The Set of 400: #181 – My Favorite Barehanded Catch

Today! Because this is what it’s going to be like in the factories, too, I suppose, isn’t it? The men are back, Rosie, turn in your rivets –

A League of Their Own (1992)

Directed by Penny Marshall

Starring Geena Davis, Lori Petty, Tom Hanks (x3), Madonna (x3), Rosie O’Donnell, Jon Lovitz, David Strathairn (x2), Garry Marshall (x3), Megan Cavanagh (x2), Anne Ramsay, Ann Cusack (x2), Tracy Reiner, Bitty Schram, Freddie Simpson, Renee Coleman, Bill Pullman (x3), Don S. Davis, Harry Shearer (x2), Tea Leoni (x2), Joey Slotnick, Eddie Mekka, Mark Holton (x3), David L. Lander (x2)

The best baseball movie ever made (take that, The Natural!) and the funniest (suck it, Major League!), A League of Their Own gave us so much – it was a long overdue history lesson about the WWII-era women’s professional baseball organization, the AAGPBL (that is a mouthful of an acronym, too); it’s an insight into the world back home during the great war and the unbelievable pressure on the wives and girlfriends stateside; it’s a riveting sports movie with many of the typical beats but executed at a very high level; it manages to swing expertly from hilarious to heartbreaking without losing any strength or momentum. And it’s ridiculously the third Madonna movie on this list, which I’m as amazed by as you are.

Who’s That Girl did not make the list!

Just to digress, maybe Madonna was a way better actress than we gave her credit for. I mean, okay, here and in #196 Dick Tracy, she’s basically just playing up the oversexed vamp thing, but for laughs in both cases. #369 Evita succeeds in spite of her shortcomings as a Broadway style singer, but she really doesn’t damage the film by her presence, so carefully was the film crafted to highlight the stars’ strengths. I’ve never seen Desperately Seeking Susan, but maybe it’s about time! (This also reminds me of the frequent joke between the wife and I – that when we’re exhausted and want to go to sleep, we’re “desperately seeking snoozin’.” Feel free to use this around your loved ones!)

This movie also lands at the tail end of Tom Hanks’ pure comedy career. Sure, there was still Forrest Gump to come – which, while funny, is more in the dramedy range, right? – and some rom-coms, and…The Ladykillers, I guess? But it’s funny to reflect on the first decade of his film career, in relation to everything that followed, when he became the perennial Oscar staple/American treasure he is today. I’ve got a theory that the real reason his David S. Pumpkins on Saturday Night Live got so popular is that we didn’t realize how much we missed wacky Tom Hanks comedy all these years. And there is little better than his washed-up, hard-drinking big leaguer turned coach Jimmy Duggan.

But none of this is to take away from the terrific work by Geena Davis and Lori Petty driving this story. Their fun, contentious interplay provides the emotional backbone of the plot, right to the thrilling big-game ending. And just enough character and shading are given to their Rockford Peach teammates as to round out this truly great movie. Baseball is tough on film – I think I mentioned this somewhere before – which is perhaps why so few good ones have gotten made. Some okay biopics, maybe? Pride of the Yankees, if you’re into pinstripes? But really, it’s a thin group. (I am now questioning my ranking that omitted Major League. That feels like an oversight ten-year-old Joe would violently object to.)

Davis was nominated for a Golden Globe for Actress – Comedy or Musical, as was the mediocre Madonna song “This Used to Be My Playground,” but that’s about it. Whatever happened to the American Comedy Awards? I don’t usually mention them, because they always felt like just an excuse for an awards show, but at least there was some genre recognition going on! Shame!

I would like to give film MVP to Stillwell angel, both child and adult, Justin Scheller and Mark Holton. 

The huge cast features loads of new Two-Timers, but it also has five folks going to the Threes – Hanks (in his first live-action list appearance, after #240 Toy Story 2 and #234 The Simpsons Movie), MVP Holton (#210 The Naked Gun and #371 Pee-wee’s Big Adventure), Pullman (#318 Independence Day and #198 Spaceballs), Garry Marshall (#259 Soapdish and #334 Lost in America), and, yes, Madonna.

Everyone’s favorite Madonna movie is still the “Vogue” video, right?

Oh, and hey, it’s Christmas! Merry Christmas!

Coming tomorrow! If Jesus came back and saw what’s going on in his name, he’d never stop throwing up –

(The previous two sentences were not partnered intentionally, but I do like the way they fit together)

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