Quick: What's the absolute best basketball movie ever made? Not a documentary.
It took you a second, didn't it? The answer is Hoosiers. If you're more nuanced, it might be He Got Game. If you want to sound smart and can Google quickly, maybe you said Cornbread, Earl and Me.
But for the majority of sports-movie fans, it's Hoosiers.
The tale of a coach (Gene Hackman) in the heartland of the '50s coaching a bunch of kids to victory in the brave new world of basketball is the prototype of the modern sports movie. It's got underdogs. It's got characters with real issues. It's grounded in a past era. And it's whiter than an Oscar party.
The trouble with 1986's Hoosiers isn't that it's not a good movie. It really is. It's a great sports film. The problem is what makes it arguably the best basketball film ever made (again, due respect to He Got Game), which is that nobody seems to know how the hell to make a good basketball movie. And hardly anyone's tried. Which is amazing.
Of the narratives that feature basketball as a central theme, the overwhelming majority are utterly garbage. How the hell a sport beloved by millions can't seem to make it to the screen without Bugs Bunny fielding rebounds, a dude in drag, a prepubescent rapper or a goddamn golden retriever dunking is dumbfounding. Even the better, more straightforward movies are simply clones of the Remember the Titans formula—which is itself heavily reliant on the Hoosiers blueprint—and I've yet to meet a single person who claims Coach Carter or Glory Road as a movie they love.
When the most memorable part of White Men Can't Jump is Rosie Perez on Jeopardy! and the college hoops drama Blue Chips is most fondly remembered as "that movie where Shaq wasn't a genie," there's a problem.
Basketball's a highly kinetic sport, mind you. It's tailor-made for fast cross-cuts, Zack Snyder-esque shots of hardwood warriors flying through the air and white-knuckle countdowns. The players are larger than life, too. In a subgenre so prone to biopics, who wouldn't want to see a film about the rise of Dr. J or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar? Kareem was a legend, and he trained with Bruce Lee. Or maybe something about Michigan State's Flintstones—a group of ragtag street kids who went on to team up on a national championship. Or how about anything that, you know, uses the sport as a way to discuss the meaning of sports to disenfranchised youth across generations. Hollywood loves that shit.
That's the thing. We live in a modern cinematic world where fondness for baseball's heyday is deemed the stuff of movie gold. One where we've got more great hockey movies than we have good basketball ones. One where the list of the greatest sports movies of all rime are 75 percent baseball, 20 percent movies in which sports takes a backseat to other drama (Raging Bull and, once again, He Got Game), and one or two are about the actual sport of basketball and the people who play it. That's got to change.
Until it does, a 30-year-old film about white kids in Indiana in the 1950s is the best thing we've got. That and Daffy Duck. He's black, at least.
SEE IT: Hoosiers opens Saturday, March 19, at Mission Theater.
There are bad Godzilla knockoffs. Then there's South Korea's gleefully dismal Yongary. Joy Cinema. 9:15 pm Wednesday, March 16.
The NW Film Center's Wim Wenders retrospective continues with the ethereal 1987 German classic Wings of Desire (Saturday) and the Wenders-produced 1978 family drama The Left-Handed Woman. NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium. See NWFilm.org for full listings.
Church of Film's Folk Supernatural series unearths Czech New Wave master Juraj Herz's grim take on Beauty and the Beast. North Star Ballroom. 8 pm Wednesday, March 16.
Mahtin Scorsese's The Departed celebrates 10 years of sometimes on, sometimes off Bahston accents Mission Theater. 5:30 on Wednesday ,March 16.
The tale of Scottish hero William Wallace's fight for freedom from English oppression, Braveheart is a monumental film, both in its sweeping scope and it's ability to go nearly three hours without director Mel Gibson inserting blatant anti-Semitism. Mission Theater. 8 pm Wednesday & 4 pm Saturday, March 16 & 19.
The NW Film Center launches a series of films from the prestigious UCLA Film & Television archive, among them Anthony Mann's influential 1957 game-changer Men of War (Friday), John Ford's underseen 1940 drama The Long Voyage Home (Saturday), the 1927 Mary Pickford silent romance My Best Girl (Sunday) and more. Opens Friday, March 18. See NWFilm.org for full listings.
Not all kids caught on to the wonders of Wes Anderson's stop-motion caper Fantastic Mr. Fox, but those who did likely mastered the art of swearing without actually swearing. Academy Theater. Friday-Thursday, March 18-24.
Luc Besson's The Fifth Element might be the most batshit crazy sci-fi film of the '90s, if only because it expects you to believe that Bruce Willis has hair. Blonde hair. Oh, and there are flying cars and stuff too. Laurelhurst Theater. Friday-Thursday, March 19-24.
In Omega Man, Charlton Heston uses his status as the last man on Earth as an excuse to roll around an abandoned city in a convertible while wearing what appears to be a stripper's military outfit, shooting a bunch of albino vampire Black Panthers and generally having a better time than Will Smith did with the same material in I Am Legend. Hollywood Theatre. 7:30 pm Friday, March 18.
All that stuff I just said about basketball movies being shitty? Well, Field of Dreams is yet another example of a great sports movie that has nothing to do with basketball. Hollywood Theatre. 2pm Saturday-Sunday, March 19-20.
The Hollywood's Light & Shadow cinematography series focuses on Terrance Malick's Nestor ALmendros/Haskell Wexler-lensed 1978 classic Days of Heaven. Hollywood Theatre. 7:30 pm Saturday, March 19.
1994's On Deadly Ground is a misunderstood masterpiece of environmental filmmaking, one that correctly asserts that perhaps the real solution to our world's pollution problems is to have Steven Seagal rabbit-punch climate change directly in the fucking throat until it chokes to death on its own blood. Some day, it will be studied by scholars. For now, see it in Hecklevision. Hollywood Theatre. 9:30 pm Saturday, March 19.
Director Antero Alli hosts a Q&A following a screening of his 2011 cult thriller To Dream of Falling Upwards, a film focused on an urban sex sorcerer's voyage through the bizarre underworld of the modern occult. Clinton Street Theater. 7:30 pm Suncay, Marcch 20.
The Hollywood bids farewell to San Antonio-bound Red Bat Press leader, Hidden Portland for the Curious curator and "Bathlandia" host Carye Bye with a series of films that focus on bathtubs and bikes, including Buster Keaton's One Week, and the Bing Crosby-in-the-bath short Dream House. Hollywood Theatre. 7:30 pm Monday, March 21.
The Grindhouse Film Fest fires up the classic Peter Fonda road-rage classic Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry. Hollywood Theatre. 7:30 pm Tuesday, March 22.
Death Café goes to the movies takes a break from depressing documentaries to make room for The Sea Inside, a depressing (and magnificent!) feature starring Javier Bardem as a fisherman who fights for death with dignity after an accident leaves him a quadriplegic. Clinton Street Theater. 7 pm Tuesday, March 22.