Author Topic: Baseball  (Read 13538 times)

Sandy

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Re: Baseball
« Reply #90 on: November 17, 2015, 12:54:42 AM »
Corndog, you've got me wanting to revisit a movie I haven't seen in a very long time. I love how you brought out this aspect of it.

Quote
The film is surrounded by the light and the dark.

It's that contrast, that I want to experience again. Thanks for your heartfelt words.

Corndog

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Re: Baseball
« Reply #91 on: November 17, 2015, 07:31:09 AM »
I went back and read Roger Ebert's 2-star review of the film from 1984. He complains about the hero worship of Hobbs in the film, and makes valid points, but in many ways, I enjoy the film because of the hero worship, not in spite of it. That is what makes baseball such a childish (in a good way) sport, the hero worship. Collecting baseball cards as a kid and longing to see your hero in person, get his autograph, all that stuff. And even looking back on past legends like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, etc, they are mythic players. That's what The Natural does so well of capturing, and why I feel it is one, if not the, quintessential baseball movie.
"Time is the speed at which the past decays."

Sandy

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Re: Baseball
« Reply #92 on: November 17, 2015, 02:51:50 PM »
 :)

Even though I didn't collect baseball cards, I've done my share of hero worship in other areas, so you're speaking my language.

Corndog

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Re: Baseball
« Reply #93 on: November 23, 2015, 12:07:33 PM »
Game 20
The Slugger's Wife (Hal Ashby, 1985)

What a weird entry into the Baseball movie marathon this movie is. The Slugger’s Wife is a strange one for sure, for a few different reasons. One, it is not a film I have seen before, and I’ve wondered occasionally why that was since it is a baseball movie. Perhaps I always figured with a title like that, and the presence of a name like Rebecca De Mornay, the film would be a little more adult than my tastes generally lean. Another reason this is a strange entry is Hal Ashby, a director who doesn’t seem to be the type to direct a sports movie, and perhaps this is an early indication of the product to come. Lastly, The Slugger’s Wife is a stranger entry into the baseball movie marathon because it’s just not very good.

The film concerns Darryl Palmer (Michael O’Keefe), a mediocre right fielder for a struggling Atlanta Braves club. Palmer has some pop in his bat, but when he sets eyes on nightclub singer Debby Huston (Rebecca De Mornay) he finds a new level of focus and dedication on the field, striving for excellence to impress Debby. The couple are soon married, and Darryl is on a torrid home run pace. But the strain of being Darryl’s good luck charm begins to concern Debby, who feels suffocated from having to serve as a good luck charm while she strives to build her own career in the music industry.

The Slugger’s Wife is basically a baseball soap opera. The premise is a bit ridiculous and misogynistic, since it never really feels remorse for its treatment of the women in the film. De Mornay holds down the film as much as she can, but the oddly comical performance of O’Keefe really brings things down. I’m not sure what recently Oscar nominated Randy Quaid is doing here, with basically nothing to do. Perhaps his relationship with Ashby spurred on his supporting role of nothingness. The script is penned by Neil Simon, and while I can’t tell you what he is necessarily known for off hand, I know he is a well-known playwright and screenwriter. But as I said before, the film plays out like a poorly conceived soap opera, with poor acting and personality from the cast to match.

The baseball sequences aren’t even noteworthy. O’Keefe for instance does not strike me as a baseball player, particularly with his rough swing in the film which leaves me wondering how he hits all those home runs (and he has a ridiculous bat flip to boot). Baseball takes the back seat and not much importance is put on the outcome of the games other than a clichéd last game of the season chance at the pennant. The record Palmer is after is downplayed enough for me to wonder why they even included it. There are no noteworthy scenes, there are no noteworthy performances. All in all, The Slugger’s Wife is a very bland, unbelievable, and overall poor baseball film.

** - Poor

Team(s) Featured: Atlanta Braves
"Time is the speed at which the past decays."

Corndog

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Re: Baseball
« Reply #94 on: December 21, 2015, 02:02:40 PM »
Game 21
Long Gone (Martin Davidson, 1987)

When researching the list for the baseball marathon I am currently undergoing (at this point as a hopeful winter pastime as we await the Boys of Summer to return in Spring Training), Long Gone was a title that kept coming up as one of the better baseball movies out there. And yet, Long Gone, which originally aired on HBO as a television movie, has been one of the hardest movies to track down. Having never received a theatrical release, it doesn't appear on Netflix, or available from my local library system. Instead I had to search the deep recesses of the internet to find a copy just to watch the darn movie so many people have said is an underseen gem. I can see why it's underseen, but is Long Gone really a baseball gem?

