Ford had a commercial where it's SUV, the Edge, drove on buildings. The disclaimer read: Yes, this is a fantasy. Vehicles can't really drive on buildings.
Do such obviously ridiculous commercials need disclaimers? If that's the case, then the less-obvious, more accurate movies--like The Social Network, The Help, and Moneyball--should as well.
Director: Bennett Miller
Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin, Steven Zaillian (separate drafts)
Billy Beane: Brad Pitt
Beane's Daughter: Kerris Dorsey
Beane's Wife: Robin Wright
Peter Brand which is actually a fake name for Paul DePodesta: Jonah Hill
Art Howe: Philip Seymour Hoffman
Scott Hatteberg: Chris Pratt
Chad Bradford: Casey Bond
David Justice: Stephen Bishop
Ron Washington: Brent Jennings
Miguel Tejada: former MLB player Royce Clayton
I will advocate, for as long as I am alive, that any fictional work which reproduces actual people and actual events in a "re-telling of the story" must come with a clarification, not at the end of the credits, but, as though it were important, before the very first shot: This is a Work of Fiction.
As I said in my review of The Help, it's unfair to tell a story inaccurately. The black maid's of Mississippi were abused, and it's great the film brings up this discussion. But the film gives these women a victory, and thus a redemption, the real maids never had. The real maids continued to suffer. And I think it's insulting to them that the film doesn't contrast its happy ending with the truth.
Commercials with fantastical elements must have disclaimers. Journalists who print careless, incorrect, unsound, inexact stories are sued. News outlets that skew perspective are met with skepticism and lose credibility. A movie does these things and earns a 95% on Rotten Tomatoes (Moneyball's current score). Update 4/5/2012: not to mention multiple oscars....
The plot of Moneyball could have been 100% accurate but would still be false--Peter Brand isn't real.
Okay, so. Maybe that's minor. People would see the movie. Think Peter Brand was real. Find out he wasn't. Find out DePodesta is. Fine. No harm done.
Can we trust Howe? Maybe he was exactly how he is portrayed. Regardless. Sorkin wasn't there. Bennett Miller wasn't there. Seymour Hoffman wasn't there. Howe is still alive. And the movie does change opinion of him. Yes, it is a work of fiction. But by being historically exact with the larger details and events, by re-creating the "time" and "place", the film lulls us into believing its authenticity. Which is unfair for living persons that are portrayed in any way that's dishonest.
Howe: "I don't know how you can get away with saying it's a true movie. I like how in the movie, it's Billy Beane who's the one who tells Mike Magnante he's being released, and he tells Magnante, 'Thank you so much for everything, Mike.' Give me a break. I'm the one who had to tell Magnante, and he was less than a week away from getting his full pension. I like Mike, I tried hard to get him those days, I told them to put him on the DL to get him the time; it wouldn't have cost them anything."
And the film paints Carlos Pena as being the only silver lining during the Athletics initial struggles. When Beane is attempting to trade Pena he tells another GM Pena is a "rookie of the year candidate," Brand follows up with "Probably an All-Star." In total, Pena played 40 games for the 2002 Athletics. His batting average was .218. His on-base percentage .305. He struck out 38 times in 124 at bats (over 30%). And he had 7 home runs, .419 slugging. In his final 14 games, he had a .108 BA, a .267 OBP, .108 slugging, and 11 strike outs. Overall, he had a Home slugging % of .594, while Away was .233. Yes, Carlos was a highly touted prospect. By no means was he the only player performing, much less on pace to be an All-Star.
There's a scene where Beane and Brand meet with the rest of the Oakland scouts to discuss players to replace Jason Giambi. Beane says he doesn't like any of the scouts' suggestions. And he names three players: Hatteberg, Justice, and Jason's younger brother, Jeremy Giambi. The scouts say they don't know about Jeremy, he's a loose cannon, blah, blah blah. It sounds like these are all players the A's will acquire, right? We then see Beane offer Hatteberg, a former Red Sox, a contract. We see Justice is brought in from the Yankees. And eventually we're shown Jeremy. Except we're never told where Jeremy was before, what team he had played on. Was he a minor leaguer? Nope. We're not told Jeremy's background because, in reality, Jeremy already played for the Athletics. In 2001 he started 103 games for them. He had solid numbers, from traditional and saber-metric standpoints. So it's completely false to have Beane suggest Jeremy, much less for the scouts to argue against it.
