December 5, 2013
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Movies and Documentaries Articles
Following are the one hundred most recent articles for the category Movies and Documentaries .
11/14/2013: Let’s discuss the THT Annualby Dave Studeman
11/12/2013: It’s The Hardball Times Annual 2014by Dave Studeman
12/04/2013: Cataloging the non-tendered playersby Brad Johnson
12/04/2013: Alone on the pedestalby Jason Linden
12/03/2013: Mascot fight!by Greg Simons
12/03/2013: Why is a sinker “heavy?”by David Kagan
12/03/2013: The role of fall leaguesby Jeff Moore
12/02/2013: Nationals make great deal for Fisterby Matt Filippi
12/02/2013: The Twins go holiday shopping, but to what end?by Brad Johnson
12/02/2013: The end of the benchby Chris Jaffe
11/29/2013: Card Corner: 1973 Topps: Danny Waltonby Bruce Markusen
11/29/2013: The best rookies of the ‘30sby Chad Dotson
11/27/2013: Towards an award prediction systemby Shane Tourtellotte
11/26/2013: MLB’s coffers are overflowingby Greg Simons
11/26/2013: The role of prospects in tradesby Jeff Moore
11/25/2013: Stepping up to the plateby Frank Jackson
11/25/2013: 10 things I didn’t know about player birthdaysby Chris Jaffe
11/22/2013: The end of the road for Chris Carpenterby Chad Dotson
11/21/2013: All the news that’s fit to inventby Azure Texan
11/20/2013: Marcus Stroman, the mythbusting machineby Kyle Boddy
11/20/2013: Welcome to the birthplace of… someone elseby Jason Linden
11/19/2013: 2013 THT awards reviewby Greg Simons
11/18/2013: THT Fantasy has moved to Rotographsby Dave Studeman
11/18/2013: Atlanta gets burned againby Frank Jackson
11/18/2013: The 2014 Hall of Fame VC ballotby Chris Jaffe
11/18/2013: Must See MLB.TV 2013by Dave Studeman
11/15/2013: The best rookies of the ‘40sby Chad Dotson
11/15/2013: Card Corner: Wayne Granger: 1973 Toppsby Bruce Markusen
11/14/2013: 10th anniversary: the A.J. Pierzynski tradeby Chris Jaffe
11/14/2013: The Screwball: The face of championship baseballby Azure Texan
11/14/2013: Player-A-Day: Casey Fienby Brad Johnson
11/13/2013: Player-A-Day: Tim Lincecumby Brad Johnson
11/13/2013: Pitcher performance after batting successby Shane Tourtellotte
11/13/2013: 25th anniversary: Rob Neyer writes a letterby Chris Jaffe
11/13/2013: Houston hoodoo ‘62by Frank Jackson
11/12/2013: Player-A-Day: Joe Mauerby Brad Johnson
11/11/2013: Fastball velocity by game stateby Jon Roegele
11/11/2013: The rise of the middle-aged managerby Chris Jaffe
11/08/2013: Player-A-Day: Josmil Pintoby Brad Johnson
11/08/2013: Hall monitor: The case for Andruw Jonesby Chad Dotson
11/07/2013: Big leaguers, bit partsby Azure Texan
11/07/2013: Player-A-Day: Nathan Eovaldiby Brad Johnson
11/06/2013: If he’d only gotten another shotby Jason Linden
11/06/2013: Player-A-Day: David DeJesusby Brad Johnson
11/05/2013: Player-A-Day: David Ortizby Brad Johnson
11/04/2013: Player-A-Day: Jose Dariel Abreuby Brad Johnson
11/04/2013: The Boston (Braves) Marathon of 1928by Frank Jackson
11/04/2013: 10 things I didn’t know about birthdays in 2013by Chris Jaffe
11/01/2013: Taking the close pitch with two strikesby James Gentile
11/01/2013: Card Corner: 1973 Topps: Don Baylorby Bruce Markusen
11/01/2013: The best rookies of the ‘50sby Chad Dotson
