The Phillies are off tonight, which means you have plenty of time for other activities. But if you are a true fan, you will be spending the time preparing for the big three game series in Atlanta this weekend. I understand that preparation rituals are quite personal, and far be it from me to disturb yours, but cinephile that I am, I just can't help but suggest some must-watch films before action kicks off tomorrow night.
Glory (1989), directed by Edward Zwick: With a star-studded cast that includes Matthew Broderick, Morgan Freeman, and Denzel Washington, Glory is based on the true story of the Massachusetts 54th Volunteer Infantry. Under the leadership of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw (Broderick) during the Civil War, the 54th was the first official all-black Army regiment in U.S. history. The film portrays Shaw's struggle to turn a ragtag group of northern blacks and former slaves into a formidable unit that could contribute to the Union cause in the Civil War. The 54th suffered heavy casualties when they bravely led the 1863 charge on Fort Wagner in which Shaw fought and died alongside his men.
The film carries obvious parallels to the upcoming series. Assuming Valdez and Sardinha start, the Phillies, representing the North, will field an all non-white starting lineup behind a white starting pitcher. We can only hope that they do not meet the same fate as the 54th at Fort Wagner, but we will be proud of them regardless of the outcome.
C.S.A.: Confederate States of America (2004), directed by Kevin Willmott: Everyone should see this little-known mockumentary that begins with the premise that the South wins the Civil War and explores the alternate history that unfolds thereafter. Slavery rages on, the C.S.A. establishes an empire in the Western Hemisphere based on segregation, all religions aside from Christianity are outlawed, and Canada (home of Frederick Douglass) becomes a bastion of popular culture. If ever we needed a reminder of what is at stake in the upcoming series, this is it. But in this counterfactual glimpse of what could have been, we get a chilling reminder of what actually was and what currently is.
Deliverance (1972), directed by John Boorman: What happens when four city slickers decide to take a trip to the southern back country? Nothing good. Friends Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty, and Ronny Cox canoe down the Cahulawassee River in hillbillytown Kentucky and the hillbillies respond to them like white blood cells to a foreign bacteria. Perhaps no film in the last 40 years has done more to frame popular American perceptions of the "hick".
One thing that complicates the metaphor a bit is the fact that the four protagonists were businessmen from Atlanta. The film can thus be interpreted in one of two ways: 1. The Phillies fan feels satisfaction at the fate that befalls these arrogant and patronizing elites because they are from Atlanta. 2. Recognzing the central antagonism in the film as that between progressive metropolis and backwards rural setting (and thus urban north vs. undeveloped south), the Phillies fan feels fear at the fate that befalls these men as they stray too far from the beaten path.
The Birth of a Nation (1915), directed by D.W. Griffith: Griffith's "masterpiece" is credited for two things. First, it is widely regarded to have revolutionized certain techniques that are integral to modern filmmaking. Second, it is credited with sparking the formation of the second iteration of the Ku Klux Klan in Stone Mountain, Georgia (not far from Atlanta). Memorable for its horrifically stereotypical portrayal of blacks, The Birth of a Nation laments the South's loss of the Civil War and celebrates the KKK for restoring the honor of the white South by fighting back against the excesses of the Reconstruction regime. But think of it this way southerners: if it wasn't for the abolition of slavery, all of those plantations never would have been converted into commercial relief pitcher farms on which the Braves seem to rely to construct their perennially dominant bullpens.
True Romance (1993), directed by Tony Scott: This one has nothing to do with the South or race or anything. I just picked it for its startlingly realistic portrayal of the inner workings of the Cox household.
I welcome your suggestions in the comments.