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Entries in Moneyball (17)

Monday
Dec302013

The Secret Year of Spike Jonze

[Editor's Note: Tonight's guest column comes from Andy Hoglund, previously featured in reader spotlight. Here's his choice for "Entertainer of the Year"]

Spike on the set of "Her"

As we sign off on the final moments of 2013, the same names have repeatedly been uttered as defining this year in entertainment. From Miley twerking, to Kanye’s limitless ability to stimulate conversation, to Sandra's space solo, and so on, they've all had their moments. Overlooked thus far is 2013’s quintessential utility man in pop culture—the equivalent of Chone Figgins (versatile infielder/outfielder who finished 17th in American League MVP balloting in 2005). This all-around talent has worn multiple hats this year in film and music, some of them unsung. Spike Jonze may still not quite be a household name in 2013. He should be.

The deep impact Jonze achieves with a project as ambitious and heart-wrenching as Her should be no surprise. After all, his first feature length film, Being John Malkovich, was a touchstone of one of Hollywood’s most audacious years. Rather than pursue a work schedule along the lines of the prolific Steven Soderbergh, Jonze has released only three films since that impressive debut in 1999.

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Saturday
Feb182012

Just Enjoy The Show

Cope and Dalton have made another spoof video of the Oscars. This one is just as offensive, though less consistently funny, than last year's (the presence of Inception in 2010 helped for the alternate reality comedy).

 

My favorite skewerings are of the self-pitying The Descendants and the eliptical structure of The Tree of Life "the earth. a dinosaur. a shoe. Sean Penn" and the "Rise of..." twist on the All Hell Breaks Loose finale is fun.

You know it's alternate reality and satire when Woody Allen runs screaming through the crowd. Everyone knows Woody never attends the Oscars! 

If you're interested, here's their satirical jab at the forthcoming Oscars...

I want my money back. I want my money back. just enjoy the show ♫

Tuesday
Feb142012

Curio: Oscar Unsheets, Part III

Alexa here.  With less than two weeks till the Oscars I'm spotting more and more fabulous unsheets (or fan poster art) inspired by the nominated films. (See last week's post for some criminally overlooked films). This week I'm moving on to the Best Picture nominees.  Interestingly, The Help seems to be one of the nominees most posterized this year; is it the lure of illustrating pie? 

The Help by Hector Pahaut.Here are some of the best celebrations of the Mississippi Maids, along with some key-themed designs for Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, mathematical minimilism for Moneyball, and evocative staircase imagery for The Descendants. Click for more.

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Thursday
Feb022012

Distant Relatives: Rocky and Moneyball

Robert here w/ Distant Relatives, exploring the connections between one classic and one contemporary film.

Most of the time in life we view ourselves as underdogs. Nobody really feels like an expert or a person of power. As such, the only way to succeed beyond our wildest dreams is to overcome the powerful, like Apollo Creed's pompous entourage or the well established like MLB's back rooms of smokey scouts. The two films we'll look at today enjoy utilizing the well worn tropes of the sports genre or to be more specific the redemption story sports genre and give us characters who are surrogates for us to be and for us to root for. Rocky, possibly the most famous sports movie of all time, certainly the most famous sports film to ever win Best Picture, tells us the story (as if you didn't know) of small time boxer Rocky Balboa, a normal downtrodden guy given a shot to box World Heavyweight Champion Apollo Creed in what's essentially a gimmick match when Apollo's appropriate challenger gets injured and a quick replacement is needed. In Moneyball we follow Oakland A's General Manager Billy Beane, a man with the unfortunate and nearly impossible task of assembling a small market, low budget baseball team that can compete with rich teams like the New York Yankees. With help he institues a system high on formulas and equations and low on traditional baseball intuition. Naturally, everyone expects him to fail. So our David and Goliath storylines are set up, and even with us the viewer naturally leaning toward the Davids of the world, is this enough for us to root for them?
 
Getting a chance at the champ of Boxing is a pretty lucky break for Rocky. And having a job in professional Baseball doesn't exactly evoke sympathy for Beane. This begs the question, how to really get us behind our protagonists. Well, these films could paint them into saintly perfection, beatify them as all-great heroes, or they could present them as multi-layered individuals, men with faults, faults that we understand, faults that we too possess. Consider Rocky Balboa. It's clear that the opportunity he has handed to him has little to do with his own cunning. The man hasn't exactly grabbed life by the horns. He's a shy, quiet guy, nervous around women, unlikely to make it much farther than he already has. As for Beane, he has somethign of a sad history in baseball. As a young man, eager scouts with big promises presented him an opportunity (and paycheck) that he couldn't refuse even though, as it turned out, he wasn't quite pro material. Was it right for Beane to dive headlong into his impending disaster? Maybe not. But would you have turned it down? Perhaps you're not like Rocky. You're not shy and shabby. But you've felt like a failure before. And maybe you're not like Billy Beane. Maybe you don't care about Baseball. But you've longed for a dream, even when you know it wasn't to be so.


With both films presenting simlarly sympathetic heroes, we come to the equally unscalable stakes. Apollo Creed is unbeateable. Not only has no other boxer ever defeated him, no boxer has ever stayed on his feet through an entire match. For Rocky to defeat Creed would be unprecedented. As for Beane, a the baseball experts so spitefully remind him, no one has ever so untraditionally assembled a team. To do so with success would change the sport. To lose for both of these men would most likely mean their livelihoods. Balboa would become the sucker who was creamed by Creed. His boxing career, not to mention his health could be wiped out, just as he's finally finding someone special and worth providing for. Beane too is on the brink of becoming the laughing stock of a sport he's spent his entire professional life in. Even if he were lucky enough to stay in the business it would mean demotion and relocation and all at the cost of his loving daughter's constant worry. With odds like that, the terrifyingly tense scene is set for these men to succeed. And here's the thing: in both cases, they don't.
 