10/31/2013: The Screwball: Celebrate good times, come on!by Azure Texan
10/31/2013: Player-A-Day: Leonys Martinby Brad Johnson
10/30/2013: Player-A-Day: Jon Lesterby Brad Johnson
10/30/2013: Forecasting the major 2013 awardsby Shane Tourtellotte
10/30/2013: The effect of seeing pitchesby Jon Roegele
10/29/2013: Putting the knock on pitching changesby Joe Distelheim
10/29/2013: Player-A-Day: Ryan Howardby Brad Johnson
10/29/2013: Losing momentum in the sixth gameby Dave Studeman
10/29/2013: Previewing the fall Stars gameby Jeff Moore
10/28/2013: Player-A-Day: Travis Woodby Brad Johnson
10/28/2013: Marquis Grissom: Mr. October Jr.by Frank Jackson
10/25/2013: The blackballing of Dick Dietzby Bruce Markusen
10/24/2013: Player-A-Day: Xander Bogaertsby Brad Johnson
10/24/2013: The Screwball: Put it in neutral?by Azure Texan
10/24/2013: The all-decade team: the ‘00sby Richard Barbieri
10/24/2013: Player-A-Day: Michael Wachaby Brad Johnson
10/23/2013: Earn money watching baseballby Dave Studeman
10/23/2013: Player-A-Day: Jose Iglesiasby Brad Johnson
10/23/2013: 20th anniversary: The Joe Carter gameby Chris Jaffe
10/23/2013: Giants take a risk with Lincecum’s two-year dealby Matt Filippi
10/23/2013: BOB: Nolan Ryan retires…for nowby Brian Borawski
10/22/2013: Where does David Price fit?by Jeff Moore
10/22/2013: Survey says?!?!?by Greg Simons
10/22/2013: ALCS post-mortem: The Fielder playby Shane Tourtellotte
10/21/2013: The best rivalries of 2013by Chris Jaffe
10/21/2013: World Series workhorsesby Frank Jackson
10/20/2013: WPS recap: ALCS, 10/19/2013by Shane Tourtellotte
10/19/2013: WPS Recap: NLCS, 10/18/2013by Shane Tourtellotte
10/18/2013: WPS recap: ALCS, 10/17/2013by Shane Tourtellotte
10/18/2013: Card Corner: 1973 Topps: Bob Baileyby Bruce Markusen
10/18/2013: The 2013 Atlanta Braves and core WARby James Gentile
10/18/2013: The best rookies of the ‘60sby Chad Dotson
10/17/2013: The Screwball: What about Bob Lemon?by Azure Texan
10/17/2013: WPS Recap: LCS, 10/16/2013by Shane Tourtellotte
10/16/2013: WPS recap: LCS, 10/15/2013by Shane Tourtellotte
10/16/2013: How much do we know about pitcher value?by Jason Linden
10/16/2013: 10th anniversary: the Aaron Boone Gameby Chris Jaffe
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November 30, 2012
Pop culture and the pastime: Black Gunn and Vida Blue
Throughout the winter, I’ll be examining the National Pastime from the standpoint of popular culture, in particular through movies, television appearances, memorabilia and advertisements. It’s remarkable how often baseball and pop culture intersect, sometimes in ways that are curious or funny or even downright bizarre. While some ballplayers have achieved notoriety for appearing in mass media (I’m thinking of Wes Parker’s appearance on The Brady Bunch), other examples are more obscure, but no less entertaining. So let’s have some fun with these situations when baseball steps out of its own beaten path and ventures outward to become part of the cultural mainstream.
There has been a long tradition of ballplayers appearing in film, dating back to the earliest days of motion pictures, when silent movies ruled the theaters. A more recent example, though not too recent, can be found in the blaxploitation films that became so prominent in the early 1970s.
