Mallory McDuff at the Huffington Post draws an interesting parallel between Moneyball, the Wall Street protests and the Republicans protesting President’s Obama’s call to have the very rich pay their fair share of taxes:
The game of baseball, as depicted in “Moneyball” is about statistics; our current national pastime of political wrangling about taxation is about math, as Obama reminded us from the Rose Garden. But the movie — and our fate as a country — is also about openness to change, innovative problem-solving, and a moral ground that will benefit the team, rather than showcase individual players.
Many of the scenes in the movie hold truths for a country struggling to gain momentum with 9 percent unemployment and disillusionment with corporate and political leaders. As we head into this election season, we must remember that in the end, the “team” is our entire country, which risks a big-time loss if we cannot regain our vision and power as one nation under God.
“There are rich teams, and there are poor teams; then there is 50 feet of crap. And then there’s us,” says general manager Beane, describing the gap between winning major league teams and the Oakland A’s.
The cardboard signs of protesters occupying Wall Street reflect a similar gap between corporate profits and the household economics of the middle class: “We are not leaving — not while the richest 1 percent own 75 percent of the USA’s wealth,” and “Wall Street is our street.” Such disparity creates an image of the middle class, like the Oakland A’s in the film, as an “undervalued island of misfit toys.” But we must remember that social movements in this country have not relied on star political leaders, but rather on a common identity of those who aim for justice for all. Our history and abilities as organizers, even as underdogs, can mobilize our power to revision our country.
She closes her piece this way:
Baseball as a metaphor for life may seem as cliché as quoting Yogi Berra or “A Field of Dreams.” But it really isn’t over until it’s over. We must ask the hard questions that can lead to rebuilding a nation where we want to raise our children, where there is justice for all.
Theologian Richard Rohr notes that easy answers, instead of hard questions, allow us to want to change others, rather than allowing God to change us. “We do not think ourselves into new ways of living, we live ourselves into new ways of thinking,” he says. That liminal place between knowing and unknowing, that openness to change, can prepare us to reform the institutional systems that create these enormous gaps between wealthy and poor.
As Babe Ruth once said, “The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.” With the bases loaded and the stakes high, it’s now our turn to play ball.
Meanwhile, last Wednesday one of the greatest baseball nights in history played out. Says the Washington Post’s David Sheinin:
But for as long as there is baseball played, Wednesday night will be remembered as the night that turned history upside-down, when the impossible was not only possible, but expected.
There are several forces that make Moneyball a movie for right now, none of them, as it turns out, have to do with how Billy Beane changed the way the game was played. This is the one thing it does have in common with The Social Network: people who thought it was about Facebook missed what it as entirely – yes, to a degree Zuckerberg changed the way we socialize with each other forever. Forever. But in another way, this was a film about who we were/who we are in 2010.
The spirit of the underdog is captured so beautifully in Moneyball, and that’s what we all saw when the impossible happened on the baseball field. That kind of unexpected miracle is bound to turn heads Moneyball’s way, if for no other reason than to celebrate the game in yet another of its onscreen incarnations. This holds true even if they don’t go on to win the big one. This is the theme of Moneyball – the final game, the big win, isn’t what counts, as we learned on Wednesday. There is no final game that can top it.
You really don’t have writers like Aaron Sorkin, Steve Zallian on a project and not have it have their work reflect greater relevance to the world at large. Sorkin, in particular, always has one finger pressed firmly against the politics of our culture, and the politics of our government. Whether Sorkin was trying to say something about “the new” in terms of politics is a mystery — but probably not. Does the zeitgeist care if the author intended it to be timely or not? It does not.
Baseball and America are threaded so tightly together that it’s hard to not extrapolate broader themes about our country from the film. The tradition of baseball has been threatened by the statistical approach put in motion by Beane, though not invented by him. Still, anyone who knows a lot about baseball complains about many aspects of it, like this piece where the author believes Moneyball is a cynical look at baseball:
“Moneyball” focuses far more on the business and financial aspect of baseball vs. the love of the game itself. Although having thoroughly enjoyed movies such as “For the Love of the Game” and “Field of Dreams,” and having watched “Sandlot” more than a hundred times, this movie was definitely not enjoyed as much. Maybe it is because when you have a genuine love for the game itself, the brutality of the financial and business aspect of the game destroys the beauty of the on-field action. This movie ruins the traditional view of baseball as portrayed in movies such as the three aforementioned films, tearing away from the ballgame itself and focusing on the fact that money drives the game.
Did we see the same film? Because the film I saw clearly illustrates how money was driving the game long before the moneyball model was adopted. Money has ruined a lot of games, in fact. As a fan of baseball briefly it was never fun to see a beloved member of a team traded or bought by another team that could pay more. I never wanted to watch the team who got my favorite player because I wanted to stay loyal to the team I loved. Loyalty has never factored in much, has it? It’s always been about the money. At least with Moneyball, it’s more about finding true strengths in forgotten places.
My dictionary defines the zeitgeist this way: the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time.
When I think about a film that captures the zeitgeist, I think more about the mood of the country, and what really captures present day – not just here in America but globally. To define the Oscar race for the past six years, it has been clear to me that the bleakness of the wars in Iraq and in the post-9/11 era that films like The Departed, No Country for Old Men and The Hurt Locker did, in their own way, capture the zeitgeist, in that, they reflected the somber moods, the hopelessness and perhaps the simmering frustration.
Coincidentally, The Ides of March also finds itself in zeitgeist territory, not intentionally probably, but it comes at a time when we are all questioning our leadership, but particularly our blind faith in leaders who ultimately disappoint us. The Ides of March is brilliant in how it nails the hypocrisy of we the people as much as it nails the inevitable moral failings of our elected officials.
Beyond that, The Artist, The Help and Midnight in Paris are all films about nostalgia for a different time, like last year’s Best Picture winner. And our need to return things back to a way we understand them better is the stuff Oscars are made on.
Everyone loved The King’s Speech. But it said next to nothing about our modern world and it did not capture the zeitgeist the way the Social Network did.
Or did it? The notion of a man overcoming his disability to become a hopeful leader to fight Nazis did, in fact, capture our hopeFULLness. Perhaps what we’ll see in War Horse is an anti-war message, and what we’ll see in Loud and Close is a need to mourn 9/11 and move on from our anger. I suppose the zeitgeist can be defined in different ways, depending on whose defining it.