Popular Posts

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Review: Moneyball; Foucault and the Dominating Discourse;The CUT

Moneyball is not an art film, an Oscar film, a best anything film. What it is is a "Foucauldian CUT" about the Discourse of baseball. Just like Warhohl's Campbell Soup Can in art historical criticism and Stephenie Meyer's Twilight in the history of sexuality.

The Foucauldian grid of power/knowledge so revealed and concealed in Ides of March is front and center in Moneyball. The grid is revealed clearly in the Discourse. In one of the first scenes we see Billy Beane/Brad Pitt in a manager meeting with his field coaches. They have lost their three major players and must rebuild their team with less than a million dollars, a quarter of a million dollars to be exact for the Oakland A's who will be up against Boston, the Yankees, etc, the multi-million dollar clubs. They have been the farm team for the big players. And isn't Hollywood the same. The independents develop the unknown stars who win awards, and the big studios grab them. and then ruin them in some franchise or CGI dumb fuck film or other.

Agnes Martin - a visual power/knowledge grid
So we listen to the Discourse of the general manager and his under managers. These men know baseball. They have often been players themselves when younger. Including Billy Beane whose backstory we get in bits and pieces of flashback. Handled very well I think.

They talk about how they throw, how they hit, how they play, whether they have ugly girlfriends (men who have ugly girlfriends lack confidence) and so on. This folks is the Dominating Discourse of locker room coach picking new talent to recruit.

It is physical talk, psychological talk, interpretive talk, theoretical talk. It goes round and round like picking a deck chair on the Titantic. This is what the Dominating Discourse sounds like in any field of study. It is the Foucauldian Grid of power/knowledge in linguistic action. When you are in it, you are like the goldfish in the water, in the bowl.

Beane/Pitt keeps saying they don't have the money to compete, that they must "think different". What does thinking different mean? How? Impossible within the Discourse. This is what Foucault spent his life doing. Teaching us to think differently. To follow Nietzsche and think genealogically. Thinking genealogically, says Baudrillard, and I agree, is the ONLY way to think.

Beane/Pitt goes to a higher up meeting to bargain and meets a young man, a very fat young man, whom he talks to aggressively. Jonah Hill/Pete is a math and stat wizard recently graduated from Yale and he has developed a model for picking talent. Mathematically. With spreadsheets. Beane/Pitt goes with him all the way.

And the managers' Discourse begins to change as Beane/Pitt tells them what they are gonna do now. They argue, dismiss, but Beane is the General Manager with the authority, so subterfuge and undermining begins. Seymour Hoffman is the field manager who is most articulate and stubborn, refusing to do it. Pitt begins to trade his players out from under him to force him.

The team Pitt/Beane and Jonah/Pete have assembled must be used for the purpose they assembled them for, not for the whim and purpose of the field managers.

Ignaz Semmelweis
I digress here to discuss the same Discourse roadblock concerning women's childbirth. Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis was a Hungarian doctor saying that doctors should wash their hands with antiseptic before assisting in childbirth. A furor akin to the managers in Moneyball erupted. This is what happens when a change in the Discourse begins to occur.

...statements like Dr. Charles Meigs', a leading obstetrician and teacher from Philadelphia: “Doctors are gentlemen, and gentleman’s hands are clean”, were the attitude of the time. So women continued to die in larger numbers when male doctors assisted them in hospitals, but less so when midwives did, or when they gave birth at home. Such is the power of the Dominating Discourse. Semmelweis was committed to an asylum and died at 47 in an asylum. He could not prove his assertions.

A Discourse is composed of words and they often kill.

Foucault: People know what they say. Frequently they know why they say what they say. What they don't know is what they say does.

As the Oakland Athletics go on a winning streak the likes of which have not been seen in a very long time: 20 games in a row! Resonating beautifully with that subtle and marvelous book by Paul Auster The Music of Chance.

Beane/Pitt is offered a contract with Boston for 12 million, the highest offer any general manager has ever been offered or received. And along with that check, the Boston CEO tells him:

The game has changed. The older ones who keep on in the old way are finished. They are the dinosaurs.  Baseball will be done according to your model from now on. What you have done with a quarter of a million against millions to be spent on a team by us and by the Yankees, to beat us and show us, has changed the game.

And this is the "FOUCAULDIAN CUT"! In just a few sentences the Dominating Discourse has changed. And as Foucault has told us it can change with lightening speed.

Kuhn - The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
It is a cousin to Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. It is different. Kuhn has demonstrated with Pasteur that change does occur in scientific paradigms, but it is slow as the older dinosaurs in power must die out.  Reading Kuhn through Foucault it is the Discourse that must die out, the power/knowledge grid in any given field that must change. And Discourses do not change in all fields at once. It seems like a meteor hit the dinosaurs though. An EVENT coming from "elsewhere" unpredictable, unplanned, unprogrammed, unprecidented, an aberration.

At the end we are shown 2 Events. Seymour Hoffman sends in a pinch hitter. The Oakland A's have had an 11 home run lead towards their 20 game in a row winning streak. Now they are tied 11-11. The pinch hitter chosen for exactly that by the stats, hits the winning home run for a 12 -11 win for the A's. Almost an Event except that it had been predicted by the stats. Then Jonah/Pete shows Beane/Pitt a film. An overly heavy player hits and runs to the base and then slides back not knowing he has hit a home run. Astonished he runs around the bases. This is the Event described by Foucault.

Seymour Hoffman is so excellent in every film he does. He is always Seymour Hoffman and always the character he plays. In the same way Humphrey Bogart inhabited his character and was still Humphrey Bogart. No matter how small the part, he owns it.

Brad Pitt does not look healthy. He has aged far too much in such a short time. Nicotine is taking its toll on him.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We too accept accomplished the back ageof 18 long time or in a higher place, you can Get hold of advantage of Guaranteed Payday Loans no deferred payment at all because mentioned Loanword any quantity ranging from �80 to �1500. Expanding Approach to getting a guaranteed payday loans online without exit through cumbrous procedures which are considered as forgetful-term loans. 2 jillion the great unwashed -- have protected the domain becomes a slight cognition this weekend through an ostensible TmoNews news leak. Microsoft has likewise dog-tired. These poor term loan. http://www.superpaydaloans.co.uk/ Yet, these Guaranteed Payday Loans, it is to fill in a unproblematic, but Usually they are good prepared for it.