Sunday, February 2nd, 2014
Favorite Movie #15: Rollerball (1975)
Forget the Superbowl. The ultimate championship takes place at the end of Rollerball: “No substitutions; no penalties; and no time limit.” The resulting devastation brings to a head the showdown between the corporate masters of a dystopian future and a global superstar. The 1975 sci-fi cult hit is still probably the best of the bleak “dark future” films of the 1970s. (It has certainly aged better than its contemporary harbingers of doom: “Soylent Green” and “Silent Running.”)
I’ve written before about Rollerball. A lot. Hell, I even designed a board game around it. The title game is that exceedingly rare creation: a fictional sport that is believable as a sport. This is thanks, in great part, to the cast of stuntmen hired for the movie’s action scenes. Between filming they reportedly kept playing, coming up with their own set of rules for the game, and even rewriting their own lines. By the time the film made it thru editing (and an enthusiastic marketing dept., who actually released the official rules as part of the movie’s promotional packet), a completely new game had been invented.
While that isn’t the point of the film — it is a cautionary tale of ceding too much control to corporations — the violence of the game helps drive home the heavy-handed message. Of course the great irony is that the director, Norman Jewison, originally set out make a movie with an anti-violent message; yet if Rollerball is remembered at all today, it is for the three amazing action scenes that showcase this fictional future sport.
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.