Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Notebook: Play Ball!

Searching for Stacy Carroll
Since the major league season opened Sunday night, baseball has been about the only thing on my mind. Meantime, the red envelopes from Netflix sit unopened. I’ll get to them soon enough. For now I’m hanging on every pitch – less invested in any team than in my love of the game itself. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t thought about movies. In recent days I’ve thought about baseball movies. Movies like Bull Durham, so endlessly quotable that, like Pulp Fiction, it would be easier to list the forgettable lines than the classic ones. Movies like The Natural, which ditched Bernard Malamud’s original ending and added Caleb Deschanel’s luscious cinematography and became the most romantic baseball film of all time. Movies like Field Of Dreams, which demonstrates how the action between the baselines can serve as a lifeline in the relationship between fathers and sons.

I’ve also thought about Major League, that silly, rude and undeniably funny R-rated comedy of 1989 with its oh-so-80s primary players: Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Corbin Bernsen and Wesley Snipes. Rene Russo’s decade of success in the 1990s was essentially launched by this film, while Dennis Haysbert would have to wait until 2001 for 24 to give him a part more memorable than the curveball-cursing Cerrano. Major League’s cast also includes broadcaster Bob Uecker as plaid-coat wearer Harry Doyle, plus prototypical “that guy” actors Chelcie Ross as Vaseline-baller Eddie Harris and James Gammon as manager Lou Brown. And then there was Stacy Carroll.

You remember Stacy, right? She played Suzanne Dorn, wife to Bernsen’s philandering third baseman Roger Dorn. Suzanne is the one who decides to enact revenge on her husband by sleeping with Sheen’s Ricky Vaughn. To do so requires her to transform from this …

… into this …

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You really had to see Major League in 1989 to come away thinking that Suzanne looks sexy in her Jessica Rabbit getup. But, hey, she got Vaughn’s attention. And, truth be told, she got mine; I was 12 at the time.

Anyway, this got me wondering: What’s Stacy Carroll done since? Off I clicked to IMDb, where I discovered that Major League was Carroll’s first film role … and her last. Her only other credit: “Woman Victim” in a 1987 episode of a TV show called Sable. So there’s a stat for you.

Stacy, wherever you are, you’re not forgotten.

Since I Mentioned Bull Durham
Awhile back I had an idea for a fun post that would involve two of my many favorite moments from Bull Durham. Problem is, this post would be best achieved as a video mashup, and since I have neither the necessary video editing software nor the time it would take to learn how to use said software, the mashup is unlikely to come to fruition. That said, let’s just free the cat from the bag, shall we?

My idea was to link several movies (Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon-style) via their use of songs. Preferably, the songs selected would be integrated into the drama itself. If not, the songs would at least be memorably employed as background music (think: “The Sound Of Silence” at the start of The Graduate.)

As conceived, the video could begin with the curtains parting in La Vie En Rose for the performance of the titular song by Marion Cotillard’s Edith Piaf. This would lead us to Bull Durham where Piaf’s “La Vie En Rose” is playing at the house of Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon), prompting Nuke LaLoosh (Tim Robbins) to say, in typical Nuke fashion, “I can hear that crazy Mexican singer.”

From there the montage would fade to Nuke on the team bus playing (incorrectly) “Try A Little Tenderness” (“Women do get wooly...”), and that would cut to Jon Cryer’s Duckie dancing to “Try A Little Tenderness” in Pretty In Pink or Donkey singing a line from the song in Shrek, or something else. It’s here that I always got stuck. Connecting “Try A Little Tenderness” to Pretty In Pink would be easy and ideal (involving two memorable scenes), but what song would I use to get out of Pretty In Pink to connect us to another movie?

An easier way to get out of Bull Durham would be to cash in on its use of “Rock Around The Clock,” employed at the start of a minor league game when Max Patkin is performing on the field. That could segue to American Graffiti, as memorable for its use of music as any film, which has oodles of songs to choose from to send us to something else. But that’s as far as I’ve gotten.

Maybe someday I’ll sit down and finish the outline. (Connecting it to a Kevin Bacon movie is unnecessary.) For the moment, however, without the video mashup capability, it’s not a compelling blog topic. Unless … anyone have ideas?

