses a similar trick. At a Las Vegas casino Alan (Zach Galifianakis) counts cards at a blackjack table as mathematical equations appear on the screen. In reality none of the equations—like the Fourier theory of additive synthesis—have anything to do with cheating at cards, but it’s a funny scene that inspired the facebook page “Alan from The Hangover makes math seem AWESOME.”
A love poem called The Square Root of Three appears in the raunchy comedy Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay. “I fear that I will always be a lonely number, like root three,” writes the lovelorn Kumar (Kal Penn), “A three is all that’s good and right. Why must my three keep out of sight?”
The Da Vinci Code famously uses the Fibonacci sequence—1 – 1 – 2 – 3 – 5 – 8 – 13 – 21— as a key to unlock the movie’s mystery and Cube sees people trapped in a giant cube with mathematic problems as clues to their salvation.
The John Astin comedy Evil Roy Slade features some frontier math. Schoolteacher Betsy asks Roy, “If you had six apples and your neighbor took three of them what would you have?”
“A dead neighbor and all six apples,” he replies.