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April 01, 1993 - Image 14

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The Michigan Daily, 1993-04-01

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*1

age 4--The Michigan Daily-Weekend etc. -April 1, 1993
Boys of summer: Hollywood and baseball merge

by Megan Abbott
and Josh Dubow
Hollywood and baseball have al-
ways had a problematic relationship.
Both the sport and the film capital took
off in the same decade, the 1920s, mak-
ing both Babe Ruth and Rudolph
Valentino national heroes. But, histori-
cally, when the two forms of entertain-
ment mix, the results haven't always
been inspirational. For every "Bang the
Drum Slowly," there's a dozen shoddy
baseball pics like "The Winning Team"
(with Ronald Reagan himselfas Grover
Cleveland Alexander). There's some-
thing in the glamour and melodramaof
motion pictures that distorts the purity
of baseball. But, in recent years, some
films have come close to reproducing
the essence of watching America'spas-
time.
Most of the early Hollywood "base-
ball movies"consistedof biopics of the
'20s and '30s baseball legends. In this
pre-television age such films were valu-
ablebecausemany of the baseball greats
of the period were never seen by those
living outside major league cities, save
for the occasional newsreel. Unfortu-
nately, mostof these biopics wereheavy
on the sentiment and played loose with
the facts. Actors with no athletic skill
often portrayed such baseball luminar-
ies as Dizzy Dean or Ty Cobb. Perhaps
the most disturbing example would be
the casting of middle-aged character
actor William Bendix as the great Babe
Ruth in "The Babe Ruth Story" (1948).
Last year's "The Babe" fared little bet-
ter; it was riddled with exaggerations
and hyperbole and the casting of John
Goodman proved no more successful
in reproducing Ruth's early talents.
Possibly the most famous biopic
was the 1942 "Pride of the Yankees,"
with Gary Cooper as the mythic Lou
Gehrig. In order to cast screen idol
Cooper, the filmhad to be processedin
reverse because Cooper was right-
handed. But that was far from the worst
violation of the legendary Gehrig's life.
The movie destroyed Gehrig's famous
goodbye speech at Yankee Stadium to
make it "more dramatic."But the origi-
nal speech is more powerful than the
doctored version and shouldhave stood
alone.
The problem with baseball movies,
particularly these biopics, is they be-
come so "Hollywoodized" that the true
rhythms of baseball are lost in the false
glamour and contrived constructs of

the cinema. A more recent and more
successful historical baseball filmis John
Sayles' 1988 "Eight Men Out," based
on the Eliot Asinof book chronicling the
infamous Chicago Black Sox World
Series. Coming out strongly on the side
of the players, Sayles' film educates its
audiences with the background of the
scandal. D. B. Sweeney's Shoeless Joe
captures the essence of Jackson's leg-
endary natural grace and unschooled
talents. Sweeney practiced Jackson's
swing and fabled loping gait for months
and it shows. Perhaps the film succeeds
because itis not a traditional Hollywood
film. Director Sayles is an independent
filmmaker who works out of New Jer-
seyandbringsanout-of-the-mainstream
political slant to his work. The Black
Sox come across as exploited workers
who are victimized by the tyrannical
Charlie Comiskey. Though "Eight Men
Out" borders on over-sentiment, it ef-
fortlessly brings out the national heart-
break involved in the scandal, and its
effects on the banned players.
And it is easy to overdose on senti-
ment within the baseball film genre,
"The Natural" being a prime example.
This 1984 movie dramatically altered
Bernard Malamud's book of the same
title. This movie did not border on the
unbelievable, it embraced it. The book
culminates in Roy Hobbs' death as a
result of his excesses and his failure to
capitalize on his talents. However, the
movie ends in one of Hollywood's worst
displays of orgiastic overdramatization.
Hobbs comes off his death bed to win
the big game as lights explode in a
fireworks display unparalleled in the
history of the world. The beauty of
baseball is the rarity of such epiphanies,
however in "The Natural," these events
happen every fiverminutes, robbing them
of their power.
While "The Natural" sinks in its own
excesses, like Roy Hobbs should have,
the perennial New Age favorite, "Field
ofDreams," never feigns the pretense of
baseball reality. It's a story of magic and
pop psychology, with baseball standing
in as a metaphor for father-son relation-
ships. And it'snotreallyaiming toplease
baseball fans, as baseball comes to take
on a dozen different ideas about missed
chances, second chances and saving the
farm. Overdone and overblown, "Field
of Dreams" says a lot about family and
the power of dreams, but it says precious
little about baseball, or America's at-
traction to baseball.

