Saturday’s Den: 20 of my favorite non-sports movies

In honor of Weekend at Bernie’s being on TV tonight. Here are 20 of my favorite non-sports movies (in alphabetical order)
Begin Again— A down-and-out music executive discovers a young singer in a New York City bar; the two go into business together. James Corden is excellent as the young lady’s friend from back home in England. If you like music, you’ll like this movie.

The Bodyguard— A former Secret Service agent becomes the bodyguard for a famous singer, but the singer thinks he works too hard at protecting her, until her attacker kills her sister.

Debbie Reynolds, Robert Wuhl, Ralph Waite (the father on The Waltons) have bit parts.

Bulworth— A suicidal politician puts a contract out on himself and takes the opportunity to be bluntly honest with his voters. In the meantime, he falls head over heels for a young lady, who turns out to be hit the hit man who was hired to kill him.

Halle Berry, Jack Warden, Don Cheadle, Paul Sorvino, Wendell Pierce; excellent cast.

Cousins— Two married people find out their spouses are having an affair with each other, which brings them closer together.

End of this movie has the two main characters (Ted Danson/Isabella Rossallini) sailing off into the sunset together. 26 years later, the final scene of CSI has William Peterson/Jorja Fox sailing off into the sunset. Very similar scenes.

Danson/Peterson were both in Cousins; they were also both head of the crime lab on CSI.

Danny Collins— An aging rock star discovers a 40-year-old letter written to him by John Lennon; he then decides to look up his son in New Jersey, who he had never met.

Quality cast: Al Pacino, Jennifer Garner, Christopher Plummer, Annette Bening.

Dave— Guy who runs a temp agency is hired by the Secret Service to become a momentary stand-in for the President of the United States- they look exactly alike. Then the President has a stroke, and the stand-in finds his role extended indefinitely.

Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver, Charles Grodin, Frank Langella, Ving Rhames, Kevin Dunn, Ben Kingsley. Quite a cast.

Fabulous Baker Boys— Two brothers play smaller clubs as dueling piano players; their business picks up when they add a beautiful, up-and-coming singer to their act. Michelle Pfeiffer is the singer; Jeff/Beau Bridges are the two brothers.

Good Will Hunting— A young janitor at M.I.T. has a gift for math, but needs help from a psychologist to find direction in his life.

Robin Williams is great in this as the psychologist; Matt Damon is the math whiz, Ben Affleck plays his friends who offers good advice now and then. Minnie Driver plays a Harvard student who is surprised that she is attracted to a janitor from south Boston.

Last Vegas— Four senior citizen friends throw a bachelor party in Las Vegas for their last remaining single pal. Robert DeNiro, Morgan Freeman, Michael Douglas, Kevin Kline, Mary Steenburgen. Quite a cast.

Leap of Faith— A huckster preacher is stranded in a small town when his tour bus breaks down; they set up their tent and put on shows in a smaller down suffering through a drought.

Steve Martin, Debra Winger, Liam Neeson, Meat Loaf, Philip Seymour Hoffman. I’m a huge Steve Martin fan; this is some of his best work.

Let It Ride— Richard Dreyfuss plays a cab driver/degenerate gambler who gets a hot tip on a race horse and wins big, and for one day, he can’t seem to stop winning.

If you’ve spent any time at the track, you’ll laugh hard at some of this stuff; Dreyfuss is great, with help from David Johansen, Jennifer Tilly, Robbie Coltrane, Teri Garr.

Lost in Translation— An aging movie star and a neglected young woman form an unlikely bond after crossing paths in Tokyo, where the movie star is getting paid a 7-figure sum to do whiskey commercials. Bill Murray is great in this non-comedic role; Scarlett Johansson is his new friend.

Molly’s Game— The true story of Molly Bloom, an Olympic-class skier who ran the world’s most exclusive high-stakes poker game after she quit skiing. This movie is a continuation of the book she wrote to help pay all her legal bills.

Book/movie are both excellent, helping prove that real life is stranger than fiction. Idris Elba, Jessica Chastain are the stars of the movie; Kevin Costner has a small role as Molly’s father.

One More Time— Christopher Walken plays a fading singer who plots his comeback, while dealing with two adult daughters with a sibling rivalry.

