I was blissfully traipsing through the Plex Mediaverse the other day, wondering what I’d write about and I stumbled across my favorite movie.
For those of you that don’t know this Ron Shelton classic, and might be scared away by images of sportsballing, let me just say that Bull Durham is so much more. It stars Kevin Costner as an aging minor league athlete, tasked with educating an up-and-coming star pitcher, played by Tim Robbins. Along the way, both men crash headlong into local baseball savant Annie Savoy and all sorts of conflict ensues. But don’t be scared away by the baseball, that’s merely the setting. Bull Durham is about love, loss and learning. About failure and regret. About human nature and the dangerous places people go to be happy.
Now, I know anyone even remotely in the film space is supposed to say their favorite film is something by Francois Truffaut or some early Pedro Almodovar film or some legendary Spike Lee joint. Or Lawrence of Arabia. You can say “Lawrence of Arabia—but only on the big screen where it can really breathe” and people nod in approval. Peter O’Toole. Still slayin’ fools like three quarters of a century later.
I’m not really one of those guys. I have three favorite films, and none of them are particularly glamorous.
Usually, when pressed, I rank them in this order:
1. Miller’s Crossing
2. Bull Durham
3. True Romance
And one of them is currently available for streaming, free, on Plex. I can’t tell you how excited I was when I stumbled across it. Not that I haven’t watched it recently. I can quote every line of Bull Durham, in order, from beginning to end. That’s how many times I’ve watched this movie. But finding it, just sitting there, at work? Well, it was like bumping into an old lover.
Speaking of which, here’s the greatest bumping-into-an-old-lover scene ever filmed.
If you can watch that and not feel a pang of something, either you’ve never been madly in love before or you’re a stone golem. That vignette is remarkable. One shot people! One fourteen minute tracking shot of astounding skill. If you want to see more from that film, it’s a series of scenes from writer/director Rodrigo Garcia in a film called Nine Lives (2005).
Bull Durham, likewise, is full of amazing scenes. Ostensibly about baseball, it’s really a meditation on love and friendship and chasing impossible dreams. It’s a story of an old chicken and a young rooster. It’s a story about loss and perseverance and redemption, of honor and teamwork and the many heart-rending pitfalls of the American dream.
Bull Durham is a film that carries you away, into the church of baseball itself, where all are welcome. The arrogant, the lost, the oversexed and undersexed alike. The religious and the heathens, the coming and the going, the rising and the falling, the self-actualized and the clueless, all together in unity under one roof.
There’s no real way to capture the wonder and skill of Bull Durham in one little internet piece. You could write a dissertation on all of the amazing dialogue, the intricacies of scenes, the thinly-veiled homoerotic courtship of Crash and Nuke, and the various thematic structures, from the sexual liberation of Annie Savoy to the meritocracy of organized sport to the American cultural propensity to crave the next big thing. It’s chock-full of goodness.
Just take a moment and go back to a sweeter time. Fire up that OLED and luxuriate in a true classic.
Bull Durham, free through the end of June, on Plex.