30 Dec 2011 @ 11:00 PM 

Friday Minute
No. 236 | December 30, 2011

Where Has the Year Gone?

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Last we met, on this page at least, we were heading down the yellow-brick road with Dorothy to celebrate some joyous news with the Munchkins.  That was May.  May?  May!  So where have I been?  Good question.  Where have you been?  Another good question.  And where oh where has the time gone?

Long story short, my already full life became even more full and something had to give.  That something turned out to be writing for this site on any kind of a regular basis.  I had expected that I’d find time to add occasional posts, but that, I’ve learned, is harder to do when it’s not part of a daily or weekly routine.  So the year has slipped away—pffft!—but before it is officially done, let’s take a look back at some of the movies of 2011.

For the record, this is not my list of ten best films of the year.  No reason to stop at ten anyway, and slowpoke that I am, my moviegoing for the year remains a work in progress.  I’m still catching up with a few films from November (and before), and some late-year releases are just hitting theaters (A Separation opens today).

Rather, this is a list of movies I’ve seen (so far) that made going to the theater worth the time and effort.  It’s incomplete and somewhat arbitrary—I’ll have something a bit more definitive to say after I’ve taken in a few more year-end releases, sometime before Oscar time.  Let me add this disclaimer:  these are not necessarily great movies.  Some are only arguably good, flawed but with enough redeeming value to make them worth noting.

I’ve broken out the list into two groups:  one, films from before the deluge, i.e., before Oscar hopefuls hit theaters starting around October, and the other, films that have come out since.


Films of 2011 (Part I)

Pre-Oscar Season (films through September)

Standout Films

The Tree of Life
Terrence Malick doesn’t direct many films—five features in 38 years (though he may be just a slow starter, with nearly as many in pipeline).  What he lacks in number he more than makes up for with uncommonly rich, dense explorations of the beings who people his stories.  His stories are not the linear narratives we’re used to getting at the movies.  Nor are his characters revealed through the usual mix of dialogue and action.  Malick’s works resemble photographed novels as much as they do cinema.  Malick combines images, dreams, memories, and voiceovers to portray lives lived in the context of forces far beyond, and deeper than, ordinary experience.  His latest, The Tree of Life, has divided critics and audiences (making it the kind of movie I tend to favor).  A tour de force or tour de farce?  Depends whom you read.  I lean toward the former view.  The story ostensibly is about a family in a small town in Texas, yet it takes time for meditations ranging from the origins of the universe to the ultimate demise of Earth.  Within that grand sweep we see human life not as a thing in itself but an episode in the continuum.  Few movies take such a wide perspective; 2001: A Space Odyssey, a very different film, is one.  Malick, like Kubrick, contemplates the mystery of it all and gives his audience something rare, a chance to experience wonder.

Midnight in Paris
We think of Woody Allen as a New York director but he seems to have found new life in recent years making movies in Europe.  Since 2005 he’s released four films shot in London and one in Barcelona.  This year it’s the City of Light and Midnight in Paris is the best of the lot.  (Rome gets its turn next year with Nero Fiddled.)  Owen Wilson turns in a winning performance as Gil, an American writer in love more with the city than with his fiancée.  His knack for time travel offers an escape as he hobnobs with greats from the city’s storied expatriate past—Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Stein, Porter, Picasso, Dalí, and Buñuel among them.  The film is sweet and whimsical, more than a bit nostalgic, and for one interlude in which Gil steals the heart of Picasso’s mistress, wonderfully portrayed by the beautiful Marion Cotillard, it’s altogether touching.

Drive
Drive is a steely cool slice of L.A. crime drama propelled by an unflappable, razor-sharp lead performance from Ryan Gosling.  The film borrows freely from a variety of sources, and influences such as Jean-Pierre Melville and Sergio Leone give the story a distinct non-Hollywood feel.  The driver, never named, is a man of few words.  He works as a mechanic in a shop run by gangsters, does stunt driving for the movie biz, and hires himself out for getaway work.  A loner by nature, he gets involved with his neighbor (Carey Mulligan), who has a young son and a husband getting out of prison.  Complications ensue and plans inevitably go awry.  Among the strong supporting cast is Albert Brooks as a ruthless and surprisingly believable bad guy.

