Who would have thought that, even with a starting rotation and line-up reminiscent of the Nashville Stars and bullpen as reliable as a kleptomaniac bank teller, the Milwaukee Brewers would be in the playoff chase? The Crew are a mere 2.5 games out of the final wild card spot, meaning baseball fever is still in the air.
The excitement doesn't have to be limited to Miller Park, however. "Trouble with the Curve," the new Clint Eastwood drama coming out this weekend, is also about America's favorite pastime. If Dirty Harry's latest ends up a swing-and-a-miss, here are five terrific baseball movies that are definitely worth cheering.
1988's "Bull Durham" may be about a minor league baseball team, but there's nothing minor about this sports classic. It just gets the game better than almost any other movie about the sport. It's not about the prestigious, magical sport featuring mythical figures and dramatic clutch hits. "Bull Durham" is about playing a pretty much meaningless game on a hot, muggy night for a crowd of locals and mosquitoes in a small homey North Carolina town. It's not about greatness; it's about the long grimy road to greatness.
Since it's not as reverent, "Bull Durham" feels less about just a game and more about a real, earnest way of life and the many unique, hilarious characters who live it. Thankfully, Ron Shelton's Oscar-nominated script fills the team with memorable characters, likeable performances and legendary lines. There's probably no movie I quote more than "Bull Durham" ("Anything that travels that far oughta have a stewardess on it!"). They never get old, and neither does the movie that spawned them.
This is going to sound crazy, but I almost forgot to put "The Sandlot" on this list. It's such a seminal part of childhood that it almost seems more like a cultural touchstone or ritual rather than just a movie. Everything about this 1993 American classic is perfect. The child actors are terrific (a difficult feat; just ask M. Night Shyamalan), the script is funny, the relationships between friends, as well as father and son, are honest and the baseball IQ is high. The best thing, though, is the tone. It's sweet and old-school wholesome, while also having the boys-will-be-boys rowdiness and heartfelt hijinks and banter that make the characters feel like real guys. "The Sandlot" is a part of cultural cannon that well deserves its spot.
"Field of Dreams"
Considering I have a cold, black obsidian heart, any movie that manages to pry a tear from my eyes is always considered a quality film. And when it comes to manly tearjerkers, it doesn't get much more satisfying than "Field of Dreams." What starts as almost a baseball-themed mystery turns into a beautiful and emotion-packed family reunion, all thanks to the power of baseball.
Costner has a reputation as being a somewhat bland actor (though he's very sly and charming in "Bull Durham"), but I think that actually works to "Field of Dreams'" advantage. It's a solid performance, but its best attribute is our ability to project ourselves onto Ray Kinsella and his emotions. The audience can easily imagine itself having a catch and feeling the magic of that seemingly simple yet timeless interaction between father, son and some chunks of leather.
"Major League," starring Tom Berenger and Captain Crazy himself, Charlie Sheen, isn't a revolutionary sports movie by any standard. It doesn't have the real sweat and grit of "Bull Durham," and its story, featuring a cute romance and ragtag band of losers suddenly in the thralls of a pennant chase, is far more conventional. Plus, I always argue the ending is not as happy as it seems because Berenger's knees seemingly exploded while running to first, leaving the team without their starting catcher for playoffs.
That being said, "Major League" is still a great movie. The characters, including the "Wild Thing" Ricky Vaughn and "Willie Mays" Hayes, whose catchphrase is another entry in my personal book of great quotes, are memorable, and the script is filled with hilarious lines. Most of the best lines come from the inimitable Bob Uecker ("Just a bit outside!"). Plus, much of "Major League" was filmed at Milwaukee County Stadium, so it gets several extra points for nostalgia.
"Moneyball" is a very strange kind of baseball movie. For one, it doesn't seem to care all that much for the actual game. Most of the exciting baseball action takes place off screen; even Scott Hatteberg's climactic game-winning home run is only really seen through Billy Beane (Brad Pitt)'s locker room reaction. Plus, the Steven Zaillian/Aaron Sorkin script is far more interested in the team's failures than in their triumphs.
