On March 7, 2015, the seedings and pairings were announced for for March Madness, Hollywood Style. We have seen my results of the East and Mid-West regions, so we now turn to the South Region of the “Round of 64.” The match-up summaries and results are as follows:
Top of the Bracket:
Remember The Titans (Football, 2000) # 1 Seed
One on One (Basketball, 1977) #16 Seed
Virtually everyone remembers Denzel Washington and The Titans so I will tell you about “One on One.” It starred Robby Benson who played Henry Steele, a soft spoken young man who had Pete Maravich-like skills. Steele was recruited to play college basketball for an established old school style basketball program created by a rigid and disciplinarian coach. The story focuses on the bad fit between the Steele and the program. Much like Woody Harrelson in “White Men Can’t Jump,” Benson had basketball skills. OK, enough said. No #16 seed has ever defeated a #1 seed and the result here is the same. “Remember The Titans” advances.
We Are Marshall (Football, 2006) #8 Seed
Glory Road (Basketball, 2006) #9 Seed
“We Are Marshall” starred Academy Award Winner Matthew McConaughey as Head Football Coach Jack Lengyel. It is based upon the 1970 true life tragedy in which 75 members of the Marshall University Football family were killed in a plane crash. It is an inspiring story but not a great film. I am a McConaughey fan but he is guilty of overacting in this film, turning his character into somewhat of a caricature. “Glory Road” is another inspiring true story, focused on racial segregation and the heroic commitment made by Texas Western College (now known as UTEP) Head Coach Don Haskins to allow equal opportunities for African American athletes. Haskins started five African American players in the 1966 National Championship game victory against the favored all-white squad of Kentucky. Unlike McConaughey, Josh Lucas did not overplay his role as Haskins and for that reason, “Glory Road” nudges “We Are Marshall” for the upset victory as another #8 seed fails to advance to the Round of 32.
Round of 32 match-up: #9 “Glory Road” against #1 “Remember The Titans.”
Friday Night Lights (Football, 2004) #4 Seed
Varsity Blues (Football, 1999) #13 Seed
“Varsity Blues” followed a film like “All The Right Moves” (the #14 seed below) to fill the high school football-based genre. Jon Voight was phenomenal playing the role of head coach Bud Kilmer. He portrayed everything we hate about self-absorbed high school coaches who think the program is about them rather than the development of boys into men. Five years after “Varsity Blues” was released, “Friday Night Lights” lit up the big screen starring Billy Bob Thornton as Permian High School head football coach Gary Gaines. Based upon the real life observations of author H.G. Bissinger who spent the 1988 season in Odessa, Texas, “Friday Night Lights” was a probably the best version of the same line of stories filled by its predecessors. It went on to be a pretty good TV series and it wins in this opening round.
Ali (Boxing, 2001) #5 Seed
Cool Runnings (Olympic Bobsledding, 1993) #12 Seed
Will Smith did a really good job portraying “The Greatest,” Muhammad Ali. Jamie Foxx, Ron Silver and Jon Voight rounded out a great cast of actors. The film focused on Ali’s rise to the top and culminates with his upset victory over seemingly unbeatable George Foreman in the famous 1974 “Rumble In The Jungle” in Zaire, Africa. It would be hard to knockout this film but that is exactly what “Cool Runnings” does. This film, which loosely portrays the Jamaican Bobsled Team’s experiences leading up to and during the 1998 Calgary Winter Olympics, caught everyone by surprise in 1993. It cost around $14 million to make and grossed about ten times that amount at the box office. “Cool Runnings” upsets “Ali” in this Round of 64.
Round of 32 match-up: #4 “Friday Night Lights” against #12 “Cool Runnings.”