Notable Films

Bridesmaids
A comedy with great laughs and real people.  See, that’s not so hard.  Thank you, Kristen Wiig et al.  More like this, please.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams
Werner Herzog’s 3-D documentary inside the Chauvet Cave in France, where some of the world’s great art has been sealed for thousands of years.  Ever wonder, What is it to be human?  This film holds part of the answer to that question.

The Company Men
A timely film about a corporate downsizing and for the unlucky duckies who lose their livelihood, what happens next.  A fine cast led by Ben Affleck, Chris Cooper, Kevin Costner, and Tommy Lee Jones.

Contagion
Thanks to the brave leadership of politicians and medical professionals, the societies of the world pull together, avert panic, and successfully combat a mysterious and deadly virus sweeping the globe.  Oops…that’s a different film.  This one’s from Steven Soderbergh, and sad to say, it may be a somewhat more realistic view of what could someday happen.

The Debt
The film is a remake of a 2007 Israeli thriller and doesn’t achieve all that you might have hoped.  Still, it’s a heckuva story, and with Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson, and the busy Jessica Chastain, among others, you’re in good hands. 

Dogtooth
A Greek film that’s part horror, part comedy, about three older children living a totalitarian nightmare devised by their deranged parents.  Unlike anything you’ve ever seen.

Hanna
Hanna is a teenage girl living in the northern wilderness, where she is trained by her father to be an assassin.  Saoirse Ronan does a terrific job in the title role.  The film is uneven in spots and has some plot elements that don’t really work.  Nevertheless, there’s plenty of action, some nicely photographed sequences, and a few moments of brilliance.

The Help
I can think of a few things wrong with this movie, but I enjoyed the performances, especially those of Octavia Spencer, Viola Davis, and Emma Stone.  The racial divide of Jackson, Mississippi, in the 1960s may not be the same as it is today, but the divide now between the haves and have-nots feels as wide as ever, and for that reason, the film seems unusually timely.

Incendies
A Canadian-made film set in the Middle East and largely in French.  Two adult children travel back to the war-torn homeland of their dead mother to deliver letters to their brother and father and discover the truth about their family and themselves.  It’s devastating.

Moneyball
Films about baseball typically are not great movies.  This is no exception, though it is a cut above many of the others.  The tale leaves behind old-fashioned notions of the romance of the sport.  This one’s all about the science of numbers.  Perhaps that’s the way the game is played these days, but also it’s part of the problem—for the sport and for the movie.  A little more heart wouldn’t hurt.

Super 8
Probably the best Steven Spielberg film this year, though J. J. Abrams directed this one.  I liked the story of the clever kids, breaking curfew to make a movie.  The extraterrestrials show up, and what started fresh begins to feel like something we’ve seen a few too many times before.

Tabloid
Errol Morris’s documentary on the fascinating story of Joyce McKinney, with a big juicy 1960s sex scandal, a kidnapping, Mormons, and dog cloning to boot.

The Trip
Adapted from a British television series, The Trip follows the hilarious Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon on their travels through the Lake District of Northern England.  They drive, they stop at one inn or another, and they eat.  Not a lot more happens.  But they talk, and their repartee and impressions account for some best laughs you’ll find on film this year.  The movie feels a bit slapdash, and I can’t help but wonder what didn’t make it into the final cut, but one thing is sure:  no one who sees it will think of Michael Caine the same way again.

Oscar Season (films from October on)

Notable Films

Anonymous
The story is over the top—but Roland Emmerich was never one for subtlety.  He took liberties—hey, like Shakespeare—so don’t come to this film looking for history.  Whatever merits the Earl of Oxford–as–Bard authorship theory may hold (it does make for fascinating reading), at heart this film is a paean to the greatest writer of the English language who ever lived.  That’s something special, whatever his name was.

