|Bad guys, good guys & the silver screen|
By Jim Caple & Eric Neel
Page 2 columnists
We begin with the villains. And we begin, since it's baseball season, and we're big fans of cheap beer and bail bonds, with the villain in "The Bad News Bears."
Jim Caple: Roy Turner is a very bad man, Eric.
Eric Neel: True enough. He has to be. Vic Morrow plays him. Morrow always played rotten, miserable SOBs.
And not only does he beat his son, he tells everyone that the kid had it coming to him. That's bad.
JC: Worst of all, he wears a Yankees cap.
EN: It's all about the cap. Bad guys wear black. He's like Darth Vader challenging Obi Wan Kenobi to a light sabre duel. He'd shoot Gary Cooper in the back and not think twice.
JC: This movie was made in 1975, when the Yankees hadn't been to the Series in 11 years, and people still hated them so much that when Hollywood wanted to portray a Little League team audiences would instantly dislike, they named them the Yankees.
EN: Roy's bad, no doubt. How about the Barbara Hershey double-header, though, as Harriet Bird in "The Natural" and Myra Fleener in "Hoosiers"?
JC: Hershey is a very bad cat in both movies.
EN: In "The Natural," when she says, "Are you going to be the best there ever was, Roy?" and then, bang, shoots him, it's just the most disgusting thing. Pure evil.
JC: If that's the most shocked and disgusted you've ever been in a film you obviously never saw Kevin Costner in "Dragonfly."
EN: No, I mean it. And the way it comes right on the heels of Roy striking out the Whammer, when we're all feeling sunny and bright. Very bad.
JC: I don't see her as evil. I see her as just a whack job. She's like Glenn Close in "Fatal Attraction." She can't help herself. She's psychotic. Whereas, in "Hoosiers" ...
EN: ... she's evil on two levels. One, she should stop messing with Coach Dale and Jimmy, and let kids play. Two, there's absolutely no reason she's in the movie except to be this incredible drag. I can kind of understand the guys in the barbershop giving the new coach hell. They're just wannabe coaches who don't have anything better to do with their lives. But what's her excuse? And I can't be the only one who's concerned about her "relationship" with Jimmy. What's the deal with that?
JC: How about when she tells Coach Dale that Jimmy will never get a scholarship, because no scout will ever see him in such a small town. Yeah, like a kid who can shoot the lights out is going to go unnoticed in Indiana. Bobby Knight was probably sending him letters when he was in the fourth grade.
JC: Speaking of very bad men.
EN: Agreed. The great thing about him, though, is it's Eddie Albert playing him. There ought to be a special Oscar for best performance playing completely against type. He comes off mean and manipulative and evil, and yet you know he's the guy from "Green Acres."
JC: You wonder: When they were sitting around pitching the film and somebody said, "We have to find a warden," did some guy yell: "I know just the guy! Eddie Albert! You know, the guy with Zha-Zha and the pig, Arnold Ziffle, and that farm in Hooterville. He's our man!"
EN: But he was brilliant. The warden in "Shawshank Redemption" wishes he were capable of delivering the same subtle evil as Eddie does. He pretends to be your friend, but he'll kill you over breakfast cereal.
The other thing that cinches him as a good villain? He's got goons. You get bonus points for goons. Goons are critical. They're the big difference between the warden and Barbara Hershey's characters. The warden is not only bad, he's got a team of bad backing him up.
JC: What about The Judge (Robert Prosky) in "The Natural"?
EN: You remember how he's always sitting in the dark so you can barely see him? He's like a disembodied spirit, the way he controls light and the smoke. He appears out of nowhere in the hospital scene, too, and he's dressed as death. He looks like that creepy Gestapo agent in "Raiders for the Lost Ark."
Plus, he's got all the angles covered. He's an owner, which is bad enough. He's a corrupt politician, which is even worse. He dresses all in black, which is strike three. And on top of that, he pimps for Memo and tries to throw the big game.
