Monthly Archives: September 2011

Money Walks, Bullshit Talks

“You can observe a lot just by watching” – Yogi Berra

Most sports fans out there that obsessively follow their teams and check the box scores daily are just frustrated athletes. And as Alvy Singer says, “Those that can’t do, teach. And those that can’t teach, teach gym.” But in Moneyball those that can’t do neither become Scouts and join the fold of the parasitic monied culture that surrounds professional sports. The movie opens with a prescient Yogism like quote from the great Yankee slugger Mickey Mantle, “It’s unbelievable how much you don’t know about the game you’ve been playing all your life”. But I’m sure that drunkard wasn’t referring to sabermetrics, algorithms, and paradigms to what goes on between the white lines of grown men in pajamas playing in the greatest show on dirt. A seemingly simple but yet complex game or in other words-baseball is 90% mental, the other half is physical.

Same can be said about Moneyball, replete with wall to wall dialogue (with the exception of the obligatory slow-mo ball playing montages), that involves us in behind the scenes dealings of baseball, being less a movie about sports and players personalities, but about the nerds and wannabes treating their idols as a commodity. Basically, it’s like that Facebook movie but with Brad Pitt. I must admit I have a love/hate thing for the guy, the older he gets or the more he looks like Robert Redford, and the better he gets at acting. In this chew spitting Oscar contending performance as Billy Beane (the General Manager of the fledgeling Oakland A’s) he is unable to compete with the Yankees and Red Sox due to the huge disparity in payroll and markets. So he resorts to a number crunching Jonah Hill, an overweight 24 year old Yale economics graduate, to help solve the problem and put the team on the plus side. In doing so Pitt flies in the face of convention – pitting these lifer Scouts, a bunch of old farts that spent too much time in the sun, against Google Boy and one firing away from working at Dick’s Sporting Goods. The Scouts draw upon their years of experience calculating the five tool player combined with baseball smarts and the intangibles within the variables, whereas Jonah calculates on base percentages, where a walk is as good as a hit – picking up seemingly washed up, devalued players in tandem instead of paying the price of one multi-million dollar player with a five cent head. With this meat market or the PC sabermetric approach one can argue it’s antecedents and origins of how geeky little boys chewing chalky gum, scanning their baseball card stats and playing strat-o-matic are to grow into the stock market devising derivatives and credit default swaps. Both soulless endeavors with the calculated illusion of winning. But at least being a General Manager of a team spreads joy to the kids in the stands. And as we all know, the children are our future – even if there won’t be any well paying jobs for them when they grow up. At least they’ll still have Fantasy Baseball! Which is almost as pathetic as rock ‘n’ roll camp.

The Yanks and Red Sox buy championships and that’s why we root for Pitt and Jonah, because underdogs are what all sports movies are about anyhow. So while the old guard Scouts are busy scratching their heads about who the fuck Fabio is and Pitt drives in circles soul searching, the Oakland A’s go on a remarkable record winning streak. Ironically breaking it not with a walk but a Roy Hobbs like fucking home run! So much for sabermetrics. As Billy Beane was quoted “this shit don’t work in the playoffs.”

I guess the saying, “it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game” just don’t cut it with Beane ball. However, without sounding corny, Moneyball is a winner and most likely will win awards. I just hope they don’t nominate that fucking jingle song that Pitt’s daughter (Kerris Dorsey) sings – or worse, her! Or Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who thinks just because he has a buzz-cut he’s a believable baseball manager. But the real Art Howe was clueless too.

Moneyball may deny you the romance of baseball but like the game Pitt has the opportunity to redeem himself. But I’d rather forget all that noise and cash that big fat paycheck.