A Dangerous Method
Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud at the birth of psychoanalysis, featuring the story of Sabina Spielrein, the patient, protégée, and lover who unites then divides them.  Strong performances from Michael Fassbender and Viggo Mortenson.  Keira Knightley plays the troubled and irresistible Sabina.  It’s a period picture, but with David Cronenberg at the helm, working from a Christopher Hampton script, it’s not at all old-fashioned.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The first of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy to get its English-language big-screen treatment, it delivers more or less what you’d expect (though not much more):  quick storytelling from David Fincher, a pulsating score from Trent Reznor, and dynamite performances from Rooney Mara in the title role and Daniel Craig doing some very un-Bond-like detective work.  The film is the kind of up-to-date genre piece that Hollywood should be making more of, if only it could kick its fantasy habit.

Hugo
A film about the magic of movies, and made with more than a bit of magic itself.  The story of Georges Méliès, the pioneer filmmaker who lost favor with audiences, ran a toy store with his wife at Gare Montparnasse in Paris, and late in life was rediscovered is one that deserves to be told, and now in fictionalized form it has.  Martin Scorcese directed the adaptation of Brian Selznick’s inventive novel.  Fine performances, with many comic touches and sweet moments.  I am probably more fond of this film than any other I’ve seen recently, and it’s the rare 3-D film I’m glad to have seen in 3-D.

The Ides of March
Intrigue behind the scenes of a presidential campaign, with pols and candidates more lifelike than we get on the reality TV known as cable news.  George Clooney directed and stars as Governor Mike Morris, but the film belongs to the campaign manager played by Ryan Gosling, who’s having quite a year.  An all-around fine cast, with Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei, Jeffrey Wright and Evan Rachel Wood on hand to do deeds nefarious and otherwise.

J. Edgar
Here, friends, is the love story of the year.  Leonardo DiCaprio is a revelation as the one and only J. Edgar Hoover.  Armie Hammer is Clyde Tolson, his colleague, confidant, and more.  Naomi Watts is his lifelong secretary, the loyal Helen Gandy.  A richly told tale directed by Clint Eastwood, probably on balance as good a film as any he’s made.

Margin Call
If you want a movie to help you understand the financial crisis of 2008, I’d recommend the documentary Inside Job.  It shows how the 1% ripped off the 99% and gives you the who-did-what (plenty of bad guys, not a lot of good guys).  Margin Call is the story of some of those crooks.  You might not like them—a few are just rich assholes, after all—but you get a sense of the price they pay.  The film doesn’t let them off the hook, but you can understand why they do what they do.  That may not be a popular take in these times, but it’s an achievement.  The cast is wonderful and the performances well worth the time.

My Week with Marilyn
Marilyn Monroe, as great a star as the movies have known, is brought to life in a remarkable performance by Michelle Williams.  You can’t take your eyes off her.  That’s the reason to see this movie, even if the film may be slight in other ways.


The Pause Button

As noted above, I’ll be back with another post or two early in 2012, recapping the year and looking at the Oscars (February 26).  The regular schedule for posts about movies is on hold for the time being.  I’d like to get back to writing more about movies when time permits, but that will not be very soon.  I have a couple of ideas for other movie projects, and someday I will get to them too.  Meanwhile, my next writing gig will not about movies, and will not be online, but it will keep me occupied for some time, and if and when there is news to share about that, I will let you know.

For you crossword fans, my 16-month series of Gram Cracker minipuzzles wrapped up earlier in December.  It was a fun experiment, and in the end I’d say the puzzles turned out well.  Hope it was fun for you solvers too.  Once again, a big “thanks” to two-time ACPT champ Dan Feyer for his expert test-solving skills, a big help to me getting the puzzles ready for prime time.  The Gram Crackers and other puzzles, as always, are at the MAD Puzzles page.


Hugo (2011)
Martin Scorsese, director
Robert Richardson, cinematographer
Brian Selznick (book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret), John Logan (screenplay), writers
Asa Butterfield, Ben Kingsley, Chloë Grace Moretz, Sacha Baron Cohen
Trailer


Quote of note
“If you ever wonder where your dreams come from, look around:  this is where they’re made.”
—Georges Méliès (Ben Kingsley), Hugo (2011)

…58…59…60.

