When you have to keep an obsessive eye on film, music, books, visual art, television, the Internet, and all other manner of popular culture, something eventually has to give, and for us — well, for this author, anyway — it’s sports. An almost-complete disinterest in professional and collegiate sporting events can make one feel a bit of an outcast (and it certainly makes for a confusing Facebook feed; apparently some guy who’s really into Jesus won something important on Sunday?), but after faking it through high school and college, I can’t pretend to care anymore. Maybe it makes me a pencil-necked geek, but the idea of spending three hours watching a football going to and fro — particularly when there are still Hitchcock movies I haven’t seen — is simply unacceptable.
However, many of the same film fans who are patently disinterested in a Sunday afternoon of TV sports will gladly spend that same time planted in front of a sports-themed movie — basically the same thing, albeit with better camera angles and a scripted ending. (And the angles are the only difference in a wrestling movie, HA HA!) And that’s fine with this viewer; as I told a friend after its release, “I’d watch football every week if it looked like Any Given Sunday.” But cinephiles more sport-phobic than I (and they’re out there!) might prefer films that keep the game play squarely off-screen. In honor of today’s DVD release of Moneyball, one of the best of the bunch, we offer ten genuinely good movies about sports that are notable for their minimal sports action. Check them out after the jump, and add your own in the comments.
It would seem appropriate that Bennett Miller’s adaptation of Michael Lewis’ best-selling book would have so little baseball action in it, since it tells the true story of a general manager who embraced a system which saw the men on his team as numbers and statistics rather than “players.” We didn’t run a clock on it, but there’s probably less than ten minutes of actual game play in the 133-minute film; even GM Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) doesn’t watch the games, opting instead to drive and listen to them on the radio, if that. Moneyball is a sports movie about the business of sports, rather than the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat — the film doesn’t lead up to a onscreen “big game,” with dramatic music and a come-from-behind victory, because the last game of this season is only seen as an affirmation of whether Beane’s big scheme worked. Instead of pop-flies and stolen bases, the thrills in Moneyball are found in the whip-smart fast pace of Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay.