Friday, March 23, 2007

Scene Gems: Gene Hackman Doesn't Take Any Guff in 'Hoosiers'



David Anspaugh's Hoosiers (1986) is a very good sports film. I won't say it's the best, which I think belongs to the first Rocky (1976), which practically invented (along with The Bad News Bears in the same year) the "sports movie" formula.

In case you've been living under a rock, the story follows coach Norman Dale (Gene Hackman), a former college basketball coach who has a troubled past. He gets another chance at teaching the sport he loves to high school kids in the 50's, after a friend gives him the job. Trouble brews with the townsfolk don't understand his unconventional methods.

Hackman is one of our best actors, and I love this scene which covers his first day of coaching. It's a great example of character definition, as we see Hackman handle the obnoxious interim coach (played by the wonderfully slimy character actor Chelcie Ross), and a couple of disobedient players. We see that Dale is firm, but fair. We also see that Jimmy Chitwood (the best player in the state) witnesses Dale's determination, which will come back to affect the story later on.

Hooisers was also notable in that it cast real basketball players who could act, instead of the reverse. This leads to some very realistic (and rousing) game sequences right to the championship at the end. Anspaugh and screenwriter Angelo Pizzo would re-team for Rudy, another effective and inspirational sports film released seven years later.

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