I live by one rule and one rule only. Any time I can dust off my Rex Reed mask from Halloween 1992 and play movie critic I'm doing it. And that chance has presented itself thanks to the "What the hell happened to the sports movie?" column I wrote earlier this week. So I'll tackle a couple of emails on that as well as a botched headline, The Captain, Mr. Skin and Greg Luzinski.
To the ‘bag we go (and, as always, feel free to email away to firstname.lastname@example.org)
Just read your new article on weei.com and have to disagree on one movie made from the 1990's...VARSITY BLUES. This movie had it all. R rating, a lot of funny characters, good plot, and you loved the players and hated the coach, just the way it was supposed to be. An incredibly underrated movie!!! Did I mention Ali Larter in a whipped cream bikini, having sex on the washing machine, boys being boys, the sex ed teacher as a stripper, and a character named Billy Bob with a pet pig named Bacon. C'mon now, what else do you need??? Watch it again if you have the chance...the horrifying part of the whole thing is that it is an MTV movie. Yeah, the same channel that has virtually nothing to do with music anymore.
Oh and I would include Johnny B Good in your list of great 80's sports movies...so many one-liners it'll make your head spin. And an R rating, of course. But definitely nothing good in the last nine years....we can only hope.
A: I know Jon is having a little fun here, but I must’ve got five or six e-mails defending Varsity Blues. And with the exception of Teen Wolf, no movie omitted from my list of the 64 best sports movies of all time got more “How could you leave it off?” feedback than the tale of Jonathan Moxon.
I will not play the “we are getting dumber” card here, but I do worry. Take a flick like Days of Thunder. Yes, when I was 16 I thought it was the greatest movie I had ever seen. Of course, that title changed about nine times a year back then, as it’s supposed to for a teenager. Now that I’m a little older I understand that Days is not much more than a piece of slick 1980s Simpson/Bruckheimer garbage with star power and Nicole Kidman at her absolute peak (no arguments allowed on that one). If it’s on TV now I watch it every time, but I know it’s junk. Plenty of fun, but junk. An ice-cream sundae. I’m not sure the 28-year-olds feel the same way about Varsity Blues. They might think it’s more than what it is. And that scares me a little as we quickly become a country that adopts the “no matter what s—t you throw on the screen in front of us we’ll watch” policy.
If we are looking at Varsity Blues for what it is -- a movie where the kids are smart, the adults are dopes and the girls are just there to have sex with -- then I’m OK with it as a fun but hugely flawed movie. Guilty pleasure? Sure. But I think there are some people out there that actually believe that this is a great piece of cinema and a realistic look at the world of Texas high school football. Come on. Johnny Be Good is actually a nice comparison. Speaking of which….
I think you’re on to something (for once) with this Sports Movie Hall of Fame. But think about it, we are starting fresh with this one. We can cut the cheaters out right away. So before any controversy can start let’s eliminate all possible HGH, steroid, protein shakes or whatever else from all actors or movie characters. Sorry, but I think this means Stallone is out.
A: (The following answer is based purely on speculation. I know nothing. To be fair, I should preface each column with this statement.)
Wrong. Stallone is Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens. Overwhelming numbers that will get him induction eventually. Actually he really is exactly like Bonds, if you buy the “he was already a Hall of Famer before he started juicing” theory. Rocky III is where things started to get strange, right? So before that you’ve got the first two Rocky’s and Victory. That’s enough right there. I do agree, however, that he loses first-ballot status and that hurts.
OK. Who else? I was watching the original Vacation the other night (written by John Hughes. I was in the Ferris camp over The Breakfast Club as my favorite Hughes teen movie, but I think Planes, Trains and Automobiles is his one near-masterpiece. For me, Hughes was a bigger part of my childhood than Michael Jackson and the news of his death had more of an impact. Plus Hughes never pumped kids full of wine and had sleepovers with them.) and Anthony Michael Hall couldn’t have weighed more than 100 pounds. I’m serious. So when I saw the trailer for Johnny Be Good in 1988 I was in shock. Hall must’ve been 220, all muscle. Think McLovin’ turned into, I don’t know, Gerard Butler or something.
(I think Hall has my favorite back-to-back credits of anyone on IMDB. In 2001 he played Whitey Ford in 61*. Just nine months later he portrayed Mutt Lange in Hysteria: The Def Leppard Story. Try beating that, Daniel Day Lewis.)
Tell you what, let’s just play it safe for the first induction class. I nominate Burt Young and Chelcie Ross (George in Hoosiers, Eddie Harris in Major League and Dan Devine in Rudy. He’s the Robert Horry of sports movies). Won’t sell many tickets but we will all hold our heads high.
One thing that's interesting about your Golden Age of American Sports Movies is that it primarily takes place during the Reagan years. After the tumult of the sixties (civil rights movement, Vietnam) and then the blanket cynicism of the early to mid seventies (Watergate, economic recession), perhaps Americans were savoring some cinematic positive reinforcement. And what's more uplifting than a well-made sports film?
