Starring: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill and Phillip Seymour Hoffman
Directed by: Bennett Miller
Putting together a well made, successful film is similar to putting together the right pieces of a good baseball team. A smart screenwriter, innovative director and capable producer can easily be compared to an intelligent general manager, a strong minded manager and a trusting owner. But, the true success in baseball and the movie business is the stars on the field or on the silver screen and not only the stars, but how when a star driven vehicle is put together the right way, the execution is thoroughly effective.
Director Bennett Miller is fairly new to mainstream films, primarily working as a documentarian, he has made only two non-documentaries, the highly acclaimed Capote in 2005 and this year’s Moneyball. Where Bennett lacks experience behind the camera, he has the keen sense to recognize that with the right talent pool, he doesn’t have to do a lot to make a movie go. Watching Moneyball, the audience gets a sense that there was probably a relaxed togetherness on the set as the film was being made. Allowing his actors to do their best work has obviously paid off, considering that his two films have garnered a total of four Academy Award Nominations.
Moneyball, based on the Michael Lewis book, has been described as Freakanomics meets America’s Pastime. Following the story of real life Oakland Athletics former athlete turned General Manager, Billy Beane, the filmmakers seem to aim for a 1970′s style expose of how an unorthodox method of putting together a successful team could change the entire way Major League Baseball evaluates their players. In a restrained role as a man balancing baseball and fatherhood, Pitt does a great job of convincing us that he is not Brad Pitt and demonstrates a sense of vulnerability in a character who has failed in some sense at every level of his life up to this point. Jonah Hill is also convincing as an economics guru with a passion for baseball and Phillip Seymour Hoffman as grumpy manager Art Howe is pitch perfect in a role that is more potent at the times when he says nothing at all.
What I like best about Moneyball is the filmmakers ability to maintain a balance between each character and each aspect of the film. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, I knew most of the history of what was on screen, but found myself intrigued throughout my viewing experience. Whether it is the editing, the story or a combination of both, no scene lingers on too long, no message is stuffed down the audiences throat, no repetitive jokes, everything feels fresh and as if being provided with a sense that you are peaking in on someone’s life for a short time and are compelled to see what happens next. Many people may watch Moneyball anticipating some type of exciting sports movie and while those people won’t be disappointed, the film is based less on the dramatic sports events on the field and more driven by the intense dialogue behind the scenes and the excitement that comes from watching others follow their instincts, taking chances and making the most of what they have. Most sports movies empathize with the fan and emphasize a love of the game. Here, we get a picture of baseball as a business, run by people driven to succeed who also have a passion for the game but in a different way.
By the end of the film, I was left with an unexpected sense of surprise and fulfillment, but I really shouldn’t be, because when someone takes the time to put together a good team that fully executes, what else should be expected other than complete enjoyment on the other side.
I was trying to think of different food balls I could roll together for this movie, but then thought of something much better! Garlic fries! Do stadiums everywhere have garlic fries now? The fries at the Giant’s stadium are garlic-tastic and a must try. The overwhelming garlic is fabulous for the first few fries, but after that, it can be a bit much. So, I needed to find a baked fry recipe, to cut out the frying, as well as one that still satisfied a garlic craving, without killing all vampires on the earth.
While getting the fries just right turned out to be trickier that I thought, I was happy I took the extra steps. What extra steps? As her recipe suggests, I flipped the fries over every 10 minutes for a total of 40 (minutes, not flips). I spent time infusing my olive oil with garlic and rosemary. I made an extra oil mixture at the end and went above and beyond by creating a dipping sauce.
- 2 pounds russet potatoes, cut lengthwise into 3×1/3×1/3 batons
- 3 tablespoons olive, divided
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 garlic cloves chopped (not minced)*
- 3 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
- Preheat oven to 425-degrees. Coat a large rimmed baking sheet with non-stick spray. Toss potatoes with 2½ tablespoons oil in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on baking sheet.
- Roast the potatoes, turning ever 10 minutes, until browned and tender, about 30 – 40 minutes.
- Whisk reaming ½ tablespoon oil, garlic and parsley in a large bowl. Add hot fries, season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat.
*Minced garlic is much stronger and has a sharper flavor than larger pieces of garlic. I made the mistake of mincing and it was over powering. Next time I would chop the garlic leaving larger chunks and thus softening the garlic flavor. (I know it sounds weird and doesn’t make sense as you would think smaller pieces means less flavor, but believe me, trust me — don’t mince.)
Things I did differently
- I infused garlic and rosemary in olive oil first, by letting a mixture of the oil and herbs come to a simmer and then leaving the oil on low for 30 minutes.
- I used thyme, pepper and celtic sea salt in my last seasoning
- I brushed the infused olive oil on my fries between baking times
- My dipping sauce was a blend of greek yogurt, minced garlic and the thyme/pepper/salt seasoning
I’ll just say this once, these are so stinking good. Come back to read what Jy has to say about Moneyball tonight!