Posted By: John Farmer
Last Edit: 31 Dec 2011 @ 05:52 PM

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 09 Apr 2010 @ 6:00 AM 

Friday Minute
No. 71 | April 9, 2010

Play Ball


Our theme this week
Baseball movies

Featured this week (theme introduction)
Monday         —   Documentaries:  The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg (1998)
Tuesday         —   Biopics:  The Pride of the Yankees (1942)
Wednesday    —   Kids at Play:  The Bad News Bears (1976)
Thursday        —   Comedies:  Bull Durham (1988)

Today’s feature
Baseball Dramas & Myth

Best in class
Bang the Drum Slowly (1973)

For the real fan
Uh-oh.  Here are the two “great” films about baseball and I’m not even giving them an Honorable Mention?  I expect I may be in the minority on this, at least among fans of the game.  Both films are first-rate productions, with fine performances and other virtues too.  Each aspires to be that mythic tale that tells
the great baseball story.  You could say they’re swinging for the fences, but perhaps they should have laid off the pitch.  There is no joy in Mudville.  Like Mighty Casey, they have struck out.

The Natural
 (1984)
— Your reaction to the movie may depend on a couple of things:  whether you’re a baseball fan, and whether you’ve read the novel by Bernard Malamud.  If you’re a fan, you may find enough to like about the picture that you’ll excuse its many faults.  If you’ve read the book, though, you’ll know there’s no excuse for what they’ve done to the story.  A few points (consider this your spoiler warning), and let’s start with the end.  Roy Hobbs clobbers a long home run into the night, shattering the stadium lights that explode like fireworks on the Fourth of July.  If you’ve read the book, you know how wrong that is.  Hobbs is not the hero in the end, he’s the goat.  I’m usually sympathetic to filmmakers who change a story when they adapt it for the screen, but there’s a limit.  You wouldn’t film The Pride of the Yankees with Lou Gehrig conquering his illness to return to the team.  Likewise, you don’t end The Natural with a Roy Hobbs home run.  It’s fake, it’s condescending to the audience, and it shows you don’t know a thing about the book you’re adapting.  That aside, there is another problem with the home run.  Roy Hobbs is bleeding.  The doctor had told him he’s risking his life if he continues to play ball.  So anyone watching thinks that everything is on the line in the final at bat.  What a sacrifice.  That home run is going to kill him.  Except it doesn’t.  The next shot, and last of the film, is Hobbs playing ball in a field with his son.  The movie cheats not only Malamud, but also its own logic.  The poor audience is taken for suckers.  It’s the single most manipulative and phony scene I can remember in any sports film.  (There’s a great sports movie where they did it right, by the way.  See The Wrestler.)  I don’t know who is responsible, but I suspect Robert Redford had a part in it.  Redford is an appealing actor in many ways, and his contributions to film, especially independent film, cannot be overstated.  But he has one glaring fault:  his vanity.  His portrayal of Roy Hobbs was of a mythic god; if he had been a mortal man, it would have made a better movie.

Field of Dreams (1989) — The movie had me all the way until Ray Kinsella hears the first voices.  Unfortunately, those voices come about three minutes into the story.  When Ray hears the voices—which keep coming right on schedule, every time the plot needs a twist—I think there may be one of two explanations:  either he misses his father so badly that he’s imagining things, or he’s just completely bonkers.  Either of those options would be a movie I’d like to see.  Unfortunately, this movie chooses a third option:  the voices are real.  When that became clear, I concluded that either I was bonkers or the movie was, and I opted for the latter.  Yes, I understand fantasy and the need to suspend my disbelief.  I understand treacle too, and the need to watch my blood sugar level.  That said, the performances here are very enjoyable:  Amy Madigan (the kind of wife you want on your side when people think you’re bonkers), James Earl Jones (better here than his old ballplayer in The Sandlot; in 1976 he was a not-so-old ballplayer in The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings), Burt Lancaster (always a class act), and Kevin Costner (not bonkers after all).  A few other ballplayers were raised from the dead, yet after going to all that trouble, they never quite came to life.

