The beginning of The Muppets, the new film starring Jim Hensen’s creations, presents us with a world much like our own: one in which the Muppets have been pretty much forgotten, passed over in favor of more modern sources of entertainment. Beseeched to get the gang back together and once again put on a Muppet Show, Kermit at first refuses, concerned that there’s no way for the Muppets to ever regain their former status, that the world has changed too much.
It’s a clever way to reintroduce us to these beloved characters as, indeed, it’s been a long long long time since these characters felt at all relevant. Though I adored The Muppet Show as a kid (and I must have watched the first three films — The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper, and The Muppets Take Manhattan – dozens of times), I haven’t seen any of the kiddie Muppet films released over the past two decades. Whatever you think works or doesn’t work in this new Muppets film, we can at least hopefully agree to thank Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller and director James Bobin for spearheading a project that takes the Muppets seriously, and that is intended to be enjoyed by kids AND adults, just as the classic Muppets shows and movies were.
There’s been some grumbling in the press by folks like Frank Oz (a tremendous talent who I revere greatly) and other Muppets performers that Jason Segel and the other young turks responsible for this film haven’t been respectful to the Muppets, but that claim couldn’t be further from the truth. The Muppets is positively dripping with admiration and adoration for these characters, and I was pleasantly surprised by how many loving references to classic Muppets characters and bits were woven into the film. Most of all, the film’s entire story is clearly designed to prove to the world that the Muppets ARE wonderful characters, and that they CAN still be just as funny, relevant, and entertaining today as they were in the ’70s and ’80s.
One might expect that folks like Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller would try to stuff the film full of crass jokes and dirty humor, but that doesn’t happen at all. (If anything, the film is a bit TOO square for my tastes. More on that in a moment.) And the characters are NEVER played for laughs. The Muppets generate jokes, but we’re never laughing AT them. This is an important distinction. Though most of the characters are voiced by new voice actors (Jim Henson has of course long-since passed away, and Frank Oz declined to participate in the film), the character of each Muppet has been wonderfully preserved, and … [continued]
If Like Crazy is playing anywhere near you, I really encourage you to seek out this wrenching little film.
The movie stars Anton Yelchin (who played Chekov in J. J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboot) and Felicity Jones (getting a tremendous amount of acclaim, and deservedly so, for this breakout role) as a young couple who meet at university in L.A. and quickly fall crazily in love. Jacob (Yelchin) is an aspiring furniture designer, and Anna (Jones) is a writer. The two immediately spark to one another, and Anna chooses to stay the summer in L.A. rather than returning home to London. But overstaying her VISA gets her into trouble when she does eventually return home to London, and she finds herself barred from re-entering the United States. The bulk of Like Crazy follows Jacob and Anna struggling to maintain a connection during the months and eventually years that follow, when, despite their efforts, they are unable to get Anna’s travel ban lifted.
I could imagine that plot summary being written about a big-budget Hollywood romantic film, with two super-stars in the lead roles, in which the separation of the two characters leads to silly hi-jinks (Maybe they experiment with phone sex!) and eventually to big heart-felt moments (A dramatic speech! A kiss in the rain!) scored to pop songs or to rousing orchestral music. Thankfully, none of that is found anywhere near Like Crazy.
The film is presented in a stripped-down fashion, with the focus tight on the two lead characters. The camerawork keeps us often intimately close to these two people, and the story is unflinching in its sometimes brutal exploration of the painful emotional truths of love and relationships.
Like Crazy was made on a shoe-string budget. In an interview, the 28 year-old director, Drake Doremus, said that the entire film cost only $250,000, and was filmed entirely on a $1,500 camera. The shoot lasted only a few weeks, and the scenes were mostly improvised by the two actors. Working from a detailed 50-page outline, created by Mr. Doremus, the actors developed the scenes, and the details of their relationship, through the process of filming the movie.