If you have other pieces to add to the puzzle, even if you can’t connect them to the thread I started above, let me know. If a few of us created a songs-in-movies chain worthy of mashing-up, perhaps one of the blogosphere’s many video talents could be convinced to edit the appropriate footage together into a montage. Until then, it’s an idea best relegated to the minor leagues.

Dorked Up
Last week my movie geekdom took a backseat to another form of dorkiness: fantasy baseball. Since 1993, I’ve been in an NL-only keepers league powered by Scoresheet, a fantasy sports simulator that takes my players’ real-life performances and pits them against my opponent’s players’ performances in fully simulated games that are unmatched in sophistication. I won’t bore you with the details except to say this: while standard fantasy baseball systems generate “points” based on things like wins, losses and offense, offense, offense, the Scoresheet model actually considers things like on-base percentage, player speed and defensive range. In movie terms, you might think of it this way: a standard fantasy league measures quality by performance at the box office; a Scoresheet league measures quality in the ways that really count.

The annual auction for the fantasy league took place Sunday. I participated by telephone, patching in with another player who lives in Colorado to conference into auction headquarters in Oregon. There the owners of the other eight fantasy teams sat around a table with stacks of stats in front of them, as if reprising the terrific scene in Knocked Up, when Paul Rudd’s character, decked out in an Orioles jersey and cap, is caught in the act of playing fantasy sports. To my knowledge, no one showed up to our auction table in baseball gear, but the geek quality was undeniable nonetheless, as typified by this exchange: “I’ll nominate Zimmerman.” Which one? “From Washington.” Which one? “The third baseman.” Oh.

The auction took an intense four hours. By the end, even the best poker faces (or poker voices) were losing composure like Teddy KGB with the Oreos in Rounders. Two days later, my brain is still recovering, cramped for the moment with details that will be mostly useless until next year’s auction. For example, did you know that Jake Peavy’s VORP last season was 50.6 while Dan Haren’s was 53.7? I bet you didn’t. Then again, you probably don’t know what “VORP” is, and you probably don’t care. Nor should you. Like I said, the information in my brain is mostly useless and only further confirms my geek status. You know, as if my movie reviews referencing Jean-Claude Van Damme movies didn’t do that already.

I got a good laugh this week from a piece on Yahoo reporting that “Vin Diesel” isn’t Vin Diesel’s real name. As if it wasn’t obvious. From the first time I saw Diesel a little over 10 years ago in a Dateline special that showcased his efforts (and also Darren Aronofsky’s with Pi) to break out from obscurity at Sundance, he’s annoyed me with his oversized ego. You know, the kind of ego that would lead a guy named Mark Vincent to tell his friends to start calling him Vin Diesel . . . Disturbing news from my old hometown. The other day, someone committed suicide halfway through Watchmen. Sad deal, and I don’t want to trivialize it. Still, I find myself assuming that this person had seen the movie before and perhaps timed his death with a specific scene. I don’t say that to imply that Watchmen is the kind of film that encourages suicide. Quite the opposite. As a film lover, I like to believe that even the worst of movies (which Watchmen isn’t) would make life seem worth living for at least a few minutes longer.


J.D. said...

BULL DURHAM is one of those rare films that I can watch pretty much anytime. If I happen to catch it while channel surfing I have to watch the rest of it. Actually, I just watched it recently and it has aged very well. Has Kevin Costner ever been better? Same goes for Tim Robbins for that matter? Besides being funny as hell and insanely quotable (as you point out), it contains a lot of truisms about baseball and life for that matter.

It's funny you mentioned ROUNDERS. I remember hating the film when it first came out... being annoyed by John Malkovich's cartoonish accent and just not finding Matt Damon as an ace card player all that believable. I watched it again recently as its been popping up on cable quite frequently and really enjoyed it. I actually really got into it in a big way which just goes to show what a little time and distance will do for ya.

Jason Bellamy said...

I haven't seen Rounders in years, and it was just the one time. I know it's a popular movie, at least among card playing types (and/or card playing wannabes), but it didn't do much for me on the whole. Still, Teddy KGB is memorable, for better or worse.

Which brings us to Malkovich ... At this point (and for a while now), he's become a bit like Walken: You know you're going to get a performance that might not be quite right but that's at least distinct. Cartoonish is what Malkovich does now, sure, but at least he's aware of it. I'm not sure William Hurt can tell the difference.

