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Posts Tagged ‘Bull Durham’

Growing up in England my first sporting love is football, I started watching American football when it was first show on British TV in the 80’s. Then a few years later a few years later I started watching NBA basketball. Now I only ever watch occasionally and then only the big the big games. But one American I watch at every opportunity is baseball. I started watching it in the late 90’s on TV but really fell in love with the sport a few years ago when I went to my first game, San Francisco Giants v Arizona Diamondbacks at AT & T Park. By a mixture of luck and judgement I had a fantastic seat between home plate and first Base and was lucky enough to sit next to a season ticket holder who helped fill in the gaps in my knowledge of the game. Up until this point I had never affiliated myself to one particular team but suddenly became a Giants fan. As the season progressed and they finished with a record of 72–90 putting them fourth in the NL West I suddenly realised I was following a rubbish team.

The following season was a little better with Tim Lincecum who I had seen in the game I had been to the year before emerging as a top pitcher and taking a well deserved place in the All-Star Game. The highlight of the season came against the San Diego Padres when Jonathan Sánchez threw a near perfect “ no-hitter”. 2010 look liked like it would be more of the same, trailing the San Diego Padres most of the season, they did however come through to National League Western Division. They went on to defeated the Atlanta Braves in the Division Series, Philadelphia Phillies in the Championship Series and the Texas Rangers in the World Series. Maybe I had picked a decent team to follow after all.

This season has gone the same way, trailing to their old rivals the LA Dodgers. Just as things where starting to pick up they lost star player (and MVP at the All-Star Game) Melky Cabrera to a drug suspension. Then from august onwards everything seemed to go well as went on to win the division. The division series didn’t start well going down in the first two games against Cincinnati before coming back to win the next three games in Ohio. They started the same in the championship series going 3-1 down after for games to was years champions the St Louis Cardinals. They came back winning the next three games giving up just one run to set up a best of seven World Series against the Detroit Tigers. After coming from behind and facing six elimination games in the play-offs so far the Giants have started in style winning the first three games including back to back shutouts in games two and three. Needing just one win in the four possible remaining games its looking good for my adopted team.

So why all this talk of baseball on a movie blog? As mentioned in previous posts baseball is the most cinematic of sports and baseball movies are the reason I started watching the sport. More specifically Kevin Costner baseball movies.

Bull Durham (1988): Journeyman Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) is employed by a minor league baseball team to help educate their hotshot rookie pitcher Ebby LaLoosh (Tim Robbins), a player destined for the major-league if he can learn to control his erratic pitching. The pair don’t exactly hit it off, the problem is exacerbated by the presence of Annie (Susan Sarandon). This is the movie that first sparked my interest in baseball. The casting is perfect with genuine chemistry between the three leads and the right blend of comedy and drama. it’s a sports movie that knows which clichés to embrace and which to avoid.

Field of Dreams (1989): “If you build it, he will come” Iowa farmer Ray Kinchella (Kevin Costner) is compelled by voices he hears in his cornfield to build a baseball diamond on his land. Before long the ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson and his team-mates banned in the 1919 Black Sox scandal (see Eight Men Out above) come to play there. On paper Field of Dreams a cheesy and pointless movie, in practice it is cinema perfection that gets better every time I see it.

For Love of the Game (1999): Costner plays Billy Chapel, a forty year old pitcher in his nineteenth season with the Detroit Tigers. While pitching in the final game of the season against New York we flashback to his career and his on-and-off relationship. It soon becomes evident that this will probably be his final game and it could well be a perfect game. Made by people (Director Sam Raimi as well as Costner) who clearly do love the game. Unfairly overlooked, it isn’t as good as a movie as his other two movies but it gives a very different prospective.

All three of his movies feature very different characters with varying relationships to baseball; Crash Davis is a Journeyman in the minor leagues, he operates as a catcher and mentor for a rookie pitcher, he is also closing in on the minor league record for career home runs. Ray Kinsella is a fan of the sport obsessed with the beauty and history of the game. Billy Chapel is a major-league star, prominently a starting pitcher. As he plays for the Detroit Tigers in the American League who adopt the designated hitter rule it is unlikely he spends much time at bat. I would love to see another Costner Baseball movie, at 57 he is clearly too old to make another movie as a player but there is lots of scope to play a coach or scout.