More on the movie in a second, but William Peterson as Tampico Stogies manager Stud Cantrell certainly is a gem. Cantrell was a star prospect, but when he lost a Spring Training battle to Stan Musial for starting left fielder of the Saint Louis Cardinals, he ended up in the sleepy Florida town of Tampico as a minor league player/manager. Cantrell is a womanizer, but when Miss Strawberry Blossom, Dixie Lee Boxx (Virginia Madsen), sticks around longer than anticipated, Cantrell must balance a budding romance with a misfit team with a few star new additions (Dermot Mulroney and Larry Riley), who run into their own issues on and off the field.

Long Gone follows a standard baseball movie formula: a "missed opportunity" star player, last place team, surprise run for a chance at a pennant. So it's plotting is not what sets this one apart. Rather it is the characters, the performances, and how they all come together that make Long Gone entertaining and a movie which rises above the sum of its rather traditional story. As mentioned above, Peterson is near perfect as Cantrell, pulling off bravado and a mixed sense of career disappointment, pride, and the hope of a big league dream come true. With Peterson leading the ship, the rest of the cast is allowed to fall in place behind him and provide good supporting turns.

Perhaps the most unexpected is Virginia Madsen and her rather eccentric Dixie Lee Boxx. When Miss Strawberry Blossom stays behind in Tampico despite Cantrell's assumptions that she would be just another one night stand turns not only Cantrell, but the whole story on its head, leading Long Gone in a new, fresh direction. Cantrell is forced to realize that his time as a 20 something baseball star bachelor is soon fading, and he must reflect on not just his past, but what he might do with his future. This acute sense of foreboding, if you will, placed within the confines of a baseball comedy works much better than could have been expected.

Long Gone is not necessarily a movie with iconic moments, well renown star power, etc. There is no Robert Redford or Gary Cooper, no shooting the lights out with clout or "Wild Thing" fastballs to the backstop. There is no signature here. But Long Gone stands on its own as a solid baseball film start to finish, top to bottom, with a memorable central character, a team worth rooting for, and a surprising amount of depth for a made for television film that goes otherwise unheard of in terms of baseball movies, in large part due to the lack of distribution.

*** - Good

Team(s) Featured: Tampico Stogies
"Time is the speed at which the past decays."

Corndog

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Re: Baseball
« Reply #95 on: January 05, 2016, 10:39:47 AM »
Game 22
Bull Durham (Ron Shelton, 1988)

A few reviews back, I referred to The Natural as the quintessential Baseball movie, and while I stand by that statement, I also argue that Bull Durham is an essential entry into the baseball movie canon, but for completely different reasons. Perhaps that is the beauty of the baseball movie: the ability to have sub-genres within the framework of baseball. I understand that Baseball is not a genre unto itself, but certainly a topic which attracts a certain crowd who might have varying tastes when it comes to movie genres. With The Natural, we get a great dramatic love story; love between a man and a woman and the game itself. With Bull Durham we get a sprinkling of the dramatic elements, but instead are treated to a film that is not only romantic, but also extremely funny.

The Bad News Bears from earlier in the marathon presented us the comedic aspect of the baseball movie, but with Bull Durham, the recipe is slightly different, but delicious all the same. Written and directed by Ron Shelton, a former minor league baseball player, Bull Durham follows a season of the minor league Durham Bulls, their star pitcher “Nuke” LaLoosh (Tim Robbins), veteran catcher Crash Davis (Kevin Costner), and a super fan, Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon) who chooses one player a year to have a season long affair with off the field in order to help their game on the field. After choosing Nuke as her lucky guy at the beginning of the season, Annie begins to realize that she may have met her match in Crash, who helps groom Nuke into a Major League ready pitcher throughout the course of the season, all the while chasing the ignominious record of most career minor league home runs.

The success of Bull Durham starts with its script. Ron Shelton’s experience in the minor leagues shines through in the script, creating fun, authentic characters. Nuke may seem like comedic relief, as zany and airheaded as he is, but Robbins’ performance in the role is near perfect. Nuke is inexperienced, cocky, talented, and has no idea how to use his talent to his advantage. Counterpart to Nuke is Crash, who feels like the most authentic player in the cast. Costner gives a great performance, allowing the audience into his love of the game, but great pain and disdain for how he has spent his whole career in the minors, hoping for a break with the big league club. He truly is the “player to be named later”, as he describes himself at the beginning of the film to his new manager. The relationship between Nuke and Crash is played perfectly, Crash tasked with reigning in the maverick young pitcher to take his raw talent and teach him how to actually pitch.