J.D. said...

"Which brings us to Malkovich ... At this point (and for a while now), he's become a bit like Walken: You know you're going to get a performance that might not be quite right but that's at least distinct. Cartoonish is what Malkovich does now, sure, but at least he's aware of it. I'm not sure William Hurt can tell the difference."

What happened to the William Hurt of BODY HEAT/BROADCAST NEWS/THE ACCIDENTAL TOURIST? Man, was he on a good run there for awhile. He still pops up in solid supporting bits in films like SYRIANA and THE GOOD SHEPHERD.

As for Malkovich, you are right on the money. He shoulda quit the biz after BEING JOHN MALKOVICH. I mean, where do you go after that?

Craig said...

I just saw "Changeling" and found Malkovich's performance pretty bizarre. He's playing one of the good guys in the movie, yet in the same style he plays his boilerplate villains. A fascinating choice, I guess, or possibly just a lazy one.

Jason Bellamy said...

J.D.: I actually love Hurt in The Village, over the top though he is. It works.

Craig: Can't remember where, but I think I read or saw something suggesting that Malkovich felt utterly undone by Eastwood's one-take-and-we're-good approach. It was as if he never figured out who his character was by the time the film was over.

All that said, Malkovich is perfect for his role in Burn After Reading.

Also, there's some irony (or something) that we're discussing Malkovich's career choices in a notebook headed with a picture of Charlie Sheen. When Being John Malkovich came out, the best Sheen could do was to make a cameo as himself. A brilliantly conceived cameo, sure. But not one that would have suggested TV success was around the corner for him.

Allison said...

I am pretty sure Rob was in a Dodger jersey during that draft.

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Well, funny you should mention funny interviews, Funny Interview Video Contest man! There's this one with Sam Peckinpah, a bottle of Jack, and a cattleprod....

Mark said...

Actually, Allison, Rob was in a Rage Against the Machine t-shirt. You know why? Because he's the quote-unquote cool baseball nerd.

I've said this before here -- to universal derision -- but despite being a huge baseball fan and film nut I've never liked "Bull Durham." Costner annoys me.

"Rounders" I like even though I know it has flaws as a movie. One of these days, Jason, when I come through on my longstanding promise to do a poker movie post for you, I'll have more to say about it.

Nice post. Great job at the stupid fantasy-baseball geekfest.

Mr. Free Sports Betting said...

Rounders is an amazing movie. I hate the fact that I want to grab a deck of cards every time I watch it though.

Daniel Getahun said...

I love the idea of the song montage, for the record. Good luck with getting it together for a vid...

I'm also a fantasy sports nerd, though with baseball I've only gotten so far as mixed-leagues on Yahoo!, usually by autodraft. So you're some major levels ahead of me with that, but we'll both be pretty fixated on stats over the next few months.

Rounders was one I'm still considering to highlight as an underrated movie, partly because of the performances but mostly because it had such a major effect on culture. The current (or now diminishing) fixation on poker, particularly Texas Hold 'Em, can be traced back to this movie.

Look forward to reading your thoughts on Hunger but I have to wait until I see it, hopefully this weekend.

PIPER said...

My love of baseball is fresh and new and seems to grow stronger every year. But here's my problem. I seem to be able to only get into the teams in the city I am currently living. Which means, I'm crazy about Royals baseball, which kind of sucks. But maybe is getting better.

As far as baseball movies go, I find myself referring to Major League more than anything.

Like how I'm fussing over every game the Royals play and then I think about Beringer saying to Sheen "relax, we've got 160 more of these."

And then I think about Sidney Ponson pitching for the Royals and that makes me think of Chelcie Ross and how he had every trick in the book to get him through each inning.

But my son has never seen Field of Dreams, so I'm looking forward to watching that with him.

Anonymous said...


Stacy Carroll ("Suzanne Dorn" in "Major League") retired from the entertainment business in 1992 to raise her family and attend graduate school.

This was on IMDb.

Anonymous said...

Never mentioned is Bull Durham's superb soundtrack of early 50's R&B classics like 60 Minute Man and about a dozen others. Wish they'd released a soundtrack album because the songs are very hard to find. Such a great film with great performances everywhere.