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Thumbs up for “Moneyball” — mostly

The A’s are the center of attention in baseball today — at least as far as Hollywood is concerned. The premiere of “Moneyball” took place in Oakland tonight, and a large number of us media types got to see an advance screening last night.

Overall thoughts? I give it a thumbs up. It was a very well-made movie and Brad Pitt, not surprisingly, gives a strong performance as Billy Beane. Thinking back, I’m astonished at how much camera time the guy logs. It seemed he was in nearly every scene. Pitt isn’t a dead-ringer for Beane, but he pulled the role off nicely, combining Beane’s charisma, humor and sometimes volatile temper. The movie does a slick job of taking viewers through the 2002 season while breaking it up with flashback scenes to Beane’s own failed playing career. I’d rate the actual baseball scenes as top-notch compared to other baseball movies I’ve seen. Another authentic touch: While many scenes from the 20-game winning streak were re-created, they were accompanied by the real audio play-by-play of those games. It’s really cool hearing the late Bill King (and others) taking you back to that time.

I was engrossed in this movie because I cover the team on a daily basis and grew up watching the A’s. But I have my doubts how much “Moneyball” will grasp the non-baseball fan, or even the baseball fan who’s not up to speed on A’s history. It’s a well-done movie, but you can’t get around the fact that there’s no fist-pumping finish to the story. The A’s don’t win the World Series — or even make it to the Series. So I’m not sure how much people will get swept up in the emotion of it all.

The portrayal of Art Howe (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman) was an eyebrow-raiser. I can’t imagine that Howe was quite as confrontational and aggressive with Beane as he’s made out to be (it’s almost a “bad guy” role). Jonah Hill? He’s entertaining as Peter Brand (a.k.a Paul DePodesta, Beane’s assistant GM back then). Solid job by him.

I plan to watch the movie again and see if my perspective changes. If you go see it, share your opinions on the blog. I’m curious …

Joe Stiglich