Opposite these two hothead players is Annie Savoy, who worships at the church of baseball, and beds her players for their benefit each season. Susan Sarandon, who I’ve never considered sexy, is sexy in this film, inhabiting the character of Annie like no other role I have seen the actress in. Even in the scene when Crash and Annie take a trip to the batting cage, Annie comes off as feminine even while knocking the cover off the ball. The dynamic created between the three main characters is a chemistry which is rarely seen in movies, and a credit to not only the actors, but the sharp script written by Shelton. Each exists as essential to the other, creating the perfect love triangle.

But the film is much more than a love triangle, as it successfully explores many aspects of the game, often for laughs. The manager of the club (Trey Wilson) and his assistant (Robert Wuhl) inhabit a space where comedy flows down from the top, most notably the “lollygaggers” scene and Wuhl’s pow-wow on the mound to discuss wedding gifts, et al. Shelton really does a good job of bringing in the psychology of the game with Crash’s POV at bats, the unexplained passion baseball players have for superstitions, and the head games between Crash and Nuke on the field. A very quotable movie, Bull Durham is a rare baseball film because it is equal parts comedy, insight, and love of the game.

**** - Essential

Team(s) Featured: Durham Bulls
"Time is the speed at which the past decays."

Corndog

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Re: Baseball
« Reply #96 on: January 11, 2016, 03:17:28 PM »
Game 23
Eight Men Out (John Sayles, 1988)

With the recent announcement of the new Baseball Hall of Fame class, which includes my all time favorite player Ken Griffey Jr. as well as Mike Piazza, and the offseason story of Pete Rose applying for reinstatement in the hopes of joining the ranks of the Hall of Fame, it seems only fitting that the next film in my Baseball marathon would be Eight Men Out, a film which chronicles how eight players became banned from the game, including the all time great "Shoeless" Joe Jackson. I wish I could say I timed this on purpose, but unfortunately I did not. After a pretty good run of films in this marathon, which includes two great films I have seen before in The Natural and Bull Durham (I'd rather just forget about The Slugger's Wife), Eight Men Out comes about as perhaps the more heralded film on the list that I have never seen before.

Set in the year 1919, when baseball was the national pastime of America, Eight Men Out is about one of the best teams in baseball history, the Chicago White Sox. Loaded with talent like Joe Jackson (D.B. Sweeney), Eddie Cicotte (David Strathairn), Buck Weaver (John Cusack), Chick Gandil (Michael Rooker), Hap Felsch (Charlie Sheen), Eddie Collins (Bill Irwin) and led by Kid Gleason (John Mahoney), the White Sox were heavily favored to beat the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series. But constantly underpaid by their owner Charles Comiskey (Clifton James), eight of the Sox spurned their owner by accepting bribes from professional gamblers Arnold Rothstein (Michael Lerner) and Sport Sullivan (Kevin Tighe) to intentionally lose games in the World Series. The players fought for their innocence in the fixing after a few of the players realized the gamblers wanted them to lose the whole series instead of just a few of the games.
The story is one of the more famous ones in Baseball history, especially since it was the only time gambling/fixing is known to have occurred during a World Series. It also speaks to the culture at that time and how it differs so much from today. I am not speaking, of course, on the ability to bet on baseball as gamblers are rampant and look to bet on any kind of sports they can, but rather on the culture of the players and league at the time. With the advent of the players union (1953) and free agency (1975), players rights and salaries became protected. What Eight Men Out shows is a group of players playing under the all mighty control of their owner, motivated to decide to take a bribe to intentionally lose a series which would stand to benefit their owner more than it would themselves.

Perhaps to see such a scenario today, to someone unfamiliar with the evolution of the game, would be startling. For me, such a rabid fan of the game, I am not only familiar with the scandal, but also the conditions that led to it. Reliving them in this film is a fun history lesson, and the film does feel very -by-the-numbers for a film about an historical event. The personalities of the players and circumstances of the team fuel the film to be an entertaining two hours to spend in your free time, but otherwise it feels quite standard and even a little flat. There are no real ebbs and flows to the pace, no real moments of high drama or suspense. Nothing to really hang my hat on as either signature moments are outstanding filmmaking. Instead, the film is merely a solid film, solidly acted, solidly written, solidly made.

I wish I could have attached myself to the film more than I did, being such a big baseball fan, and perhaps I have been jaded with the comedic efforts of Bull Durham and The Bad News Bears, jarred by a return to baseball drama. Perhaps there are too many characters to really build any rapport, or to get to know them at any greater depth than their abilities on the field and motivation to accept a bribe. Perhaps I am not supposed to know these reasons, and I did enjoy the film, I really did. But there was a missing spark. There are good performances, but none great. There are good scenes, but none great. It is a good story, but it is not delivered in any fashion that elevates the film to make it great. At the end of the day, "good" just happens to be the fairly bland, yet still entertaining description of Eight Men Out for me.

