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Susan Sarandon Tag

“I see great things in baseball. It’s our game — the American game. It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism. Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set. Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us.” — Walt Whitman

“I believe in the Church of Baseball. I’ve tried all the major religions, and most of the minor ones. I’ve worshipped Buddha, Allah, Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, trees, mushrooms, and Isadora Duncan.. I’ve tried ’em all, I really have, and the only church that truly feeds the soul, day in, day out, is the Church of Baseball.”  — Annie Savoy

Bull Durham

This post originally ran five years ago, on the eve of the 2009 All-Star Game. It was pretty popular at the time, but the links had gone dead. With this year’s All-Star Game set to be played on July 15, I thought it’d be a nice opportunity to revisit the post, update it a little, and add some bonus features to make it “fresh” for those of you read it back then. Oh yeah, the music is live again, too.

At the time, I suggested to Kelly Stitzel that she feature Bull Durham for an installment of her wonderful Soundtrack Saturday column. I was shocked — shocked, I tell ya! — to find out she’d never seen writer-director Ron Shelton’s 1988 summer hit, one of the best sports movies of all time, if not the best movie about baseball. It’s also one of the finest romantic comedies of the past 25 years (I’m sure that Kelly has seen it by now, right Kelly?). Kelly offered me the opportunity to compile the complete soundtrack to one of my favorite films.

First-time director Shelton drew from his own experiences as a minor-league ball player for Bull Durham‘s screenplay, and he was blessed with a stellar cast that brought his richly drawn characters to life. It’s a movie full of smart dialogue, and character-based comedy that celebrates the lunacy, hijinks, and joys of America’s two favorite pastimes — baseball and sex.

Susan Sarandon, radiant as ever, flew on her own dime from Italy to audition and win theBull-Durham-mv02 role of Annie Savoy, a part-time teacher in Durham, North Carolina. Annie dedicates each summer of her life to tutoring one player on the Durham Bulls, the local minor-league team, that she believes has the best potential to get a call up to the majors. However, Annie isn’t interested in improving the player’s understanding of literature, and she isn’t a coach, although she knows as much about baseball as any manager. No, she’s more of a spiritual and sexual adviser. As she says, “You know how to make love, then you’ll know how to pitch.” Annie reads Walt Whitman to her lover-players, and plays Edith Piaf records in the hopes of making them well-rounded human beings and therefore better ball players. At the top of the film she chooses as her new student Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh, the Bulls’ latest gifted pitcher, a kid with a million-dollar arm, but a five-cent head on his shoulders.

The role of Nuke went to Tim Robbins in a breakthrough performance. Shelton had to fight to get Robbins cast in the part; up to that point the actor’s most visible role had been in the infamous flop, Howard the Duck. Besides being a part of that box office disaster, Robbins’ other jobs were mostly blink-and-you-missed-him bit parts (raise your hand if you recall him in Top Gun). In addition to his lack of experience as a leading man, executives at Orion Pictures felt that a woman as classy as Sarandon would never fall for a regular looking guy like Robbins. Luckily, Shelton prevailed and the two actors worked wonderfully on the set. Moreover, they fell in love, started a family, and were together for 23 years. Shows you how smart movie execs can be.

If you are a woman, the relationship you have with your best girlfriends is special. It’s different than any you have with your parents, siblings, romantic partners or even other friends. Your best girlfriend almost always knows you better than anyone else. You trust her with your secrets and you know that she is someone you can turn to no matter what. She’s someone who will listen to your problems and be honest with you, even it if it hurts.

A best girlfriend will be there to console you when you get dumped at 1 A.M. by that asshole you’ve been sleeping with who’s been stringing you along for months. And even though she insisted you could do better and you should stop seeing him a long time ago, but you didn’t listen to her, she’ll take you to an all-night diner and buy you pancakes and coffee and let you cry and bitch and moan without judging you or telling you she told you so.

A true best friend will go shopping with you and tell you when a dress you’ve chosen is totally fug and will help you pick out clothes that hide your fat rolls and make your boobs and ass look amazing. She will talk you out of buying those boots you love that cost almost as much as your rent because she knows you can’t afford them and she doesn’t want you selling any of your other possessions to make ends meet — or asking her for money that she doesn’t have but wouldn’t refuse you.

A BFF will gladly judge horrible skanks that your ex is now sleeping with, but will stop you from making an ass out of yourself when you drunkenly decide to approach the bitch and tell her what you think of her. She won’t judge you when you show up to brunch with greasy bangs and mascara smudged under your eyes, wearing the same clothes you had on the night before.

She will talk to you on the phone for hours about nothing in particular, but won’t be offended if you don’t call her for two weeks. She will organize your wedding and/or baby shower, even if she hates weddings and babies. She will throw you a surprise party when you think everyone has forgotten your birthday. And if something unfortunate happens, like a death in the family or a bout of depression, she will be there with a fresh box of tissues, your favorite ice cream and many, many hugs.

She will tell you when you’re being a bitch and will expect you to do the same for her. And she will always remind you that, no matter what happens,  you’re awesome and fuck anyone who doesn’t think so.

Wow. That all sounded like one of those awful “In honor of women” forwards your crazy aunt who barely knows how to use her Hotmail account sends you every other week, doesn’t it? Well, whatever. I love my friends and I’m lucky to have such fierce ladies in my life.

