Baseball in movies, then. So let me give you some examples I would say are some of my very favorites. And I am sure there may be many others I am failing to mention here. Including a scene that would perhaps be a guilty pleasure of mine outside of any ‘best of’ lists, were it not so over-the-top and from a series of movies I will never be able to take seriously – great track by Muse though. My three choices, though, are quite personal, but movies that kind of honor the influence and passion of baseball in their representation of the sport. They portray that euphoria. Before I do delve deep into what I managed to whittle down to three choices, take a look again at this bonus scene Naked Gun (1988). I’m telling you, it is still funny.
I admittedly had Fields of Dreams in my initial short-list, but there were several of those that kindly contributed to yesterday’s post that regarded those final scenes of that movie in their choices. So I happily dropped it, but will just add that James Horner’s score from those closing moments continues to creep up on me. If music, as an emotive tool, is used so perfectly in a great cinematic sequence, it is bound to stay with you.
Bennett Miller’s Moneyball (2011) utilized Mychael Danna’s greatly under-rated score (as well as ‘The Mighty Rio Grande’ by This Will Destroy You) to accompany another memorable story of baseball. This was not a movie about how the Oakland Athletics won the World Series in 2002 (which they did not). Nor what it particularly about the win. This was about the achievement, the forward momentum of a team that may well have been written off. The success of that season owed a lot to what went on behind the scenes of the ball park. It kind of culminated in the record-breaking 20-game winning streak, that Miller’s film pays unquestionable respect to in this sequence. And does so with its editing, sound-bites, footage, that never felt out of place in a motion picture telling the story of the events leading to that experience. I have never been an A’s fan, but I still get goosebumps watching this.
With the 19-game record secure then, Moneyball follows that with the magical closing stages of the twentieth game, when Hatteburg is told to bat, with the game tied after the A’s threw away an 11-run lead. It’s drama not written, this happened. Again, Miller does the historic moment justice. Fellow movie nut Marshall Flores also voiced a passion for this scene:
Baseball isn’t quite my favorite sport (despite residing in the desert I’m a huge hockey fan), but there’s an uniquely undeniable romanticism associated with baseball that no one can deny. I certainly grew up with my fair share of baseball films: Major League, The Natural, The Sandlot, Little Big League, Rookie of the Year (“Funky Butt-Lovin!”). As for favorite scene, I have to go with Scott Hatteberg’s (Chris Pratt) pinch-hit homer in Bennett Miller’s superlative adaptation of Moneyball. It’s an edge-of-your-seat climax that is an indelible reenactment of baseball history being made, of expectations being subverted by the unlikeliest of teams. “How can you not get romantic about baseball?”
The love I have for the movie Good Will Hunting (1997) goes beyond the undeniable excellence of the experience itself. We respond to the story of the shit-scared, troublesome kid who has a natural gift he will not fully embrace. The loyalty of friendships, young or old. A really great, original script written with personal passion by the young Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. A movie that paints a pretty picture of Boston too, both in their words and the glowing direction of Gus Van Sant and cinematographer Jean Yves Escoffier. And of course Robin Williams’ performance as a Sean, a man who himself struggled to move forward years after the death of his wife. When he tells Will (Damon) when he first meet his wife, that emotional, funny, and significant part of his life actually bookends an incredible moment in the history of the Boston Red Sox.
I very much liked the three horse race, and the movies Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Gladiator, but Traffic (2000) ought to have won Best Picture that year (no, don’t talk about the Oscars again). I remember watching Traffic with my university friends, and not remembering seeing a film quite like this as far as tone and depth. And as the final sequence came up like a sunset with that beautiful hum of Brian Eno, I was hardly aware the movie was just about over. The credits started popping up, and I had an overwhelming feeling of closure. It was not a scene we expect to close a movie about several strands of drug trafficking. Yet it fits perfectly. We remember Javier negotiating in the pool, so that the kids can have lights in the parks. So they can play baseball at night. Feel safe. And so it is. The kids sliding in the dust under the night lit parks. The tapping of the ball against the bat. The spectators applauding and whistling under the hazy, orange glows. Javier still moved by this simple gift of baseball. Wonderful.