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 March 29, 2015
For a lot of Hollywood, making a kids movie translates out to making essentially a mobile: a simply distracting mix of color and sound. And that's how you get "Home," another manic Sweet Tarts-colored whizbang to be mentally tossed away like an empty popcorn bucket as soon as the film lets out. Yes, the kids will be sated. For anyone older, however, the cue to leave "Home" to go home likely won't come soon enough.
Published March 26, 2015
By most definitions, director Alejandro Jodorowsky's attempt to adapt Frank Herbert's "Dune" to the big screen in the mid-'70s was a failure. The filmmaker's furiously inventive and imaginative movie never made it to the big screen, but man ... what a trip it would've been, at least certainly judging by Frank Pavich's hypnotically fascinating documentary "Jodorowsky's Dune," showing tonight at 7 p.m. at the UWM Union Theatre.
Published March 25, 2015
I'm starting to get concerned about Jack O'Connell. First there was "Starred Up," in which he plays a violent prison inmate; then he starred in the two-hour beatdown-palooza that was "Unbroken." And now there's "'71," which doesn't even get five seconds in before it's punching O'Connell in the face and dragging him through mud. If he insists on essentially self-flagellating on screen, though, at least it's in the service of a quite good movie.
Published March 25, 2015
2015 is shaping up to be a world tour of beloved classic rock stars. The Rolling Stones are expected to announce a Milwaukee stop ... at some point. Ringo Starr is heading to the Riverside in October, the same month The Who will celebrate its 50th anniversary at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. Also celebrating 50 years of existence: Pink Floyd, hitting the Riverside stage Thursday and Friday night. Well, kind of - in the form of tribute band Brit Floyd.
Published March 23, 2015
If "Divergent" was like "The Hunger Games" took a brick to the head, then "Insurgent" plays like "The Hunger Games" got lost in a brick hail storm. The sequel doubles down on the idiocy, incoherence and creative kleptomania the first film struggled through. Part one made it palatable; part two makes it laughable.
Published March 21, 2015
Early on in the 2014-15 season, the Milwaukee Rep staged "The Color Purple." It's a show actress Felicia P. Fields knows very well; after all, her turn as Sofia in the Broadway musical scored her a Tony nomination for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical back in 2006. It's another familiar show, however, that brings Fields back to Milwaukee: "Low Down Dirty Blues," a celebration of classic blues at its deepest and dirtiest.
Published March 21, 2015
Vampires have gotten a bad rap over the last decade or so,but while the recent vampire trend has provided some pretty craterous, sell-out lows, it's also spawned a fair amount of impressive highs for the notorious neck-nibblers. For example: "What We Do in the Shadows," a hilarious New Zealand import that gushes goofy laughs like a comedy hemophiliac.
Published March 19, 2015
The Uptowner was packed and not just for a late Sunday afternoon. Jock Jams blared from the speakers, and anticipation was in the air. On two TVs at separate ends of the bar, the Wisconsin-Michigan State game was coming down to the wire. But that wasn't the contest the excited and eager crowd was here to see. No, the main event was the Uptowner's third annual beard competition.
Published March 19, 2015
"Run All Night" has little interest in just simply delivering B-movie thrills; it wants to be taken seriously. It wants to be a drama about men - about fathers and sons, about the family we choose and the family we're stuck with - and sins and regrets. Unfortunately, more just results in less in "Run All Night," with the dour drama and B-movie action combining to make a movie that feels more like "Amble All Night" or perhaps "Dawdle Through Dusk."
Published March 17, 2015
Days before the Rolling Stones are expected to announce some concert related news, a Beatle beat them to the punch. The Riverside announced this morning that famed Beatles drummer, Mr. Conductor himself Ringo Starr is coming to Milwaukee in October to play the Riverside Theater.