It’s clear to me that the film benefitted extraordinarily from the aesthetic choices necessitated by such an on-the-cheap, on-the-fly process of filmmaking. I really connected to the movie’s unadorned technique, and the fly-on-the-wall, almost voyeuristic position into which we, as the viewers, are placed, as we watch this couple struggle through their long-distance relationship. The film asks tough questions of the characters, and their responses to the situations in which they were placed felt very real to me, very emotionally true. Both Jacob and Anna are presented as likable … [continued]
A few years ago, Pocket Books released a terrific two-book series entitled Star Trek: Myriad Universes. (Read my review here!) Each book featured three novellas, each written by a different author, and each featuring a fascinating “what-if” tale set in a different era of the Star Trek universe. These were stories set in alternate universes, in which the events of Star Trek’s history (as depicted in all of the movies and TV shows) unfolded differently. That two-book series was phenomenal, containing some of my very favorite Star Trek stories from all of Pocket Books’ novels. So I was absolutely thrilled when I heard that a new Myriad Universe collection, once again featuring three novellas, was being released last year. It took me longer than I thought to get to reading the book (I’m a busy guy!), but I finally was able to read it last month. While this new collection, Shattered Light, isn’t quite the home-run that the original two books were, it’s still a supremely entertaining series of stories.
The Embrace of Cold Architects, by David R. George III — In this universe, William Riker, in command of the Enterprise following Captain Picard’s abduction by the Borg and transformation into Locutus, is able to defeat the Borg by using the Enterprise’s deflector array to destroy the attacking cube, killing Captain Picard and all the Borg on-board. That’s a dramatic hook for the story, but the novella’s focus is actually on another change: that Data’s attempt to create a daughter, Lal (which we saw in the TNG third season episode “The Offpsring”) was delayed by several months, so that shortly after Lal’s creation, Data found his creator, the cybernetics genius Dr. Noonien Soong (as seen in the early fourth season TNG episode “Brothers”). Dr. Soong is able to prevent the cascade failure in Lal’s positronics brain, thus saving her life. But as we saw in “The Offspring,” many in Starfleet grow worried by the presence of a second android on-board the Enterprise, and an Admiral from the Daystrom institute (an advanced Starfleet research facility) begins pressuring Captain Riker to remove Lal from the Enterprise and bring her to their facility. I think David R. George III is one of the very best authors working on Star Trek novels these days, so I was really excited for his contribution to this collection. And The Embrace of Cold Architects starts out quite strongly, as we follow the ripple effects of Lal’s presence — and Picard’s loss — through the events of the early fourth season of The Next Generation. But, ultimately, this novella wound up being my least favorite story in the collection. It ends incredibly abruptly, … [continued]
I’d been reading about Joe Cornish’s directorial debut, the British sci-fi/horror/comedy film Attack the Block, all year. The low-budget film was a hit on the festival circuit, and was trumpeted by several of my favorite on-line film reviewers, notably Drew McWeeny at Hitfix.com and Devin Faraci at badassdigest.com. It received a U.S. theatrical release, but sadly came and went from theatres pretty quickly. When the film was released on blu-ray last month, I was excited to track it down.
The film is terrific, and I’d wager that if you enjoyed UK-based action/comedies such as Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels or Layer Cake, then you’ll really dig Attack the Block.
The titular “block” refers to a low-income housing unit in Kennington, England. The film’s main characters are a small band of kids from the block who try to escape their lives of poverty and boredom at home by wreaking havoc on the streets. When we first meet them, they’re egging on their leader, Moses (John Boyega in a star-making role), to beat an unidentifiable creature to death. Then they mug Sam (Jodie Whittaker), a young single nurse who also lives in the block. It’s the start of a fine evening for the boys, until an alien invasion spoils all their fun. Yep, turns out the creature they beat to death was a little alien, who has a lot of angry friends.
The genius of Attack the Block is the way it marries sci-fi alien invasion movie conventions with the street-level young-tough humor of Guy Ritchie’s early films. Generally these types of alien invasions strike New York City, not a run-down English inner city. But, of course, watching these street hudlums face an alien apocalypse is the deliriously clever premise of the film, and the source of all the fun.
Not that Attack the Block is all fun and games. In fact, the early-going isn’t that funny at all. The gang’s mugging of Sam is an unsettling sequence, not the type of scene you’d expect to find in a film with comedy on its mind. But writer/director Joe Cornish cleverly sets the stakes of the film to be very high right from the beginning. This is a world in which bad things happen. That mugging scene demonstrates that the characters in this film face real peril, thus escalating the dramatic tension. It also gives a real character-arc to the boys in Moses’ gang. I intensely disliked the boys at first, but absolutely grew to love them by the end. It’s a pretty impressive achievement of story-telling, and is a critical reason that the films works as well as it does.