Recap: Peter Brand isn't real. Art Howe's depiction might have been refined to a traditionalist and nigh-antagonistic core to better contrast Beane, and a moment that would have made the audience sympathize with Howe is altered by removing Howe and inserting Beane. Carlos Pena's glorified to make Beane trading Pena seem all the more crazy, when, in actuality, Pena had below average numbers. And Jeremy Giambi is made out to be a some long-shot pick by Beane, prior to the first pitch of the 2002 season, when Giambi was a starter for the 2001 team.
The movie shows the team struggling. It shows people doubting the Athletics, ripping on Beane, laughing at his experimental "statistical" method. Then Beane makes moves. He trades Pena and Jeremy Giambi. He starts talking with the players. The Athletics' record improves!
Before the trades, the film makes it seem like Howe is playing Pena and not playing Hatteberg--Hatteberg being one of Beane's "saber-metric" picks, and Pena being the traditionalists' choice. This is why Beane trades Pena, to force Howe to play Hatteberg. Really: Hatteberg was the team's DH from the beginning of the season. He was in the lineup every night. (+1 Howe, -1 Moneyball) (Yes, Moneyball is clever and only says that Pena is playing 1B and not Hatteberg. Hatteberg did become the full-time first baseman post-Pena-trade).
Then Beane trades for Ricardo Rincon and releases Mike Magnante (who had struggled throughout the movie). Beane also talks with David Justice and convinces Justice to be a leader. Beane and Brand are all over the clubhouse, talking with players, showing them information about what pitches they should look to hit, about why it's good to increase the pitch count of opposing pitchers, about why walks are as good as hits, etc. etc.. All of this, the moves, the pep talks, lead up to "The Streak". So while we're not told Beane and Brand single-handedly changed the clubhouse culture and this is why Oakland started winning, the film organizes and provides us with information in such a way that we can't help but think Beane and Brand changed the clubhouse culture and caused Oakland to start winning.
Boy, have we been duped.
The 2002 Oakland Athletics had the year's MVP and Cy Young winners. They weren't Scott Hatteberg, David Justice, or Chad Bradford.
MVP: Miguel Tejada
Cy Young: Barry Zito
Don't get me wrong, Hatteberg, Justice, and Bradford were clutch: they were cheap replacements for Giambi, Damon, and Isringhausen. Justice had better numbers than 2001 Damon. Hatteberg gave you half of Giambi's numbers for 1% of the cost. And Bradford was the best relief pitcher on the team.
But the film fails to tell you that the 2002 Athletics had Tim Hudson, Barry Zito, and Mark Mulder, a trio that, for several years, dominated the American League. The Oakland starting rotation was considered in the top three in baseball, if not number one. And that trio is often discussed as one of the best threesomes of all-time.
So, yes. The saber-metrics worked. Beane and Brand/DePodesta brought in talent that was crucial to the success of the 2002 Oakland Athletics. But the film makes a huge to-do about Beane changing baseball. That the traditional scouting methods were out of date and Beane's methods were the next evolution. And this is justified by the success of the 2002 Oakland Athletics.
Except the other main components of the 2002 Athletics--Miguel Tejada, Eric Chavez, Jermaine Dye, Tim Hudson, Barry Zito, Mark Mulder, Cory Lidle, Billy Koch--were all guys brought in through non-saber-metric means.
Tejada, Chavez, Hudson, Zito and Mulder were all draft picks. They were players that the scouts had watched, liked, and recommended.
Dye, Lidle and Koch were acquired through free agency and trades, using, I imagine, traditional/non-saber-metrical decision-making.
What's all this mean? Moneyball, the film, doesn't give the viewer the full story. Beane's Revolutionary Scouting of three players was not the sole reason for the Athletics success. Without Tejada, Chavez, Dye, Hudson, Zito, Mulder, Lidle, and Koch, the 2002 Athletics probably would have sucked. And because these players were all scouted and acquired using traditional metrics, we can't, I repeat, CAN NOT, agree with Beane (the movie version) that the traditional methods don't work. Maybe one of the players the scouts recommended would have been just as effective, just as cost-efficient as Hatteberg?
