There haven't been to many current movies that have piqued my interest lately, so I've been moving through my (very long) Netflix queue. Here are the last three movies I watched.
1. Slap Shot. I was under the impression that this 1977 iconic hockey movie was a screwball comedy, like a hockey version of Major League, but it's not like that at all. It's got some funny parts but overall I'd classify it as a drama- like Bull Durham, only with less romance and more blood. The screenplay was written by the sister of a minor league hockey player. Paul Newman stars as Reggie Dunlop, the player-coach (who doesn't love a player-coach?) in charge of a downtrodden team that plays in a town that will soon hit the skids with the impending closure of the local mill. With the arrival of the childish and thuggish Hanson Brothers (if you're any sort of sports fan, you've definitely seen this image before), Reggie decides to adopt a more violent style of play to attract fans. It works. I enjoyed the movie and my Paul Newman crush lives on- in this role, he just exudes charisma and fits in seamlessly with the cast, several of whom were hockey players and not actors. Newman said that Slap Shot was the most fun he had making a movie.
2. He Got Game. The NBA playoffs inspired me to watch this 1988 Spike Lee film (make that joint) starring a young Ray Allen as high school hoops phenom Jesus Shuttlesworth. Jesus is the number one ranked basketball prospect in the country, and all everyone wants to know is where he is going next- what college program will he choose? Denzel Washington plays Jesus' estranged father, who has granted a week's release from prison by the governor in order to convince his son to attend the governor's alma mater. If he succeeds, his sentence will be reduced in appreciation. Jesus is a likable and sympathetic character- he's surrounded by parasites hoping to get a piece of his impending fortune, and there are temptations at every turn- agents and coaches offering money and more. The opening sequence was Spike Lee at his finest- beautiful shots of all sorts of people playing basketball in New York City, set to orchestral music reminiscent of West Side Story. I did have some gripes with the film- it can get overly sentimental at times, some characters struck me as too formulaic/stereotypical, and there's at least one ridiculously gratuitous sex scene (which might be a plus for some people, but hey). He Got Game is a less than perfect movie, but it does do a great job of capturing the pressures surrounding young star athletes, and it was fun to watch Ray Allen in the role.
3. The Notebook. Okay, so I don't only watch sports movies. Have you ever read anything by Nicholas Sparks? His books are the pinnacle of sentimentality, and it's a good thing that the movie toned down the cheese a notch or two. The premise of The Notebook is that an aging man recounts to his wife, who has lost her memory, the story of how they first met and fell in love. While still sappy at times, The Notebook is bolstered by the fine performances of Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams as the younger couple. I also loved the style of the flashback scenes- the clothes, the cars, and the houses were all fabulous. The theme of aging and memory loss is familiar and heartbreaking: the elderly Allie doesn't even recognize her own children, and I suspect that most viewers will start thinking about their own parents and grandparents.
Okay, I admit it. I liked The Notebook, and it made me cry. A lot.