But of course they do. In typical, yet still well structured sports-film fashion, there are things bigger than winning and losing. In both the cases of Balboa and Beane, their success is measured differently than first expected. Balboa famously "goes the distance" against Creed, still losing but avoiding the KO. Similarly Beane doesn't win the World Series with his team of misfits. But he does break the all-time American League winning streak, a feat probably harder than winning the World Series, and in doing so creates a team that becomes a baseball phenomenon. In both cases this could be a ploy, a pander. Telling we, the audience, who traversed the film's long path in the sympathetic shoes of our protagonists that even when we fail against impossible odds, we can still be winners. But say what you will about the sentimentality of these movies (and you're probably saying it more about Rocky than Moneyball), I don't think it's a pander. What we have are two films that break out of easy sports categorizaion by allowing our heroes to achieve something greater than what can be measured by a simple sports storyline.  
 
This is what makes both films such successful redemption stories. They present us with a similarly likable character, impossible task and unexpected victory on new terms. So if you find yourself pondering if all of the sidetracks into Beane's personal life were really necessary or chucking at Rocky's much parodied shouts of "Adrian! Adrian!" remember that these are the elements that make these films sink or swim. They're the personal stories that emphasize the intimate in the shadow of the impossible. They create tensino. They create excitement. They make you hold your breath.


 
Other Cinematic Relatives: The King's Speech (2010), Cinderella Man (2005), Chariots of Fire (1981), Hoosiers (1986)

 

Wednesday
Feb012012

Oscar Symposium Day 1: Tinker Tailor Party Guys

Welcome to the Annual TFE Oscar Symposium! The Film Experience is proud to introduce the following guests (in alpha order): Ali Arikan chief film critic for Dipnot TVNick Davis Assistant Professor of English and Gender Studies at Northwestern University and the brilliant mind behind Nick's Flick Picks;  Mark Harris author of the instant classic "Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of New Hollywood" and Oscarmetrics columnist at Grantland; Kurt Osenlund Managing Editor at Slant Magazine's The House Next Door. And I'm Nathaniel Rogers, of course, your host here at The Film Experience. We started our conversation on Sunday night and here it is for you.  

NATHANIEL: Gentlemen. If I had access to the Windsor font I'd list us all in alpha order in white lettering on the same black title card Woody Allen style so that there won't be any tragic Corey Stoll business where the Screen Actor's Guild leaves one of us out when our inevitable Best Ensemble nomination arrives. Instead, as per Nick's suggestion, we're all pictured in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy's conference room. That indelible orange soundproof wall! How did this movie miss an Art Direction nomination?

Despite this visual trapping, I don't for one moment want anyone reading to picture us all as "gray little men" in uncomfortable stuffy suits, withholding. (I am generally too exuberant for secrets and would make a terrible spy.) Though I love Alberto Iglesias compositions for that movie, I'll readily admit that the score inside my head this very moment is more John Williams. Before the opening credits are even over, that man will hit you with the climax, and I'm excited to begin.

Feel free to change the setting at any time (the magic of cinema) but we begin at Tinker Tailor's sad little Christmas party (Don't ask me to explain why MI6 is hosting this party to which it was not invited). All the Best Pictures just walked in. Let's mingle. Who will you avoid? Who do you trust implicitly? Where do you see tension brewing. I think it only looks like Midnight in Paris is friendly with The Artist and Hugo. He secretly judges them for trusting so fully in their own nostalgia.

MARK HARRIS: I'm enjoying this party--who doesn't love wide lapels, long sideburns and ugly plastic eyeglass frames? As for who I'd avoid: The Artist, because I'm pretty sure it'd come up to me, lick my face, hump my leg, do a little dance at my feet, and instantly want to be best friends. Too much too soon--stop being so ingratiating and let me get some punch! I think I'd go seek out The Tree of Life--the cool movie glowering in the corner that nobody's talking to because it never gets invited to parties like this.

And I would be very cautious about eating those little tarts that Octavia Spencer is passing around on a silver tray.

ALI ARIKAN: I've just been talking to "Midnight in paris," who makes for a splendid company.  That guy's full of pithy anecdotes about literary figures of yore.

Well, let's stay at that Christmas party at the Circus.  My favourite scene of the year is set there, when a spook dressed as Father Christmas and sporting a Lenin mask, leads the troops in a rendition of the Soviet National Anthem as Smiley discovers his wife's infidelity.  That's one of the two times where Smiley lets his emotions out (the other being his angry "What are you, then, Bill?" at the end of the film), and we can see how devastated he is.  Oldman's nomination was well deserved. But that film was robbed on so many fronts.  Art direction, as you mention, as well as direction and a supporting nod for Tom Hardy, who is magnificent.  

KURT OSENLUND: Being in any sized room with Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is, in my opinion, too close. Moneyball and I are already flashing each other von Sydow-style hand signals. 'Is this guy bothering you?' 'YES.' We meet on the dancefloor, and tap a bit with Jean Dujardin, before heading to see what Smiley is staring at out the window. Is that...Harvey Weinstein? Smooching with Oscar voters?

More including The Artist, critical wars, Moneyball, Songs, and elevating your film...

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