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A Civil Rights movie based on true events, 42 tells the story of Jackie Robinson, the first black baseball player admitted into the Major leagues, and who played for the Brooklyn Dodgers. He wore player number 42, hence the film name.

Although some players and fans supported Robinson, he also became the target of racism and discrimination from those who believed that black players should stick to their own African American league.

Fantastic film and fantastic acting by all involved, especially Chadwick Boseman as Robinson. Harrison Ford played Branch Rickey, the sports executive who signed Robinson. It’s also always good to see Christopher Meloni in any role, and here he played Leo Durocher, coach of the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Highly recommend this film – you certainly do not need to be a baseball fan (although that may well help). Definitely one of my favourites so far this year.

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Year of release: 2013

Director: Brian Helgeland

Writer: Brian Helgeland

Main cast: Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford, Christopher Meloni, Alan Tudyk, Nicole Beharie, Andre Holland, John C McGinley

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This film is also known as The Perfect Catch, and is based on Nick Hornby’s novel Fever Pitch.  The book was originally adapted in 1997, into a film starring Colin Firth as a die-hard fan of Arsenal football (or soccer) team.  The comedy explores how his love for the team affects his romantic relationship.  In this American adaptation, Ben Wrightman (Jimmy Fallon) is a Boston Red Sox fan, who falls for Lindsey Meeks (Drew Barrymore).  However, they initially meet out of the baseball season, so it’s only when the season starts that she realises that she will always have to compete with the Sox for Ben’s affections.

I haven’t seen the 1997 film – I like Colin Firth a lot, but football leaves me cold.  However, I do enjoy baseball, and recently had some wonderful times watching three Red Sox games (two of which were at their home ground, Fenway Park).  You don’t have to be a baseball fan, or a Sox fan to enjoy this film, but I do think it helps.

The movie is set during the 2004 World Series, which the Sox unexpectedly won, thereby beating the Curse of the Bambino.  (In fact, it was originally assumed that the Sox would lose, so when they won, the ending of the film had to be re-written).

I really liked the film.  Jimmy Fallon was terrific as Ben – sweet and affectionate, as long as nothing got in the way of him watching any of his team’s games.  Despite the way that he stretched his girlfriend’s patience to the limit, he was really likeable throughout.  Drew Barrymore was also lovely as Lindsey.  Her character was a workaholic (in many ways, as obsessed with her job as Ben was with the Sox), and in the hands of a different actress, Lindsey might not have been likeable, but Barrymore is very warm and hard to dislike.

There are loads of laugh-out-loud moments, and lots of physical comedy.  The ending is – maybe – quite predictable, but I really liked it anyway, and it was great to see actual players from the Red Sox in the film, although none of them had a speaking part.

It’s an undemanding, but very enjoyable film, great for any time, but especially if you’ve just been, or are planning to go to Fenway Park!

Year of release: 2005

Directors: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly

Producers: Drew Barrymore, David Evans, Marc S. Fischer, Nick Hornby, Alan Greenspan, Nancy Juvonen, Kris Meyer, Gil Netter, Hal Olofsson, Amanda Posey, Gwenn Stroman, Bradley Thomas

Writers: Nick Hornby (novel), Lowell Ganz, Babaloo Mandel

Main cast: Jimmy Fallon, Drew Barrymore, Jack Kehler, Ione Skye, KaDee Strickland, Marissa Jaret Winokur, Willie Garson, Evan Helmuth

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Based on a true story, A League of Their Own tells the story of the first female baseball league, which was started when many of the professional male baseball players were away fighting in World War II.  Tom Hanks plays Jimmy Duggan, a washed-up, alcoholic former professional player, who is given the job – which he doesn’t really want – of managing the Rockford Peaches team.  Geena Davis and Lori Petty play sisters Dottie and Kit, who have issues with jealousy, and who are both signed on to play for the team.  Other players on the league are portrayed by Rosie O’Donnell, Madonna, Bitty Schram, and others.  The story shows the league’s progress, from a game of little interest to outsiders, to a popular sport in its own right.

I really enjoyed this film.  All of the actors were perfect, especially Davis, Petty and Hanks.  There was a lot of comedy in the film, but it was also very moving in parts, and I actually did cry.  Baseball gave these women – and Jimmy Duggan – something to live for, and a sense of self-belief, which some of them desperately needed.  It also gave them a sense of camaraderie at a time when many of them had loved ones fighting overseas.  I loved how Jimmy was initially resentful of managing a girls team, but how he came to appreciate their talent, and want to fight their corner with them – his personal story was one of redemption, and I loved the character.

There are lots of baseball scenes in this film, but you do not need to like, or even really understand, the sport to enjoy it (although a basic knowledge of the game might help).