Bang the Drum Slowly

“‘Twas once in the saddle I used to go dashing,
‘Twas once in the saddle I used to go gay.
First to the dram-house, and then to the card-house,
Got shot in the breast, and I’m dying today.”

“Oh, beat the drum slowly and play the fife lowly,
And play the dead march as you carry me along;
Take me to the valley, and lay the sod o’er me,
For I’m a young cowboy and I know I’ve done wrong.”

—“Streets of Laredo (Cowboy’s Lament)”

bang the drum slowlyThe baseball novel by Mark Harris was adapted for a 1950s television production, starring Paul Newman, then for film, in 1973.  The movie stars Michael Moriarty as Henry Wiggen, star pitcher for the pennant-contending New York Mammoths, and Robert De Niro as the team’s catcher, Bruce Pearson, who is neither very bright nor very talented and is dying of Hodgkin’s disease.

Bang the Drum Slowly is less a film about baseball than a study of the relationship between two men who happen to be ballplayers.  Wiggen is determined to give his friend a measure of joy during his final months.  They have their poignant moments, some tenderness and humor, nothing melodramatic.  The performances are noteworthy, especially Moriarty and De Niro, who at the time was a virtual unknown (but not for long:  Mean Streets, opening weeks later, changed that).  Vincent Gardenia is memorable as the team’s manager.

Bang the Drum Slowly is an unusual film about sports.  It’s not about winning or losing, and it’s not about how to play the game.  It’s hardly action-filled.  You could even say it’s slow, taking its cue from the title.  The point, more subtle than preachy, is that what happens on the field is not that important.  The game is not the thing that truly matters.

Extra Innings
One week is not enough to cover all the baseball movies I’ve seen, not to mention the many I haven’t.  If you’re looking for more, this list is about as comprehensive as any I’ve seen.


Bang the Drum Slowly
John D. Hancock, director

 


Bang the Drum Slowly
Robert De Niro, Michael Moriarty


Bang the Drum Slowly
Vincent Gardenia


Quote of Note
“When the Washington Sentinels left the stadium that date, there was no ticker-tape parade, no endorsement deals for sneakers or soda pop, or breakfast cereal.  Just a locker to be cleaned out, and a ride home to catch.  But what they didn’t know was that their lives had been changed forever, because they had been part of something great.  And greatness, no matter how brief, stays with a man.  Every athlete dreams of a second chance, these men lived it.”
—Jimmy McGinty (Gene Hackman), The Replacements (2000)

…58…59…60.

 08 Apr 2010 @ 6:00 AM 

Thursday Minute
No. 70 | April 8, 2010

Play Ball


Our theme this week
Baseball movies

Featured this week (theme introduction)
Monday         —   Documentaries:  The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg (1998)
Tuesday         —   Biopics:  The Pride of the Yankees (1942)
Wednesday    —   Kids at Play:  The Bad News Bears (1976)

Today’s feature
Baseball Comedies

Best in class
Bull Durham
 (1988)

Honorable mention
A League of Their Own (1992)— An enjoyable tale of women’s professional baseball during the war years, the film upsets some standard gender stereotypes and features performances from Geena Davis, Rosie O’Donnell, and Madonna, as players, and Tom Hanks as their alcoholic manager, back in the days when he was having fun.  Worth watching for the “There’s no crying in baseball!” scene alone.
Damn Yankees! (1958) — Not just a comedy but a musical comedy!  The film adaptation of the stage adaptation of the Faust legend, starring Gwen Verdon, as Lola, doing numbers like these.

For the real fan
Major League (1989)— Another film where I part company with many fans.  I found this a lot less hilarious than advertised, though Bob Uecker is entertaining, as always.

Bull Durham

bull durhamHow good a movie is Bull Durham?  It’s debatable.  It may be the top sports movie of all-time, or just a chick flick that doesn’t deserve to be ranked with a movie like The Natural, for example.  It depends on what page at Page 2 you’re reading.

My take:  neither of the above.