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They Drive by Night

“…a five-minute window…anything happens a minute either side of that, and you’re on your own, I don’t carry a gun…I drive.”-Drive

Other than that, as far as getaway driver Ryan Gosling is concerned, his rules of the road end there except for his pathological addiction to being close to cars and his penchant for sucking on toothpicks. That is, until he meets up with his next door neighbor, Michelle Williams – I mean Carey Mulligan – in this existential neon neo-noir directed by Nicola Winding Refn. But before Mulligan enters the picture and revs up Gosling’s soft side with his silent goofy aloof expressions, the movie begins with an adrenaline shot of a night time car chase evading Johnny Law with chopters throughout the “hundred thousand streets” in downtown LA. After this I was eagerly awaiting some more high octane fun but instead veered into a seriouso character study of how a lonely man in a satin scorpio patch jacket can have such a tender heart but ultimately reveals his ultra violent nature of a scorpion. Though obviously steeped in and influenced by numerous past flicks at least Drive revitalizes the noir crime genre and what sets it apart is Refn’s assured direction and the (at times a bit overbearing) retro eighties like soundtrack. Too bad it didn’t drown out the fucking dialogue between those two kikes, Albert Brook and Hellboy. Albert is completely miscast as a razor wielding gangster and should resurrect his writing and directing career or else his legacy will be the voice of Finding Nemo.

While Mulligan and Gosling are busy making puppy faces at each other, her ex-con husband cuts in with one of the best scenes cock blocking him. The other notable one is the motel money murder madness scene where Gosling’s pointed gloved finger bitch slapping interrogation goes awry. Too bad he can’t use those tactics in the real world.

SPOILERS. You would think that Drive would climax in a dazzling car chase as it began but instead we get a tiny fucking elevator with a slowmo make out scene and a stomping session. In keeping with the existential motif and ambiguous ending, Gosling drives off into the night. Hopefully his first stop is the dry cleaners.

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Apoxalypse Now!

Even with bans against slobs eating on public transportation, spitting fines, and employees must wash hands signs, we’ve seen plenty of deadly epidemics in our world’s history – everything from the Bubonic Plague to Taco Bell’s E. coli and Bieber Fever. I’m nagged daily on my germaphobia, if not with a lecture on weakening my immunity, then with a look like I’m a freak for protecting a hand with my sleeve around door knobs or train poles. So to all my touchy-feely friends, sorry if my hugs seem like I’m wearing a surgical mask but after seeing Contagion  you might finally get it. I’m sure it won’t be long until we see “pass the Purell” in the American lexicon as Sodergbergh rounds up more A-list actors than Robert Altman, utilizing intercutting stories and subplots in this global pandemic flick (making Nashville look like a family picnic!).

Before Kate Winslet has a chance to get naked she plays doctor specializing in epidemic cures and we are on edge (trying to ignore the mouth breather sitting next to us and biochem Demitri Martin) with our infected cast, and dead Gwen lying on a autopsy table with her head sliced open and forehead peeled back, and Matt Damon, demanding to know “What happened to her!!?”….”What happened to her!!!?” He and the rest of the world sure manage to keep their heads on straight, not dropping one cuss word when I would be losing my fucking shit!! Meanwhile, back at the laboratory, biologists, the CIA, Homeland Security, and Elliot Gould all work to find a vaccine – spearheaded by Dr. Fishburne as Jude Law shows the power of a video blog vs. the printed media, accusing the Government for lying to the public and insinuating a massive conspiracy perpetuated by the pharmaceutical companies. Perhaps I too should wear a snaggle tooth to get some more subscribers? But as lab-coats get lost in a game of ring around the rosy with accusations against Fishburne for secretly advising his chick over the general public to leave the cootie zone, the story forgets all it’s compelling premises and angles; Damon’s immunization, biological warfare, nefarious plots of genocide, and literally turns to some batshit crazy excuse.

(Bubble Boy!)

Sucks Bryan Cranston didn’t have his Breaking Bad chemistry set. Thankfully Soderbergh’s eye paired with Stephen Mirrione editing move us through these pending plots with a spooky pulsating electronic score to keep us on pace and at least raise the question and possible scenarios in this day and age how the panic of the people will play out. But unfortunately Contagion’s characters are unfulfilled even with a vaccine shot up there nose. But what really left me hanging was the Doctor’s reaction to whatever the fuck was inside Gwen’s head?…Bedbugs?

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