A good, if depressing, baseball movie. Funny that it was made in the 80’s and not more recently – a writer today could make some good parallels to today’s baseball fans feeling cheated after the steroid scandals.

Sayles is good with ensembles, and he masterfully introduces most of the players and other characters mid-game at the beginning of the movie. The movie was high-quality throughout even if it didn’t blow me away. I thought each game of the world series was too montagey, though I don’t have a better suggestion of how to get through eight baseball games in a two-hour movie. Katy liked how it showed the strained personal relationships on the field when the team started underperforming – especially strained since some team members weren’t in on the fix and didn’t know why their teammates were playing such crappy ball. I also dug how the sports reporters kept scorecards on possible cheaters, gathering evidence, because who would know better than the reporters what constitutes a dodgy play? Funny how the small-time gamblers (Richard Edson and an under-used Christopher Lloyd) even testified at the trial, apparently having nothing to lose legally. The players were so screwed financially that they agreed to throw the series, and they were rewarded with a little money and with a lifetime ban from the sport.

John Cusack (fresh off Tapeheads) plays a neighborhood boy who grudgingly accepts the situation but tries not to look too bad in public, or get dragged down into the scandal. His teammates: Charlie Sheen (who directly followed this film with Major League), David Strathairn (Good Night and Good Luck) as a shame-filled pitcher, DB Sweeney (The Cutting Edge) as Shoeless Joe Jackson, Michael Rooker (Slither, star of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer) as the lead schemer, and Gordon Clapp (Sayles’ Return of the Secaucus Seven) as the frustrated catcher. Also money man Michael Lerner (the movie mogul in Barton Fink) and Comiskey (played by Clifton James of Cool Hand Luke, The Last Detail).

“If things could talkā€¦”

Our hero Lily Rabe, doing something quirky:

Mona (Lily Rabe, a little Drew Barrymorish) is on the run from her mom, dealing with mysterious strangers and memories of her deceased father who used to play a Calvinball version of tic tac toe with her on the beach. A boy finds her wallet, uses her cash to take piano lessons from teacher Kevin Corrigan (Jerry Rubin in Steal This Movie). Five animated commentators (including the voice of David Cross) play a game involving the plot and props of the movie.

D. London on guitar:

Mona likes elevator operator Daniel London (the guy who isn’t Bonny Bill Oldham in Old Joy) but they have a falling-out when Jane Lynch (of A Mighty Wind, possibly my favorite performer here) spills beer on Mona. The cartoon characters intervene, causing the woman who hired Mona (to sort through and retype mysterious papers) to have a seizure in order to reunite Mona with the elevator man and reconcile her with her mother. Possibly.

Cartoon gramma torture:

A quirky indie drama, not realistic in the slightest, but the animation and the digital tomfoolery let us know that’s intentional. Playful and childish and full of cameos (John Sayles is Mona’s landlord, Eugene Mirman is the night elevator man, Jon Benjamin is a cop, and Jon Glaser is an open-mic performer named Toooot). The first voice we hear is Robyn Hitchcock, appropriately as a train conductor.

Jane Lynch (Role Models, Smiley Face) poses next to Hubley artwork:

Hubley’s first feature, very good as far as Sundancey indies go.
Yo La Tengo provides a chill soundtrack (and connections to half the guest stars).

Watercolor self-images by Jeff Scher, whose short films I’ve been enjoying: