Saturday, February 4, 2012


10. Sugar

The story of one Dominican boy's move from the camps in his home country to the farm leagues of rural Iowa. A very vivid and topical and realistic portrait of the lives these kids (and they really are kids) lead before, during, and after their careers. The story is poignant and the plot is believable. Plus, it's just a great view into minor league baseball. 

9. The Natural

A bit sappy, predictable and formulaic, but the uniforms, characters, costume design, and - at times - dark themes give the movie a unique feel. Plus, the acting is fantastic. Too many great performances to note, although Robert Duvall, Robert Prosky, Kim Basinger, and Glenn Close stand out among many others. 
The railroad scene as Redford waits to leave town was based on accounts of Ted Williams' own baseball recollections. A great portrait of the game and America in general, pre-WWII.

8. Rocky IV

"I must break you," serves as the ultimate 'bring it on' moment of the Cold War stalemate between the U.S. and its arch nemesis, the Soviet Union. I nearly fell over when I heard Dolph Lundgren was from Sweden. I couldn't believe it. And furthermore, I didn't want to believe it. He will always be Drago, pumping iron, shootiing 'roids, yelling at the Politburo that he fights for him, not for them. If any movie could and possibly did lead to dissolution of the eastern Bloc, it was this one. So many quotes, so many great moments ("And the Russian's cut, and it's a bad cut!") so many great montages. And so what if the whole theater cheered when Rocky knocked out Drago. We weren't just cheering for Balboa that Christmas night in Russia, we were cheering for capitalism. 

7. Field of Dreams

Kevin Costner defies logic and reason by following a mysterious voice across America, discovering truths about his past and others he is chasing as his financial crisis mounts back at home. Threatened with selling his farm to escape bankruptcy, Costner follows his heart to eschew his creditors urging him to sell before he loses everything. 

6. Major League

"The Indians score run one run and one god damned hit, that's all we got?"
"You can't say "god damn" on the air!"
"Don't worry. Nobody's listening anyway."

As my dad said, it's "the Natural" with four letter words. Funnily enough, it's really stood the test of time. Whether it because Charlie Sheen is constantly in the news or the Indians are a real Major League team (as opposed to say, the New York Knights) this movie has some serious staying power. It also has a great cast (Snipes, Sheen, Rene Russo, The black president from "24" as Pedro Cerrano, Tom Berenger, Corbin Bernsen, Chelcie Ross and Bob Uecker) a believable storyline, fantastic quotes, and a hilarious editing mishap (look closely for the fat guy celebrating on the field twice at the end of the movie).  

5. Raging Bull

Deniro, Pesci, and Scorcese team up for this "inspired by true events" story of middleweight contender Jake LaMotta. The black and white cinematography is as much the true star of the movie as DeNiro, whose portrayal of LaMotta, shadowed by Pesci, is first-rate.

4. The Karate Kid

"Well, well, well...if it isn't our little friend, Danielle."

The ultimate good (Daniel LaRusso) versus evil juxtaposed with the California beach high school we all wanted to attend in the 1980's. Ali with an "i" meets Daniel with an "l" and sparks fly. But that sit well with her ex-boyfriend and current All-Valley under-18 Karate champion, Johnny Lawrence. After LaRusso gets his ass handed to him by Johnny and the Cobra Kai's one too many times, its high time he sought help. This comes in the face of a midle-aged, widower simply named Miyagi-san. Their union, while a tad far-fetched and borderline uncomfortable at times ("You're the best friend I ever had,"....."You are pretty okay too.") 
is the perfect kryptonite to the Kai's Valley dominance. And when Miyagi throws down the gauntlet to Lawrence's sensei at their dojo, it is on. Sparkling performances by William Zabka and Elizabeth Shue carry a mediocre cast all the way to the finals. But will Daniel be able to handle the pain to get there? 
"Hai. You have goooooo-oood chance."

3. Miracle

Kurt Russell plays U.S. hockey coach, Herb Brooks, as the cast of cast-offs and college all-stars take on the mighty Soviet Union in the 1980 Winter Olympic semi-finals. This story goes deeper than one game, mind you, as we watch a team assembled and put together before it comes together. Stand up and cheer as the Americans attempt out skate the unbeatable Red Army, who seem poised for the gold medal in the U.S. backyard of Lake Placid, New York. Russell is likable, intense, and demanding, as Brooks, and immediately grabs center stage in this feel-good rendition of American pride. 

2. Rocky 

1976 Academy Award for Best Picture, "Rocky" delivers on all what is right about a sports movie: rags to riches story, the ultimate underdog conquers all, wins the girl, and shows his/her human side. Rocky Balboa has entertained us for 35 years but the original film is the true gem of the six, where Mickey, Apollo, Adrian, Paulie and Rocky are all introduced to us for the first time. We learn about their shortcomings, their goals, their dreams and their connection. Set in the gritty streets of Philadelphia, this movie is shot in a way which reveals Stallone's depiction of Rocky in an incredibly human way. Stallone wrote the screenplay as well. 

1. Hoosiers

"Welcome to Indiana Basketball."

Gene Hackman and an alcoholic Dennis Hopper, a contemptuous Myra Fleener, played by Barbara Hershey, and the pint-sized Hickory Husker team taking on South Bend Central in the 1951 Indiana State you need much more. There are so many highs and lows in this film that it's uncannily re-watchable. Add to that a tremendous musical score and gripping screenplay by Angelo Pizzo and you have the greatest sports movie of all time.

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