*** - Good

Team(s) Featured: Chicago White Sox
"Time is the speed at which the past decays."

colonel_mexico

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Re: Baseball
« Reply #97 on: January 11, 2016, 04:49:23 PM »
Enjoyed the review CD, this thread is great.  Have to disagree about no great performances, I think John Cusacks Buck Weaver and even David Strathairn's Cicotte were really great.  I was a little let down by D.B. Sweeney as Shoeless Joe because he essentially isn't in the movie, he's just there as a side piece like Babe Ruth playing himself in PRIDE OF THE YANKEES.  But Buck Weaver/Cusack is great here, he somehow gets up caught up in a big mess that no one seemed to have any control over.  The idea of Eddie Cicotte being robbed of a bonus because he was short one win, and had been benched by the management to rest for the playoffs is detestable and you want to pull for Eddie to get one over on the evil Comiskey.  Owners haven't changed a whole lot today, though you see these bonus quirks for performance more in football now.  There was a story about the Cowboys Shawn Lee missing out on 2 million bucks because he didn't quite meet the 80% of snaps needed for the bonus.  Though the way that story reads he took himself out because of injury, pretty noble, though some might say stupid.  Anyway, you want these great heroes of the greatest ball club to get their due and not be trampled underfoot by a rich owner who cares for nothing but his own bottom line.  As we watch them make a deal with a devil they don't know and who is no better than Comiskey, they find themselves trapped and eventually hammered.  The idea of Judge Landis coming in as the first commissioner and eliminating these 8 men forever from the game was part tragedy and part the owners getting a watchdog to protect their 'property'.  I've never liked any baseball commissioner, and have no comment on the current, but Bud Selig is detestable in his antics of ignoring steroids then acting like some savior when he was issuing harsh guidelines.  Again I digress, but there is a lot here in this story that affects baseball even today.  The ending sticks out for me with Cusack in the stands, those lines are powerful, watching Brown play, 'those guys are all gone' will stick with me forever.  It was a tragedy to the game, those men, the fans, and baseball history, but it stands and we lost in Shoeless Joe, Bucky, and all those guys some of the greatest talent the game has ever seen.  Sad, great film and IMO a really great performance by Mr Cusack.

In a side note, I've heard of (not really certain how true it is) of Ty Cobb running into Shoeless Joe working as a liquor store clerk and Ty finally asking Joe if he knew him, and Joe said of course Ty, I thought you didn't want to know me, most guys don't.  Sad story and I really wish to learn/read more about Shoeless Joe.  I got through the book the other day called Shoeless Joe, but it was Kinsella's existential book that they made FIELD OF DREAMS about.  Not what I was hoping for, but cute read.
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Corndog

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Re: Baseball
« Reply #98 on: January 12, 2016, 07:34:22 AM »
Again I digress, but there is a lot here in this story that affects baseball even today.  The ending sticks out for me with Cusack in the stands, those lines are powerful, watching Brown play, 'those guys are all gone' will stick with me forever.  It was a tragedy to the game, those men, the fans, and baseball history, but it stands and we lost in Shoeless Joe, Bucky, and all those guys some of the greatest talent the game has ever seen.  Sad, great film and IMO a really great performance by Mr Cusack.

I can't really argue with what you say here, and the bleacher scene at the end of the film is really the best scene in the film, really sticks out as a strong moment (even though my review said there weren't any). And I would agree Cusack is the best of the bunch here. The story is an important one, I just don't think it was told in a very compelling or interesting manner. The strength of the story and what it means to the game buoys the final product in my mind. Mind you, I didn't hate the film, I enjoyed it, just not to the same extent of a few of the more recent entries in the marathon (and likely the next few...). Thanks for the kind words about the thread too, colonel. Really appreciate your input and knowledge on these films and the game in general.
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colonel_mexico

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Re: Baseball
« Reply #99 on: January 12, 2016, 09:51:44 AM »
That's fair, I think my love for 8 MEN OUT forgives a lot of the weaker points in the way the film unfolds.  I can see how there were probably too many characters, I'd have liked to see more Charlie Sheen (especially during this time when he was really great).  I'm not a huge fan of BULL DURHAM, though the idea of Crash Davis is one that is more true than anything I've ever seen (outside of the baseball minor league docs I've seen).  No thanks necessary, just really enjoying these reviews of film of the great game, within this great thread.  I'd really be curious to see your thoughts on COBB and 61*.
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