Wednesday, July 30th, 2014
Favorite Movie #14: The Sting (1973)
Speaking of old-timey classics, The Sting continues to hold up exceptionally well. This is all the more surprising when you realize that as much time has passed since The Sting was filmed, as the time it’s set in — the Great Depression.
Spinning a yarn of the two smoothest con men to every grace the screen, The Sting singlehandedly relaunched interest in ragtime composer Scott Joplin, and went on to win 7 Oscars, including Best Picture. The Academy Awards are, even in the best of times, either a self-satisfied mutual admiration society or a cynical marketing ploy (or both), but every so often they get it right.
The Sting is a near-perfect movie: an homage to caper films and the golden age of Hollywood, it is slick and entertaining in its own right. And while Paul Newman and Robert Redford are busily conning gangster Robert Shaw, the movie is delightfully misdirecting filmgoers with what’s happening on the screen. When the inevitable double-cross comes at the end, the audience is happy to be played.
This is the 2nd movie on this list by George Roy Hill, one of only three directors to score twice in the 50/50 countdown. His other — Slap Shot — is arguably the best sports comedy of all time. Both Redford and Newman did some of their best work under Hill, but Paul Newman in particular became a master of sly comedy under the director:
Wednesday, March 27th, 2013
Comedy #10: Bull Durham (1988)
Comedy #11: Slap Shot (1977)
It is not true you are required by law to view “Bull Durham” every year here, but you can’t move to this town without having seen the movie first, and if you somehow manage that feat and someone finds out, you will be immediately sat down and made to watch it. What is true is that this one movie probably did more to help revitalize a dying tobacco town than a dozen chamber of commerces — and is way funnier. Arguably the best sports movie ever made, it is certainly the sexiest, sweetest and most quotable:
Everything associated with the movie is legend around here. For us it was cemented a few months after we moved to Durham and went to the Blues Festival, which used to be held at the same ballpark where they filmed all the games. Somehow we got a spot over home plate, where we laid down a blanket, got drunk with our new neighbors and danced until midnight. The next year they blocked off the infield during concerts, and no one’s been allowed to dance on home plate since.
I guess that makes us lolligaggers.
Here’s the thing: you know me, and except for fictional ones like Rollerball, or dead ones like chariot racing, I really could care less about following sports. (Okay, maybe college football, but even that’s a mystery to me, and everything I know I’ve picked up through friends by osmosis. Like a contact high.) Take hockey. Everything I know about hockey, I learned from “Slap Shot,” the incredibly profane, incredibly funny black satire with Paul Newman as the coach of a minor league hockey team. Cynical and very ’70s, it is a major league send-up of violence and money in sports — and America —that is a hoot to watch.
Clips don’t do this flick justice: it is the cumulative effect of Newman’s charming flim-flam and the child-like hyperviolence of the Hanson Brothers that make “Slap Shot” effective. Also, lots of swearing. Lots and lots of swearing. Don’t bother watching it if you come across it on TV … it’s so cut up there’s no point. You’ve been warned. Anyway, here’s a scene of the Hanson Bros. punching someone — sorry, everyone — out.