The other is in the way in which, while the … [continued]
It’s been a while since I’ve seen a good, angry political thriller, so I quite enjoyed George Clooney’s latest directorial feature, The Ides of March. Perhaps thriller is the wrong word, since that word conjures thoughts of films featuring mysteries or action/suspense or damsels in distress. And while there is an unfortunate damsel in The Ides of March who is subject to a great deal of distress, when I write “thriller” I refer not to the presence of any violent murder in the plot, but rather to the film’s bubbling sense of dread and urgency, which builds to a fierce boil as the story approaches its climax.
George Clooney is a fine actor. I’ve long held that he — like Brad Pitt — is a far better actor than he needs to be, what with his movie-star looks. But while Mr. Clooney might be a fine actor, he’s a damn magnificent director. His first feature, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, remains one of my very favorite films ever (and the movie that cemented my abiding appreciation for the great Sam Rockwell), and his second, Good Night, and Good Luck, is an equally beautiful, confident, urgent piece of work. There’s a direct line that can be drawn from the beating political heart of Good Night, and Good Luck, about Edward R. Murrow’s stand against McCarthyism, to the Ides of March.
Set during several tumultuous days leading up to the Ohio Democratic primary, The Ides of March stars Ryan Gosling (who blew my mind, back in the day, in The Believer — and, if you’ve never seen it, go out and find that searing film about a young Jewish boy who becomes a neo-Nazi) as Stephen Meyers, the idealistic number two in the campaign of Democratic presidential hopeful Governor Mike Morris (George Clooney). I’m loathe to reveal any details of the plot, but suffice to say things get a little rough for Stephen and his candidate. The Ides of March casts its gaze at the dirty back-room political in-fighting that goes on behind the scenes, far away from the bright lights of the network camera crews. The film clearly has some broad points to make about our modern political races, but the film is first and foremost a gripping dramatic tale.
Ryan Gosling is terrific, charismatic and compelling as Stephen. He plays the film’s light early scenes with grace and charm, clearly showing us why Stephen has, at a young age, become such a skilled political operator. When things turn increasingly desperate, Mr. Gosling takes us right down the rabbit hole along with him, and the genius of the film is the way in which we’re forced to wonder, in the final … [continued]
In the DVD’s special features, Zooey Deschannel describes the film Your Highness as a dirty version of The Princess Bride, and I’d say that’s as good a description as any for this very profane, very funny fantasy film.
I won’t call it a spoof, because Your Highness isn’t out to make fun of the conventions of fantasy films. Rather, Your Highness is an unabashed fantasy adventure, albeit one in which the main character is totally out of place in this sort of film! That’s the genesis of the film’s comedy.
Danny McBride plays Prince Thadeous, a pampered, cowardly fellow who has been forever living in the shadow of his more heroic brother, Prince Fabious (a perfectly-cast James Franco). Fabious is the sort of young hero who is usually at the heart of these sorts of tales, but it’s Thadeous who is thrust into the spotlight when his brother’s fiancee Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel) is kidnapped by the evil wizard Leezar (Justin Theroux).
The film is a terrific spotlight for Mr. McBride’s specific brand of foul-mouthed, man-child energy. He’s enormously endearing even while being extraordinarily selfish and crude. Mr. Franco also is given a real chance to shine in the role, reminding me of the exquisite comedic chops he displayed back in Freaks and Geeks. Fabious could have been a boring straight-man character, but Mr. Franco brings a gleeful energy and over-the-top chippiness to all of his scenes, making Fabious just as entertaining as his brother.
I’ve never heard of Rasmus Hardiker before, but he’s quite funny as Thadeous’ faithful man-servant Courtney, who dutifully accompanies Thadeous and Fabious on their quest. Equally entertaining is the great Toby Jones’ as Fabious’ far-less-faithful servant Julie. Director David Gordon Green comments, in the special features, at how he thought the comedy would work best if the ridiculous elements were surrounded by the best, most serious actors he could find — the actors who would be cast in the “serious” version of this film — and watching Toby Jones, Charles Dance (most recently seen as Tywin Lannister on Game of Thrones), and Damian Lewis (Lt. Winters from Band of Brothers) act their hearts out in the film only makes the story’s lunacy that much crazier.
