Saturday, September 27, 2008

Paul Newman (1925-2008)

'Dunlop, you suck cock.' 'All I can get.'If you've never seen the Newman cult favorite Slap Shot, you're missing out on one of the 10 greatest sports flicks of all time. After reading about the death of Newman, whose performances I've always enjoyed watching because of what Alan Sepinwall calls Newman's "anti-vanity," I immediately popped into my DVD player the only Newman movie in my DVD collection, Slap Shot. (I wish I had a copy of Nobody's Fool in my collection, but Slap Shot sufficed.)

Every time someone posts a list of their favorite sports movies, they tend to pick the earnest ones (Rocky, Rudy, Field of Dreams, The Pride of the Yankees) as their favorites. You know, movies that make grown men cry? To borrow a classic Kay Howard line from Homicide: Life on the Street, "Oh, make me puke!" I prefer the more off-kilter and humorous sports flicks like Slap Shot, Diggstown, Breaking Away and Shaolin Soccer.

Nobody's Fool may be my favorite Newman movie, but Slap Shot contains my favorite Newman character, Reggie Dunlop, the aging hockey coach with a rather relaxed attitude towards on-the-rink behavior. Dunlop's insults are so delightfully foul-mouthed and politically incorrect that I'd hate to see what this movie is like when it airs on basic cable ("You know, your son looks like a fuddy-duddy to me. You better get married again 'cause he's gonna wind up with somebody's sock in his mouth before you can say Jack Robinson.").

I doubt TCM will include Slap Shot in its inevitable Newman marathon tribute. Even though TCM never censors its movies, I don't think they've ever aired a movie that's filled to the brim with F-bombs like Slap Shot.

Moviegoers in 1959 winced when they saw Jimmy Stewart discuss panties and sperm in the courtroom in Anatomy of a Murder. They probably had a coronary when they heard Newman curse up a storm in Slap Shot.

No wonder Newman considered Dunlop to be his favorite character and called Slap Shot the most fun movie shoot he ever did. I guess he didn't mind wearing what has to be some of the ugliest pants in movie history. (Plaid trousers? That pair of bell-bottom leather pants Newman tried to rock later in the film? Not even someone as cool as Newman in Slap Shot, Kurt Russell in Escape from New York or Eddie Murphy in his concert movies could persuade me to slip into a pair of leather pants. There are two things I'll never wear: leather pants and open-toed shoes. They're the least manly-looking pieces of fashion ever invented.)

It's interesting that Newman's final role was in another sports movie (and an animated one too!), Cars. I'm glad he went out as a talking Hudson Hornet instead of a planet-eating lardass.

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