Stuck in your house until sometime in April or longer? Wait, that’s not a question. More of a statement. We all need something to do to pass the time.
Yesterday, my burly counterpart Blitz offered up five football related movies that you should watch during your extended free time. So why wouldn’t I do the same with the films of a hoop genre today?
Here are some of Bounce’s favorite films with the roundball that you need to watch in the coming month.
Why not start by riling yourself up a little. Warning: this is probably not one for the real youngsters. Why? Nick Nolte is brilliant, but also slightly…abrasive? Another look into the seedy underbelly of college athletics, yet in a different way. This movie shows a harsh reality where, in the boom of college sports mid-1990s, you had to make moral sacrifices as a coach in order to stay relevant and compete. Yet, not all of the attention is derived in that same sense because you have the struggling coach in Pete Bell (Nolte), who has three very different situations in recruits Neon Boudeaux (Shaquille O’Neal), Butch McCray (Penny Hardaway) and Ricky Roe (Matt Nover).
The use of an ensemble cast is so perfectly orchestrated here to tell many stories that make up the one focal point. This movie could be all about Ken Carter (Samuel L. Jackson) and it would still be very good. But to show the stories of soon to be teen parents Kenyon (Rob Brown) and Kyra (Ashanti) and their struggles they already face in preparation for the event, of Timo Cruz (Rick Gonzales) struggling with life on the streets dealing drugs for his cousin, and the relationship of Carter and his son Damien (Robert Ri’chard). All woven together into one, it makes a perfect tapestry. The movie can be fun, the movie can be serious, the movie can be sad and the movie can be happy and the blending of these stories makes the blending of the emotions possible.
Another one not for the kids. Such a great film that gets little respect for what it was, one that tells different stories about inner city kids in high school during a period in 1996 where there weren’t a ton of high school related movies out there. Certainly not serious ones like this. But it is also a film which doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is great because no matter how hard and how tough high school kids act, at the end of the day, they are still kids and are still goofy and still playful. Deep down, the movie is also about overcoming preconceived notions about someone, especially in the case of Coach Saroka (Rhea Pearlman) and Shorty (Fredro Starr), who start out with stereotypical views of each other, but soon find when opening up the channels of communication and getting on each others levels, that they are very different human beings than what they expected.
Because this is a movie from 1986 about white Indiana farm boys; it is simply lost on this generation. There is something exciting from the get go in the movie when new coach Norman Dale (Gene Hackman) arrives in Hickory, Indiana because of how he deals with the ramblings and attempted interference of the small town residents. His take charge, stay out of my way and my business attitude is a big draw to make the coach the focal point, where in later years of basketball movies, the players are the focal point of conflict and main story. Again, I can look at this story as from a coach perspective and really enjoy how Dale does things his own way, no matter what detractors think. He has a system he knows can win games.
When you think about great basketball movies, this one stood out to me when I really thought about it. First, it is based on a true story; perhaps the greatest true story in the history of college basketball. I think what makes the actual story so true is that it seems so far fetched. A girls basketball coach gets hired at a commuter college to coach a boys team, he then recruits only black players in a time of racial division in the heart of Texas and ultimately wins the National Championship. That can’t be real, can it? It is fitting that it is a Disney movie, because that is how they all end, right? The fact that it really happened makes it all so much more entertaining.
But let me tell you, from everything I have ever read about coach Don Haskins, it is possible that no actor has every played their role as good as Josh Lucas played him. This is a film where relationships are secondary in so many ways, but what is important (like in Hoosiers), is how the coach handles detractors around him. It is the best story to tell, from Haskins’ viewpoint, to the players fighting through the tribulations of the time to develop their own identities.
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