I waited a long time to watch the movie, because I was not sure that I would like it.  However, it gets a definite 10 out of 10 from me, and I do not intend to leave it that long before watching again.  Very highly recommended.

Year of release: 1992

Director: Penny Marshall

Producers: Penny Marshall, Elliot Abbot, Robert Greenhut, Ronnie D. Clemmer, Joseph Hartwick, Bill Pace, Amy Lemisch

Writers: Kim Wilson, Kelly Candaele, Lowell Ganz, Babaloo Mandel

Main cast: Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Lori Petty, Madonna, Rosie O’Donnell, David Strathairn, Megan Cavanagh, Tracy Reiner, Bitty Schram

 

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Roy Hobbs is a baseball player who comes almost out of nowhere in the 1930s, to join the New York Knights, who are going through a losing streak.  Nobody has ever heard of Hobbs, who has never played professionally, but his talent for the game is undeniable, despite him being nearer retirement age for the sport, than a youthful rookie.  As the film shows, his career was halted for a while by an unforeseen tragedy, but that doesn’t stop his determination to be the best baseball player in history.

This is a beautifully shot, wonderfully acted film, with an air of magic about it.  Robert Redford, at nearly 50 years of age, may have been slightly too old to play Hobbs, but it doesn’t matter at all – partly because he looks so youthful, and partly because he embodies the role so completely.  Glenn Close is Iris, the sweet woman from his past, and Kim Basinger is Memo, the avaricious girl who dates him after he becomes famous.

This is certainly a baseball movie, but you do not have to be a fan of the sport to appreciate and enjoy the film (although personally speaking, Baseball is about the only sport which I can enjoy watching).  In fact, the sport scenes are very enjoyable, and I could feel the excitement and tension of the players and the crowd.

I loved Redford as the gruff but brutally honest Hobbs, and Close as the young lady he almost left behind.  Basinger was great in an extremely unsympathetic role, and Wilford Brimley and Richard Farnsworth gave excellent support as Pop Fisher and Red Blow, the manager and co-owner of the NY Knights, and his assistant.  The always superb Robert Duvall also makes the most of his role as Max Mercy, an unscrupulous sports journalist.

Not just a sports movie, but an allegory for life, this film was unexpectedly delightful and moving.  As a Redford fan, I was bound to enjoy it, but it exceeded my expectations, and I would certainly recommend it.

Year of release: 1984

Director: Barry Levinson

Producers: Philip M. Breen, Roger Towne, Mark Johnson, Robert F. Colesberry

Writers: Bernard Malamud (novel), Roger Towne, Phil Dusenberry

Main cast: Robert Redford, Robert Duvall, Glenn Close, Kim Basinger, Wilford Brimley, Richard Farnsworth

 

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This film tells the true story of the 1919 ‘Black Sox’ scandal, when members of the Chicago White Sox baseball team, fed up with being underpaid by their boss, accepted bribes to throw games and deliberately lose the World Series. The first half of the movie concentrates mainly on the setting up of the bribes and the games themselves, and the second half of the movie deals with the fall-out of the resulting scandal – the truth being uncovered by suspicious journalists.

There is a stellar cast, including John Cusack as ‘Buck’ Weaver (a player who knew about the bribery but refused to become involved or take any money; sadly he suffered the same punishment as the other team members); D.B. Sweeney as ‘Shoeless Joe’ Jackson, an illiterate but brilliant baseball player; Gordon Clapp as Ray Schalk, the ‘catcher’ for the team who did not know about the bribery and was frustrated at the teams’ apparent inability to play well; and John Mahoney as ‘Kid’ Gleason, retired baseball player and now coach of the team, who had no knowledge (but maybe some suspicions) about the bribes. Charlie Sheen also stars – normally an actor who can be painful to watch, but he’s actually pretty good in this.

The film was enjoyable and far more compelling than I expected.  Although the players were obviously in the wrong to take the bribes, their reasons for doing so were made clear and their actions were somewhat understandable (if not excusable).  These men were playing their hearts out, but only succeeding in making other people rich, while being double crossed and cheated out of a fair wage.

The film was not told from any specific player’s point of view, but perhaps centred most on that of Buck Weaver, and certainly he is the character whose story stuck out the most for me.  He was invited to take the bribe, but refused to do so, and also refused to play at any less than the best of his ability. However, because he chose not to reveal the actions of his fellow team players, he suffered the same punishment of eventually being banned from professional baseball (something which he apparently challenged many times up until his death in 1956).

Overall, an interesting and enjoyable film, which tells a huge part of baseball history.

Year of release: 1988

Director: John Sayles

Writers: Eliot Asinof (book), John Sayles

Main cast: John Cusack, Charlie Sheen, Michael Rooker, Gordon Clapp, D.B. Sweeney

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