Skip’s Quips: Why This Baseball Fan Liked ‘Million Dollar Arm’

Blog Sketch 082813OK, I’m a sucker for baseball – even in December. I’m a big fan of America’s pastime. I used to watch the New York Yankees every chance I got.

That said, I didn’t expect to like Million Dollar Arm. I thought it was going to be cheesy. Overly sentimental. Junk.

Wow, was I surprised. It’s not a perfect movie by any means, but boy, was it enjoyable. And what a story: It’s the based-on-truth tale of a sports agent (expertly played by Jon Hamm) who journeys to India in a quest to find hard-throwing baseball pitchers from the subcontinent.

Oh, yeah: And Alan Arkin is in it, so what could be bad, right?

What impressed me was the quality of the script, as well as the skill of director Craig Gillespie in moving the film along. Then you had terrific ensemble performances, not only by Hamm and Arkin, but also by the excellent Suraj Sharma and Madhur Mittal, who portray the new-to-baseball pitchers perfectly. You have some fun fish-out-of-water situations with Hamm, Sharma and Mittal all getting culture shock from the countries they travel to, along with more serious themes about the importance of family and ambition. It’s nothing profound, but it’s quality entertainment. And in this day and age, that’s important.

I don’t like all movies about baseball, despite my predilection for the game. Million Dollar Arm, however, is a good one. It was somewhat unsung this year; perhaps more viewers can rectify that. Whether it will be a sports classic in time is not known as yet. All I know is I had an enjoyable time watching it. Hopefully, you will, too.

Setter’s ‘Spectives: Sometimes You Just Gotta Say, ‘Well, That Was a Horrible Movie’

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613And that’s exactly what I thought after watching Drive, He Said, director Jack Nicholson’s not-good 1971 relic about a womanizing college-basketball star and his bizarre counterculture roommate.

How did this film make basketball boring? I wondered, as the film meandered through then-hip out-of-focus shots and slo-mo passages. I was shocked to find myself wishing I had watched curling in the Olympics over these scenes. Bad sign, movie.

Then there was the problem of the film not being able to decide what it was about. The struggle to avoid the draft? Hippie dippiness? Who was it about, anyway, the basketball fella or his roomie? The movie couldn’t seem to decide. In fact, it followed them both in equal amounts, despite them both being unlikable characters.

Yuck. Turn it off, he said.

I think sometimes you’ve got to watch a bad movie once in a while to desire good movies more. I mean, right now, I could watch any portion of The Seven Samurai and be cleansed of the lousy-film experience. Boy, do I need a Kurosawa bath right now.

Maybe a bit of ice cream will rid me of the taste in my mouth. Yes, sometimes you’ve got to watch a bad movie once in a while. But even once in a while doesn’t feel good.

A Skip and Setter Q&A: The Ancient Art of Swearing

Skip and Setter QandA Sketch 092213At a recent imaginary panel that didn’t happen at any industry conference we know of, Skip and Setter locked horns on the topic of profanity and why it’s so prevalent in movies today. The following is an excerpt from their overlong, admittedly tiresome debate.

Skip: You’ve said in the past that you like seeing profanity in movies because it calls attention to the need to upgrade the English language. Are you deliberately ignoring the fact that many venerated writers–from Ben Jonson to e.e. cummings–have used vulgarity in their works? English doesn’t need upgrading!

Setter: You’re so misinformed. I’m talking about profanity when it’s used to replace inspired dialogue. As in every flick these days that tries to emulate Pulp Fiction. I’m not talking about profanity with a purpose.

Skip: Well, don’t you think all profanity has a purpose–as long as it’s in character?

Setter: No. Read my latest book.

Skip: I’m not reading your book, dude. I hate your writing.

Setter: Well, I outline my “Theory of Profanity” there. It basically states that it’s cooler to say a swear word in a movie than to get a “G” rating.

Skip: So you’re against overusing profanity.

Setter: Sure. Unless it concerns your reviews.

Skip: I love you, too. Now, why don’t you think the vulgarity-filled sports film has survived? Slap Shot, Major League? Seems like more folks want to do a film about profane, hipper-than-thou mobsters than they do locker-room sagas.

Setter: They’ll be back. I think people are afraid of seeing depictions of the way hallowed sports figures really talk. But they’re generally more credible than watching the story of a hired assassin who likes Schubert.

Skip: Sounds like a double standard. As long as it’s not believable, it’s OK to use profanity.

Setter: Maybe. Read my latest book.

Skip: No thanks. Anyway, profanity’s part of our lexicon. It’s been around for centuries.

Setter: Doesn’t mean we should use it. Look at the Hays Code era. Lots of great movies were made without profanity.

Skip: And lots of junk came out, too. Ever see Turnabout? Blecch.

Setter: For every one of those, there’s a Casablanca. See my point? You don’t need a swear word to make a good movie.

Skip: It might sell more tickets.

Setter: It might. Read my latest book.

Skip: To channel e.e. cummings: “I will not read your CENSORED book.”

Setter: Pompous CENSORED.