Speaking of acting their hearts out, Justin Theroux knocks it out of the park as the wizard Leezar. Mr. Theroux has popped up, as an actor, in places as disparate as Zoolander, Miami Vice, John Adams, Parks and Recreation, and (most notably to me) as the Werner Herzog-esque host of the Tropic Thunder faux making-of documentary DVD special feature Rain of Madness (click here to learn more about what the heck I’m talking about). He’s also a solid … [continued]
It’s not getting much notice in theatres, it seems, but I found myself quite taken with The Rum Diary, Bruce Robinson’s adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s book, starring Johnny Depp.
I am not at all a devotee of Hunter S. Thompson. I have not read the novel on which this film is based, and I must somewhat ashamedly confess that much of what I know of Mr. Thompson is drawn from the character of Duke from Doonesbury. Still, I’m familiar with the man’s reputation, and The Rum Diary serves up a fine dose of the debauchery, booze, journalism, and a dash more debauchery I was expecting from an adaptation of one of his novels.
Johnny Depp plays the main character, Paul Kemp (seemingly a stand-in for Mr. Thompson himself, which makes this film Mr. Depp’s second go-round at playing him, after Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas). We meet Paul on his first day in Puerto Rico, recovering from a hell of a bender that apparently is not an aberration for Mr. Kemp. He’s taken a job at a dying newspaper in Puerto Rico, and the film never quite makes clear whether this is borne from Kemp’s sense of adventure or simply because this barely-functional drunk can’t hold down a steady job anywhere else.
The role is a fine showcase for Mr. Depp’s talents, talents that I was beginning to think were lost and gone after one too many horribly cartoonish performances in Tim Burton films. While Paul Kemp is gloriously weird and teetering on unhinged, Mr. Depp keeps the weirdness dialed just within the realm of believably human. And he brings a charm to the character that allows us to continue to sort-of root for the fellow, even as we watch him be pretty much a complete boor for much of the film.
Kemp repeatedly states (most often to his boss at the paper, Lotterman) that he’s trying to cut down on his booze-intake. It seems clear that he says that just to appease his boss, or because he knows that’s probably what he should be saying to people. But Mr. Depp is able to squeeze just enough decency into the character that we wonder if maybe he does realize, somewhere in the back of his brain, that maybe his booze-and-drugs-fueled lifestyle is not the way to go.
Not that Kemp really learns that lesson by the end of the movie, which is part of what I loved about the film. We do get a rousing “call-to-action” section late in the film, in which a series of events finally drives Kemp to actually want to do some real journalism. He unleashes a stirring speech about the power of the … [continued]
This is a fantastic article from the New York Times about how baseball dugout payphones are the last bastion of the landline.
The web-site io9 always has some great lists, and I particularly enjoyed their recent list of 10 stand-alone episodes that totally represent their respective shows. Choosing “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose” for The X-Files was a great choice.
Quint from AICN has begun posting reports from the set of The Hobbit. Check out Part 1 of his Unexpected Journey here. Meanwhile, Peter Jackson has recently posted the fourth video diary from the set of The Hobbit, this one focusing on the film’s 3-D effects:
Did you catch that glimpse at The Hobbit’s official logo, there at the end? Cool!!
This review of the Star Wars saga on blu-ray from Chud.com is interesting — especially the “fuck you” opening (early in “the lowdown” section)! The reviewer has some interesting comments on all the films, particularly Empire. (Though his rating both The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones as better films than Return of the Jedi is lunacy. Jedi is flawed, absolutely, but still way better than those two prequels.) (By the way, so far I have held firm in my vow not to purchase the saga on blu-ray. I’m itching to watch the series again, and I will admit to a morbid curiosity as to what has been changed in this latest version of the films, but I’m still avoiding paying almost a hundred bucks for something that I know will, in the end, just sadden and/or anger me. Still, if anyone wants to give it to me as a GIFT…!)
But the articles that have really reminded me of my love for Star Wars, and that have got me thinking about re-watching the series, is Drew McWeeny from HitFix’s series of FilmNerd articles about showing the Star Wars films, one at a time, to his young kids for the very first time. These articles represent some of the finest writing Mr. McWeeny has ever done, and if you’ve ever enjoyed a Star Wars film, these are well-worth your time. It’s fascinating to re-experience these films through the eyes of someone who has never seen them before. Consider, if you will, two boys who have seen the Clone Wars cartoons but not the films. They think Anakin Skywalker is the hero of Star Wars. Reading how they react to what the film series is REALLY about is poignant and mind-blowing. Start with Drew’s article about showing his boys the original Star Wars (A New Hope) and go from there. Here’s his piece on Empire, and then his pieces on Episode I, Episode … [continued]
Wow! Add this series to the list of brilliant, cancelled-before-their-time TV shows!