Inspired by a recent viewing of one of my favorite films, Walking and Talking, and the success of the hit female buddy comedy Bridesmaids (which I still haven’t seen because I’m terrible), I thought I’d revisit some of my favorite female BFFs in film. Whether they’re laughing, crying, talking about sex or plotting murder, these ladies all share a strong bond that (for the most part) can’t be broken. And that’s why I love them.

My list was originally a lot longer than this, but then I noticed that several of the ladies I had listed were BFFs who happened to also be co-workers, so I decided they’d become their own Filminism post later on.

Who are your favorite female friendships in film? Tell me in the comments!

Warning: some of the clips below might be a little spoilery.

Thelma & Louise (Fox/MGM, 1991)

To tie in with “Oscar Month” Fox has been reviving the ghosts of ceremonies past on Blu-ray, with fresh-to-the-format transfers of MGM titles it now handles, including Moonstruck (1987), Rain Man (1988), and Dances with Wolves (1990). I was most intriguing by the prospect of another spin in the Thunderbird with Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis, so take it away, girls…I mean, women.

The Story: No need to rehash that, right? Suffice it to say that Thelma & Louise has become a fable for our generation. It’s one of those films where just about everything went right, as if by magic, though another zeitgeist film, The Silence of the Lambs, gobbled up most of its six Oscars nominations. Its one win was for Callie Khouri’s constantly surprising, and canny, screenplay–putting guns in the hands of female protagonists was nothing new, but making Thelma (Davis) and Louise (Sarandon) the repository of the film’s grit and heart and great sassy humor and letting us be the judge of their actions was a masterstroke. The actresses are at the top of their game here, as if they had known each other forever, and by the end they glow with a spiritual fulfillment.

It’s their movie…but it’s too simplistic to say that the film is

Mad Men and Modern Family may have received the most attention at this year’s Emmy Awards, but HBO once again dominated the fields of Made for Television movies with two excellent films, the triumphant Temple Grandin and the provocative You Don’t Know Jack. The inspiring Temple Grandin was nominated for fifteen Emmys and came away with seven, including Outstanding Made for Television Movie, Best Director, Outstanding Lead Actress, Outstanding Supporting Actress and Outstanding Supporting Actor (all in the category of Miniseries or Movie). You Don’t Know Jack won the Emmys for Outstanding Lead Actor and Outstanding Writing for a Movie or Mini-series

Temple Grandin is the remarkable story of the title character, an autistic woman whose insight into the behavior of cattle revolutionized the way the animals are treated on ranches and slaughterhouses. This inspiring biopic stars Claire Danes as Temple, giving one of the best performances of her career. Danes captures the way Temple speaks and carries herself in the same broad manner that the real life Grandin does, bounding into scenes and commanding each room she’s in. Additionally, Danes gives the character emotional depth, making it a well-rounded performance and not just an impersonation. It is a brave performance and Danes deservedly won the Emmy. Complimenting Danes throughout the film are three veteran character actors who enlighten the film.

As the film follows Temple’s pursuit of a higher education, we witness the leers and prejudices she suffers in college, and later in grad school, when she’s the only woman in the all male world of cattle farming. Luckily she has a strong support group to keep her going. First and foremost, there is her diligent mother, Eustacia Grandin, played with strength and grace by Julia Ormond. Eustacia refused to give up on Temple when doctors told her the girl should be institutionalized. She also refused to coddle her daughter, despite her autism. Then there is her Aunt Anne, who is patient and understanding with her niece. It is at her aunt’s ranch that Temple first begins understanding and relating to cows. Catherine O’Hara, the great actress from all of Christopher Guest’s ensemble films, gives a restrained and nuanced performance. Finally, as Temple’s mentor, Professor Carlock, the first teacher to take the time and try and understand her, David Straithern gives another heartfelt performance. Whether it’s a John Sayles indie or a big budget Bourne style action film, Strathairn always delivers.

PrintTo Hollywood’s credit, there’ve been a lot of female-focused thriller/horror films coming out lately. It’s almost as if production studios in La-La Land have suddenly realized there’s a feminine demographic they could cater to/exploit. Unfortunately for the ladies, studios still think that they can just throw anything at audiences and get away with it, which is why so many of the recent “girl power”-type films have been lousy.

The new horror/comedy Jennifer’s Body, written by Diablo Cody (instantly famous for penning the brilliant Juno) and directed by Karyn Kusama (AEon Flux and Girlfight, the latter of which bestowed upon the world the dubious gift of Michelle Rodriguez) is without a doubt the best of the bunch to come along thus far, although given its surprisingly uneven narrative, that’s not saying much.

First off, for those of you who are wondering: yes, Kusama kept in the scene where the two leads Jennifer (Megan Fox) and her oddly named best friend Needy (Amanda Seyfried) share a “controversial” lesbian kiss. It’s in close-up, it’s almost two minutes long, and for those who are attracted to such, it’s a very satisfying scene. Not since Susan Sarandon got it on with Catherine Deneuve in 1983’s The Hunger have two women looked so good together. Sorry to spoil it for you though, Fox and Seyfried only almost end up in bed together.