Super Bowl Sunday, climax of the American Bread & Circuses year, is tomorrow. If, like Your Humble Narrator, you have little interest in the game, but would still like to mark the occasion, let me suggest my favorite football movie, The Best of Times, celebrating its 25th Anniversary this year.
This was not a big hit for star Robin Williams, but it’s my favorite of his films, too. He’s wonderfully nutty, yet believable, as a bank manager in Taft, California, who’s convinced that his high school failure to catch a beautifully-thrown pass in The Big Game against Bakersfield years earlier is the root of his lifelong sense of failure & mediocrity.
Through scheming & bullying, he manages to convince his old teammates—including the locally legendary QB, Kurt Russell—& the Bakersfield team to replay the game as middle-aged men. Disgust over this ridiculous project leads to trouble for both men with their wives (Holly Palance & Pamela Reed, respectively).
Directed by Peckinpah editor Roger Spottiswoode, The Best of Times was written by Ron Shelton, more famous for Bull Durham (1988), & other sports comedies. But good as Bull Durham is—& much as I prefer the sport it’s about to football—I still prefer The Best of Times: it’s warmer, more generous, more truly zany, less self-consciously rhapsodic (& therefore, to my mind, more authentically mystical), & above all, more honest about football, & the many ways in which, for all that Shelton clearly loves it, he knows it’s bad for us: physically, socially, culturally & spiritually.
RIP to Maria Schneider of Last Tango in Paris, passed on too young at 58.