There’s no other sport that inspires more emotion, rumination, and heartfelt worship than baseball, and Ron Shelton’s signature Bull Durham embodies all of these in one perfect, life-loving swoop. This slice of minor-league life remains lovable because there are no big-headed major-league egos around—just the fervent hoping to get there. No underdog triumphs, no sentimental formulas, and no baloney to be found—from Tim Robbins’s talented jerk to Susan Sarandon’s small-town groupie who’s dizzy with big-city ideas to Kevin Costner’s career-anchoring performance as the aging catcher who shoulders the responsibility of molding the uncontrollable pitcher into a star even as his own dreams of the majors sail further out of reach. The script crackles with educated wit, the minor characters are just as funny and original as the main players, and the homage to baseball is everything it should be: heartbreaking in some ways, but crazy for the game, for summer evenings, and for retaining a fiery sliver of youth deep into the middle years.
The Coen brothers do midcentury New Yawk magical realism with this high-flying launch of poppycock, which revolves around a dolt with a dream (Tim Robbins), a huge corporation with management problems, and a clockwork cosmology that, in various ways, revolves rather wondrously around New Year’s. Again, the holiday is at least half about what’s bygone, so the evocation of a fantastical, screwball Gotham, shrouded in late December snow, makes this film a seasonal shoo-in.