Bull Durham is a good movie…for a baseball movie.  It gets a lot of things right that other baseball movies do not.  Director Ron Shelton played in the minor leagues and he drew from his experience to lend the film the veneer of authenticity.  That’s not to say it’s anything like a documentary.  The dialog is highly stylized and the characters are bigger and broader than in real life.  But it feels like a movie made by people who know something about the game.

The film stars Kevin Costner and Tim Robbins as two minor leaguers, one on the way up, one on the way out, both of them involved with the same woman, a local played by Susan Sarandon who is looking for a season-long fling.  “Fling” may not be the right word; it’s spiritual for her:  “I believe in the Church of Baseball.”  Unusual for a romantic comedy, Bull Durham is set in a guy’s world, but unlike many other sports films, and to its credit, its men are capable of fleshed-out relationships with the opposite sex.

The film strikes a good balance with how it treats the game of baseball—seriously (Costner’s Crash Davis has a love for the sport that’s admirable), but not too seriously (the antics of Nuke LaLoosh, played by Robbins, get the appropriate send-up).


Bull Durham
Kevin Costner, Tim Robbins


Bull Durham
Kevin Costner, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon

“I believe that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.” 
An odd thing to say…but understandable since he hadn’t yet seen
JFK.


Quote of Note
Will
:  You missed Pudge Fisk’s home run?
Sean:  Oh, yeah.
Will:  To have a fuckin’ drink with some lady you never met?
Sean:  Yeah, but you shoulda seen her.  She was a stunner.
—Will Hunting (Matt Damon), Sean Maguire (Robin Williams), Good Will Hunting (1997)

…58…59…60.

Posted By: John Farmer
Last Edit: 08 Apr 2010 @ 09:47 PM

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 07 Apr 2010 @ 6:00 AM 

Wednesday Minute
No. 69 | April 7, 2010

Play Ball


Our theme this week
Baseball movies

Featured this week (theme introduction)
Monday         —   Documentaries:  The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg (1998)
Tuesday         —   Biopics:  The Pride of the Yankees (1942)

Today’s feature
Kids at Play

Best in class
The Bad News Bears
 (1976)

For the real fan
The Sandlot (1993) — A new kid in town joins the neighborhood gang for a “magical” summer of baseball and battle with the mean dog on the other side of the fence.  This appears to be a favorite with many fans, but it feels contrived to me.  The charming bunch of kids are charming only in the way some adults think charming kids are supposed to be (adults who forgot that kids can be tiresome too).

The Bad News Bears

the bad news bearsThe kids are misfits, and the biggest kid of all is the coach, Morris Buttermaker.  That would be the one-and-only Walter Matthau.  It’s hard to imagine anyone else playing an alcoholic in charge of kids and pulling it off as he did.

Hollywood remade the film a few years ago but it doesn’t stand up to the original.  The 1976 movie isn’t especially pretty—a low-rent affair about as shiny as the beater of a car that Buttermaker drives around town—but it has an authentic feel that’s hard to replicate.  I understand the kids were able to ad lib while shooting scenes, and that may be one reason why they actually seem real.  They’re foul-mouthed, they’re petulant, they’re smart, and they’re funny.  They look and sound like kids I remember from growing up, not like kids in most other movies.  That said, I don’t recall a Tatum O’Neal in our neighborhood, but she would have been welcome.

The Bad News Bears was a sleeper hit when it was released.  It feels today like an artifact of the ’70s, a time when the pace of life was slower, it was simpler to be kid, and it was all right to poke fun at the hypercompetitive world of sports.  The movie is a good reminder:  It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s how you have fun that counts. 


The Bad News Bears
26-0


The Bad News Bears
Walter Matthau, Tatum O’Neal


Quote of Note
“Hey, I tried to teach you how to handle comics in the sixth grade, but oh no.  You wanted to play Little League instead.”
—Brodie (Jason Lee), Mallrats (1995)

…58…59…60.