For the uninitiated, blaxploitation films were originally targeted for a black, urban audience, but they also became popular with other ethnic groups and eventually gained mainstream appeal. These films, generally made on a low budget, featured a mix of good and bad features. On the one hand, they gave roles to talented African-American actors who were being ignored by the rest of Hollywood. On the other hand, these films often perpetuated the stereotypes that some whites held toward blacks. The films also contained countless ethnic slurs that spared no one, whether they be white or African-American.
40 years ago, an intriguing blaxploitation piece hit the theaters with the release of Black Gunn. This classic example of 1972 cinema stars former NFL star Jim Brown as the title character. The retired Cleveland Browns great plays what is billed as a “beefy nightclub boss” living in Los Angeles. When his brother, a Vietnam veteran, is murdered after the robbery of the “wrong people,” Brown seeks revenge against the local mafia. Although Brown is clearly the centerpiece, and is surrounded by such veteran actors as Martin Landau and Bruce Glover (the father of Crispin Glover), the film also features appearances by two well-known baseball players of the day, Vida Blue and Tommy Davis.
So what were Blue and Davis, teammates with the Oakland A’s, doing on the set of a feature film? Black Gunn was filmed in 1971, which just so happened to be Blue’s breakout season with Oakland. The pill-throwing left-hander, who also had a terrific overhand curve, led all American League pitchers with a 1.82 ERA, winning 24 of 32 decisions and striking out 301 batters in 312 innings. He drew huge crowds throughout the season, particularly on the road. Some opposing teams like the Yankees even staged promotions to capitalize on Blue’s upcoming appearance at their ballpark.
The media coverage given Blue throughout the season helped his cause for immediate fame; he appeared on the covers of Sports Illustrated, Sport Magazine, and Jet, and even made the cover page of Time, a rarity for a baseball player. Blue also made guest appearances on two nationwide television programs, the Dick Cavett Show and NBC’s Today Show. Given Blue’s on-field performance, which earned him both the Cy Young and the MVP, not to mention his growing media celebrity, he became a logical candidate to make the transition from baseball to film. And so the movie poster heralds Blue’s appearance by “introducing Vida Blue.”
But what about Davis? While the veteran first baseman/outfielder had a fine season in 1971, hitting .324 in a platoon role and a scorching .464 as a pinch-hitter, he was hardly in the prime of his career and certainly lacked the household name status of Blue. Well, that didn’t matter. Davis happened to be Blue’s roommate; the two men were good friends, perhaps the closest of friends among the A’s. So it’s likely that Blue was able to convince the filmmakers to bring Davis along for the Hollywood ride.
In making his only feature film appearance, Blue played a character named “Sam Green.” (How about that, Blue playing a character named Green in a movie featuring the word Black in the title? How great is that?) The role was a small one, but Blue did earn fifth-place billing, right after Brown, Landau, Brenda Sykes, and Luciana Paluzzi, all established veteran actors. In the meantime, Davis settled for lower billing and an even lesser role, playing a character named “Webb.”
While Blue and Davis gave the film two well-known baseball names, they were outnumbered by the number of football players who appear in the movie. In addition to Brown, present-day NFL players Deacon Jones (who plays himself) and Gene Washington also made cameos, as did retired footballers like Bernie Casey (perhaps best known for appearing in Revenge of the Nerds) and Timothy Brown (of M*A*S*H fame).
All of these appearances, while interesting, don’t tell us about the quality of the film. Though I have never seen Black Gunn from start to finish, I have watched a number of clips and have read a sufficient number of reviews to offer some general judgments. As blaxploitation films go, Black Gunn is pretty much standard fare, and perhaps a bit above average for its genre. Though cheaply made, there is a good supply of fight sequences, funky 1970s music, and plenty of period atmosphere to make it a worthwhile ride.
