My wife's a George Clooney fan, so luckily there wasn't a lot of resistance to us seeing Leatherheads, Clooney's third effort behind the camera and latest showcase for his comedic touch. Her affection for the man is a little deeper than simple movie-star hots. She loved him in "Michael Clayton" and "Syriana." The dramatic roles. Grizzled men who become heroes. Of course there're the comedies, and I don't mean the stupid Oceans flicks. Think the Coen Brother's iconic "Oh Brother Where Art Thou." The man's a damn good actor. Got a good eye for story and composition as well. I loved his portrait of Edward R Murrow in "Good Night and Good Luck" (frankly David Strathairn was as dead a ringer as Tobey Jones was of Truman Capote in "Infamous"). Indeed, Clooney--a stalwart Obama man--is my new archtype of the Hollywood liberal--a cool guy, a progressive guy. A dude you could hang with (and I did at the Mercer Kitchen in NYC way back when he premiered Out of Sight...we beheld in mute horror as Chris "Mr. Big" Noth set fire to Brazilian bombshell Sonia Braga's hair. But that's another story...). Look, even if you're a right wing tool, you must admit the guy's a lot better to stomach than douchebags like Alec Baldwin, right?
OK. But here's the real reason I wanted to see this movie, and the reason's as corny as an Iowa dawn in September. It's Princeton. Yeah, I was feeling nostalgic in an F. Scott Fitzgerald sorta way. A fellow author who frequents the Hoya campus had coffee with me near The Exorcist house at 36th and Prospect NW in DC and told me that Duncan Brantley and former Sports Illustrated writer Rick Riley had peppered the screenplay with all sorts of references to Ol' Nassau, to Palmer Stadium, to the double wing offense and Hobie Baker' 14 and Tiger Inn (no, not Cottage, not Ivy! Tiger Inn, cradle of Princeton football...and thus ALL college football). I've been a fan of Riley's intelligent sports writing for a decade so I was hooked...
...and of course my hero, Mr. Clooney, goes and dumps most of this Princeton material for the final script! See, Riley and Brantley wrote this thing on spec over TEN years ago. Sold it for a pittance to Clooney's other influential director pal, Steven Soderbergh. On the shelf it sat. I know the feeling. Now, this is not meant to be a critical review, just some reflections. Yes, I loved the 1930s Gable-Lombard madcap comedy aspect of this film. (which is why the average ignorant 19 year old stayed away from it like Sean Hannity to the truth). No, I do not think Renee Zelleweger is hot. The lemon-suck pout thing has indeed morphed into the shape of an ardvark's snout a la "Family Guy;" she was attractive in Bridget Jones due to some meat on her ass and boobs and face and hey quite a few white guys have backed me up on that. She jocked Clooney to the point of stalking him and he had to call the cops. (in real life). "The Office" star John Krasinski was perfect as Princeton star "Carter Rutherford." Yes, there were and are people with names like that at Princeton. Wanna hear Tigerhawk's real name, for example? And I was tickled by the subtext of pro football as carnie sideshow to college football...to the point that they even let...zounds...NEGROES...play. In real life people like Fritz Pollard and Paul Robeson donned the leather helmet and slipped on the high topped cleats. Indeed, the fact that there were few rules didn't make the game corrupt (as is the implication...in the closing credits...of major league baseball). It made it fun. NFL, time to go old school.
All that I could channel and devine from the movie to feed my inner orange and black was the opening sequence. And lord, what a wonder is CGI! The Princeton-Penn game, 1925 season. 40K fans screaming and locomoting in old Palmer Stadium. Authentic gear. Authentic cheers, and Randy Newman's score including "The Princeton Tiger" (actually and old African American jazz tune, circa Jelly Roll Morton's time...called "Hold the Tiger"). If you are a Princeton booster, that first two minutes are worth the $9 ticket. As for the rest, well, it's up to you. Nice flick for an evening out with your spouse, as long as dinner at Applebee's is the follow up. But don't mull over the lack of Princetonaria overload in front of your HBCU (Historically Black College/University for any uninformed whitefolks) -grad partner as she eats. "OK, OK...so y'all invented football...we invented the Battle of the Bands, so we're even. And I don't want you ordering onion rings--you're supposed to be loosing weight."
Sigh. Still, even a dab of orange and black is a great thing.