' ' Cinema Romantico: Untitled Post

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Untitled Post

These days, 30-plus years after its release, when we talk about “Hoosiers” (1986), we tend to talk about it through a social, romantic or analytic lens. The first two I’m ok with, the last less so, a strain of the deGrasse Tyson school of film criticism filtered through the Bill Simmons sensibility, debating, like, whether Norman Dale is a good game coach or how Jimmy Chitwood’s recruiting report would have read. What we don’t tend to talk about these days when we talk about “Hoosiers” is its aesthetic. We just sort of take Gene Hackman’s turn, holding the movie down at its center, for granted and we gloss over how director David Anspaugh opens the movie with something akin to a series of Norman Rockwell postcards before pulling the rural Indiana rug out from under us by evincing so much small-town nastiness. And we also don’t talk about the basketball scenes, at least not how they are shot.

Anspaugh mostly prefers montages set to Jerry Goldsmith’s A+ score, but occasionally “Hoosiers” lingers over game moments too. At the end, yes, when Jimmy makes the winning shot, and such, but also at the beginning in the Hickory High’s first game that goes awry. In several key moments, Anspaugh puts the camera low so that we see Merle (Kent Poole) and then, later, Rade (Steve Hollar) advancing the ball up court.

Merle has a heedful look about him but one tinged with the slightest anxiety, as if trying to adapt to his Coach’s strange four passes and then a shot strategy.

Rade, on the other hand, is head-up and alert in advancing the ball, disguising his shoot-first mentality.

Buddy (Brad Long), meanwhile, who ultimately winds up as the team’s true point guard, plays his role as facilitator of the offense with his head not down but tucked in, protectively, combining ball security with court vision.

All this popped into my mind last Saturday watching, really watching, for the first time since everything went to hell, an NBA game, between the Portland Trail Blazers and the Memphis Grizzlies with a playoff spot on the line. And more than anything, I just got lost in watching Blazers point guard Damian Lillard and Grizz point guard Ja Morant. Not just in watching them shoot and score, yada yada, but in dribbling, in watching them simply advance the ball.

Lillard has a kind of casual swagger to the way he brings the ball up court…

…while Morant looks like a damn triple jumper, hopping and skipping and then unleashing himself into the air.

And thinking about them, I thought about others. I thought about James Harden of the Rockets, who so often seems to get dinged for his foul and free throw heavy style of play though in bringing the ball up court he has this kind of incredible cocky insouciance, looking, I swear, like a 1957 Chevy Bel Air Tropical Turquoise convertible coolly cruising the streets of Havana refashioned as an NBA superstar. 

And then there’s Gabby Williams, my new favorite basketball player, a sometime-point forward, of sorts, for the Chicago Sky who epitomizes the John Wooden chestnut about being quick but not in a hurry by somehow embodying the notion of having one hand on the emergency brake and one foot on the accelerator at all times.

And...I don’t know. I’m not sure I have larger point. I just know that even without movies, even without museums, I’m still searching for beauty. And on that this past Saturday, this is where I briefly found it. 

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