I don’t think I even heard of Party Down during the two seasons it was on the air, on Starz, in 2009-10. But every now and then, since it’s cancellation, I’d hear or read a mention of it, mostly in connection to being a prior great role of Adam Scott’s, who I’ve been so enjoying as Ben Dywer on the terrific Parks and Recreation. A sale on Amazon lead me to buy the first season on DVD, and I was blown away! I’m already almost finished with season two, and deep in mourning that there are no more episodes of this fantastic show!
The series focuses on Party Down, a fairly low-quality Hollywood catering company, staffed primarily by out-of-work actors and actresses. The show is a true ensemble, but if I had to identify a lead character it would be Adam Scott as Henry. Henry was once a struggling actor whose big break came on a commercial, saying the catch phrase “Are we having fun yet?”. Sadly, that break-out role also destroyed his career, forever type-casting him as the “are we having fun yet?” guy. His dreams pretty much crushed, Henry is fairly rudderless when we first meet him, having sworn off acting, but not sure what he should do with his life instead of that.
He’s hired to work with Party Down by an old friend, Ron, played by Ken Marino. The two used to party together, back in the day, but Ron partied too hard and too long. He’s sworn off all booze and drugs now, and he sees his job as Party Down team leader as a stepping-stone towards his dream of one day owning a Soup ‘R Crackers franchise. While everyone else treats their gigs catering with Party Down with apathy or downright loathing, Ron takes things totally seriously, leading to a lot of (very funny) butting heads with his team of misfits. Ron is so sincere, he’s pretty impossible not to love.
The only part of working for Party Down that is remotely appealing for Henry is the presence of Casey, played by Lizzy Caplan. Although Casey is married when we first meet her in the pilot, the show wisely avoids any prolonged will-they-or-won’t-they Ross/Rachel tension by immediately getting the two together. Casey is struggling mightily to succeed as a stand-up comic, and though she’s been pretty beaten down by rejection she sees right through Henry’s “I don’t care anymore” attitude. Lizzy Caplan had a very small role in Freaks and Geeks, but I recognized her most from her role as Marlena in Cloverfield. She’s absolutely dynamite here, tough and … [continued]
I had previously seen Mimic once, back when it was originally released to theatres in 1997. I think I went to see it because the trailers looked interestingly creepy, and because I had so enjoyed Charles S. Dutton in Alien 3. (I still think that Mr. Dutton is one of the best aspects of that sadly misguided Alien sequel.) I remember thinking Mimic was OK, but it wasn’t a film I was ever drawn to re-watch.
Years later, when I began to discover the films of Guillermo del Toro, and I realized that he had directed Mimic, I began to think it might be interesting to go back and re-watch the film. That desire to rediscover an early del Toro film was counteracted by what I’d periodically read or hear, in interviews with Mr. del Toro, about how difficult an experience making Mimic was for him, and how many of the decisions represented in the finished film did not at all represent his intentions.
I started hearing rumors, a few years ago, about a possible director’s cut of Mimic, and so I was thrilled when this was finally released to DVD and blu-ray this past summer! It’s rare — and so always a cause for celebration — to see a filmmaker given an opportunity to go back and try to restore a film that was taken away from them (I’m thinking of the Richard Donner version of Superman II as one example — click here for my review). As Mr. del Toro describes in the DVD’s special features, there were many things that he had wanted to film but was unable to, so many aspects of his original plans for the film are not represented in this new director’s cut. What he has done is to go back and trim out much of the second-unit footage that was included in the original edit, footage which he did not direct. He was also able to re-incorporate into the film many scenes and plot-threads that had been excised from the theatrical cut. The result, Mr. del Toro describes, is a film that is as close to “his” as we’re ever going to get.