Back to 2012 World Series, game four is set for later today with remaining games on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday if needed, lets hope they are not!

 

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A few years ago I set out to write a list of my top ten sports movies. I rapidly came to the conclusion that my list was full of Baseball and Boxing movies and little else. I gave up on the idea and published lists of my favourite Baseball and Boxing movies. Returning to the same idea from a different direction, my favourite sports movies limited to one movie per sport:

Rugby (league): This Sporting Life (1963): A grim and often brutal tale of Rugby in northern England. I has its problems and hasn’t aged that well in places but is still a powerful film with some great moments.

Ice Hockey: Slap Shot (1977): To the uninitiated (like me) ice hock is a sport that breaks out occasionally when the fighting subsides. It is therefore fitting that the most iconic movie to depicts the sport portrays a team that resorts to violent play to gain popularity.

Surfing: Big Wednesday (1978): From the early 60’s through to the mid 70’s Big Wednesday chronicles the lives of three friends against the backdrop of the Vietnam War. Its also a great surf movie.

Cycling: Breaking Away (1979): Like so many other sports movies, Breaking Away is as much about growing up as it is about sport. It sits as well with Fandango or American Graffiti as it does with a sports movie and is all the better for it.

Boxing: Raging Bull (1980): Martin Scorsese’s tale of Boxer Jake LaMotta is so much more than a sports movie but along the way it manages to be the best sports movie ever made. The American Film Institute voted it the best film of the 80’s, its hard to argue with them.

Golf: Caddyshack (1980): originally well received and like so many 80’s comedies Caddyshack gained a cult status. It has more recently had a bit of a backlash as people suggest it isn’t as funny as they remember. Whatever your thoughts, its worth seeing for Bill Murray’s performance alone.

Athletics: Chariots of Fire (1981): I saw the reissue of this movie at the cinema earlier this year. Telling the true story of two athletes and what they did to get to the 1924 Paris Olympics, it has lost none of its impact in the thirty years since its release.

Horse Racing: Champions (1984): The true story of jockey Bob Champion who survived testicular cancer and went on to win the Grand National. His horse Aldaniti plays himself in the movie.

Pool: The Color of Money (1986): The Hustler (1961) is the obvious choice but I prefer Martin Scorsese’s sequel to the original. The greatest triumph and the reason the movie works so well is the brilliant way Newman and Cruise play off each other.

Skiing: The Blizzard of AAHHH’s (1988): Speed skiers often reach speeds in excess of 125mph, early in this seminal documentary we are told that Glen Plake gave it up because he found it boring. This movie tells of what he and others did instead and thus began the extreme skiing movement.

Baseball: Bull Durham (1988): There is something about baseball that makes it work particularly well in movies. My favourite of Kevin Costner’s three baseball movies is the sublime Bull Durham.

Basketball: White Men Can’t Jump (1992): Forget the NBA, basketball in movies is all about the streets and this story of a pair of hustlers is as good as it gets.

Football: Fever Pitch (1997): Football is near impossible to get right in movies, Fever Pitch gets it right by not actually showing football. Based around real events and telling what it is to be a fan.

Bowling: The Big Lebowski (1998): A film that contains bowling rather than a film about bowling but it is too good to leave off the list.

Skateboarding: Dogtown and Z-Boys (2001): Catherine Hardwicke’s 2005 movie Lords of Dogtown was told the story of the Zephyr skateboard team and was a pretty good movie. This documentary directed by original Z-Boy Stacy Peralta is even better.

Climbing/mountaineering: Touching the Void (2003): Two climbers successfully reach the summit of the previously unclimbed West Face of Siula Grande in Peru, things don’t go as smoothly on the way down. Using a lot of re-enactment the movie falls somewhere between a feature film and a traditional documentary.

American Football: Friday Night Lights (2004): High school and college sport means so much more in America than in England, that is one of the reasons it is the subject of so many movies. This one is so good, that I would place it above any movie about the NFL.

Tennis: Wimbledon (2004): The story of a journeyman English tennis player who SPOILER ALERT wins Wimbledon contains all the themes of underdog you would expect from a sports movie. A likable leading man help make this lightweight rom-com more enjoyable than it should be.

