Thursday, August 30, 2007

5 for the Day: Underdog Sports Movies

Over at The House Next Door, I wrote a post about five of my favorite movies from my favorite genre of all time.

18 comments:

dez said...

What's the controversy about Rudy?

I loved seeing Miracle on your list, which was one of my Top 10 films that year. The hockey scenes were so exciting and tense that I was anxious about who would win--which I already knew since I'd seen the actual game in 1980 :-) Good stuff!

Alan Sepinwall said...

What's the controversy about Rudy?

No controversy. Some people just find Rudy himself to be annoying, or a shameless self-promoter, or a tunnel-visioned obsessive, or whatever. See the Rudy joke in the Simpsons Super Bowl episode.

David J. Loehr said...

I commented over at House Next Door, but forgot to mention this...

I actually own "Men With Brooms." I'm just a Paul Gross fan, from long before "Slings and Arrows." Not a great film, but amusing. (Granted, I found it at Blockbuster for $3, but still.)

Rich Heldenfels said...

Count me in the "Diggstown" cult. Always good for a pause when it shows up on cable (which still seems to be often). Also for "Men in Brooms," since curling is one of my favorite things about the winter Olympics. And "Meatballs" -- well, it's hard to get through life without occasional muttering of "it just doesn't matter" -- and that chant means that the underdogs' win is still irrelevant. Not sure if they would qualify as underdog sports movies, but what about "The Harder They Fall," since the boxer is such a loser (and look at Max Baer's performance in it, and then let's argue about the portrait of Baer in "Cinderella Man").

filmcricket said...

I work in a baseball stadium for a company that makes a huge part of its income from the game. I find it tedious to the nth degree and the only thing it has to recommend it is that its fans (in my city at least) are not nearly as obnoxious as the hockey lunatics.

And yet, I really enjoy baseball movies, and was so glad to see Major League on your list (it's the only one of the five I have seen, I think). Aside from his cameo in Ferris it's the best work Charlie Sheen's ever done, it has Rene Russo to class up the joint, and it proves what a great comic actor Wesley Snipes was before he decided to hit the gym and be an action star instead.

As for the "chill scene"? When Harris is taken out and Vaughn enters the stadium to the strains of "Wild Thing." Goosebumps, every time.

Homertojeebus said...

Alan,
I was stunned to see your somewhat positive mention of The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training. That was my favorite movie when I was a kid. I still love it. I even did a little spot on my show about it, but I think I cut it for time considderations.
Objectively speaking, it's not a great film, but even without my rose-colored kiddie glasses, some of it holds up. Bill Devane gives a really good performance as the estranged dad, and Jackie Earle Hayley has one of the best scenes ever in that poolhall with his dad. I can still quote the little red bike speech.
Aside from that, the movie is also a great bit of wish-fulfillment for kids. Most movies like this would have had to teach lessons about the mischief they get into, but BNBIBT just lets it roll, allowing the lessons to be learned in the bigger picture.
Interestingly, about a year-and-a-half ago, I was telling my son about that Jackie Earle Hayley scene, recommending he use it as a monologue. Several months later, after years in acting oblivion, Hayley was nominated for an Oscar! Now who looks like a genius?

Alan Sepinwall said...

When Harris is taken out and Vaughn enters the stadium to the strains of "Wild Thing." Goosebumps, every time.

That's oustanding, though I'm partial to Hayes and Haywood's "'bout 90 feet" exchange at first base, because by that point Willie had become so good that it wasn't cockiness anymore.

I was stunned to see your somewhat positive mention of The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training. That was my favorite movie when I was a kid.

Mine, too, for a while. There was a period where I couldn't get that damn "There's something telling me our time is now" song out of my head.... And now it's back. Great.

Anonymous said...

"Rudy" was also controversial because it invented characters and key plot points (the players turning in their jerseys to Dan Devine).

Obviously, these things happen with every fact-based movie, but it made Devine (a very underrated coach) look like a bad guy when he wasn't.

If you haven't seen it, try to ignore the Fallon-Barrymore monstrosity, and find the original "Fever Pitch."

Colin Firth plays the obsessed Arsenal fan Nick Hornby based on himself.

