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Baseball at the Movies: What to Watch While Waiting Until Next Year

From Mary Burgan. Email her at mary[AT]borderstan.com.

"Baseball"Perhaps because I bought a couple of cheap tickets to see the Nats play a home game a couple of weeks ago, or perhaps because our young team made it to the playoffs, I’ve become a baseball fan. I’m now fully suck(er)ed into the excitement. And I’m ready to wait till next year.

So I thought I’d take in the only baseball movie in town, Trouble with the Curve. I have to admit that I wanted to see what Clint Eastwood is doing as an actor these days, after his bizarre stint as a political commentator at the Republican National Convention this summer. The fact is that his appearance in Tampa may actually have been based on his role in Trouble with the Curve — cranky, unpredictable, and profane. But he does it better in the movie.

Which is not to recommend Trouble with the Curve. It’s not a very good movie — long, with commonplace dialogue and motivation. It’s as leisurely as nine innings with no hits, no runs, no errors. It doesn’t teach much baseball to a novice like me, though I’ll remember the phrase “work the corners” as explaining the male  art of pitching. I thought it meant something else.

The best thing about Trouble with the Curve is that the acting is so good that it almost rescues the flat dialogue and plot, especially when Amy Adams does it. But if you want a better baseball movie, there are a few that tell the story very well. They tend to have sad endings, but then we Washingtonians know about tragedy in baseball. We stayed up Friday night not quite believing the highs and waiting for the low—which still hurt when it came.

The Ones to Watch

If you want to continue the season, I’d look for the following on line or at RedBox.

  • Bang the Drum Slowly (1974)—wonderful early De Niro film about the way a team can coalesce around a sick member in the batting order, even if he has been an irritating loser all his life. Michael Moriarty is the pitcher here, and he plays with all the subdued passion that makes him one of my favorite film and, mostly, TV actors.
  • The Bad News Bears (1976)—This classic is the only “children’s” baseball movie I’ll mention. Walter Matthau is terrific as the cigar chomping, foul mouthed coach, and he’s good. Even the kids are good.
  • The Natural (1984)—I’d rather have the women playing the game than appearing mysteriously to seduce or inspire. But then Robert Redford and Glenn Close and Barbara Hershey work hard to bring in the runs.
  • Bull Durham (1988)—Everybody’s favorite baseball movie, with baseball sex fielded by Susan Sarandon from Tim Robbins and Kevin Costner, plus the sweat and nerve when a pitcher is out there on the mound.
  • Field of Dreams (1989)—Costner at it again, and he does it well, but the story’s magic realism did not win me over.
  • Moneyball (2011)—a really good, though not exciting, film about strategy through stats—just the kind of approach that the Eastwood character despises in Trouble with the Curve. But Brad Pitt, ably relieved by Jonah Hill, radiates competence and fervor.
  • A League of Their Own (1992)—and a good one it is, by the girls. There IS crying in baseball. (See the Nats in the recent playoffs).

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Mary Burgan was the first contributor to Borderstan and writes movie reviews as the Borderstan Movie Fan. She moved to the area in the 1990s to become an association executive after a career as an professor of English Literature. On Sundays you can find her singing in the choir at Saint Augustine Catholic Church on 15th Street NW. Contact her at mary@borderstan.com.

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2 Responses to “Baseball at the Movies: What to Watch While Waiting Until Next Year”

  1. Lebodome says:

    A little tough on Field of Dreams. It makes me cry and call my dad every time I watch it. Also a few others of note: The Sandlot (great kids baseball movie, probably the best), Major League (R rated comedy with great one liners), and The Scout.

    • Maryb says:

      I think Field of Dreams is a guy’s movie. Notice how much I liked A League of their Own? What I also left out was any movie about the Negro League. I’ve only seen “The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings,” and I didn’t think that was good enough to mention. By the way, your reaction to “Field” shows that there IS crying in baseball…
      Mary

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