Posted By: John Farmer
Last Edit: 06 Apr 2010 @ 08:58 AM

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 06 Apr 2010 @ 6:00 AM 

Tuesday Minute
No. 68 | April 6, 2010

Play Ball


Our theme this week
Baseball movies

Featured this week (theme introduction)
Monday         —   Documentaries:  The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg (1998)

Today’s feature
Baseball Biopics & Baseball History

Best in class
The Pride of the Yankees
(1942)

Honorable mention
61* (2001) — An HBO film directed by Billy Crystal with a great deal of heart and affection; the story of the 1961 season, with Yankee sluggers Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle vying to top Babe Ruth’s record of 60 homers.
Eight Men Out (1988)
— A solid drama from John Sayles about the darkest chapter in baseball history, the Black Sox scandal of 1919.  Think money is a problem in the game today?  How about a payoff from gamblers to throw a World Series?  Say it ain’t so, Joe.
Fear Strikes Out (1957)— The Jimmy Piersall story, starring Anthony Perkins as the Red Sox outfielder who struggles with mental illness and with a domineering father played by Karl Malden.
The Rookie (2002) — Dennis Quaid in an underrated film about Jim Morris.  Who’s he?  One of the oldest rookies ever to play in the majors.  The story should resonate with anyone who has an unfulfilled childhood dream.

For the real fan
The Stratton Story (1949)— Jimmy Stewart stars as Monty Stratton in the true-life story of the White Sox pitcher who loses his leg in a hunting accident, then makes an improbable comeback.
The Winning Team (1952)
— Ronald Reagan plays the great pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander, whose struggles with liquor force him from the game, then is saved through the efforts of his wife, played by Doris Day.
The Babe Ruth Story (1948) — Interesting as a cultural artifact, perhaps.  William Bendix plays the slugger in one of the least-convincing portrayals of a major league star.  (For the other side of the story, see The Babe, with John Goodman.)

The Pride of the Yankees

the pride of the yankeeslou gehrig

One year in Little League I wore the number 4.  I was very proud to wear that number.  It was Lou Gehrig’s.  Even decades after the Yankees slugger had died, his legend was the legend I cherished most when I was just learning about baseball and its storied history.  Still today, nothing else is close.

Gehrig was born in New York, pitched for the Columbia Lions, and then signed with the hometown Yankees.  In 17 years, the Iron Horse hit 493 home runs, knocked in 1,995 runs batted in, and played in 2,130 consecutive games.  He and Babe Ruth were the greatest 1-2 combination in the history of the game.  Gehrig won two MVP awards, a Triple Crown, and set records which still stand, but his accomplishments weren’t half the story.  The way he played, the way he lived, were exemplary.  Yet more than anything else, the grace he displayed when his career—and life—were cut tragically short by illness is why he is such a beloved figure, a hero to generations of fans, an immortal of the game.

The Pride of the Yankees came out a year after Gehrig died.  The filmmakers had one great story and knew enough not to mess it up.  Gary Cooper and Teresa Wright offer a charming and tender portrayal of the private life of Lou and his wife, Eleanor.  Babe Ruth co-stars in a part he was born to play, the bigger-than-life role of Babe Ruth himself.  The movie is, in my opinion, the best of the baseball biopics.  It may be a bit sentimental, but the story is what it is, and it’s hard to imagine it any other way.


The Pride of the Yankees
Sam Wood, director
Gary Cooper, Walter Brennan, Teresa Wright

 


The Pride of the Yankees
The Speech


Quote of Note
“A man becomes preeminent, he’s expected to have enthusiasms.  Enthusiasms, enthusiasms — What are mine?  What draws my admiration?  What is that which gives me joy?  Baseball!  A man stands alone at the plate.  This is the time for what?  For individual achievement.  There he stands alone.  But in the field, what?  Part of a team.  Teamwork.  Looks, throws, catches, hustles.  Part of one big team.  Bats himself the live-long day.  Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and so on.  If his team don’t field, what is he?  You follow me?  No one.  Sunny day, the stands are full of fans.  What does he have to say?  I’m goin’ out there for myself.  But, I get nowhere unless the team wins.”
—Al Capone (Robert De Niro), The Untouchables (1987)

…58…59…60.

Posted By: John Farmer
Last Edit: 06 Apr 2010 @ 08:58 AM

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