It's also somewhat unsettling that almost all of your Golden Age films revolve around white men. I had to hop on wiki to confirm, but the only three notable non-comedy sports films with black men at their center during that period were The Ron Leflore Story (yikes), The Greatest (starring Ali as himself, which doesn't really count), and Amazing Grace and Chuck (featuring the De Niro of eighties basketball stars, Mr. Alex English). Hollywood? Racist? Can't be!
All that being said, you missed a couple. Everybody's All American belongs in the very good pile - good performances, decent story. As does Teen Wolf, if only for the plain as day homoerotic subtext. It's the onion of American sports films - so many layers...
Great column, though.
Studio City, CA
A: Everybody’s All-American is not terrible, but I can never get next to movies that have 35-year-olds portraying teenagers. Always creepy. Not as creepy as my high school buddy that threw a surprise birthday party for his dog, but creepy nevertheless.
But, yeah, the Reagan era played a huge factor, no doubt. And I do think that as a country we have developed a cynicism that might just render the classic underdog sports movie impossible to pull off. But then I think about these stories Chris Connelly will do on ESPN -- who can forget the one about the autistic kid (Jason McElwain) that went Eddie House in a high school basketball game -- and they still work in a 2009 world. So maybe a Hoosiers or Rocky could play if released today.
Do you write the headlines? The Fallout from AN David Ortiz column? Here’s the fallout. You are a moron that can’t figure out when to use “A” or “AN”. Ortiz isn’t from America and he knows the difference.
Does anyone proof read there? It should read "The fallout from a David Ortiz story".
A: Almost done, but this one is my favorite…
“The Fallout from AN David Ortiz column?” I was this close to adding you to my favorites but now you are out. Too bad, because I was going to make room for you by getting rid of Mr. Skin (though to be fair I had stopped paying for my Mr. Skin account for a year now and was looking for a reason). Step up, this stuff is amateur hour.
A: I’m not going to throw anyone under the bus, so I’ll just say this and let you read between the lines: I had nothing to do with that headline. Zero. Nada. Nyet. And I’m going to go to the New Balance building and crack some skulls if this crap happens again. And that’s not easy, as I’ve promised myself not to get involved in muscle jobs again. But the whole thing is a absolute joke. An complete tragedy.
And never delete Mr. Skin. That man is a national treasure, a visionary. Sure, he’s lost some relevancy as the Internet has exploded (if you will), but don’t forget what he did for you from, say, 1996-2003. He had all the answers. From Pam Dawber to Pam Anderson and everyone in between, he always knew. It’s a shame that the Nobel Prize for Pornography was discontinued in 1994, because Mr. Skin truly deserved such an honor.
Bull Durham is the most overrated movie of all-time Kirk. It’s just not that good. Yeah its got some funny scenes. In my opinion, # 1 a GREAT sports movie has to be a drama.
Slapshot and the like aside. Seabiscuit is a GREAT sports movie. If they’d have just stuck to the real story and the book, it would have won best picture instead of LOTR III
Cough cough. I liked telling the story of the 3 men behind his success and how each was redeemed in his own way, but what about the Race Horse !? He’s one of the greatest
Race horse’s of all time. And he was no underdog…he was an underachiever early on in life, with the blood of Man O’ War flowing through him as a direct descendant.
They should have gone into how the more he won, the more weight he was made to carry against the other horses he ran against. Seabiscuit is immortal…and How can you NOT haveThe Natural there !?!?!? are you kidding me @?!?? Bull durham over The Natural?!
PS, I hear that a movie about the Great Secretariat is being made, starring Diane Lane.
Breaking away over Friday Night Lights !??!
A: Sorry, one more movie e-mail I thought deserved a response.
And here’s the problem with writing a movie column, John. It’s not like sports. I can write that Nick Green is a better player than Albert Pujols but we all know about 10,000 statistics that prove that isn’t true. We have numbers. Well, that’s not how it works with books or TV or music or movies. If you think Mister Mister is better than Bob Dylan or Danielle Steele is fifty times the writer that Philip Roth is on his best day there’s no actual way to prove that you’re nuts.
Seabiscuit? Bored me stiff. Felt like I was being lectured for two and a half hours. And it was complete hero worship. And that has really hurt a few sports movies over the last decade or so. Ali could’ve been so much more, but Michael Mann could never commit to showing any real conflict within the man. And Cinderella Man was even worse. You know, it’s okay to make the hero look a little human sometimes. Good men aren’t always good men.
