Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Baseball Flicks

Neyer lists his top 10 baseball movies (as well as the top 10 of someone else). For those of you without Insider, here is Rob's list:

1. Bull Durham
2. Eight Men Out
3. The Bad News Bears
4. Fever Pitch
5. The Natural
6. The Sandlot
7. 61*
8. Pride of the Yankees
9. A League of Their Own
10. Babe Ruth

I agree with him on number one and two (I'm a John Sayles nut. The movie he did right before Eight Men Out is even better). I probably agree with him on The Bad News Bears, but it's been a while since I've seen it, so it may not hold up as well as I remember it.

I haven't seen Fever Pitch, but Rob is taking a drubbing in his comments section over the choice, partially because it's perceived as a "chick flick" and partially because of Jimmy Fallon. I suspect that a lot of the hate for it is based in either (a) reflexive anti-Sox sentiment; (b) reflexive anti-Fallon sentiment; or (c) reflexive agreement with Bill Simmons, who is on record as hating the movie. Until I see it, my biggest basis for dubiousness is the fact that it's an adaptation of a Nick Hornby book focusing on soccer, not baseball. Sure, the first time that was done worked out wonderfully, but I question whether soccer passion and baseball passion are similar enough beasts to survive translation. Can't say until I see it, though.

The Natural isn't as good as the book -- the endings are totally different, to say the least -- and there's really way less to the movie than all of the pretty cinematography would lead you to believe. Still, it's solid. I invariably watch it all the way to the end whenever it's on, and that has to count for something.

I haven't seen The Sandlot. I've boycotted *61 due to Billy Crystal's abuse of Tiger Stadium during filming. Pride of the Yankees still causes me to well up. I agree 100% with what Rob says about A League of Their Own:

. . . not a particularly good movie -- the script suffers from the banal sentimentality that characterizes the worst of screenwriters Lowell Ganz's and Babaloo Mandel's work -- but will forever survive because of one memorable line in one great scene.

I've never seen Babe Ruth, either. I probably need to see more baseball movies.

I also agree with Rob's exclusion of Field of Dreams. It's the third best Kevin Costner baseball movie, and a distant third at that. Sentimental hokum. I like Burt Lancaster, though, so it's not all bad. Rob also leaves out Major League. Like Fletch and Caddyshack, it's less of a great movie than a greatly quotable movie, but it still would make my top ten list.

One movie that makes neither Rob's list nor the other guy's is an HBO movie from the 80s called Long Gone, which chronicled the 1950s low-minors' exploits of the Tampico Stogies. It starred pre-CSI William Petersen and Virgina Madsen when she was absolutely smokin'. Teller of Penn & Teller fame was in it as well, complete with a speaking part as one of the Stogies' shady owners. I haven't seen it in close to 20 years, but I just loved that movie.

How much longer until the games count?


64cardinals said...

Hey, I'm just an average white guy from the midwest, so I don't have an agenda. But how does anyone leave out 'The Bingo Long Travelling All-Stars & Motor Kings'.

It is a classic, and the only movie I've ever seen that really covers the Negro Leagues.

And starring Leon Wagner? I thought you were a Cleveland guy, shyster?

Shyster said...

Never seen Bingo Long. Like I said: I need to say way more baseball movies. My wife hates them, so they rarely make it to the top of the Netflix queue.

And I'm a Columbus guy. Cleveland is something of a strange world to me. Only 130 miles away, but may as well be on another planet.

64cardinals said...

It might not be the greatest movie of all time, but anything that combines Richard Pryor, James Earl Jones, and baseball, should definitely be in everyone's video library.

I'm a baseball geek and I own every movie on all the lists, except for 'Elmer the Great' and 'Kill the Umpire'. Can't find them anywere. I really need to get a life.

DanPeckAU said...

I'm a *HUGE* Farrely Brothers fan (I can recite dialogue from Dumb and Dumber, Kingpin, Something About Mary, or Me Myself and Irene at the drop of a hat), and I still can't make it through a complete viewing of Fever Pitch

Maybe it's b/c Drew Barrymore seems like one of those chicks that really isn't funny but thinks she's funny b/c all her friends tell her she's funny, or maybe it's because of Jimmy Fallon

either way, it doesn't belong ahead of Major League, A League Of Their Own, The Sandlot, or the *GROSSLY* underrated "Cobb" on a list of great baseball movies. (where's the love for "Cobb", shyster?)

I'd rank Pitch (and The Natural) behind all three Kevin Costner baseball movies, too, even though I agree w/ your assessment of Field of Dreams as sappy crud. Loved 61*. You're missing out.

Dude said...

as a tigers fan, I have to throw out a little known gem called "Tiger Town". it stars Roy Scheider as the Tigers aging superstar, and some kid who is somehow able to will Scheider into hitting homeruns by closing his eyes and wringing his hands together. great stuff. unfortunately, no longer available on any format - apparently it was a disney made-for-tv production.

Shyster said...

I may see *61 some day. I was still in deep mourning over the end of Tiger Stadium when I learned about Billy Crystal pouring green paint all over it and passing it off as Yankee Stadium for that movie. Seeing as though I'm just now ready to finally go to Comerica, I think I will probably give *61 a chance within the next, oh, three or four years.

Cobb is not stellar, but it's pretty good. I think Shelton usually does a good job, even if that recently announced steroids movie sounds like a bad idea.

I'll see your Tiger Town and raise you that LeVar Burton/Ron LeFlore movie whose name escapes me. That was some quality stuff.

64cardinals said...

'One In A Million: The Ron LeFlore Story'

See, told you I was a baseball geek.

Dude said...

unfortunately, that came before my time and is also currently unavailable. am i crazy, or is there not a market for these movies to be re-released? at least dozens of people would watch them!

Chris H. said...

Boy am I glad that I'm not the only one who didn't like Field of Dreams.

Would someone just tell Costner to stop making movies now, please?

Robert Rittner said...

I consider both "The Natural" and "Field of Dreams" to be bad moves, artsy-fartsy, heavy-handed and maudlin.

I agree with the first two on the list but would put "Cobb" in the top 5 not just for Tommy Lee Jones performance but for the thoughtful musing on, among other things, the relationship between genius and madness.

I also think Bingo Long belongs on the list.

Alan said...

I'm with my dad on this one: "Cobb" is amazing, and Jones gives a towering performance. And "Field of Dreams" is infuriating, manipulative doggerel. I think "Forrest Gump" made me angrier, but it's close.

Ryan said...

I love Long Gone. First saw it when i was about 8 or 9 years old. Right off the bat you get a Madsen Butt Shot followed by a great baseball movie.