All the excitement of post-season baseball has made me think of baseball movies. I can’t say it’s a favorite genre of mine. The popular ones like Bull Durham and Field of Dreams just don’t do a lot for me.
But I do love The Natural (1984), an adaptation of Bernard Malamud’s 1952 baseball novel of the same name, directed by Barry Levinson and starring Robert Redford.
The Natural was nominated for four Academy Awards: Actress in a Supporting Role (Glenn Close), Cinematography (Caleb Deschanel), Art Direction (Mel Bourne, Angelo P. Graham, Bruce Weintraub), and Music* (Randy Newman). Kim Basinger was also nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress. Of course, it won nothing. And why wasn’t Barry Levinson, the director, nominated? Or Robert Redford? Please. That was the year Amadeus won a lot of awards. Best Picture. Best Director. Remember F. Murray Abraham? Neither do I. He won the Best Actor Oscar.
Well, I like Robert Redford in this movie. He played baseball in college and so maybe that is why he is very believable as a player.
He underplays to perfection the part of the guy whose life didn’t turn out as he expected. And he is supported by the kind of cast John Ford would have been proud of: Robert Duvall, Wilford Brimley, Richard Farnsworth, Darren McGavin. (And the ladies are pretty good too: Glenn Close and Kim Basinger!)
Speaking of Richard Farnsworth–I just love him.
Farnsworth (1920–2000), you know, began his career as a stuntman, playing a bit part in Gunga Din and a soldier in Gone With the Wind. Through the years he played countless dusty cowboys in films ranging from Red River to Blazing Saddles.
He continued as such for thirty years, before being “discovered” in his fifties. He was nominated for a Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in Comes a Horseman (1978) and for Best Actor for his final film The Straight Story (1999). It goes without saying that he didn’t win either.
I guess I got a bit off the track there. Don’t act like you’re surprised.
So my Friday movie pick is The Natural. It is a fable of success. Some critics hated the storybook ending, but to me it is like all great baseball games–it ends happily and with a victory. Goodness trounces Evil.
Gus Sands: If it isn’t enough, tell us what you had in mind.
Roy Hobbs: To hit away.
Truth, Justice and the American Way, thank you very much.
Of course, I won’t be watching The Natural tonight. I’ll be watching actual baseball. (Cards vs. Dodgers)
Swing away, Dave.
* By the way, Randy Newman’s musical score is one of the best of all time.