Someone sent me a tweet this week asking me to recommend some sports movies from the 80's that he should watch. That inspired this column.
2011 is a year where I am going to spend a lot of time saying to myself and similarly aged friends, "That was 25 years ago?!" Songs, movies, sporting events, personal events... It's going to be a year of fond memories.
In 1986 I was 19 years old. When you are 19 you are the flag bearer for independence. When you're 19 you're in college, starting to feel like a real grownup, but you are far enough away from graduating that you don't have to worry about being a real grownup.
When I was 19 the world was in my wheelhouse. The Mets were great, the Broncos were riding high, parts of my body that were once destined to be a vestigial organ were now serving their purpose. If someone drove into my driveway tomorrow in a Delorean that had a flux capacitor firing on all cylinders, I'd hop right in, set the date for 1986 and floor it. Sadly, that ain't happening. So the best thing I can do for some of you who were born around that time is impart some insight about the entertainment of that era that may not be on your radar. Unlike Mark Cuban, I don't mind living life in the past-lane. In fact, I excel at it. So let's begin by looking at the sports movies released in 1986 and rank them in order of must-see, going from best to worst.
Hoosiers: Even if you were born in 1986, or after, if you are any kind of sports fan and haven't seen this movie then you deserve to be flogged with Gene Hackman's resume. I played basketball my entire life and at 19 was at the zenith of my love for the game, so it's not surprising that Coach Dale, Jimmy Chitwood and the rest of the Huskers blew me away. But by any standard, this is a classic film. Excellent basketball scenes, lots of quotable lines and multiple chill-scenes, including this one, which did everything but bring in the Rocky music toward the end to signify the turning point http://tinyurl.com/46m2ng3. Not seeing this film would be the biggest air ball of your sports movie viewing career.
Lucas: Corey Haim and Charlie Sheen. Seriously. Together. In the same movie. Throw in a young Winona Ryder, Courtney Thorne-Smith and Jeremy Piven and the rewatchability factor of this movie is higher than Sheen himself on any given day. Who can refuse a movie that features a plot summary like this?
A socially inept fourteen year old experiences heartbreak for the first time when his two best friends--one an older-brother figure, the other a girl with whom he is in love-- fall for each other.
Watch the trailer and tell me you don't want to see it http://tinyurl.com/ykq2yhy
Can you imagine being the girl caught in a Haim-Sheen-You love triangle? You have a better chance of surviving a menage-a-trois with Andre the Giant and Yokozuna. Poor Kerri Green was so frazzled she has only made 3 movies in the ensuing 19 years.
The Color of Money: You can debate if pool is a sport, I don't feel strongly either way. Paul Newman won an Oscar for his role and Tom Cruise was coming off Top Gun, just starting to emerge as a bona fide star. This was a Hollywood Heartthrob Passing of the Torch if ever there was one. Looking at it now it's hard not to notice a similarity to Charlie Sheen in looks and attitude by Cruise, especially in this scene. http://tinyurl.com/4eeve2t
The film did receive "two thumbs down" from Siskel and Ebert, for what that's worth. (If you are 19 today do you even know who those people are?) It sports a solid soundtrack with performances by Eric Clapton, Don Henley, B.B. King, Mark Knopfler, Robert Palmer and Warren Zevon.
Youngblood: A while back Bill Simmons ranked this film 52nd on his list of sports movies and gave it an A+ on the Unintentional Comedy Scale. This one features Rob Lowe and Patrick Swayze with Keanu Reeves thrown in for unintentional comedic purposes. Good thing this is a hockey movie otherwise there would have been a world record set for most hair product used on one movie set. The need to wear helmets and look sweaty saved the day. Rob Lowe learned how to skate for the movie, which proved to be about as effective as Sly Stallone learning to sing for Rhinestone. It gets my vote for least inspiring sports movie trailer of all time.
The Karate Kid 2: This was the 2nd highest grossing film of '86. That tells you how much the movie industry benefited from the absence of the Internet back in the day. Before the Internet people would rush to see sequels if the first movie was good because, well, the first movie was good. Other than Siskel and Ebert pointing their thumbs up or down, there wasn't a whole lot of movie reviewing. Now a movie can get a world-wide karate kick to the man-area before it even opens. So in '86 when KK2 came out and Mr. Miyagi and Daniel were back in action, America flocked to the theaters like they were giving away free leg warmers. But most of the movie felt like a bad Happy Days episode and when your climactic scene concludes with Daniel tweaking his adversary's nose, well, let's just say it's not exactly Rocky knocking out Drago. The trailer tried to sell the coming of age angle, but since Daniel looked like he was 14 in this movie, it was tough to buy. http://tinyurl.com/4eth6oe
Others: Wildcats, The Best of Times, American Anthem: I will save you the pain of reviewing these 3 less-than-stellar films. Just know this, in Wildcats Kate Hudson's mom plays a football coach. In The Best of Times the guy who was the voice of the genie in Aladdin (the Disney movie you loved when you were 6 or 7) is the hero in a high school reunion football game. And in American Anthem, Mitch Gaylord (an actual gymnast) is inspired to return to gymnastics by Wayne Gretzky's wife. Sadly, Kate Hudson's mom is more believable in her role than Gaylord was in his.
1986 was not the best year for sports movies but it did produce one of my top 3 favorites in Hoosiers. As 2011 goes on I will continue to take you back 25 years and share with you some of the things that made 1986 so memorable.