Friday Favorites 8/26/2010

Last Saturday night, a victim of either a mild intestinal bug or too much Happy Hour Food on Friday, I spent the evening in bed.   To pass the time, I looked through my small collection of movies I could watch repeatedly and came up with The Legend of Bagger VanceBagger Vance takes place in 1930, when in the midst of the depression, Adele (Charlize Theron) cons Bobby Jones (Joel Gretsch) and Walter Hagen (Bruce McGill) into playing an exhibition match at the nearly bankrupt Savannah golf course built by her father before his death.  To make the match more interesting to the people of Savannah, she recruits once promising local golfer … and former fiance … Rannulph Junuh (Matt Damon) to play as well.  Junuh has been living as a recluse and a drunk following the tragic slaughter of his company of fellow Savannah men during the war.  A mysterious caddy named Bagger Vance appears to guide Junuh back to his authentic swing … and put the wartime trauma behind him.   The film is beautifully photographed with the setting, the costumes and the cast perfectly reflecting the tarnished elegance of Savannah in the 1930s.  The story is related from the point of view of  a young boy, Hardy Greaves, who is also taught the life-lessons golf offers by Bagger.   Jack Lemmon appears, uncredited, at the film’s beginning and end as an aging Hardy, still playing golf … and occasionally narrating scenes.

I’m not a golfer but if there’s a film that could make me one, Bagger Vance is it.  In the hierarchy of sports movies, it doesn’t make the top ten of any list I could find, falling below even Caddyshack on NBC’s list of Ten Best Sports Movies.   It doesn’t fare that well on Rotten Tomatoes, either.   The film is admittedly slow at times but the pace and visual treatment give it a nearly spiritual atmosphere, as if Bagger were an angel or a spirit guide.  That’s probably because it is roughly based on a story from the Hindu scriptural poem, the Bhagavad-Gita in which the Supreme Personality, Bhagavan, helps his follower, Arjuna, understand much about war and about life, a fact I was unaware of until today.  I was also surprised that several African-American writers, including Spike Lee, condemned the use of what they called the magical negro as a plot device.  I’ll save my opinions on political correctness and Spike Lee for a curmudgeonly rant but offer the film as my Friday Favorite … not everybody’s cup of golf but certainly mine.  This video includes three scenes that capture what I love about The Legend of Bagger Vance.

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