It's not technically an Underdog Sports Movie, because it's about the fan rather than the team, but the thrill at the end is just the same.

Best of all, it's all based on the actual Arsenal season and includes real game footage (unlike the U.S. version that was reworked because the Red Sox happened to win.)

Unlike Fallon, Firth mostly plays the role straight (though there are a lot of laughs) and his performance is frighteningly close to the mark for those of us who just can't help blowing our teams' peformance out of proportion.

Blankity-Blank said...

Yeah, seriously. Men With Brooms might be terrible (I own it too) but watch it with the marginalizing of curling.

Hop Suiss!

Homertojeebus said...

Alan,
"life is looookin' go-ood,
loooookin' go-ood, for you and me."
I wish I could get that soundtrack. a disco tune based on the opera "Carmen." Priceless.

Alan Sepinwall said...

"life is looookin' go-ood,
loooookin' go-ood, for you and me."


"It's just a whisper, yeah I know, it's just a whisper..."

"Rudy" was also controversial because it invented characters and key plot points (the players turning in their jerseys to Dan Devine).

Obviously, these things happen with every fact-based movie, but it made Devine (a very underrated coach) look like a bad guy when he wasn't.


The fabrications in "Rudy" are nothing compared to, say, "Remember the Titans," which has a deadpan hilarious commentary track featuring the two real-life coaches, who spend half their time explaining, "Now, this never happened" or "Now, this happened months earlier and wasn't a big deal, but it's a good scene."

Devin McCullen said...

Geez, a Yankee fan and a Knick fan? I'm surprised I like your writing so much. ;) Of course, this year I'll take ugly wins for the Giants, because they're going to be hard to come by in any form.

Of course, if you want to root for a team that you can actually enjoy, there's still plenty of room on the Scarlet Knight bandwagon! (But not in the stadium.)

Blankity-Blank said...

Are you ready for your favorite genre to be totally skewered by two of the eight writers of Date Movie? No? Well, too bad. Here come The Comebacks.

http://www.apple.com/trailers/fox_atomic/thecomebacks/hd/

I'm sure it's only a matter of time before your precious cricket movie gets knocked off the list.

anon said...

Alan,

Have you seen The King of Kong yet? I have reservations about it as a documentary (as did Matt), but I think you're really going to enjoy it as an underdog sports movie.

Anon

Anonymous said...

This site sets forth the numerous variations from reality of "Remember the Titans." There are links to other movies, including "Rudy."

http://www.chasingthefrog.com/reelfaces/rememberthetitans.php

Taleena said...

I just watched Glory Road the basketball flick and enjoyed it very much. With all of the "true story" sports movies I take for granted a streamlining of events and a compression of characters.

What do you think of Coach Carter and For Love of the Game Alan?

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad Major League is on this list. There is a reason why Major League is on television seemingly every day of the week. It's rewatchable every single time. It's hilarious. Other than Hoosiers, I think it's my favorite sports movie. And sports movies are probably my favorite genre of film. (I'm glad you put Miracle on this list, also.)

The reason why I love Major League so much is because it feels like you are watching a movie about actual baseball players. (Whereas Bull Durham doesn't give me that feeling.)

The movie also does a damn good job of showing what it's like to fall in love with a sports team. They don't make a huge scene of it, but I love the shots where the town rallies behind the team at the bar. You have the punk rockers and the blue collar people all together. The fans going nuts for Wild Thing, etc. It feels EXACTLY like how it does when your team somehow wins a big playoff game. No other sports movie, save for Hoosiers, captures that. It really is genius in capturing that.

Any good sports movie's ultimate theme is about personal redemption and sacrificing yourself for the betterment of your team. The final game scene in ML does that absolutely perfectly and every character gets to overcome a personal obstacle to help the team win. Jake Taylor's call of the HR fakeout is also great... sacrificing personal glory and his career in order to put his team over the top.

Also, the final scene is the AL East Division Championship. It's not the World Series. It's a one game playoff ala the 1978 Bucky Dent game.

One fault, though: in 1989, when the movie came out, the Yankees were dreadful.

Anonymous said...

Also, if I get a chance to go to the library at college, I'll post on here a review I once read of Major League written in a socialist newsletter which talked about how the movie is secretly about the benevolence of the superstate.