Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Hoosiers: A Fall Classic

I love Autumn.  I love the way that the season makes cold weather pleasurable, even preferable, with the crisp air that seems fresher than at any other time of the year and the clouds that hang low to create beautiful sunsets.  I love the leaves and the breezes and the apple cider.  Autumn is a time to slow down and look around - to quietly regroup and reflect.  For me, the movie that best captures the feeling of Fall is Hoosiers.

Basketball has always been my least favorite sport.  It is boring to watch and I never learned how to play so I stayed away from Hoosiers for years out of distaste for the game.  I finally caught up with it on TV during the 90s and I was blown away.  The film is not really about basketball at all, but about second chances and the passage of time.  It creates a world I want to live in.  Director David Anspaugh sets the tone wonderfully during the opening credits as Norman Dale (Gene Hackman in his finest role) drives into the minuscule town of Hickory, Indiana to take a job coaching the high school basketball team in 1954.  Jerry Goldsmith's calming score plays over images of rural farmland during the autumn harvest.

Coach Dale has come looking for a fresh start after being fired from coaching college ball.  He encounters some resistance in the local townsfolk due to his unusual methods, but the film does not dwell on these conflicts.  Rather, Hoosiers focuses on the sweet side of human nature.  The coach is tough on his players, but he respects them and finds time to help the town drunk (Dennis Hopper) regain respectability.  He is fundamentally decent just as all the characters are - just as most people in real life are.  There is no need for a cartoonish villain because the characters put pressure on themselves.  They want to become better people.  We all know that the movie will end with the team winning the big game, but the journey is what keeps me coming back to Hoosiers.  The film moves at a leisurely pace and to me is like taking a long stroll on a cool Autumn day.


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