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Bull Durham The Criterion Collection
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Former minor leaguer Ron Shelton hit a grand slam with his directorial debut, one of the most revered sports movies of all time. Durham Bulls devotee Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon)—who every year takes a new player under her wing (and into her bed)—has singled out the loose-cannon pitching prospect Nuke LaLoosh (Tim Robbins), a big-league talent with a rock-bottom maturity level. But she’s unable to shake Crash Davis (Kevin Costner), the veteran catcher brought in to give Nuke some on-the-field seasoning. A breakthrough film for all three of its stars and an Oscar nominee for Shelton’s highly quotable screenplay, Bull Durham is a freewheeling hymn to wisdom, experience, and America’s pastime, tipping its cap to all those who grind it out for love of the game.
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transfer from Criterion is however splendid.
I always check the reviews on Criterionforum.org before purchasing. I agree with their take on this reissue, including the disappointing miscoloration throughout the movie. Apparently many others have complained, too.
Criterion forum rates as follows:
Picture ==> 8/10; noting dis-coloration issue but liking the improvement in picture quality overall.
Audio ==> 7/10.
Supplements ==> 7/10. Criterion's bread and butter but nothing compelling added here this time.
I really can't add anything beyond Criterionforum's closing recommendation: "...I’m a bit conflicted over this one. What’s odd is I did like this release, but even then, it’s not an easy one to recommend. In many areas this new presentation easily blows away the old Blu-ray edition for the film, but I can’t deny those colours, particularly the blues, look off. I also can’t say anything all that bad about the supplements that have been included, but then it’s a letdown that Criterion has only recorded one new feature, mainly recycling the older MGM features, and not even all of them. Maybe one worth picking up during a 50% off sale."
The story revolves around three main characters and the minor league Durham Bulls baseball club. Annie Savory (Susan Sarandon) is a bit of an oddball character. Having searched for the meaning of life through various religions and metaphysical experiences she’s come to determine that life should be lived through baseball. Her way of helping her “religion” is to find a single player each year that she helps along through both instruction and sex.
Next up is Ebby Calvin "Nuke" LaLoosh (Tim Robbins) a hot new pitching prospect the team has hired. Ebby has an incredibly fast arm but unfortunately can’t seem to control his pitches. The potential is there but when your pitches tend to hit the team mascot or fly into the watching crowd there is a problem. He’s young, brash and thinks he’s a star before he’s actually ready to be one.
And then there is “Crash” Davis (Kevin Costner). Crash has seen it all. A catcher who once had the opportunity to be called to “the show” (the major leagues) Crash is older and wiser now. He still has that potential to be called up once again but the odds are slim. Here he’s been called in by the team to help get Ebby on track to help the team.
The two men become the focus of Annie as she tries to decide which one she will share both her knowledge and her bed with. When she tells them this in her home Crash says he’s leaving. When she seems startled he tells her he doesn’t try out any longer before giving her a now famous speech about what he believes in. Stunned Annie lets him leaves and begins work on Ebby.
As the season begins both Crash and Annie do what they can to help Ebby along. Stubborn and unwilling to listen at times he soon discovers he has much to learn and might not be the big thing he once thought he was. As the season movies forward he improves on the field. And while he’s also sleeping with Annie her thoughts keep bringing her back to Crash and wondering what if. At the same time there is a growing attraction towards Annie from Crash that goes unrequited with her having her sights on Ebby. Will that change if he does too?
The movie easily moves back and forth between romance, slight drama and some hilariously funny moments. Director/writer Ron Shelton actually played in the minor leagues and he knows his stuff. He knows that there is plenty of raunchy dialogue that goes on between players behind the scenes and most likely worse than he allows here. He understand the power of superstition and knows how that can get into a players head. And he knows that feeling of longing to make it to something better as on display here.
Shelton’s love of the game is obvious here in what is easily a tribute to those who play the game for hundreds rather than millions of dollars. The smaller fields and smaller paychecks are meant for those who long to reach “the show” but who also play because they must, their love of the game stronger than anything. Crash embodies this sort of player and his love and respect of the game are the biggest things that he passes along to Ebby.
The sexual tension between the three characters is always underlying and surfaces only on rare occasion. Annie’s calling out Crash’s name while in bed with Ebby, Crash’s longing for Annie and Ebby’s sense of jealousy over Crash. All of it will last only one season though as Annie has a long standing love of the game and the Durham Bulls, knowing that another season will dawn and a new prospect will be there looking for her help and attention.
Shelton does an amazing job of combining all of these elements to make not just an entertaining film but a thought provoking one at the same time. Who would think that a discussion on the true meaning of love would come from a movie about baseball? Or that it could be used metaphorically to discuss life in general? And at the same time he does this he’s created a completely liberated female character in a male dominated world who lives for herself. That’s an achievement few have accomplished.
Criterion has done their usual great job of presenting the movie in the cleanest looking version you’ll find. In addition to that they’ve included some interesting extras as well. Those extras include two audio commentary tracks featuring Shelton, Costner and Robbins, a new interview with Shelton by Michael Sragow, a program from 2001 with interviews of the cast and crew including Shelton, Costner, Robbins and Sarandon, an appreciation of the film from 2008 featuring former players, sports fans and broadcasters, and NBC NIGHTLY NEWS piece from 1993 about the final season at Durham Athletic Park where the film was shot, an interview with Max Patkin who was known as the Clown Prince of Baseball from a 1991 episode of TODAY, the original trailer for the film and excerpts from a 1989 piece by longtime New Yorker baseball writer Roger Angell.
If you’ve never seen the movie be ready for some salty language, some hilarious moments, a few touching scenes and some of the best acting to come from the stars of the film. Honorable mention in this category should go to actor Robert Wuhl as coach’s assistant Larry whose moments on screen offer many of the laughs to be found as well as providing some of the best baseball chatter ever filmed. Fans should add this copy to their collection and for those who’ve never seen the film now is your chance.