Wheelchair Rugby: Murderball (2005): Murderball is the name given to the brutal sport of wheelchair rugby. Told from the point of view of Team USA and Team Canada in the two years leading up to the 2004 Paralympics in Athens this documentary of the sport is gripping, exciting and rewarding.

Wrestling: The Wrestler (2008): Is professional wrestling a sport? Probably not, but with a movie this good I can’t leave it off the list. Darren Aronofsky has a way of making any subject interesting, he is aided by a great cast including the ever dependable Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei who are both at their best.

Mixed-Martial Arts: Redbelt (2008): Warrior (2011) is a better known movie about Mixed-Martial Arts, I prefer David Mamet’s film Redbelt. With all the complexity and nuance you would expect from Mamet but with an unfamiliar setting. 

Roller Derby: Whip It (2009): Going into this movie I had no idea what Roller Derby was, Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut is an enjoyable film in its own right but is also a great advert for the sport. 

Motor racing: Senna (2010): A fantastic and moving doc telling the story of Ayrton Senna, a man who was possibly the greatest racing driver of all time, the true greatness of the film is the number of none F1 fans who also enjoyed it. It featured in my top five movies from 2011.

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Being English my first sporting love is football (that’s soccer to you Kai) but I also love baseball, I have been watching American Major League Baseball on TV since the late 90’s but really fell in love with the sport a few years ago when I went to my first game, San Francisco Giants v Arizona Diamondbacks at AT & T Park. By a mixture of luck and judgement I had a fantastic seat between home plate and first Base and was lucky enough to sit next to a season ticket holder who helped fill in the gaps of my knowledge of the game. But why am I telling you all this? Simply because I would never have started watching baseball if not for great baseball movies, here are my top five:

5: Major League (1989)

After inheriting the Cleveland Indians the new owner wants to move the team to Miami and its warmer climate, to do this she needs the club to finish bottom of the league. To this end she assembles a team of losers and has-beens. When the team discover her plot they start winning just to spite her. I’m not sure how well loved this movie is, ultimately its all a bit silly but it gets away with it because it has a fantastic cast and is a really good fun watch.

4: Eight Men Out (1988)

When I first saw The Godfather: Part II and heard Hyman Roth talk about the World Series been fixed I didn’t realise it was a true story until I saw Eight Men Out. When I first saw it over twenty years ago I enjoyed it despite knowing nothing about baseball, seeing it again a couple of years ago it has aged really well.

3: The Natural (1984)

1923, nineteen year pitcher Hobbs is on his way to Chicago to tryout for the Cubs. For reasons I won’t go into he doesn’t make it to the tryout, Fast-forward sixteen years and he gets a second shot, seemingly coming out of nowhere to become the star hitter for The (fictional) New York Knights. Combining the nostalgia and romanticised ideas of Field of Dreams with a great underdog story and Robert Redford is excellent.

2: Field of Dreams (1989)

“If you build it, he will come” Iowa farmer Ray Kinchella (Kevin Costner) is compelled by voices he hears in his cornfield to build a baseball diamond on his land. Before long the ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson and his team-mates banned in the 1919 Black Sox scandal (see Eight Men Out above) come to play there. On paper Field of Dreams a cheesy and pointless movie, in practice it is cinema perfection that gets better every time I see it.

1:Bull Durham (1988)

Journeyman Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) is employed by a minor league baseball team to help educate their hotshot rookie pitcher Ebby LaLoosh (Tim Robbins), a player destined for the major-league if he can learn to control his erratic pitching. The pair don’t exactly hit it off, the problem is exacerbated by the presence of Annie (Susan Sarandon). This is the movie that first sparked my interest in baseball. The casting is perfect with genuine chemistry between the three leads and the right blend of comedy and drama. it’s a sports movie that knows which clichés to embrace and which to avoid.

A movie that didn’t make the list: The Sandlot (1993) simply because I haven’t seen it as listeners of the Milfcast (Man I Love Films Podcast) will know. An oversight I am in the process of rectifying, Once I have seen it, I will report back as to how it compare to my top five.

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