These elements make "Moneyball" hard to really love (which is also strange, since sports movies are usually liked more for the emotional value rather than their technical merits), but they also make it one of the most fascinating baseball movies. Director Bennett Miller takes the audience beyond the typical baseball movie and into the difficult business side without losing our interest. Most sports films follow a band of underdogs into victory, but few movies understand the inevitable disappointment, as well as the small but satisfying joys, of betting on the little guy like "Moneyball."
1 comment about this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Matt Mueller
Published Dec. 4, 2013
For the second year in a row, the crew down at The Second City in Chicago is coming up to Milwaukee for the holidays to present a holiday comedy special, this time called "The Second City's Nut-Cracking Holiday Revue." OnMilwaukee caught up with one of the stars, Megan Hovde, to ask about the holiday revue, being a part of The Second City and why "The Golden Girls" is one of her comedy icons.
Published Dec. 3, 2013
Stars Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage are taking their hit show, "Mythbusters," on the road, and tomorrow night, their "Behind the Myths" tour arrives at the Milwaukee Theater. OnMilwaukee got a chance to talk to Hyneman and ask him about the show's most memorable myths.
Published Dec. 2, 2013
The sun carries almost no heat or warmth. A sharp face-tingling chill greets you as turn every corner on the street. There's not even any wonderful white snow on the ground to make the weather seem any more pleasant. Nope, it's just cold. It's hard to think of a better, more fitting time for Sheryl Crow, the singer-songwriter behind warm, summery hits like "Soak Up the Sun" and "All I Wanna Do," to come to town.
Published Nov. 29, 2013
For those with that built-in affection for the film and the sweet, innocent days of times long gone past, "White Christmas" might be perfect. For me, though, the show - which opened Tuesday night at the Marcus Center - was a whole lot of holly-drenched hokum, as fresh as a Christmas Day snow in the dregs of March.
Published Nov. 28, 2013
"Philomena" may be modest, but that modesty is surprisingly striking and rewarding. After my original screening, I found myself having a hard time putting the movie down in my head. I had to see it a second time, and that second look confirmed my lingering suspicions: It's a damn fine movie.
Published Nov. 27, 2013
Most of the pre-movie Disney or Pixar shorts serve as a nice, tasty appetizer before the main course, but "Get a Horse!" - Mickey Mouse's first theatrical animated short since 1995's nightmare-inducing, childhood-ruining "Runaway Brain" - seems perfect and almost integral for "Frozen." It delightfully sets the stage for what the feature presentation is about to do: take Disney's old traditions and bring them to fresh, blissful new life.
Published Nov. 27, 2013
Christopher Donahue isn't what you'd expect from an actor playing Ebenezer Scrooge, one of the famous grumps of stage, screen and literature. He's gracious, soft-spoken and a bit self-depreciating. The only Scroogish thing about him is his fully-grown beard, a mutton chops/mustache combination technically called "a hulihee" (he looked it up).
Published Nov. 25, 2013
When most movie fans hear the phrase "found footage," they normally cringe in fear. It's a gimmick now down to death in Hollywood. The good ones are hard to find; the bad ones are far too easy to find. That's not what the Found Footage Festival, returning to Milwaukee Friday night at the Turner Hall Ballroom, is about at all. Their collection of actual found VHS tapes is bad alright, but the best, most hilarious kind of bad.
Published Nov. 22, 2013
"Delivery Man," the new comedy starring Vince Vaughn, better at being sweet than being funny. Then again, it's hard for a movie to effectively tug at the heartstrings when its own heart clearly isn't in it.
Published Nov. 21, 2013
For a movie that instantly became a worldwide phenomenon, there was surprisingly little about the first "Hunger Games" film that could be described as phenomenal. The director and writing team were switched out for "Catching Fire." The result? A significantly improved sequel that marks a large step toward the complex, interesting and entertaining blockbuster franchise "The Hunger Games" could be.