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Movies of 1988 Bracket Game: Rain Man Vs. Bull Durham

By just about any metric you can think of, Rain Man was the biggest movie of the year in 1988.  Not only was it the highest-grossing movie of the year, Rain Man scored four Oscar wins including major categories like Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Director.  Coming up with a natural pairing for the bracket game was a bit of a challenge.  Rain Man had already bested the year’s other prestige pictures, so sticking it with another Oscar contender seemed anti-climactic.  It’s not a perfect fit, admittedly, but I went with Bull Durham.  Like Rain Man, Bull Durham features a hot-shot kid who bros out with an older guy and learns important life lessons.  While Bull Durham is the more comedic of the two, I felt like both movies blended humor and drama.

Before we get out on the road with Dustin & Tom and Kevin & Tim, let’s review the results of yesterday’s “women’s issues” match.

The spunky secretary with a “mind for business and a bod for sin” had what it took to climb the corporate ladder in Working Girl and apparently that translates over into bracket game success because Mike Nichols’ rom-com walked away with just over 60% of the votes beating out Jodie Foster’s Oscar-winning turn in The Accused.  Some readers cited rewatchability as a factor noting that the subject matter makes The Accused difficult to revisist.  That means Melanie Griffitth will advance to the next round where she will need a lot of help from Harrison Ford and Sigourney Weaver to take on Bruce Willis in Die Hard.

Rain Man was an important movie in the careers of both of its lead actors.  According to Hoffman, he had been blacklisted for five years following his Oscar-nominated performance in Tootsie in 1982.  When Hoffman returned to the big screen, it was in the notorious flop, Ishtar.  To say the actor needed a hit was an understatement.  Believe it or not, Hoffman’s role was originally written for Bill Murray.  If Murray had accepted, Hoffman would have been offered the role played by Tom Cruise.

Just a couple of years earlier, Cruise established himself as an A-list movie star with Top Gun.  At this point in his career, he needed to prove that he was more than just a killer smile.  Like The Color of Money, Rain Man allowed Cruise to work with a top-tier director and to let a veteran actor do a lot of the heavy lifting.  All Cruise had to do was play a variation of the cocksure kid he portrayed in all of his movies from the late-eighties and early nineties and hope some of the prestige would rub off on him.

Kevin Costner was still a star-in-the-making when Bull Durham was released.  In 1987, Costner rose from obscurity with lead roles in The Untouchables and No Way Out.  Ron Shelton’s lyrical baseball comedy showcased Costner’s easy-going charm and athleticism.  Costner played baseball in high school and he took the sport very seriously.  According to Shelton, Costner insisted on throwing strikes even when the cameras weren’t rolling.

Costner’s character mentors an upstart pitcher played by Tim Robbins.  Robbins was essentially an unknown at the time.  The studio pressured Shelton to cast Anthony Michael Hall instead.  The studio relented after Shelton threatened to quit the project.  In the movie, Robbins and Costner are involved in a love triangle with Susan Sarandon’s character.  But in real life, Robbins and Sarandon became romantically involved.  Though they never married, they stayed together for more than twenty years and raised two kids.

Which movie about men discovering themselves out on the road holds up better for you?

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Posted on January 5, 2018, in Bracket Game, Movies and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. BULL DURHAM. Easily. It stands up better. And it’s still frickin’ funny.

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  2. Bull Durham seems more timeless, more repeatable, and like less of a fairy tale than Rain Man. It has more memorable lines and tells us more about life with more nuance. It’s funny and sexy and it helped make the baseball team it’s about one of the richest in all of minor league sports. The Durham Bulls won their league again this year and the movie that made them famous nationwide should win this matchup.

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  3. This one was the easiest so far. Bull Durham. It holds up quite well 30 years later. It still has Costner’s best performance, a well-written and eminently quotable script, well-drawn characters and one movie that will work well for all. You like sports? You got it. You want a love story? You got it. You like guy movies? Plenty of that here too. That’s why, although I’m not a major sports fan (I have gone to a few baseball and basketball games) I own this movie on DVD and re-watch it at least a couple times each year.

    Rain Man truthfully hasn’t held up as well. It isn’t a bad movie. But it also doesn’t reach the level of greatness you sense it wants to.

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  4. Great article Lebeau. But I think you left an important part out of this: how exactly did Hoffman feel like he was blacklisted after Tootsie? If you break it down to box office records, Tootsie was the 2nd biggest hit of the entire year only behind E.T. The Extraterrestrial – that’s pretty extraordinary. But numbers alone don’t always explain a films’ impact – Tootsie was a genuine pop cultural phenomenon in the early 80’s. I myself remember seeing it on the big movie screen as a kid, and the film getting big laughs from a mostly adult audience. Tootsie was a huge gamble – I learned that years later – but it was a huge win in every way.

    I’m not arguing your point about Hoffman feeling he was blacklisted at all, Lebeau, I just don’t understand how a total box office, critical and Oscar win like Tootsie would make Hoffman feel like he was blacklisted. Most actors would kill for a big win like this in their career.

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    • Glad you liked it. The story of Hoffman being blacklisted for much of the 80’s came to light in an interview with Gary Oldman. According to Oldman, Hoffman approached him after hearing a producer describe Oldman as a right-wing fascist. Here’s what Oldman told GQ Hoffman said to him:

      ‘Just be careful, because I said some stuff years ago. I said it to someone who was very powerful who made sure that I didn’t work for a long, long time.’ He was being quite cryptic. And then he reminded me that there was a gap — I think it was a gap between Tootsie and the next thing he did. It made me quite scared. It unnerved me. It really did unnerve me.

      No one knows what it is Hoffman reportedly said, but remember that the actor had a reputation for being extremely difficult. Hoffman’s own reputation was spoofed in Tootsie and he was also the basis for the Martin Weir character in Get Shorty. So it may have been a combination of Hoffman having pissed off the wrong person along with him having pissed off just about everyone else. Oh and I may as well throw in the fact that he was sexually assaulting women during this time. That couldn’t have helped.

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      • Thanks for the insight Lebeau. I honestly never heard this before – and to be honest, for many years I had wondered why Hoffman didn’t quickly follow up with his tremendous success from Tootsie, as it had taken America by storm in 1982. I for one had thought that Hoffman must have the world on a string after Tootsie’s gigantic success. I guess not.

        Goes to show, even the biggest of stars don’t necessarily have to play nice as human beings, but still have to toe the line politically, unfortunately.

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        • Yeah, I just looked and Hoffman didn’t make a movie between TOOTSIE in 1982 and ISHTAR in 1987. Wow.

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        • He did do the TV movie version of Death of a Salesman in ’85. Obviously that wasn’t a theatrical release. But yeah, for whatever reason Hoffman was absent from the big screen for 5 years following one of the biggest hits of his career.

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