Oliver Platt is in this movie; he’s been in a lot of good stuff. Bulworth, A Time to Kill, The West Wing, just to name a few. Quite a resume he has.

Prince of Tides— A high school football coach from South Carolina comes to New York City to meet with his sister’s psychiatrist, after the sister threatens suicide. Because it is a movie, the two of them fall for each other, even though both of them are married.

The scene at the dinner party with the expensive violin is the best part of this movie.

Great cast: Nick Nolte, Barbra Streisand, George Carlin, Blythe Danner, Kate Nelligan.

Rounders— A young gambler who quit after being cleaned out returns to playing big stakes poker to help his sleazy friend pay off loan sharks.

Matt Damon, Edward Norton, John Malkovich, John Turturro, Martin Landau make up an excellent cast. The guys who wrote this movie also write Billions, the Showtime series.

Searching for Bobby Fischer— A sportswriter realizes that his 7-year old son is a chess prodigy, then struggles with how to help his son realize his potential.

Back in junior high, I loved chess and my last name is Fischer— this was about the same time that Bobby Fischer was a world champion at chess, so I was a big fan, although Bobby Fischer turned out to be kind of a wack job, albeit the best player in the world.

Joe Mantegna is the sportswriter, Joan Allen plays his wife. Laurence Fishburne, Ben Kingsley play the kid’s two chess mentors, who have vastly different philosophies.

Excellent movie about chess, and also about how parents push their kids, whether that’s the right thing to do or not.

A Star Is Born— A famous singer discovers a young singer in a drag bar; the two become friends, as her career takes off, while he struggles with personal problems. 

This is the fourth time this movie has been made; this version is very similar to the 1954 version, with James Mason/Judy Garland.

Bradley Cooper/Lady Gaga are the stars; Andrew Dice Clay adds a lot to the movie as her father.

This is Where I Leave You— After their father dies, four grown siblings are forced to return to their childhood home and live under the same roof for a week. 

My dad died in 2015; when I came home from the funeral, I put the TV on and this movie was on HBO, first time I had ever seen it, which was a little weird.

Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Connie Britton, Corey Stoll, Rose Byrne, Adam Driver, Jane Fonda. Impressive cast.

Weekend at Bernie’s— Two young men are trying to make their way in business; when they go to the president of the company with a serious financial error on a printout, he pretends to be thrilled and invites them to his beach house for the weekend. He actually plans on having them killed, to keep his chicanery out of sight.

The boss gets murdered because he is messing around with his work partner’s wife; the two guys then pretend Bernie is still alive, because they think they’ll get blamed for his death otherwise.

I didn’t explain that very well, but the movie is on Sundance tonight. Very funny. 

Saturday’s Den: Random baseball trivia……

13) Pitching has certainly changed a lot; from 1952-55, Robin Roberts started 154 games; he finished 118 of them, going 97-52 in those four seasons. 154 starts in four years is 38.5/year; most anyone would start now is probably 32 or so. 

12) In his Hall of Fame career, Tony Gwynn was intentionally walked 203 times; he hit only 135 home runs. 

11) Pretty sure I underestimated how productive Frank Thomas was in his career; seven years in a row, he walked 100+ times, scored 100+ runs, knocked in 100+ runs, hit .300+. 

10) Mike Mussina took five no-hitters into the 8th inning, but never threw a no-hitter. Too bad he wasn’t around for the 7-inning games in doubleheaders couple years ago.

9) Ichiro Suzuki is the only player ever with 200+ singles in a season; he did it twice. Ichiro led the American League in singles ten years in a row.

8) There are seven father/son combinations in MLB history, where both father/son made an All-Star team and father/son played the same position. 

7) Hall of Famer Larry Walker was a hockey goalie growing up in Canada; one of his teammates was NHL great Cam Neely. Walker has three brothers: Barry, Carey, Gary. His parents must have a good sense of humor. 

6) Tris Speaker was a centerfielder who, in his career, pulled off six unassisted double plays. Not sure how an outfielder did that, but he did. 

5) In 1947, Johnny Mize hit 51 homers, struck out only 42 times; I’m guessing he never heard of the term “launch angle”. 

