If you’re not a baseball fan and you’ve never watched Moneyball because of that, here’s a great piece of news: it’s not really a baseball film; it’s a film about economics. Wait. No. That doesn’t make it sound more exciting. Moneyball by Michael Lewis is a book that changed the way baseball is viewed by fans and baseball personnel. It attempted to explain how the Oakland A’s, a team with a payroll a fraction of the size of, say, the Yankees, Red Sox, or Dodgers, is consistently in contention for a spot in the World Series. The answer is: they don’t sign players or people; they sign numbers.
The Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane became the disciple of a formula that looks for players who simply get on base. Getting on base produces runs; runs produce wins. Moneyball is the story of his crusade to change how baseball is run, and only Michael Lewis, who is the best writer on economic matters to people who have no understanding of economics (hi), and Aaron Sorkin, who can make any subject compelling and fun, could have put together a movie version of that crusade that is riveting. It’s one of Brad Pitt’s best performances, as Beane fighting the entirety of the A’s to make his vision work, and one of the film’s best scenes comes before things start to click and he stumbles upon an upbeat locker room after another loss that Beane knows he’s going to have to answer for to everyone.
I’ve been following Chadwick Boseman since 42 and his fantastic portrayal of Jackie Robinson, then later in Get on Up as he BECAME James Brown. I mention this, because by the end of the year, Boseman is going to be a star because of his role as Black Panther in Captain America: Civil War. A lot of people avoid sports movies if they’re not particularly sports fans, but 42 cannot be missed. Not only does it tell an important American story, but it introduces someone who I think will be a major star, and gives Harrison Ford maybe his best supporting role in his long and illustrious career. Continue reading My Favorite Scene: 42 (2013) “Why Are You Doing This?”
With playoffs getting underway in hockey and basketball, let’s turn our attention to sports movies. First of all, why the heck is it so hard to make a good movie about such a dominant part of culture? Sports movies are almost uniformly awful and the most acclaimed ones are about boxing (which I’ve excluded because then the whole list would be boxing movies) or things that are “games” rather than “sports” like poker or pool (so no Hustler or Rounders). I want to keep it to team sports. For that reason I also excluded Jerry Maguire because I don’t think of it as a sports movie so much I do a relationship movie. You could argue either way, but very little of the movie takes place on-the-field. Continue reading Top 5: Sports Movies of All-Time
With Kevin Costner a part of the Jack Ryan reboot that opens on Friday, I thought we’d look back to one of his first break-out movies, Bull Durham. I love baseball. I grew up on a steady diet of “baseball matters and little else does”, but I have to admit I’d rather watch college or high school ball than the pros these days. All the cheating smeared the history of the game and that was, to me, a major part of its charm and appeal. I have actually gone to more minor league games over the last ten years than major. Minor league baseball is kind of hilarious. The players are anxiety-ridden messes, the quality of the game varies wildly from pitch-to-pitch and literally anything can happen. That’s what makes this scene so good. Dumber things than this have happened in minor league ball, but it’s a hysterical example of how to build the comedy in a scene slowly. I think of it every time I see a catcher trot out to talk to a pitcher.
Like most people yesterday, I was stunned and horrified by the bombings at the Boston Marathon. You know what? That’s not true. I felt numb and that’s worse. That’s the world we live in now. Horror happens and it somehow fits into world view. After a few hours of watching coverage, I couldn’t take it anymore and took my wife to the movies.
Why do sports matter? They’re games, after all. Why do we care so much? Sports are life in a microcosm. They’re compact examples of what the best (and worst) we can offer as a species. That’s why some heinous monster attacked the marathon and it’s why baseball and Jackie Robinson matter. “Hero” is one of the most overused titles bestowed by society, yet today they’re hard to find: the true ones. What Jackie Robinson did was heroic. It was baseball. It was just a game. But his presence, his excellence, in a major league uniform changed America. 42 is a worthy chronicle of his heroism.
The story is centered on Robinson’s transition from the Negro Leagues to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 (when he won NL Rookie of the Year and lead his team to the World Series). The story is driven by Robinson’s relationship with his wife and his relationship with Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey. The story, the pacing, the sense of the era are all captured extremely well. The scenes that shone, for me, were those between Robinson and Rickey (played by Chadwick Boseman and Harrison Ford). That this is Boseman’s first starring role in a film is astounding. His presence and quiet power as Robinson are inspiring. Rickey is one of my favorite all-time personalities in baseball. It’s easily the best part in director/writer Brian Helgeland’s script and Harrison Ford eats it alive. Ford is, largely by virtue of the projects he’s selected, underrated as an actor. He has been nominated once before for an Oscar in Peter Weir’s Witness (which is an amazing film) and he quite seriously laid down the first Oscar-worthy performance of 2013 in this film.
Yesterday’s events leave me a bit short for words, but I’m so glad I went and saw this when I did. There are heroes in this dark and strange world. You can find them if you look. Their legacy gilds our history. Jackie Robinson (and Branch Rickey) were heroes. 42 is a fitting tribute to their heroism and the best film of 2013 thus far.