Let me just get this out of the way now:
No, I haven't watched Bull Durham.
Nor have I watched The Natural or Eight Men Out, or the HBO drama '61.
This list of baseball films is relatively incomplete. I know this. It still won't stop me from making a list of what I feel, are the best baseball movies that I have seen, and ones that to me, stand out and remind me why I'm still in love with the game. Plus, it's a nice way to make sure Gaslamp Ball doesn't turn into a ghost town during the off season, so here's my incomplete (or rough draft) list of the five best baseball films that I've seen so far.
5. 42 (2013) - I know this one's new, but it's also the first film based on Jackie Robinson since the 1950 film, The Jackie Robinson Story, and of all the films on this short list, It's probably the most flawed. There are moments in the biopic that feel generic, where writer-director Brian Helgeland (L.A. Confidential) decides to play it safe and avoid an even thornier discussion about the issue of race and racism in American society, and we're only getting a glimpse into the man who would later on go into the Hall of Fame in 1962 and become a cultural icon in baseball and in American history. The way the movie is told, it's as if by the end of Robinson's rookie season with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, he had won the respect, and admiration of fans and critics alike and that the man didn't encounter bigotry in the stands and on the field, because i'm sure his skin color was still an issue going foreword thought his entire career. What stands out here is how the man had to endure the racial slurs, the taunts from the irate, bigoted fans, a divided locker room, and the bubbling urge to lose his cool and answer his critics through force, and still prove his worth to the game. Chadwick Boseman is excellent, capturing the conflict within Robinson, along with being fun to watch as he steals bases left and right.
4. Major League (1989) - Do I even need to explain why for this one?! Much like The Hangover, The 40 Year-Old Virgin, Ghostbusters, and other great funny movies, the comedic rapport between Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Corbin Bermsen, Dennis Haysbert and the rest of the cast is infectious, to the point where you're wheezing because you're laughing so hard. The ridiculousness of the plot - the bereaved former Showgirl assembles a ragtag group of has-beens, unstable players and prima donnas to blow a season in order to move the Indians to Miami - only adds to the hilarity, even more-so when her plan backfires and this team of true misfits starts to win more games and gets the fans back into the ballpark. You can't help but love these guys, and their quirks.
3. Moneyball (2011) - Here's an analogy: Moneyball is a movie mostly about baseball as 2010's The Social Network was a film about Facebook, which is another way of saying that it's not. Director Bennett Miller (Capote) and screenwriters Steve Zallian (who won the Adapted Screenplay Oscar for Schindler's List in '94) and Aaron Sorkin (NBC's The West Wing and Oscar winner for Adapted Screenplay for TSN in 2011) aren't interested in telling a routine inspirational sports drama about how the Oakland Athletics shocked the baseball world in 2002 and won the AL West division, despite losing free agents Jason GIambi, Johnny Damon and Jason Isringhausen in free agency to larger-market teams (the Yankees, Red Sox and Cardinals respectively). This is about how A's manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) and his assistant Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) ignored the traditional way of scouting players and building a clubhouse, much to the displeasure of almost everyone on the inside, including the team's manager Art Howe (Phillip Seymore Hoffman), used a new analytical method of getting players that could manufacture runs and get on-base, and still came out on top while doing it. It's also the first time I've seen a baseball film actually take us behind the scenes and get to the heart of a ballclub: the scouting, the trades and dealing with players and clubhouse insides who think Beane's nuts to even try going against tradition. I especially love the cinematography, which was shot by Wally Pfister: the quieter moments where Beane is either walking the grounds or siting in the stands alone capture the feeling of carry an enormous burden, both as leading the franchise to where it needs to go, and remembering his own failings as an up-and-comer former five-tool player playing for the Mets. When they do get to the baseball scenes, it's really well captured; the joy of winning a game and the anguish of losing one.
2. The Rookie (2002) - The quintessential underdog story, period. Jim Morris, at the age of 35, is signed to a minor-league deal and is called up by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in September. What happens during the journey is at the heart of this baseball drama, and is the key word throughout this whole film: heart. Dennis Quaid gives one of my favorite performances by the actor as Morris, who is given one last shot to live out his dream of playing in the Major League.
1. Field of Dreams (1989) - This goes without saying, or much explanation for that matter. But here are a few things I can say about this film: I love how the filmmaker, writer-director Phil Alden Robinson used baseball as backdrop to explore themes of broken dreams, regret, and the thread which bounded the characters together, the love of the game. I loved the ending, where Ray (Kevin Costner) gets his own wish and gets to toss the ball with his old man in a scene that would make even the manliest dude squirt a few tears. I loved how they trotted out historical figures like Shoeless Joe Jackson (a wonderful Ray Liotta), Archibald "Moonlight" Graham (Burt Lancaster, in his final role before his death in 1994) and others to explore their own regrets and have their dreams realized. Field of Dreams isn't afraid to tackle dashed dreams and it isn't afraid to let the dreams of it's characters take flight. To quote Professor Dumbledore, " In dreams, we enter a world that is entirely our own. Let us swim in the deepest ocean or glide over the highest cloud."
So those are my favorite baseball movies that i've seen so far. again, I know this is an incomplete list, so feel free to pick apart this list, add in your favorites, or suggest other baseball-related fare that are worth a look.