Saturday, June 22, 2013

No. 348 – I Got Loaded

Performer: Los Lobos
Songwriter: Camille Bob
Original Release: How Will the Wolf Survive?
Year: 1984
Definitive Version: None

My all-time favorite movie, which should come as no surprise to anyone who has been paying attention, is Bull Durham, which, of course, gloriously features this song.

For a long time my favorite movie was Raiders of the Lost Ark. The first time I saw it was at a packed theater in Columbus in 1981. Dad and Laura took everyone, Jin and I sat by ourselves and Scott sat with them. During the opening sequence, which is better than most action movies’ finale, everyone in the theater was rapt with attention. Other than the sound from the movie, everything was quiet.

So they get to the part where Indiana and his flunky swing across the pit on the whip. The flunky swings and pulls the limb down a bit, and Jin let out a gasp, “HUUUUUH,” that was loud enough to be part of the soundtrack. We both cracked up—and then had to endure a few dirty glances.

In 1990, I saw Dances With Wolves for the first time, and that movie moved immediately to the top of the list. It made perfect sense: It’s a gorgeous epic, the music enhances the action and the story was on the money. It’s about a lonely, young man who has nothing who then finds himself in the wilderness. For this lonely, young man wandering the wilderness of Flint, it hit home in a big way.

I have a story about watching that movie in the theater, too. I told Dave about it—you got to see this—and we were going to go on Jan. 17, 1991. He called me not long before we were supposed to get together to tell me that Operation Desert Storm just began, or, as Dave said over the phone, “They’re bombing the crap out of Baghdad!” Needless to say—but I’ll say it anyway—we didn’t go to the movies that night.

At about the time I was enthralled by Dances With Wolves, I saw Bull Durham for the first time—on TV. I knew about it, of course, but it came out when I lived in New Buffalo. The closest movie theater was a half-hour in any direction, and I didn’t have a lot of loose change for movies. I never saw it.

A few years later, after Bull Durham landed on cable (Showtime; I had HBO), Dad taped it. When I was in Columbus at some point, I found the videotape, and in the familial tradition, I swiped it. Hey, it was sitting on a shelf in the basement with a bunch of other forgotten videotapes. No one was going to miss it, and if it was missed, I’d bring it back. No one ever said a word.

Back in Grand Blanc, armed with a VCR and a ton of free time, I popped it in. The tape wasn’t rewound to the start—I hadn’t noticed ahead of time—and the first scene I saw just happened to be without a doubt my favorite scene in the movie. It’s the scene when Nuke first pitches to Crash where Crash goes out to the mound three times in the span of a single pitch, twice before Nuke hurls the said pitch and once after the batter hits the ball off the bull.

I laughed uproariously, not only because it’s a hilarious scene, but also in realization that there were more honest baseball moments in that one scene than there had been in any five baseball movies I’d seen previously.

You got the wild young pitcher getting aired out by the veteran catcher, deciding he was going to throw what he wanted anyway, getting aired out again, the catcher telling the batter what pitch was coming to teach the pitcher a lesson, the catcher calling out the batter after he homers and admires it instead of runs the bases and then the catcher taunting the young pitcher himself. After reading so many books, I knew that stuff really happened, so to see it in a movie—baseball reduced to a little boy’s game played by grown men, rather than baseball as a metaphor for life—was rewarding.

Dances With Wolves remained my favorite movie, however. Several years later after dozens more viewings of Bull Durham than Dances With Wolves, I made a list of my favorite movies and realized that I was fooling myself. I mean, all-time favorite movies have to be huge, right, not some little baseball comedy.

Well, why not? What’s not to love about Bull Durham? The story’s great, the acting’s great, the music’s great. The ending is so much better than that of Dances With Wolves. Bull Durham HAD to be—and in fact is—my all-time favorite movie.

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