Eight Men Out

Last night the television decided I needed to know more about the Black Sox scandal because after Field of Dreams for the first time, hubby and I found Eight Men Out while flipping through the channels. Both films feature the 1919 White Sox who were disgraced after it was discovered they agreed to throw the World Series for a payoff from gamblers after being fed up by their owner’s cheapness and broken promises. Those involved, including the legendary “Shoeless” Joe, were banned from baseball. While in Field of Dreams, their story is less central to the plot, Eight Men Out follows the team from pennant win to their disgraceful banishment from the sport they loved, despite never being convicted by the courts.
The film has a strong cast with John Cusack as Buck Weaver, the only one of the eight that did not accept money from the gamblers but was still banned for knowing about the fix and not reporting his teammates. His struggle as he is trapped between being loyal to his teammate versus “doing the right thing” by turning them in. He knows exposing the truth will not only destroy his teammates’ careers but break the hearts of the fans and tarnish baseball’s reputation. He tries to play the best he can and hopes that his teammates will change their minds, but they are all in too deep and Weaver ends up losing everything in the process.
The real bad guy here is owner Charles Comisky who took advantage of this team, making them vulnerable to the gamblers’ offer. Early in the film, pitcher Eddie Cicotte (David Strathairn) is upset when his promised bonus for winning thirty games is again being thwarted by management. It has been theorized that when Cicotte approached 30 wins, he would be benched for the rest of the season to avoid rewarding him as promised. Years before the scandal, the team was known as the Black Sox when management started charging players for laundering their uniforms and the players protested, causing their white uniforms to become dirty (black) over time. In the film, the team is rewarded for winning the pennant with champagne in the locker room but are disheartened to learn this is the bonus they were promised for a good season. Cicotte pops the cork and discovers the champagne is flat. This mistreatment allows player Chick Gandil (Michael Rooker), the White Sox who organized the fix, an easier sell. These guys weren’t the multi-millionaires their present day counterparts are. Year after year they helped others get rich while they received meager salaries.
However, the things do not go according to plan. The players do not get their money as promised and midway through the series decided to play fairly. But they have done business with some dangerous individuals. Pitcher Lefty Williams (James Read) is threatened by one of the gamblers, who promises his wife will be killed if he doesn’t pitch poorly enough to be thrown out in the first inning.
While Weaver is portrayed as the biggest victim in this story, many find “Shoeless” Joe Jackson to have been unfairly banned. One of baseball’s best players of his age, many feel that the illiterate Jackson did not have the intelligence to understand exactly what was going on. While he accepted money (unlike Weaver), he played well during the series, not making the errors that those more involved with the fix made. To me, one of the saddest parts of the story is how clueless coach Kid Gleason (John Mahoney) was during all of it. He was helpless to stop Comisky’s penny pinching and most likely felt betrayed by his boys after defending them to the press.
Eight Men Out is a very engaging telling of one of the darkest events in baseball history. You really want to reach into the screen and stop them from ruining their lives, but you can’t and it’s a sad reminder that you there is no changing the past.

