SVS: “Hoosiers”

SVS: “Hoosiers” January 30, 2015

HoosiersPosterFor some (let’s say “inexplicable,” which is significantly gentler than the first “i” word I thought to put there) reason, whenever the rich cinematic world of the Cliché-Riddled Inspirational Sports Movie (C-RISM) is mentioned in my presence, the first film that comes to mind is Hoosiers. Every single time. Without exception.

Coincidentally (or not), Hoosiers is currently available from either AMAZON PRIME or HULU PLUS, and rentable through AMAZON INSTANT($) and YOUTUBE($).

High school basketball is king in small-town Indiana, and the 1954 Hickory Huskers are all hope and no talent. But their new coach, abrasive and unlikable Norman Dale, whips the team into shape … while also inciting controversy.

Yeah, I cringed a little when I heard the booming, Voice-of-God intoning that “They needed a second chance to finish first” line, but it’s a sports movie, right? Cliches are not just along for the ride, they’re the very fabric from which a sports film’s life-blood is hewn. Or…um…something.

Ebert made a fine point in his review, I thought, when he said that “The climax of the movie will come as no great surprise to anyone who has seen other sports movies. Hoosiers works a magic, however, in getting us to really care about the fate of the team and the people depending on it.” It transcends its clichés; it purifies them.

OK, that’s a trifle strong. I don’t really think I’d describe it as a great film. But I do think it’s one of the finer C-RISMes in (relatively) recent memory, and its ranking on the Re-Watchability Index (R-WI) is surprisingly high. (OK, fine. I’ll stop with the acronyms. At least for now. That last one looks a bit too political.)

Hoosiers4Hackman’s excellent (as ever), Hopper’s a scene-stealer (which is probably why he got an Oscar nomination), and Fred Murphy’s cinematography is gratifyingly golden and Small-Town America-y. (If you can’t beat Conrad Hall, join him, I always say. Also, no one can beat CH.) The basketball is a bit underwhelming, perhaps, but all in all, it’s a very solidly made and highly enjoyable film.

And who can’t get behind that combination on a Friday night?

You know what is undeniably great, though? Its soundtrack. From the legendary Jerry Goldsmith, the Oscar-nominated score for this film is atypically electric — at least for Jerry — and fantastically propulsive. (That last characteristic is particularly important when it comes to sports films, methinks.) Just give a listen to “The Pivot.” If that doesn’t get your blood going… …maybe you should try Goldsmith’s work on his other cinematic collaboration with director David Anspaugh, the #2 film on my “Most Quickly-Remembered C-RISM” list: Rudy. (You could watch that one, too, if you’d like. It’s on NETFLIX INSTANT.)


Attribution(s): All posters, publicity images, and movie stills are the property of Orion Pictures/MGM and other respective production studios and distributors, and are intended for editorial use only.

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