Mimic is, at its heart, a B-movie. (The plot does involve bugs that grow to mimic humans!) Mr. del Toro readily admits that in his commentary, and he discusses how his filmmaking strategy has always been to elevate B-movie ideas by taking them 100% seriously and applying as much care as he possibly can in the telling of those stories. It’s a technique that has served Mr. del Toro very well. Mimic, though, even in this new director’s cut, never really breaks out of it’s B-movie essence. … [continued]
OK! As I wrote about last week, after re-watching Terrence Malick’s 1998 WWII film The Thin Red Line, I decided the time had come for me to track down Mr. Malick’s first two films, both of which had gotten so much acclaim when they were released back in the ’70s. The first of these was Badlands, Mr. Malick’s debut film which he wrote and directed.
Set in the 1950′s, Badlands centers on two main characters: Kit and Holly. Holly, played by Sissy Spacek, is a fifteen year-old girl living with her father in a quiet South Dakota town. Her life changes forever when she meets Kit (played by a ferocious, impossibly young Martin Sheen). Kit is the epitome of cool to her: he is quiet and enigmatic, he’s older (Kit is twenty-five), and he looks and dresses sort of like James Dean. What’s clear to the audience, though not to Holly, is that something is definitely off about this young man. During the scene in which we first meet him, working his route as a garbage-collector, Kit seems socially awkward and more than a little weird. But what I did not see coming was Kit’s tendency towards violence. That tendency explodes when Holly’s father forbids Kit from seeing her, and only grows from there. Once Holly finds herself in Kit’s orbit, she gets swept up in an American odyssey of violence and murder.
That sounds like the plot of an exciting action film, but Mr. Malick was after something entirely different. Badlands is as quiet and weird a film as Kit is as a character. There is not an inordinate amount of dialogue in the film, and what little there is is fairly banal stuff, not really connected to the incredible events that are transpiring. Both Kit and Holly are rather still, quiet, almost passive characters. (Somewhat paradoxically, Kit’s passivity only lasts until he picks up his shotgun.) Though Kit and Holly are the main characters, the film does not go out of its way to get us to like, or even to sympathize at all with, either one of them. That cold, almost dispassionate way in which Mr. Malick’s film presents the events we watch unfold is quite striking, and part, I think, of what makes this such a unique piece of work.
Even on the battered version of the film I watched (the image on the old DVD I got from Netflix was a far cry from the gorgeous, newly-restored image of the Criterion Collection’s blu-ray release of The Thin Red Line!), I still found Badlands to be a beautifully shot film. Mr. Malick’s camera takes the time to explore the incredible vistas of the American … [continued]
Is anyone else as amused as I am by how closely Brad Pitt, in the new baseball film Moneyball, resembles Robert Redford in the classic baseball film The Natural (click here for my review)? It’s spooky, man!
Anyways, Moneyball is adapted from the book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis. The book (which I have never read, but it’s been on my to-read for a while now and has been bolted up to the top of that list after I watched the terrific film adaptation) elaborates upon the technique of sabermetrics, a type of baseball statistical analysis that focuses on in-game performance as opposed to other intangibles (like leadership, heart, etc.). The book, and the film, focuses on the Oakland A’s 2002 season, and on their General Manager Billy Beane, who was one of the early adopters/pioneers of this strategy.
I’ve always loved baseball, but these days with my incredibly busy life I don’t follow the game with anything approaching the passion and devotion I did as a kid. Growing up as a die-hard Mets fan, I listened to almost every single game on the radio (WFAN New York) and when I couldn’t (like when I was away at summer camp) I would voraciously devour the box scores (which my parents would faithfully mail to me several times a week). Moneyball is a fantastic film and, more than that, it’s a fantastic baseball film, and it really brought me back to my days as a kid analyzing, with my friends, the ins and outs of every game and every player. The film really made me miss those days!!
Baseball is a magical sport, and has always fascinated me the way no other professional sport does. Although one aspect of Moneyball is to debunk many of the assumptions of the game (and to reveal the inherent unfairness in which certain ball-clubs with enormous payrolls — cough Yankees cough — can spend their way to victory after victory, leaving the small-market teams in the dust), the film also pours over with a love for baseball and a fascination with its complexities and mysteries. The sequence, late in the film, chronicling the A’s incredible win-streak from the 2002 season is thrilling, an incredibly-realized reminder of the powerful pull of baseball at its best. It’s as good a celluloid love-letter to the game as I’ve ever seen.
I also really love the scene in Mr. Beane’s office right before the trade deadline, in which he works the phones, wheeling-and-dealing to acquire the players he thinks he needs. All that talk of trades is a bit inside baseball (to use a very appropriate metaphor), steeped … [continued]