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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
Nick came up with the idea to do a weekly “Friday Five” list, wherein we would create a movie genre and pick our five favorite films for that genre. I liked the idea and immediately jumped on board. First up, sports movies (in honor of Moneyball, maybe?)! As I’m writing this, it is still Thursday. I hope you won’t hold that against me! At any rate, here goes:
5) Eight Men Out
As a total Chicago homer, I had to include John Sayles’ period film about the 1919 World Series scandal that shocked a nation and “cursed” my beloved White Sox for nearly a century. Featuring Chicago-born actors such as John Mahoney and John Cusack, Eight Men Out underperformed at the box office (though critics took a liking to it) but stands as an excellent example of a period sports film done particularly well.
4) Million Dollar Baby
A film that, like 2005’s Crash, was a critical darling upon release but soon become somewhat “forgotten,” 2004’s Million Dollar Baby is a story about the relationship between an aging boxing trainer played by Clint Eastwood and his young female protege played by Hilary Swank. Notable for its controversial ending, Million Dollar Baby won multiple Academy Awards and grossed $100 million dollars at the box office, though it seems no one remembers this film now, which I feel is a shame. Eastwood and Swank are terrific, and Morgan Freeman is even better, playing Eastwood’s best friend and a retired boxer who never quite made it big.
3) Brian’s Song
Another Chicago-themed sports film, Brian’s Song is the 1971 made-for-tv movie about the relationship between pro football Hall of Famer Gale Sayers and cancer-stricken teammate Brian Piccolo. This is one of the only movies a man is allowed to cry during, as it is about both football and friendship (and also overcoming a struggle). I can’t even write much more, because my eyes are welling with manly tears at the thought of the strength of the Sayers/Piccolo friendship. Go Bears!
2) Field of Dreams
Adapted from a W.P. Kinsella novel, Field of Dreams is a now-iconic baseball film starring Kevin Costner and Amy Madigan. Kostner plays a man who builds a baseball field on his Iowa farm, nearly bankrupting the family. Eventually, baseball great “Shoeless” Joe Jackson appears, Kostner is finally able to connect with his dead father, and people from all over show up to the field he built.
It’s hard to come up with a better sports film than the iconic boxing classic Rocky. Stallone plays the titular character with a working class sense of charisma and likability. The film echoes an America of the late 1970s. So much about Rocky has permeated into pop culture that it can be difficult to remember just how damn good this movie is. Some of the sequels weren’t so great (and some were more than worth checking out), but the original stands as the best of the bunch and as my favorite sports movie of all time.