While watching Mexico and Canada get into a brawl during the WBC, I saw an ad for something that looks like it'll be pretty good; 42: The Jackie Robinson Story. The cast looks great, and it will no doubt be a thousand times better than the original Jackie Robinson story, which not only came out while Robinson was still playing, but also starred him as himself. Let's just say, Jackie was no actor (not as bad as Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris in that horrible Doris Day, Carey Grant vehicle "Safe at home", but still pretty bad ), and a re-make was a long time coming. The only thing I kind of wanted to happen, was to have them wait until next year to release it...that way, Mariano Rivera, the last person to be allowed to wear #42, would have been retired and it would have been more fitting...also, not for nothing, but every time they have Jackie Robinson day, it gets very confusing when everyone wears #42...not a big deal, it just annoys me.
I like the fact that they have an unknown playing the lead; an actor named Chadwick Boseman. As for the rest of the cast, there are many well known names: Han Solo...I mean, Harrison Ford is playing Branch Rickey, Chris Merloni ( Det. Stabler from Law and Order: SVU ) plays Dodger's Leo Durocher and John C. McGinity is portraying radio broadcaster Red Barber, the role I was born to play...not for nothing, but I do maybe the best old timey baseball voice ever, and this is kind of a kick in the gut...well, at least he LOOKS like him. Oh, and Max Gail, who was on "Barney Miller, plays someone, although I can't recall who hat is right now...
I'm trying to remember the last baseball movie that came out that I've seen..I saw "Knuckleball!"last year, but that was a documentary..."The Town" had to do with a bunch of thugs robbing Fenway Park, but that doesn't count. Speaking of Fenway, I tried to watch "Fever Pitch" a few weeks ago on cable. Even though I'm a huge Sox fan with nothing but fond memories of 2004, it was brutal trying to pretend that Jimmy Fallon's from Boston ( bad Boston accents are even more irritating than actual Boston accents ). I guess I could make a list of the five best baseball movies and the five worst that I've seen...cool, let's do that:
5 Best Baseball Movies of all time.
5. Field of Dreams (1989)/ The Natural(1984)
Sure, it's a little hokey, and you really have to suspend disbelief, but it's still pretty cool to hear the story of Moonlight Graham, a real player who never had an at bat in the majors. I can usually take or leave Kevin Costner, but he seems to be enjoying himself in the film, and does James Earl Jones...they go to Fenway to find clues, and Costner builds a field in his yard and so on...as I said, it's a little hokey, but fun to watch. Equally hokey, but a little more realistic...well, maybe not the ball exploding and the lightning and such, but the fictional New York Knights seemed like a real team from that time...wonder why they couldn't just call themselves "The Giants"? Seemed like that's who they were trying to emulate.
4. Major League (1989)
A really funny movie, which is almost completely stolen by Bob Uecker, as the play by play guy for the Indians. Years later, it was revealed that Charlie Sheen took steroids for the role of pitcher Rick "wild thing" Vaughn, but that doesn't take away from this feel good, if fairly improbable, story of the Cleveland Indians rise from the ashes to the pennant. I always found it weird that the premise of the movie is basically the new owner of the team trying to move them to Florida, where in real life, the Florida Marlins beat the Indians in the World series eight years later. Cleveland is still the team with the second longest Championship drought (the Cubs being the first), although they still own the American record for futility...so there's that...
3. Pride of the Yankees (1941)
The Lou Gehrig story is pretty good, although I found out recently that Gary Cooper's image was reversed, so it would appear that he was batting left handed. Babe Ruth makes a hilarious cameo; maybe he should have starred as himself in "The Babe Ruth Story"...couldn't be any worse than the job William Bendix did...
2. Bull Durham (1987) / A league of their own (1992)
I know that this is the second Costner film, but this is actually a really good movie. Tim Robbins as the up and coming pitcher and Costner as the aging veteran catcher are pretty realistic . It paints a vivid picture of minor league baseball; the endless road trips, the heartache, and so on... I also like the fact that the role Susan Sarandon played was supposed to go to a younger actress, but she got the role after showing up to the audition dressed all sexy like...as for "A league of their own", the story of women's baseball during World War II is funny, sad and pretty interesting. Gina Davis actually looks like she could play, although in reality, I believe only Rosie O'Donell and a few others actually had played baseball before filming began.
1. Bang the drum slowly (1973) / Eight Men Out (1988)
I now realize that it has become the eight best baseball movies of all time, mostly because I had forgotten a few while making the list. These two would have tied for number one anyway. "Bang" tells the story of a fairly slow (mentally slow) catcher played by Robert Deniro, who is diagnosed w/ a fatal illness, so the team rallies around him to win the pennant...fittingly, the eighth movie in my top five list that has the same number; Eight men out is about the "Black Sox" scandal of 1919, and stars John Cusack and Charlie Sheen. Not for nothing, but the casting of John Anderson as "Kenesaw Mountain Landis was genius...man looks EXACTLY like him... ( John Anderson, the actor, of course...not to be confused with the guy who ran for President in 1980 for the Independant party, or Jon Anderson, who was the lead singer for the prog rock band, YES )
5 Worst baseball movies
5. Fear strikes out (1957)
Not completely terrible, but Tony Perkins is just not that believable as Jimmy Piersall...his dad was portrayed by Karl Malden, and he was great as always, but it was more of an unrealistic psychological study rather than a baseball film.
4. Safe at home (1962)
The aforementioned awfulness is bad mostly for some horrible baseball acting from the "M&M boys", and a thin story involving Doris Day and Carey Grant. The best/worst part of the movie was used to great effect in the Ken Burns baseball documentary, where the umpire throws Maris Mantle and Berra out of the game for agreeing with Doris Day...gripping stuff...
3. Babe Ruth story (1948)
William Bendix goes through the Babe Ruth motions; the called shot, the drinking, the carousing, all to very mediocre effect...the "Babe" movie that came out in the early '90s with John Goodman was a lot better by comparison, although, as my dad use to point out "Babe Ruth wasn't that fat".
2. Jackie Robinson story (1950)
Maybe the biggest mistake in the making of this film was casting Robinson as himself. If any film needed to be re done, it was this. It's been a while since I've seen it, but it's pretty forgettable, which is maybe is the worst thing you can say about a film...I'm really looking forward to "42"...
1. Fever Pitch (2005)
The fact that this movie tries to recapture one of my favorite baseball memories via a romcom w/ Jimmy Fallon makes this #1 for worst baseball movies...I couldn't even make it through to the end, but I saw enough, so my disgust is valid. Hey, I just realized that there are two RedSox movies in the bottom five...wonder what that means (ha)...
So, that's my half-assed list...I welcome any and all opinions...