Bottom of the East Bracket:
Bull Durham (Baseball, 1988) # 2 Seed
Vision Quest (Wrestling, 1985) #15 Seed
“Bull Durham” is considered by many as one of the best films of all-time, not limited to the sports genre. Kevin Costner stars as Crash Davis, a career minor leaguer who is asked to help mentor a young and coming pitcher, Nuke LaLoosh, who is on track to go to “the show” (big leagues). Susan Sarandon is incredible as Annie Savoy, who plays what was at time in the past referred to as a “Baseball Annie.” As an interesting aside, the first name associated with the “Baseball Annie” term (which also means “groupie”) was Ruth Ann Steinhagen. She allegedly shot a first baseman for the Phillies in 1949 and is purported to be part of the inspiration for the book “The Natural.” In any event, “Bull Durham” works on every level. As for “Vision Quest,” it falls in the “likely never heard of” category but it is worth searching out. Matthew Modine plays a high school wrestler who decides to drop two weight classes in order to take on the best wrestler in the state. Linda Fiorentino is convincing as the older-woman love interest. “Vision Quest” belonged in this tournament but will not make it to “The Show” against the likes of “Bull Durham.”
Days of Thunder (Auto Racing, 1990) #7 Seed
Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby (Auto Racing, 2006) #10 Seed
In “Days of Thunder,” Tom Cruise paired up with acting great Robert Duvall in this Hollywood portrayal of NASCAR type racing. The film is predictable but provides a reasonably entertaining two hours. Talladega Nights is the Will Farrell version of NASCAR. As is true for many of Farrell’s films, it is dumb enough to actually be funny. The final race scene, where Farrell ends up in a foot race against the character played by Sasha Baron Cohen is quite funny. But stupid is as stupid does, and “Talladega Nights” cannot compete against “Days of Thunder,” who wins more because of the match-up than on its own merit.
Round of 32 match-up: #2 “Bull Durham” against #7 “Days of Thunder”
Tin Cup (Golf, 1996) # 3 Seed
All The Right Moves (Football, 1983) #14 Seed
As mentioned above, “All The Right Moves” is in the same category of film genre as “Varsity Blues” and “Friday Night Lights.” It takes place in a Western Pennsylvania town and focuses on high school football player Stef Djordjevic, played by Tom Cruise, who is hoping to use football as a way out of a steel mill career. There is a memorable performance by Craig T. Nelson, who plays Coach Nickerson, and is more recently lauded for his role of Zeke in the TV series Parenthood. But here, Kevin Costner again has all the right moves. One of two things is becoming obvious: either I am a big Kevin Costner fan when you consider how many of his films have made this field, or he makes really good sports genre movies. I think both are true. He was terrific in “Tin Cup” and the supporting role played by Cheech Marin (of comedy greats “Cheech and Chong”) added to the story line. The scene between Costner and Rene Russo at the 18th hole of the final round was among the most memorable with Hollywood not thinking the good guy has to win it all for it to have a great ending. Costner’s second team in this region alone moves on.
Bang The Drum Slowly (Baseball, 1973) #6 Seed
The Wrestler (Wrestling, 2008) #11 Seed
Most of you are likely not familiar with “Bang The Drum Slowly.” It focused on the relationship of two baseball players for a fictional team, one of whom (played by acting legend Robert DeNiro) is diagnosed with a terminal illness. At the time of its release, it dealt with the relationships between players and baseball in general in a more realistic fashion than did films like “Pride of the Yankees,” which remains one of my all-time favorites but could not qualify for this tournament (since it was not released within the last 50 years). “The Wrestler” is one of the great surprise films of all time. Mickey Rourke starred as Randy “The Ram” Robinson, a fictional professional wrestling star from the 1980s. He played a washed-up and badly damaged wrestler. Frankly, that role was not significantly different than Rourke’s acting career at the time of its release and this film put him back on the map. Marisa Tomei was scintillating and was nominated for an Oscar in her role as the stripper-girlfriend of “The Ram.” “Bang The Drum Slowly” is down for the count after being pinned by upset-minded “The Wrestler.”
Round of 32 match-up: #3 “Tin Cup” against #11 “The Wrestler.”
Next up: The West Region round of 64.