In terms of acting, Brown is acceptable as the lead character. He has enough charisma and brawn to make up for a lack of technical acting skill. (He also appears often with his shirt off.) Landau, in contrast, overacts badly, especially when he is playing the role of a used car dealer, which is a cover for his true role as a vicious mob leader. By far the best acting is put forth by Glover, who portrays Landau’s lead enforcer. A prolific and talented character actor, Glover brings some gusto and humor to the role of a racist henchman. His performance also stirs up visions of his acting son, Crispin; the two share a number of facial mannerisms and speech patterns.
All in all, Black Gunn provides a relatively uncomplicated entertainment diversion that lasts 96 minutes. You’ll have to look closely to see Blue and Davis, but they are there, as are the full cache of football stars. As long as you don’t take the plot too seriously, you’ll be able to pick out some sports celebrities and enjoy a classic slice of 1970s culture.
Posted by: Bruce Markusen
September 21, 2011
Quick thoughts on the Moneyball filmTHT's Jeff Gross plans a comprehensive Moneyball review for early next week, so be sure to check that out.
In the meantime, an advance screening provided an opportunity for me to see the movie before it debuts this Friday, so I thought I'd share some quick thoughts on the film.
The fact that this effort is based on the use of statistics in baseball means most readers of sites like The Hardball Times will likely go to see it. Certainly, it means those who liked the book probably will check it out. That actually poses a few problems for the movie.
Since so many viewers will bring a tremendous amount of subject material knowledge into the theater with them—sort of like a professor specializing in colonial American history sitting down to watch The Patriot—they're going to have some issues with the film.
The Patriot could have been a meticulous, in-depth study of the Revolutionary War. Instead, it banked on the popularity of a previous (and very popular) Mel Gibson vehicle called Braveheart and more or less made a similar movie with a different setting. That way, it actually had a chance to make money at the box office.
Appealing to the masses doesn't necessarily mean a particular movie fails, however. If the filmmakers had to appeal only to viewers with extensive prior knowledge of the subject, they may have made a different movie. But they need to entertain what they hope will be a large number of viewers who just want to watch a good story, and that means we inevitably will find oversimplifications.
As in the book, the main character battles the old guard, which is represented by a cadre of scouts who continue to focus on intangibles. Therefore, it becomes a fight between tradition and technology, and the hero must turn his back on the supposedly proven methods of his old-school contemporaries to embrace evaluations of a Yale-educated economist.
Visitors to this site are familiar with such squabbles, and perhaps have even participated in them. The movie hypes this conflict, but I found many of the scenes funny, and so did most of the rest of the audience.
No need to delay the verdict any further. In short, I liked it. No, it's not the best movie you'll ever see, but it's better than The Blind Side, a previous Lewis book-turned-movie. It's a fair adaptation of the book, and I suppose that means those who found Lewis' borderline deification of A's general manager Billy Beane aggravating in the text shouldn't be surprised if they come away with the same feeling from the movie.
Now, finally, the quick thoughts.
Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill are excellent. A lot of the humor comes from their interaction with each other.
There are quite a few laughs, but not many one-liners. You're not going to come away quoting this one like Tombstone.
There are, by my count, two f-bombs. This normally doesn't matter much to me, but I did take my eight-year-old son last night because no one else wanted to go with me, and he had seen the previews and asked to go. I was afraid he would not like it due to the shortage of fighting robots, but he was a trooper and paid attention the whole time.
The funny thing is, other than those two "queen-mother of dirty words," the language is pretty tame. If any of you moms or dads want to take your kids with you, consider yourself informed.
The guys playing Scott Hatteberg and David Justice did a pretty good job, although the latter seemed pretty small for a major leaguer.
Toward the end, when (SPOILER ALERT!) Oakland falls in the Division Series once again, there is audio of Joe Morgan telling Jon Miller something along the lines of "statistics are not the be-all, end-all," etc. Given Morgan's notoriety for disliking the book, I chuckled and thought that was fitting.
Also, the girl that plays Billy Beane's daughter sings a song for him and that song sounds a whole lot like a song from Juno, and the melody is stuck in my head.
Posted by: David Wade
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