JC: That's one thing that's a little unclear. He wants the Knights to lose, because then he gets full control of the team from Pop Fisher, right? But why does he want the Knights so bad? They play in a lousy stadium, no one goes to their games, and until Roy Hobbs shows up, they stink. Why does he want them?
EN: Maybe so he can sell them at an obscene profit to a group in Northern Virginia?
EN: We have to include Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) in "Rocky" on our list, too, donšt you think?
JC: Apollo is a very bad ... no, wait a minute. I get confused. Is Apollo a villain?
EN: No doubt. At least in the first film. He does all the things Roy Turner does -- he doesn't take Rocky seriously, he doesn't heed advice, he's arrogant and he mocks Rocky. And then he beats the crap out of him, of course.
But he's also a really appealing villain. He's good looking. He's funny. He's a great speaker. And he wears a nice big sequined star-spangled flag hat. Canšt beat that.
JC: He's modeled, obviously, after Ali, which is interesting. These days, we're supposed to genuflect before Ali and say that he's this beloved figure. But at the height of his career, a lot of people -- and I mean a lot -- disliked him for being a big-mouth braggart, just as the audience was supposed to instantly dislike Apollo.
EN: But Apollo becomes a lovable character later, as well, just as Ali has.
JC: That's how you can judge all the "Rocky" movies. As the franchise goes along, the villains kept getting weaker and weaker until finally he's fighting Tommy Morrison. Pathetic. Who's he going to fight next? Danny Bonaduce?
EN: So how do we rank them? Who's the best villain all-time? Išll take Warden Hazen. I don't think it gets any worse than him. He represents the state. He's the government. He has guns on his side. He makes the strong feel weak. Plus, he's emotionally manipulative and he has this weird, maniacal interest in staging his own game. He's just a very bad man. No. 1.
JC: That's all very persuasive but the No. 1 villain is Roy Turner.
EN: And you base that judgment on what?
JC: He wears a Yankees cap.
EN: Good point.
And now to the heroes, where we begin, because Jim used to help his marathoner buddy train by riding a bike ahead of him and holding a boom box that played "Gonna Fly Now," the theme song of Rocky Balboa, the Italian Stallion, in "Rocky."
JC: What makes Rocky such a compelling hero?
JC: Plus, he's loyal. He knows what league he belongs in. He hangs out in his awful apartment. He's kind to animals. He pals around with Paulie, the biggest loser in screen history. He dates homely girls. Other than the fight against Apollo -- and he doesn't even pretend to think he can win it, he just wants to go the distance -- he never attempts to reach above his class.
EN: Unlike the actor who portrays him.
JC: Can you imagine how bad a movie "Rocky" would be if Stallone made it now? He wouldn't have made himself look that way. He would have been all slick and tanned and have two percent body fat. He wouldn't have taken punches. He definitely wouldn't have gone out with someone as homely as Talia Shire.
EN: And he wouldn't have worn that basic gray sweatsuit. Which is key. Rocky makes three fashion statements that identify him as the underdog: The gloves with no fingers, the all-gray sweats and the Chuck Taylor tennis shoes.
JC: Speaking of the very stylish gray sweatsuit, Joe Pendleton (Warren Beatty) wears it in "Heaven Can Wait." It's the heroic uniform. It shows they're regular guys. And it shows what is most important is what's inside the uniform, not how many swooshes are on it.
EN: The great thing about Joe is he never gets flustered. I mean, he's dead, and he's still not flustered. He's dead, and he's up there telling James Mason there's been a mistake.
JC: I can see John Elway doing that, too.
EN: And like all good heroes, he's on a quest. He wants to win the Super Bowl. He's on such a quest that he even buys the team and convinces Jack Warden that he's come back to earth in another body. Now, that's dedication.
JC: And in the midst of his quest, he's not above chasing the babe. All eyes are on the prize until the luminous Julie Christie walks in.
EN: And even though she has probably the worst hair of her career in this movie, he chooses her over Dyan Cannon. As a Lakers fan, I can tell you, that's like when Harrison Ford correctly chooses the Holy Grail in the third Indian Jones film and the guard tells him, "You have chosen wisely."
