Friday, April 4, 2008

Just In Time For March Madness in April-- A Football Movie

Above, George Clooney at American Legion Memorial Stadium--Charlotte, NC, covered in mud instead of throwing it.
About this time last year a good friend of over 30 years standing told me he was working as an extra in a movie being made locally. They'd had good, clean fun shooting a 1920's era train scene for a few days in the area around Salisbury, NC near his home. Then that very weekend in the Greenville, South Carolina paper I found out that Univeral was filming "Leatherheads" at several locations all around the area with George Clooney directing and starring. As it turns out, if you took one compass point and put it on Monkeydarts Plantation and then scribed a 100 mile radius circle with the other point you'd be putting a ring around the dozens of exterior locations they used for the movie. "Leatherheads" is set in 1920's Duluth, Minnesota. Apparently March/ April in the Carolina piedmont is a lot like summer/early fall in Duluth. Who knew? That and the fact that both NC and SC are usually battling over giving bigger and bigger tax breaks for film production probably prompted the decision to film this epic around here.
I've seen George Clooney in three movies. (Just checked the IMDB to make sure.) I know he was a dreamboat in some doctor show on TV I never watched. In 1998 I saw "Out of Sight" because I'm a big fan of Elmore Leonard's novels. I thought both he and Jennifer Lopez were surprisingly good in that movie. Of all the attempts to put Elmore's books on screen that's the best largely because of the great Don Cheadle, Albert Brooks, Ving Rhames, and Steve Zahn performances. But Clooney was good and Lopez did an excellent job in a crucial role. A light comedy touch in a dramatic part suits him well.
His part in "Perfect Storm" could have been played just as well by any competent male thespian of the day. The movie wasn't nearly as good as the book.
The other movie of his I've seen is "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou" on satellite and DVD. I watched "Oh Brother" mainly because the name came from the great Preston Sturges film, "Sullivan's Travels" and the soundtrack features the incredible Alison Krauss and Union Station. "Oh Brother" will never make my all-time top 10 list but I do like it. The politician scenes I absolutely love. It's Homer's "The Odyssey" set in the 1930's and filmed beautifully in Mississippi.
Judging from the previews of "Leatherheads" it's filmed beautifully as well. It looks like a 1920's watercolor post card one might find tucked away in a shoebox in the attic. I love that look. But, my invitation to the premier was, apparently, lost in the mail so I'm not completely sure if it works. I'll know better this summer as I suspect it will be available on Netflix right about the time the NFL season starts. Meanwhile, no matter how it does at the box office it's already brought jobs and money to my neighborhood, so "thanks" George, Renee, and all the good people at Universal Pictures. In the end, that's all that really counts.
UPDATE: Thank goodness we already cashed all those checks from Universal and Clooney's production company around here. "Leatherheads" cost $60M to make and market and took in just $12.5 in its opening weekend. Headlines will use "fumbled", "tackled" and "incomplete pass" puns with glee.