“Crash” Davis (Kevin Costner), a veteran of 12 years in minor league baseball, is sent down to the single-A (advanced) Durham Bulls for a specific purpose: to educate hotshot rookie pitcher Ebby Calvin LaLoosh (Tim Robbins) about becoming a major-league talent, and to control Ebby’s haphazard pitching. Crash immediately begins calling Ebby by the degrading nickname of “Meat”, and they get off to a rocky start. Thrown into the mix is Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon), a lifelong spiritual seeker who has latched onto the “Church of Baseball” and has, every year, chosen one player on the Bulls to be her lover and student. Annie flirts with Crash and Ebby, but Crash walks out, saying he’s too much a veteran to “try out” for anything. Before he leaves, Crash further sparks Annie’s interest with a memorable speech listing the things he “believes in”, ending with “I believe in long, slow, soft, deep wet kisses that last three days… Good night”. Despite some animosity between them, Annie and Crash work, in their own ways, to shape Ebby into a big-league pitcher. Annie plays mild bondage games, reads poetry to him, and gets him to think in different ways (and gives him the nickname “Nuke”). Crash forces Nuke to learn “not to think” by letting the catcher make the pitching calls (memorably at two points telling the batters what pitch is coming after Nuke rejects his calls), and lectures him about the pressure of facing major league hitters who can hit his “heat” (fastballs). Crash also talks about the pleasure of life in “The Show” (Major League Baseball), which he briefly lived for “the 21 greatest days of my life” and to which he has tried for years to return. Meanwhile, as Nuke matures, the relationship between Annie and Crash grows, until it becomes obvious that the two of them are a more appropriate match, except for the fact that Annie and Nuke are currently a couple…

Baseball movies were not considered a viable commercial prospect in 1988 and every studio passed except for Orion Pictures, which gave writer/director Ron Shelton a USD $9 million budget, an eight-week shooting schedule, and creative freedom. Even so, many cast members accepted salaries lower than their usual due to their enthusiasm for the material. Costner was cast because of the actor’s natural athletic ability. During filming, Costner was able to hit two home runs while the cameras were rolling. The movie is partly based upon the minor league experiences of writer/director Ron Shelton and depicts the players and fans of the Durham Bulls, a minor league baseball team in Durham, North Carolina. Kurt Russell, who helped Ron Shelton develop the script, also played minor league baseball in the early-1970s. There really was a ballplayer named “Crash” Davis. Ron Shelton found his name in a baseball listing as a minor leaguer and American Legion player. Realizing that he would have to have the permission of the real Davis to use his name (and thus avoid a lawsuit). When Shelton approached Davis, he was asked “Do I (Meaning Kevin Costner) get the girl in the end?” Shelton told him he does and Davis signed off his permission. Originally, after Annie and Crash have their argument in Crash’s apartment, there was a scene in which Annie and Crash go to a bar and have a heart-to-heart talk. In the talk, Crash asks Annie why she loves baseball so much. She explains that several years before, her estranged father passed away and that the funeral took place in Florida. She was so distraught after the funeral that she wandered off and ended up at the New York Yankees spring training facility where she met legendary Yankees catcher, Thurman Munson (thus explaining her shrine to Munson seen in the film). From then on, she developed a deep-rooted love of the game. According to Ron Shelton in the DVD commentary, he cut that scene out when it was received poorly during a test screening. After the scene was removed, a second test screening was done and the movie received a high score. “Bull Durham” was ranked #5 on the American Film Institute’s list of the 10 greatest films in the genre “Sports” in June 2008. In David Ansen’s review for Newsweek magazine, he wrote that the film “works equally as a love story, a baseball fable and a comedy, while ignoring the clichés of each genre”. Roger Ebert praised Susan Sarandon’s performance in his review for the Chicago Sun-Times: “I don’t know who else they could have hired to play Annie Savoy, the Sarandon character who pledges her heart and her body to one player a season, but I doubt if the character would have worked without Sarandon’s wonderful performance”. Richard Corliss, in his review for Time, wrote, “Costner’s surly sexiness finally pays off here; abrading against Sarandon’s earth-mama geniality and Robbins’ rube egocentricity, Costner strikes sparks”. I liked this movie the first time I saw it in 1988, and I still like it. It has such a great balance between comedy, love story, sports movie and emotional drama. There´s fantastic comic timing, there´s true sparks/dynamics between Costner (just brilliant as Crash), Robbins and Sarandon, the direction is of high standard and it still manages to avoid the true clichés of each genre it does contain as said as well by David Ansen. I love the verbal fights between Costner and Sarandon. I love the speech made by Crash in what he believes in: “Well, I believe in the soul, the cock, the pussy, the small of a woman’s back, the hanging curve ball, high fiber, good scotch, that the novels of Susan Sontag are self-indulgent, overrated crap. I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf and the designated hitter. I believe in the sweet spot, soft-core pornography, opening your presents Christmas morning rather than Christmas Eve and I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days.” You just simply fall for the oh so beautiful and sexy Sarandon and her ways, but I also see myself so much in how Crash tackles her. “Bull Durham” has a lot in common with “Slap Shot”, another great sports movie, and Ron Shelton managed to get back together with Kevin Costner and create another great sports movie with “Tin Cup” back in 1996. “Bull Durham” is just a gem in my eyes. (4 out of 5)

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