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 Aug. 21, 2014
Late night is looking bright, as the Milwaukee Film Festival announced its 2014 selections for its Cinema Hooligante program, a midnight mix for fans of all things cult, crazed and - considering the after bedtime showings - caffeinated.
Published Aug. 21, 2014
About 20 years later, Jeff Bridges has finally gotten "The Giver" to the big screen, and for a project with clearly some passion behind it, the final result is bafflingly inert, as though the film itself has been sampling the characters' daily emotional sedation.
Published Aug. 19, 2014
Author Stephen Moss only lived in Milwaukee for a little while, maybe five years or so, but he makes sure to drop by all the time nowadays - at least in literary form.
Published Aug. 18, 2014
The romantic comedy genre has taken quite the beating over the past couple of years. Luckily, thanks to a cute cast and a script that gracefully brings some fresh, sweet life to some seemingly old, fell-worn tropes, "What If" turns out to be a rare modern rom-com worth swooning over.
Published Aug. 16, 2014
In the movies, the meathead mercenaries known as The Expendables have a 100 percent completion rate for their various missions. Real life, however, is a far different story. Three movies in, "The Expendables" franchise still has yet to earn a checkmark next to the only mission it's ever had - and the only one that truly matters - since the beginning: fun.
Published Aug. 16, 2014
Let's be honest: This past week for the nation was pretty awful. It's safe to say that people could probably use a hefty dose of feel-good, and luckily, Paul Thorn is happy to oblige.
Published Aug. 15, 2014
This weekend, if you happen to be driving through or around Brookfield, you might hear a faint roar coming from the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts. That's the sound of fierce competition, of furious fingers flying up and down fretboards, of fun and of friendships - spanning the nation and even the whole globe.
Published Aug. 13, 2014
I think I've found my favorite brisket in Milwaukee, brisket that could possibly compete with the scrumptious supply down in Texas. And the best part? It comes surrounded by an equally delicious grilled cheese sandwich.
Published Aug. 13, 2014
Follow your dreams. It's some of the earliest advice many receive, and that's exactly what Kyle Henderson and his bandmates in the indie rock band Desert Noises are doing.
Published Aug. 12, 2014
"The Hundred-Foot Journey" is a pleasant dose of late summer counter-programming that's guaranteed to be voted the best movie of the summer by your neighborhood book club and your grandma. But hey, they deserve movies too, and as far as safe, predictable middlebrow literary entertainment goes, "The Hundred-Foot Journey" is one of the more satisfying entries.