JC: I'm sure Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) wears gray sweats in a scene they cut from "Bull Durham." It's probably in the DVD director's cut edition, the one where Robert Wuhl is replaced by a decent human being.
EN: Crash and Joe Pendleton are almost the same guy. They're both good guys, with a good sense of humor, a dash of intelligence and they can both get the babes. But Crash has the lovable loser element working for him, too.
JC: Now, I know Kevin Costner in recent years has become a bit of an insufferable joke, but we have to give him his props here. His may be the finest athletic performance by an actor on the screen. His swing is effortless and beautiful. And from both sides.
JC: If Dave Stoller (Dennis Christopher), the bicyclist in "Breaking Away," ever won the Tour de France, I bet he would choose gray sweats over the yellow jersey.
EN: Dave is like Don Quixote. You can't tell him he's wrong. He's an absolute innocent who's got this insane idea about cycling in Italy, and you can't tell him he's delusional.
JC: And then he loses his innocence. And there's that great line after the Italian team comes to town (don't ask me why they're in Indiana), and they mess up his bike and flip him off and tell him to get lost, and he realizes he's been had. "Everyone cheats," he cries to his father, who has been incredibly unsupportive to that moment. And Paul Dooley, as the dad, just says very wisely and succinctly, "Well, now you know." Great scene.
EN: The other thing I like is the way the movie sets up the "Us-vs.-Them" drama between the Cutters and the Frat Boys.
JC: Yes. And Dave has that great group of friends: Dennis Quaid, Daniel Stern and Jackie Earle Haley. Villains get goons; Heroes get bands of merry men. I wonder what Mooch is doing these days? I mean, he was a big child star and then he just disappeared. Celebrity boxing can't even find him.
EN: Speaking of merry men, I nominate Coach Reggie Dunlop (Paul Newman) in "Slap Shot." He is so cool. He doesn't wear gray sweats, but he wears a full-length leather coat with a fur collar and he makes it work.
Plus, he's a last-chance hero. The Charleston Chiefs play in a dying industrial city, and the team is dying right along with the town, and they're all going to disappear if they don't win. And then Reg turns them into winners. And he sticks it to the owners, which is a bonus.
JC: Let's not complicate this. A person can get into a lot of complicated arguments about the character and what he represents, but I think you can explain what makes Dunlop so cool with a few simple words: He's Paul Newman, man.
EN: Fair enough. I also like that he's not a romantic, and yet he is a romantic without ever trying to be one. Which is the direct opposite of Rudy (Sean Astin) in the movie "Rudy," by the way.
JC: Rudy is not a hero. Rudy is just not very bright.
EN: Rudy makes Rocky look smart.
JC: What about other hero candidates? Like Jimmy Chitwood in "Hoosiers," Dottie Henson in "A League of Their Own" and the Karate Kid?
EN: Chitwood isn't a hero. He has that great line -- "I play, coach stays. He goes, I go" -- but other than that, he's just a shooter. Plus, did you know, in real life the actor's name is Maris? Does it get less heroic than that?
I would include Dottie, but she leaves the team and Geena Davis delivers a completely wooden performance. And how can you consider Ralph Macchio a hero?
I do like Paul Crewe from "The Longest Yard," though.
JC: On the grounds that he's Burt Reynolds.
EN: Good point.
JC: So who does that leave as our No. 1 sports movie hero? I think you have to go with Rocky.
EN: I would, but how do you factor in "Rocky IV" and "V" and the threat of "Rocky VI"? If Stallone killed the "Rocky VI" project right now, I'd be willing to name him the greatest sports movie hero of all-time, but if he makes the movie, Rocky falls out of the top five.
JC: So is it Joe Pendleton or Reggie Dunlop?
JC: But what about Joe Pendleton? Talk about a hero. He comes back from the dead. Twice.
EN: Overcoming death is nothing compared to overcoming Charleston during the recession. Now, that's a resurrection.
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.