4) Of all the players since 1961 who had 3,000+ plate appearances, these players had the best batting averages:
.338 Tony Gwynn
.331 Roberto Clemente
.328 Wade Boggs

3) In 2015, Max Scherzer came pretty close to Johnny Vander Meer territory; he threw a 1-hit shutout, giving up a 7th inning single. His next start, he threw a no-hitter, the only baserunner a hit batsman with two out in the 9th inning. 

2) Remember Phil Niekro, the great knuckleball pitcher? Turns out one of his childhood friends was NBA great John Havlicek, who apparently wasn’t very good at catching knuckleballs. 

1) Three guys who today might have been passed over in the amateur draft:
1,390th pick— Mike Piazza
574th pick— John Smoltz
511th pick— Ryne Sandberg

Going forward, amateur draft will only be 20 rounds; scouting becomes even more important now, to find the kids who fall through the cracks.

Thursday’s Den: Happy Opening Day…….

13) Two Opening Day games were already postponed until Friday by weather; Boston-New York, Seattle-Minnesota. 

12) Cincinnati Reds released OF Shogo Akiyama, eating $8M in process; Akiyama hit .224 for the Reds, with no homers and 21 RBIs in 142 games. 

11) Cleveland Guardians signed 3B Jose Ramirez to a 5-year, $124M contract extension. 

10) I said the other day the that #7-seed UConn in 2014 was the lowest-seeded team to win the national title in basketball; the 1985 Villanova Wildcats were a #8-seed- they upset Georgetown to win the national title that year. 

Since today is Opening Day of baseball season, here is my starting nine of baseball movies:
9) League of Their Own— Tom Hanks manages a team in a female professional baseball league, with Madonna as an outfielder, Geena Davis as the catcher.

Janet Jones is a pitcher for Racine; she is now better known as Mrs Wayne Gretzky. Jon Lovitz is great as a scout for the league. David L Lander is an announcer; he is best known for playing Squiggy in the old Laverne & Shirley TV show. 

8) Trouble With the Curve— Clint Eastwood is an aging baseball scout whose old-school ways are at odds with modern thinking. Justin Timberlake, John Goodman, Amy Adams are also in this underrated movie. 

7) Bad News Bears— Walter Matthau is a Little League coach in California who turns his team around by recruiting an old girlfriend’s daughter to be his team’s pitcher. Tatum O’Neal plays the pitcher; in real-life, her half-brother is Patrick O’Neal, who these days does pregame shows for the Angels and the Anaheim Ducks. 

6) The Rookie— True story of a high school baseball coach in Texas who tells his team he’ll try out for the major leagues if the team makes the playoffs. The team makes the playoffs and the coach winds up in the majors; story would be a little sketchy, except it is true. 

5) The Natural— An older ballplayer comes out of nowhere to help a struggling team make the playoffs. Robert Redford plays Roy Hobbs; Wilford Brimley is great as the manager of the New York Knights. Movie was filmed in Buffalo, where the Bills used to play before they built Rich Stadium.  

4) Little Big League— 12-year old kid inherits the Minnesota Twins after his grandfather dies; he then names himself the manager. Shaky premise but a good movie, with several big leaguers in it. 

Ashley Crow plays the kid’s mom; in real life, her son is Pete Crow-Armstrong, a first round pick of the Mets in 2020— he is now in the Cubs’ farm system. 

T3) Bull Durham— Susan Sarandon is a baseball groupie who has an affair with one player every season; when this movie was made a long time ago, the Durham Bulls were a Class A farm club. These days, they are the Tampa Bay Rays’ AAA farm team, with better pitchers than Tim Robbins.

T3) Major League— Owner of the Cleveland Indians puts together a purposely terrible team so they’ll lose and she can move the team to Miami. Movie was made before anyone realized that a baseball team in Miami was a bad idea.

Bob Uecker steals the show as the team’s radio announcer; Charlie Sheen is the relief pitcher, Tom Berenger the veteran catcher. 

2) For Love of the Game— A Hall of Fame pitcher at the tail end of his career saves his best game for last. Kevin Costner is the pitcher; JK Simmons is the manager, John C Reilly is the catcher. 

1) Moneyball— I’m an A’s fan; what did you expect? Brad Pitt plays Billy Beane, GM of a major league team that succeeds despite having a cheap owner. 20 years later and the same stuff is still going on.