“Hoosiers” is one of the best basketball movies and sports movies of all time, and this year we reached the 25th anniversary of its release. Barry Locke at ESPN has a pretty funny article about the movie, arguing that Gene Hackman’s Norman Dale wasn’t a great coach, but we don’t have to buy that argument.
It’s been 25 years since “Hoosiers” immortalized the legend of Hickory High, the small school that beats long odds to make underdog history by winning the Indiana state basketball championship. Yes, it’s been a generation since we were inspired by the story of a coach seeking redemption, a team coming together and a town being transformed in one of the greatest sports films ever made.
But every time I watch the movie — and who hasn’t seen it at least five times — I come to the same conclusion:
Norman Dale can’t coach.
There, I said it. The Wizard of Hickory High, at least as he was shown in the film, manages a game about as well as Shooter manages his booze. Sure, Dale took an undermanned, undersized, undisciplined group of farm boys all the way to the state title. But watch closely. Time and again, they won in spite of their coach.
Regardless of your thought’s on Norman Dale’s coaching ability, this movie definitely gets most people fired up about basketball. It’s a great game for kids and adults as well, and it offers a great way to get in shape. There are so many ways for people to get involved, whether they join gyms or buy in-ground, adjustable basketball goal systems for their home driveways. For kids it offers valuable lessons in teamwork, but it also gets them out running around, and in today’s world with obesity problems that’s a great thing.
So rent the movie and watch it with your kids, and then play some hoops outside!
Sam Rockwell might just be one of the most consistent actors of his generation, delivering solid work for the better part of the last decade with little recognition to show for it. But while his performance in “The Winning Season” can hardly be considered a career best, the film is a lot better because of his involvement. After all, most underdog sports movies rarely aspire to more than just crowd-pleaser status, and though the story is as predictable as they come – a washed out basketball prospect (Rockwell) is given a second chance at life when he’s offered the coaching job for a girls’ high school team – it does its best to avoid the typical genre clichés and offer something beyond those schmaltzy, inspirational moments.
That’s not to say that the film is entirely successful, but director James C. Strouse keeps those moments to a bare minimum, focusing less on the basketball team and more on the man in charge. It’s a lot like “Hoosiers” in spirit, but hardly a classic in the making. Still, Rockwell is always a joy to watch, and he’s surrounded by a great supporting cast (including Emma Roberts, Rob Corddry, and the ever-reliable Margo Martindale), so unless you’re just sick of the genre as a whole, there’s no reason you won’t enjoy “The Winning Season” for the piece of feel-good entertainment that it is.
It’s good to celebrate people while they’re still here, and that certainly applies to Dennis Hopper, a man who has made his mark upon the movies like very few people in film history. From his start as a young ensemble player on innumerable television shows and some very fifties era big Hollywood productions like “Rebel without a Cause,” “Giant,” and “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral” (he’s at 199 credits on IMDb), to his emergence as a controversial counterculture star and filmmaker in the the late sixties, to becoming one of Hollywood’s best character actors with his beyond memorable roles in films like “Apocalypse Now,” “Blue Velvet,” “Hoosiers,” “True Romance” and numerous other films, he’s without a doubt a man to whom attention must be paid. As the director of “Easy Rider,” and the troubled but legendary “The Last Movie,” his influence on the American films of the early seventies, for both better and worse, is probably impossible to measure.
In that spirit, cinephile superstar writer and blogger turned filmmaker Matt Zoeller Seitz, formerly of The New York Times and the great group blog he founded, The House Next Door (now Slant Magazine’s official blog), has crafted the un-narrated cinema essay below for his present gig with the Museum of the Moving Image. It’s fairly long as these things go, but it is definitely worth your time.
Oh, and one thing that has been, and always will be, true about Dennis Hopper — he is most definitely not safe for work, unless, of course, you work somewhere extremely cool or extremely dangerous.
Don’t worry, Gene Hackman, is still very much amongst the living. It’s just that the 79 year-old Hackman casually discussed his retirement from acting in favor of writing historical novels while talking to Taylor Antrim of the Daily Beast today. (H/t Anne Thompson) Of course, there’s always the chance some great director can lure the Hemingway-loving Hackman out of retirement for the right role, but I’m going to assume he’s for real about giving up acting and thank him for all the great — sometimes better than great — work.
Without ever really being an Alec Guinness or Peter Sellers-style acting chameleon, Hackman had one of the most amazing ranges of any actors of his era. He played thoroughly screwed up antiheroes, serious and comical villains of innumerable types, and ocasionally simply nice and/or likable guys. He was equally interesting playing all of them — even the nice ones. No doubt one of the best ever.