Poll

What's your favorite film by John Sayles?

Return of the Secaucus Seven
1 (3.3%)
Lianna
0 (0%)
Baby It's You
1 (3.3%)
The Brother from Another Planet
1 (3.3%)
Matewan
8 (26.7%)
Eight Men Out
3 (10%)
City of Hope
1 (3.3%)
Passion Fish
1 (3.3%)
The Secret of Roan Inish
1 (3.3%)
Lone Star
4 (13.3%)
Men With Guns
0 (0%)
Limbo
1 (3.3%)
Sunshine State
1 (3.3%)
Casa de los babys
0 (0%)
Silver City
1 (3.3%)
Honeydripper
0 (0%)
Amigo
0 (0%)
Haven't seen any
6 (20%)
Don't like any
0 (0%)
Go For Sisters
0 (0%)

Total Members Voted: 29

Author Topic: Sayles, John  (Read 1854 times)

1SO

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Re: Sayles, John
« Reply #20 on: April 25, 2016, 12:28:06 PM »
Going to respond to this when I have the time, but it should be here for people to discover.

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
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Corndog

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Re: Sayles, John
« Reply #21 on: April 25, 2016, 12:31:04 PM »
Thanks for posting 1SO.
"Time is the speed at which the past decays."

1SO

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Re: Sayles, John
« Reply #22 on: April 25, 2016, 10:27:29 PM »
Eight Men Out (1988)

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.
The difference of opinion and my higher praise for the film probably begins with my general ignorance of the scandal, beyond what the players did and the kid who said "say it ain't so, Joe", (a moment which sounds like an embellishment but Sayles makes it believable and effective on screen.) So I enjoyed the many details Sayles packs into his savory script, not just the bullet points of what happened, but also some nice character moments, like a reporter who sings "I'm Forever Blowing Ballgames" to the team. (This reporter is played by Sayles himself in his most charismatic work in front of the camera.)

Where I solidly disagree with Corndog on cinematic terms is the way Sayles works with master cinematographer Robert Richardson to keep all the balls in the air. Richardson's camera prowls hotel corridors and bars, darting between conversations, constantly giving contrasting views on events as they happen. If you broke down the script, you'd probably find a couple of hundred scenes less than a page long. Sayles gets right to the meat and then moves on, which makes the pacing here pretty swift.

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.
The opening credits list almost two dozen names, and no character feels cheated of their point of view because of this "fly in the room" style. (Sayles next feature was City of Hope, also shot by Richardson and using a same style to bring an entire city to life. It remains Sayles' masterwork.)

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.
I'll admit I was influenced by this remark to mentally note the great performances and scenes, like when the bi-plane drops a dummy onto the field or John Cusack reacting against being lumped in with the guilty party. (I'm not a fan of Cusack who is often too detached in his acting. This is some of his best work.) What about the way some of the characters see taking the money as the smart thing to do, how it gives them a joy they weren't getting from the game because of the way the Owner has been treating them. Michael Lerner as gambling wizard Arnold Rothstein - not even a player - gives the best explanation when he says this is revenge for all the times he wasn't picked for a sports team because he was too fat. I generally don't like to point out too many moments and scenes in a film, but there's so many other examples for the viewer to discover, I haven't spoiled it all.

Great scenes, great characters, great story, great script, great filmmaking. Sorry, Corndog. This is better than you think.
* * * 1/2
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Corndog

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Re: Sayles, John
« Reply #23 on: April 26, 2016, 07:12:01 AM »
Eight Men Out (1988)
Sorry, Corndog. This is better than you think.
* * * 1/2

It's okay, I know I'm the "One Man Out" on this one.
"Time is the speed at which the past decays."

1SO

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Re: Sayles, John
« Reply #24 on: December 18, 2018, 11:24:58 PM »

Lianna (1983)
”Just because you can argue better doesn’t mean that you’re right.”

When I picture a movie about a married woman coming to terms with her lesbianism, I think about all of the obstacles in a way that makes the story a social document. An issue movie with the lead frequently standing up to narrow-minded people or being knocked down by them. John Sayles takes a very different approach, keeping Lianna's journey simply about her being increasingly comfortable in her own skin, giving it the same universal appeal as any coming-of-age movie. It's not about being lesbian but about being human and interacting with other who do or do not support you, always knowing what's most important is how you love yourself. The contrast is how quickly Lianna becomes confident compared to other women around her who have been keeping this part of their life a secret for years as it weighs on them.


The script by Sayles rings so honest it's like a small miracle. His appearance in the film (above) as a wolf who preys on divorced women adds to the disbelief that he would have any insight into the subject matter. Sayles strength has always been his writing, and the dialogue here is witty while also coming off as very realistic. As a director, the pace is leisurely with a couple of lengthy dance sequences that express Lianna’s emotional state. I admire that he's willing to shut up and let Leanna breathe in these moments, but they also make the film feel much longer than it is.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ - Good

p.s. This would make an excellent double feature with Xavier Dolan's Laurence Anyways.
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pixote

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Re: Sayles, John
« Reply #25 on: December 20, 2018, 03:11:48 PM »
Nice review, 1SO. That’s the last gap in my own early Sayles viewing (similar to you). I meant to watch it when it was on Filmstuck last June (as part of their Pride program), but it hasn’t been a good year for my watching the things I intend to watch. Kicking myself even more now.

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I think I'd love how awkward it'd be, or how awkward it should be.