Saturday, August 23, 2003

Yeah, two on your overrated list nearly made mine: Vertigo and Rain Man. RAIN MAN is interesting because it seems as though people are finally realizing what an extraordinary job Tom Cruise did in this movie. Dustin Hoffman, I believe, sort of dedicated his Oscar to Cruise for basically allowing Hoffman to take the limelight in that film. However, as a film, it's certainly overrated, winning Best Picture. Although, if you look at the nominees, there may be reason for that (I've never seen Dangerous Liaisons but I hear it's grand). VERTIGO, yes, also has been given undue praise as Hitchcock's best. I think the "revisiting" of his career that has taken place over the past few years sort of coronated that film because it was so dark and twisted, "ahead of its time," so to speak. But there ARE better Hitchcocks out there.

As for THE NATURAL, we're going to disagree throughout the ages on this. I think it's OK not to think the clock shattering and the lights smashing is as dramatic as I think it is (or even consider it cheesy), but the love story certainly isn't "unnecessary," because it is the main reason Roy Hobbs is able to pursue his dreams, end the slump, triumph over evil, etc. And also overlooked is that the movie is not told in a literal style, as Cal Ripken comments on the DVD, "it's a story that's been told so many times that the events in it keep getting more and more exaggerated," meaning a home run is always going to get longer as the story is told, the damage done is more, the implications more dramatic, etc. It also has a mirroring of the knights of the round table and Camelot (hence the team name, "Knights," his "sword" (bat) gets broken). It's a whole lot more than you give it credit for, but if you don't like it then I can never make you. Consider this: I got into baseball in the 1985 World Series, where it went 7 games and the umpire blew a call in game 6 to allow the Royals to win, but it was compounded in 1986 when the Buckner game came into play and the Mets crowd was going apeshit and Vin Scully's call will always be remembered (slow roller up along first, and...behind the bag! It gets through Buckner! Here comes Knight and the Mets win it!), and especially when Kirk Gibson hit that awesome HR in 1988 vs. the Athletics (another Scully classic, and come to think of it also a Jack Buck classic). In other words, the impossible has always been an attractive feature of baseball for me, and that's what THE NATURAL is, a celebration of the dramatically incredible feats of baseball. As Buck says after the Gibson homer: I don't believe...what I just saw! I don't BELIEVE what I just saw!

I mean, Gibson could barely stand up! And though this is also a story that has been told so many times that Gibson will be in a wheelchair by the time this story hits 2048, you can see the footage of the guy hobbling, barely able to keep up with Eckersley's pitches, looking horrible on his swings, and in no way forecasting that he'd hit a ball six or seven rows deep into the right field stands. I think I'll always look back at that as something, if I'm ever in doubt about Roy Hobbs hitting the clock or hitting the lights, that I'll remember.


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