While "Field ofDreams" has a more
serious outlook on life and baseball,
"Major League" takes alight approach.
With characters such as Willie Mays
Hayes, "Wild Thing" Rickie Vaughn
and others, the movie stands as a carica-
ture of baseball, playing upon its stereo-
types - the superstitious player, the
womanizer, the industrious leader and
the uncontrollable youth. Like many
other baseballmovies, theIndiansmake
miraculous comebacks, have seemingly
endless win streaks, and the underdog
prevails. But one of the strengths of
"Major League" was the baseball skill
level of the actors. All the actors had
lengthy workouts on skills and baseball
mannerisms which made the movie
more like a real game. It even cast
former major leaguer Pete Vukovich as
the villain. While the Indians unbeliev-
ably won the pennant, themovie atleast
ended before taking the underdog to the
World Series. However, they are film-
ing the sequel this summer. All in all,
while made as a feature film, "Major
League" works best on HBO reruns.
A baseball film made for cable, the
1987 "Long Gone" could actually have
been a feature film. With an excellent
cast (William Petersen, Virginia
Madsen, Dermot Mulroney) and areal-
istic depiction of minor league baseball

in the '50s, "Long Gone" served as a
predecessor and model for the ultimate
baseball movie, "Bull Durham." What
makes "Bull Durham" so good is ex-
actly whatmakes otherbaseballmovies
so bad. It focuses on the details: players
putting on their stirrups, impromptu
conversations on the mound, long bus
rides, relationships between teammates,
etc. Even the announcing of the away
games, with thehumorousartificialrec-
reation of the sounds of the crack of the
bat and theroar of the crowd makes the
film closer to the real thing. "Bull
Durham" boasts what might be the best
cast in abaseball film. Kevin Costneris
the Babe of baseball movies, while Gary
Cooper / Robert Redford forever ap-
pear to be struggling to stay above the
Mendoza line. Tim Robbins typifies the.
overgrown, immature, arrogant young
pitcher. And Susan Sarandon's earnest
and quirky ruminationson baseball truly
capture the essence of its appeal. With
all its loopy charm, "Bull Durham"
comes closest to getting at the heart of
what baseball is like for both fan and
player.
So while you're killing time until
Opening Day, watching the basketball
Final Four, crack open a cold one, rent
a baseball movie and yearn for the re-
turn of Ernie Harwell.

e McGee (stealing second) and Damion Easley play the real game.
S O'SuI ivan s
Eatery & Pub
1122 S. University " 313-665-9009
LIVE ENTER TAINMENT!
Kick back at O'Sullivan's on Thursday &
Friday. Enjoy a variety of music from college
bar standards to blues, reggae & classic rock.

0
0

FRIDAY
.IERRY SPRAGUE
[lively classic rock standards]
Entertainment begins at 9:30pm

i

, .

Rebel With A Cause

Andromache is a Trojan
P.O.W., but obsessive
passions make her captors
prisoners as well.

Trueblood Theatre
April 1-3, 8-10, 8pm
April 4, 11, 2pm
previews March 30, 31, 8pm
Tickets are $10
(previews $5)
Charge by phone:
764-0450
Student seating is $6
(previews $3) with ID at
the League Ticket Office

Tom Berenger thinks he's a ballplayer, in the farce "Major League."
A BENEFIT FOR THE WILLIAM L CLEMENTS LIBRARY
1993
ANN ARBOR ANTIQUARIAN
BOOK FAIR
SUNDAY, APRIL 4
11-S
MICHIGAN UNION BALLROOM
(2ND FLOOR)
'T 530 S. STATE (S. STATE & S. UNIV.)
ADMISSION $3.00
More than 40 Dealers
Ann Arbor Antiquarian Booksellers Association

0

H EAVEN
340 1/2 S. State (upstairs
994-3888
OPEN 7D

A new version of Jean
Racine's tragedy by
John Russell Brown
U-M SCHOOL OF MUSIC
Department of Theatre and Drama

Best of Ann Arbor Ballot '93
Please return by April 9 to the Daily at 420 Maynard, 48109. Results will be printed in the April 15 Best of Ann Arbor issue of Weekend etc. Thanks for your time.
Best Restaurants/Bars for... Men's clothing Place to find parking
1 Coffee Women's clothing Student group/organization
Sburgers Thrift/used clothing Fraternity to party with
French Fries Books Sorority to party with
Pizza Textbooks Co-op
IHot dogs Used books Ugliest building
' Wings Haircut _ Bathroom '
Cheap beer First-run theater Lecture Hall I
Bar Drinks Video store
Ice cream/Frozen yogurt Liquor/party store Best(and worst) Entertainment
IChipati Photocopying Local band
Sandwiches Sporting goods Dancing spot
' Subs Groceries Concert in past year
Cookies Florist Radio station
' Italian food Magazines Place to go when in an altered state
' Middle Eastern food Michigan items (sweats,mugs, etc.)
Chinese food Posters Best (and worst) dating stuff '
Korean food Place to meet a mate'
Mexican food Best (and worst) of the University Pick-up line
Deli Professor Rejection line
Greasy spoon Course Place for first date
Sports bar Blow-off course Place for secret rendezvous
Breakfast Residence hall Idea for unusual date
Lunch Sports team "Date movie" I

* **
* . .,*i*
The Collegiate Licensing
Company
congratulates
the Michigan Wolverines
on their trip to the
Final Four and a fantastic
basketball season!!
And fans...please remember
tn onok for the

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