Michael Lewis

Moneyball (2011, Bennett Miller)

Moneyball is the traditional American sports movie with all the excitement sucked out of the accomplishment. The excitement isn’t gone because of the story–about how the Oakland A’s applied a statistical theory to how to win baseball games, but more because director Miller wants to make sure everyone is paying attention to the symbolism in his filmmaking.

Miller’s style is generic, competent important mainstream filmmaking. He has a minimalist Mychael Danna, he has a big movie star (Brad Pitt) playing a guy who didn’t make it, he has a cast-against-type sidekick for Pitt (Jonah Hill), he’s even got Robin Wright as Pitt’s ex-wife. I didn’t realize she was in the cast, but when her single scene came on, I knew it was her before she got a close-up. Why? Because Moneyball is that type of movie.

And the first hour, maybe hour and a half, moves beautifully. Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay makes everything–all the baseball business, all the statistics–nicely digestible. It’s a very smooth film for that first ninety minutes, with some great editing from Christopher Tellefsen.

But then Miller realizes he’s making an American sports movie and so he has to do his variation on the big game moment. But because Moneyball isn’t “just” a sports movie, everything goes on and on and on after that moment. It meanders when it needs to come together and the ending is way too obvious.

Still, it’s perfectly acceptable mainstream “thinking” movie stuff.



Directed by Bennett Miller; written by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, based on a story by Stan Chervin and the book by Michael Lewis; director of photography, Wally Pfister; edited by Christopher Tellefsen; music by Mychael Danna; production designer, Jess Gonchor; produced by Michael De Luca, Rachael Horovitz and Brad Pitt; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Brad Pitt (Billy Beane), Jonah Hill (Peter Brand), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Art Howe), Robin Wright (Sharon), Chris Pratt (Scott Hatteberg) and Stephen Bishop (David Justice).

The Thaw (2009, Mark A. Lewis)

There’s a lot to mock about The Thaw. It’s shot on some kind of cheap DV and framed Panavision–the cheap DV isn’t even consistent–and the cinematography is atrocious. It’s also a global warming horror film–indestructible bugs from earth’s past threaten our future unless we stop with the global warming business. Director Lewis misses the humorous part of having one of the global warming disbelievers–he does these radio show things and cuts in some TV interviews–get attacked by the bugs. It would be great. I guess he hasn’t seen Scanners.

I don’t know what colleges Val Kilmer’s kids attend, but they’ve got to be expensive–if he weren’t trying to pay for something so mundane, the tabloids would be all over it–there’s simply no reason for him to do a video like The Thaw. With a better script and producer–not to mention another thirty minutes on the running time–it could be all right. But it doesn’t have any of those things and Kilmer’s wasting his time here.

He doesn’t even get any good scenes with Martha MacIsaac and Aaron Ashmore, who give decent performances. Ashmore’s done this kind of role before and he’s solid, but MacIsaac’s a surprise. She doesn’t look at all like she could pull the character off, but does a fine job.

Kyle Schmid and Steph Song aren’t bad. Viv Leacock is terrible.

But The Thaw does make good use of Canada as a setting, not just a filming location.



Directed by Mark A. Lewis; written by Mark A. Lewis and Michael Lewis; edited by Rob Neilson; music by Michael Neilson; production designer, Michael N. Wong; produced by Trent Carlson, Rob Neilson and Mary Anne Waterhouse; released by Lionsgate.

Starring Martha MacIsaac (Evelyn Kruipen), Val Kilmer (Dr. David Kruipen), Aaron Ashmore (Atom Galen), Kyle Schmid (Federico Fulce), Steph Song (Ling Chen), Viv Leacock (Bart) and Anne Marie DeLuise (Dr. Jane Sanders).

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