Say Anything…

I saw Say Anything for the first time when I was seventeen and I feel that more than any other film, it brings me back to my particular high school experience. Not that I see myself in any of the characters specifically (while I dated a Lloyd Dobler type, I’m certainly no Diane Court,at least I don’t I think so) but when watching it now, I experience the same feelings one goes through when finding a shoebox full of old photos and seeing the smiling faces of old friends you don’t talk to anymore. When I watch this film, I know I am not the same person I was when I first saw it ten years ago. While in many ways it’s for the better, it’s a reminder that we can never be seventeen again.
Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) takes a chance on graduation day, and asks class valedictorian Diana Court (Ione Skye) to accompany him to a graduation party. Even his best friends think he’s lost his mind, because while he’s a good guy, they don’t see him as someone the smartest girl in their class would date, but she agrees and the two begin a summer romance. Diane’s dad (John Mahoney) is concerned that his daughter is spending too much time with a kid with no direction, when she has plans to study aboard in the fall. When things get serious, Diane gives in to her dad’s pressure and dumps Lloyd, who is completely heartbroken. He tries to win her back, with the help of Peter Gabriel, but it isn’t until her father is convicted of tax evasion that she can be with him again.
Of course the most famous scene is when Lloyd stands under Diane’s window holding a boom box, playing their song, “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel. To me, it’s the epitome of young love. When you’re a kid, you dream of having someone love you so much they won’t let you go and then you grow up and the thought of that terrifies you. When you’re a kid, you dream up dramatic ways you’ll show that illusive crush how great you are and then they’ll love you, but then you grow up and realize you can’t MAKE someone love you. I talk as if the two don’t reunite in the end, but I think this is why this movie resonates with so many people. They probably shouldn’t get back together, but we all want to live in a world where your first love is your only love.
While Lloyd Dobler gets to be a pop culture icon, Diane Court is a pretty interesting character in her own right. She’s so uncomfortable in her own skin and is so unsure about her own feelings she makes it through high school without forming any relationships beyond acquaintances. It takes Lloyd making a pretty sizable leap of faith for her to have anyone in her life besides her father and the residents of the nursing home he runs. When she breaks up with Lloyd, it isn’t because he did anything or because they had a misunderstanding, she does it because she knows her father wants her to and she isn’t comfortable with all the new feelings she’s experiencing. And then she give him a pen! She’s probably one of the most awkward characters ever but doesn’t get seen that way because she’s pretty.
Say Anything is, in my opinion, one of the best teen movies, mostly because it perfectly captures the realities of first love as well as what we all want first love to be. However, as an adult, it conjures a sort of nostalgic melancholy because you know Lloyd grows up to be Rob Gordon from High Fidelity, not that that’s such a bad thing.

High Fidelity

I will admit, a big reason I love this film is my lifelong movie crush on John Cusack. This is, in my opinion, his best role.  Minus the relationship drama, Rob Gordon is basically my ideal guy. Really passionate about some aspect of pop culture (be it film or music, etc) and a little cranky but not mean about it. See my husband ; )

I think this film is fairly honest about relationships. It shows relationships that aren’t perfect but aren’t completely awful. You don’t get to see that in film as much, but that’s the majority of relationships. I’m sure most people know a couple that are in a relationship like the one Rob has with Lili Taylor’s Sarah. People that stay with someone out of fear of dying alone. Or a couple that are like Rob & Catherine Zeta-Jones’ Charlie, where one person is waiting for the other to realize they are dating someone below them, and move on to someone that’s more their speed. When Rob is tortured by fantasies of the crazy sex his ex must be having with her new boyfriend, everyone has done this to themselves. Rob is the every man at his neurotic best.

There’s a line where Rob says that relationships are not about what you’re like,but about what you like. You,as a person, are define by your favorite films, bands, television shows, etc. I am behind this theory. I think you can learn a lot about a person by looking at what they are passionate about. I, for one, couldn’t be with someone who didn’t share my passion for film, or someone who couldn’t talk to me about music, or who had different political beliefs. You can be a wonderful person, with a heart of gold but if your favorite show is Two & a Half Men, I could not date you.

I first saw this movie when I was in high school, right around when I was starting to write screenplays over novels. The dialogue in the in this films was like delicious candy to me. Love the device of  Rob talking to the camera. He really draws you in, like he is having a conversation with you. So much of the script could have gone horribly wrong in less capable hands. I’ve wanted to rewrite this movie and have tried to every time I’ve started a new script.

Rob is saved from being a Nice Guy TM by realizing what part he played in the end of his relationship with Laura and what he needs to do to be  a good boyfriend to her. He spends much of  the movie looking for excuses but he can only move forward when he finally takes responsibility.  It’s kind of a coming of age story for a generation who takes a little longer to grow up.

Favorite Quote: Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?