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Archive for March 28th, 2012

Screen cap from "Jane Eyre" with Mia Wasikowska

                                                                                                                                                                          © 2012 by James Clark

You might want to argue that the only thing these movies have in common is being overlooked as candidates for film awards deserved by features released in 2011. The nub of controversy here would be attempting to pull the sense of Moneyball significantly away from its apparent occupancy of a long series of bios about baseball All-Stars. If we can dare to dream that the (not, after all, full-blown) triumph of Oakland A’s General Manager, Billy Beane, is more about discovering his vocation as to what makes a baseball team tick than about personal glory, there is a chance we can imagine him and Jane as distant teammates in getting the hang of a brand-new game.

In the spirit of Billy’s analytics as to the talent pool, let’s take a peek at the writing bona fides that went into Moneyball. What impresses even a cursory survey about their pro potential is a vigorously applied and protracted involvement with freeing wiggle room within seemingly locked-shut systems of socio-economic advantage. The film is based on a study, by Michael Lewis, of the 2002 Major League Baseball season, particularly focusing upon how the Oakland Athletics, at a disadvantage in not being able to afford retaining home-grown and acquiring other superstar players, were able to reel off an unprecedented twenty-game winning streak and send the rest of the league scurrying to catch up with a hitherto untried schema regarding the elemental factors of the game. Lewis, expressing an abiding interest in the confrontation of “insiders” and “outsiders,” has also produced explorations of how businesses, like insurance companies, can fortify themselves against risk by means of entities called “catastrophe bonds,” which entice investors to carry much of the firm’s liability as to phenomena like hurricanes, by hedging on disasters’ not happening in a given time-frame. Getting back to the A’s, the GM and his recently acquired young assistant, Peter (fresh from graduating in Economics, from Yale), embark upon signing players not for their marquee value, but for being able to: draw walks and so get on base abundantly; and hit for extra bases or reliably advance runners by means of long fly outs (total base hits, ribbies, stolen bases and fielding be damned). The screen writers—drafted with a view to that burrowing interest—namely, Steven Zaillia and Aaron Sorkin, who, severally, probed in previous works the right stuff of a young chess prodigy and the cards to play in avoiding a military court martial, brought to the project a vivid kinship with Lewis’ passion for hidden corners of workplace acceleration. Finally, though not by any stretch of the imagination an auteur this time out (the same can be said, as we shall see, of Jane Eyre’s helmsman, Cary Joji Fukunaga), director, Bennett Miller, has two other films to his credit that stand out as having him quite ready to rock with this vehicle. His first effort was a documentary, The Cruise, in which a New York tour bus guide evinces for his customers the mysterious, hidden (generally ignored) powers of the City and its denizens. His second film was the feature, Capote, showing the writer putting together his documentary-novel, In Cold Blood, in particularly close proximity to one of the murderers on Death Row, and agonizing about how he might find a way to beat the rap, to beat the system. (more…)

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