That’s why the 1970s and 1980s were The Golden Age. The Scorsese of that era (he’s lost his fastball over the last 10 years, but that’s for another day) wouldn’t have been interested in a puffed up version of Jake LaMotta. He wanted the warts and the sins. That’s what appealed to him. Even the comedies didn’t care if we liked the lead or not. Reggie Dunlop starts and ends Slap Shot the same way -- totally self-involved. He never had that “moment” that happens in comedies today, where the lead realizes that maybe, just maybe, it’s not all about him. Same with Buttermaker in The Bad News Bears. When the movie ends he’s still a drunk, cleaning pools and all alone. And that’s correct. I don’t know about you, but most a-holes I know stay a-holes their entire lives.
You were tough on Big Papi last week. I emailed you and asked to at least wait for his explanation before burying him. Well, it took longer than I (and everyone else) wanted but we got it.
I think he’s telling the truth. I know you are going to call me a Pink Hat (like all women, right?) but I believe him. And it bothers me that if he is being truthful he’ll never get his reputation back. And stories like yours were really unfair, I thought. So you should at least acknowledge that maybe he was telling the truth.
A: First, a man can be a Pink Hat just the same. Not a guy/gal thing at all. And there are women that are legit Red Sox fans. C’mon Megan, you know I know that.
I’ll tell you what, I watched the entire press conference on Saturday and I’m still not buying Ortiz’s story. Sorry, I just look at the numbers from 2003-2007 and I can’t get past it. Too much circumstantial evidence. Slightly above average power before 2003. He fails the test in 2003, which is the first of a five-year span that includes 200-plus home runs. I’m supposed to believe that he stopped after 2003 (and stopped doing what? Drinking shakes?) and got even better? It simply doesn’t pass the smell test for me. That’s all.
But again, my beef is not really with Ortiz. It was a complicated time and he made a choice. Now his reputation is forever tarnished and he has to live with that. That’s his punishment. Remember, this isn’t a guy that had any shot at the Hall of Fame, so that doesn’t play a factor. So I suspect that he’ll be almost forgotten outside of Boston once his career is over. In 20 years he’ll be Greg Luzinski.
But it’s the fans that I’m down on. I never heard one Sox fan preach patience when A-Rod or Manny or Sosa showed up on the list. And if A-Rod or Manny had waited over a week to hold a press confrence and then played the “I didn’t know what I took” card they would be getting blasted on ‘EEI for weeks. And that inconsistency drives me nuts, it really does.
What do you think the chances are of the Red Sox picking up Jason Varitek's option next year? He is now a proven .220 hitter and it is a track meet on the basepaths for opposing base stealers with him behind the plate. His overall batting average doesn't truly capture how atrocious he is again this year, particularly against key AL East opponents:
NYY - 42 AB, 2 hits, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 13 SO, .054 BA, .143 OBP
TBR - 38 AB, 6 hits, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 8 SO, .158 BA, .200 OBP
He's awful. I know The Captain is Lester's and Beckett's binky and he gets a lot of credit for their success, but what about Craig Hansen, last year's Clay Buchholz, Dice-K, and Manny Delcarmen (in any close game)? Doesn't he deserve some blame for their struggles as well? I don't recall reading anyone praising Victor Martinez's game calling skills after Buchholz had a good outing vs. the Yankees last Saturday. Despite being a stiff at the plate since August of 2007, Varitek inexplicably remains the Teflon Red Sox player.
A: The Sox won’t pick up the $5 million option but I bet Varitek takes the $3 million player option and comes back in 2010. There’s no way he’ll do better and I do think he wants to play next season.
This has been rough to watch. A .230 slugging percentage since the All-Star Break. How about a .191 batting average on the road this season? I’d like to say that he’d be okay value as a backup catcher in 2010 but I don’t think that’s the case anymore. And yes, I’ve never been sure that he’s the answer to all pitching problems. Wade Miller, Matt Clement, Matt Mantei and B.H. Kim, among others, never got the memo that The Captain has the ability to will greatness out of journeymen with a mere stare and sprint from home plate.
Do I think it’s the end of the world if a team with a payroll of $120 million uses three million on a hugely beloved and respected catcher to play once a week and hit. 200 next season? I guess not. But we all know what we see, and it wouldn’t be the worst thing if Varitek decided to call it quits. We are getting REALLY close to the embarrassing stage here, and that really is a shame. Yes, the Varitek worship over the last couple of years has been nauseating at times (you’d think he was a mix of Patton, Johnny Bench and Leo Mazzone sometimes), but that’s not his fault. He didn’t ask to be cast as John Wayne, but the media and fans decided to do it anyway. How about we remember Varitek as a top-five catcher in baseball for half a decade or so, a winner of a couple of World Series and a model teammate. Nothing more, nothing less.
So THIS is what was needed to get Rick Pitino to hold a press conference. I’m still waitjng for the one he promised when he quit the Celtics in 2001. Feel bad for his family but I’ll never forgive the guy for screwing us over.
A: I'm surprised Pitino had the patience to make it through the act, frankly. Figured he'd stop mid-coitus and trade her for two second-round picks and the rights to Vitaly Potapenko.