Saber-metrics have changed the game. And the in-depth analysis of batter vs. pitch/pitch location we see Brand plotting and explaining to players has revolutionized the batter vs. pitcher dynamic. Did Brand develop that method? No, because Brand doesn't exist. And did Beane develop saber-metrics? No, it was Bill James. Beane should be lauded for being an innovator and using these methods when no one else would take them seriously, but...I think it's a stretch to say his use of saber-metrics was the sole reason the Athletics won 103 games.
So: Peter Brand isn't real. Art Howe's depiction might have been refined to a traditionalist and nigh-antagonistic core to better contrast Beane, and a moment that would have made the audience sympathize with Howe is altered by removing Howe and inserting Beane. Carlos Pena's glorified to make Beane trading Pena seem all the more crazy, when, in actuality, Pena had below average numbers. Jeremy Giambi is made out to be a some long-shot pick by Beane, prior to the first pitch of the 2002 season; Giambi was actually a starter for the 2001 team. Art Howe was not sitting Hatteberg in favor of Carlos Pena; both were in the lineup. The only players we really see, Hatteberg, Justice and Bradford, are merely key ancillary components to an Oakland team that was quite stacked with talent the movie never talks about, talent that was discovered using the traditional methods the movie proclaims out-dated and ineffective.
So Moneyball is accurate enough to be considered a "re-telling of", but makes up people, changes what actually happened by swapping who was involved, falsely characterizes players, falsely portrays the lineup, and purposefully neglects to discuss components that were as vital to the 2002 Athletics success as the Sun is to our solar system.
Yeah, I think Moneyball could use a disclaimer.
Did I Like It:
As with the The Help, I liked Moneyball. The movie is well done. Is well plotted. Is well shot. As a film, it earns its 95% score. I like Brad Pitt. I like Jonah Hill.
I like how Beane's backstory is woven in. So you understand why he has remained out of the clubhouse, why he doesn't watch the games: on some level, he thinks he is cursed. He thinks he is a jinx. Little by little, we see him redeemed. When the A's are on the cusp of setting the record for the longest winning streak of all-time, Beane is driving to the AAA-affiliate because he wants to get far away. He's running. Then his daughter tells him he won't jinx it, and Beane turns on the radio: Oakland's up 11-0. Beane goes back to the stadium. And slowly the Royals come back and tie the game. Beane walks away. He is a curse, he is a jinx. But then his player, his pick, Scott Hatteberg, wins the game with a walk-off HR. Billy Beane is purified.
My favorite part is the discussion at the end, between Beane and Red Sox owner John Henry, about change and those that fight for it and those that fight against it.
But I think Moneyball is egregious, due to the liberties it takes. Liberties aside, I think Moneyball is an awesome, awesome allegory for innovation vs. tradition.
Note: Prior to Bennett Miller, Steven Soderbergh was to direct and wanted to have some of the players and coaches play themselves. He also wanted to have interviews with other players and coaches. Soderbergh was fired.
Double note: the guy that played Justice played in the minors for the Braves when Justice was on the Braves and knew Justice.
I liked the depiction of Mark Shapiro.
What It's Good For:
-a movie to watch and enjoy
-an Oscar nomination
-people who like baseball
-showing how you can make a movie that completely forgoes accuracy
-humor + emotion
-inaccurate, which may annoy baseball fans who know more about the season than the casual viewer
% Character / % Actor's personality
Seymour Hoffman: 80/20 (I don't think he accurately portrayed Howe, but he's definitely in-character)
Pratt: 90/10 (Hatteberg vouches for Pratt's authenticity)
-Pitt: Fight Club; Inglorious Basterds; The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; Tree of Life
-Hill: Accepted; Superbad; Get Him to the Greek
-Seymour Hoffman: Big Lewbowski; Capote; Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
-Wright: The Princess Bride; Unbreakable;
-Baseball movies: Little Big League; The Natural; Bull Durham; Major League