The Netflix documentary will tempt you to watch it, but the story it tells is unconvincing and the story it missed would have been better.
There’s a movie called Slap Shot. You’ve heard of it, you’ve seen it, you love it. It’s about a small-town minor-league hockey team that, faced with its recession-related shuttering, reinvents itself as a bunch of thugs on ice. The team’s new rebelliousness draws fans, and it leads to victories. It works as two movies: the scrappy underdog story, and the men behaving badly story.
A former first-round pick has a lot to learn about film.
Slade Heathcott was the Yankees' first-round pick in the 2009 draft. He's had trouble staying healthy since then, but he has plenty of talent: even though he'd played in only 129 minor-league games before the start of this season, Kevin Goldsteinranked him as the Yankees' 13th-best prospect. Kevin called him an "extreme athlete" who "remains raw."
The foremost movie critic of the last thirty-plus years has, of course, been Roger Ebert. He's been reviewing movies for the Chicago Sun-Times since 1967, and has been synonymous with film for nearly my entire life. Thanks to this wonderful internet-age that we all live in, his entire collection of movie reviews can be found online at his website, rogerebert.com. Using that as a resource, I went through and found Ebert's reviews of a few of the most popular baseball films of the last three decades. How did he see them at the time? Are our memories and feelings tinted with years of nostalgia, or were these movies just as good when they were new? What did people think of them with a "fresh" pair of eyes?
A look at some of the best (or simply most enjoyable) baseball movies ever made
1) Field of Dreams
To be perfectly honest—and when discussing a movie sewn through with themes of simplicity and the supposed erosion of classic American values, honesty should be required—not only isn’t Field of Dreams my favorite baseball movie, it’s not even my favorite Kevin Costner baseball movie. That, of course, would be Bull Durham, and as both films arrived in theaters when I was in my twenties, Bull Durham’s irreverent comedy was far more likely to strike a nerve than the overwrought sentimentality of Field of Dreams. Enjoying Field of Dreams at that point in my life would have been akin to copping to a fondness for Steel Magnolias. Sure, I made the two hour pilgrimage to the Field of Dreams film location at Dyersville—after all, there’s not much else to break up the drive from Madison to Iowa City—but when I ran the bases and smacked a few batting practice lobs into the left field corn, I did so with a practiced smirk. I rolled my eyes when I overheard comments about how “peaceful” and “pure” the experience was, chuckling at the ongoing squabbles over commercialization between the two families that then owned portions of the site. I enjoyed myself, reveling in my ironic detachment… until my girlfriend asked me if I wanted to play catch, shattering all my pretension and reminding me that I hadn’t been immune to the film’s melodramatic charms after all.
You see, Field of Dreams may be a Capra movie without Capra, burdened with Costner’s sub-replacement-level Jimmy Stewart, but you can’t deny the power of its Capital M Moment. After ninety minutes of fully ripe Iowa cornball, it’s hard to believe that the appearance of Ray Kinsella’s father and their game of catch could pack such an emotional wallop. It seems completely unearned, but when I saw it in the theater, I teared up—one of only five times a film has done that to me. This was despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that I had a very happy, baseball-filled childhood and didn’t suffer from Paternal Catch Deficiency. What’s more, I’ve had at least a dozen friends or acquaintances tell me they had the same experience of not particularly enjoying the film but welling up during the game of catch. I can’t explain it, and in many ways it’s completely counterintuitive, but it’s true. It happened, and even now I get a little misty just writing about it. Whatever your opinion about Field of Dreams as a whole, it’s hard to deny its ability to get under your skin, and while that doesn’t make it the best baseball movie of all time, it certainly makes it one of the most memorable. —Ken Funck
Even when directors include baseball, they should know better than to cast a chimp in the movie.
While generally an animal lover, I’ve never been a fan of chimps. Sure, they’re a bit creepy—nothing should look that human without actually being human—but that’s not really why. I think I’ve figured it out: No movie that prominently features a chimpanzee, or an orangutan, has ever been good. Gorillas and/or giant ape-type creatures: Sure. See King Kong. Monkeys? Sometimes—that little Nazi spy-monkey from Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark, or even the not-exactly-good-but-memorably-freaky Monkeyshines. But chimps or orangutans? No.
But I’m getting ahead of myself here. I bring this up because weird movies are something of a hobby of mine—on Tuesdays, some of my friends and I have a regular Bad Movie Night, where we watch stuff like Troll 2 or Heartbeeps or Night of the Lepus or Death Bed: The Bed That Eats or Birdemic: Shock and Terror—and weird baseball movies are, of course, a passion. There’s a chapter in my book about this, which you can read here; aside from explaining why I hate The Natural, it covers Safe at Home and Night Game and Rhubarb The Millionaire Tomcat. All memorable in their own ways.
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Trying to determine the value of three NL West pitchers and their potential impact for next season.
At the beginning of the year, a Blockbuster Video near my house was closing down and held a liquidation sale for about a week or two. Movies, video games, posters, and even the stands that hold the movies were up for grabs, and it became common to see customers exit the store with 10 or more items in their bag. After a bit of skepticism with regards to the types of movies that would be on sale, I ventured over for the first of my three visits. My skepticism was well-founded, as the movies that remained were not award-worthy by any stretch. Still, they were so inexpensive that I couldn’t help but walk away with a small stash. Traitor for $1? Sure, why not?