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7 Movies with Obsessed NFL Fans

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Here we are at the first Sunday of the NFL season, and the excitement is running pretty high. It’s a beautiful thing. As we await the festivities, take a look at these films featuring characters who take their pro football VERY seriously.

DINER (1982)

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Great, great movie with an amazing cast, including Mickey Rourke, Kevin Bacon, Daniel Stern, Tim Daly, Ellen Barkin and Paul Reiser. It’s set in Baltimore, where one of the characters, Eddie (played by Steve Guttenberg) makes his girlfriend take a written quiz on the Baltimore Colts before he’ll marry her! I love how seriously everyone takes it, even though they understand on some level that it’s nuts.

BIG FAN (2009)

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Patton Oswalt dives into the crazy end of the pool as “Paul from Staten Island,” who loves his New York Giants and makes frequent calls to a sports radio station. Things do not go well for Paul when he encounters his favorite player making a drug deal. The movie doesn’t flinch in dealing with obsession and delusional behavior – but it also gets the intensity of sports fandom right.

SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (2012)

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For me, the Solatano clan in “Silver Linings Playbook” is the gold standard for NFL fans in movies. These folks live and die with their beloved Philadelphia Eagles. Robert DeNiro’s dad character is essentially a walking set of Sunday superstitions, which any NFL fan completely understands. One of my favorite scenes in this movie involves Jennifer Lawrence setting DeNiro straight on both his Eagles knowledge and the nature of jinxes. Crabby snacks and homemades for everyone!

JERRY MAGUIRE (1996)

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One of the underrated things about this much-quoted movie is Regina King’s performance as the wife of an NFL player (Cuba Gooding, Jr.). She follows every play as if her husband’s life depended on it, which it does.

PAPER LION (1968)

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Alan Alda (that’s right) plays a writer for Sports Illustrated who attempts to understand the game from a new perspective by posing as a quarterback for the Detroit Lions. What’s truly wild about this is that it’s based on the true story of George Plimpton’s famous book, also called “Paper Lion.” Real NFL player Alex Karras, who later became a successful actor, plays himself here.

BUFFALO 66 (1998)

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This one is most definitely not for everybody. Vincent Gallo’s gritty film is about a guy who gets out of prison, kidnaps a woman and forces her to pretend to be his wife during a visit to see his parents. How does the NFL factor into it? Well, Gallo’s horrifying parents (Angelica Huston and Ben Gazzara) are huge Buffalo Bills fans. They even named their son Billy, after the team, and have a picture of O.J. Simpson among the family photos. As if that weren’t enough, the plot involves Billy’s desire for revenge against a Bills kicker who missed a crucial field goal in the playoffs.

A CHRISTMAS STORY (1983)

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A personal favorite, because it accurately reveals the love-hate relationship you can have with your team. Darren McGavin plays a rough-around-the-edges Dad in northern Indiana in about 1940, dealing with the usual car problems, home repairs and odd neighbors. There’s a classic scene where the mom character knows exactly how to break up some possible tension at the family dinner table: mention that the Chicago Bears are playing the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. It immediately sends McGavin into a sarcastic meditation on his “Monsters of the Midway.”

That’s all for now, sports fans. Are you ready for some football?

 

6 Character Actors I Dearly Miss

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A great character actor is like a cool friend who pops up every once in a while to dazzle us with his wit and charm. Once he’s gone, it’s a genuine loss. Here are half a dozen Hollywood gents whose talents I deeply miss.

BRUNO KIRBY

Bruno Kirby had a way of making many of his performances seem as though he was confiding inside information to the audience. There was a subtle humor in his dramatic roles, such as “Godfather II,” and subtle drama in his comedy roles, such as “When Harry Met Sally.” He was in so many films I liked: “Donnie Brasco,” “Modern Romance,” “This Is Spinal Tap,” “The Freshman,” “Tin Men.” He died way too young, in 2006.

LOU JACOBI

I loved this man’s voice, which was like a jolly rumbling in the back of the throat, broadcast into an echo chamber. He had sparkle and timing and warmth and a sort of slouchy nimbleness. Jacobi was brilliant in “Every Thing You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* But Were Afraid to Ask.” Likewise, in “The Diary of Anne Frank,” “My Favorite Year,” “Arthur” and “Next Stop, Greenwich Village.” He died in 2009.

CALVERT DeFOREST

He was much better known as Larry “Bud” Melman, the character he played in many appearances on David Letterman’s TV shows on NBC and CBS. DeForest looked like a cartoon character, had a classic kind of New York accent and seemed totally unaware of himself on camera. It would have been easy to dismiss him as an oddity being exploited by TV, but he had an endearing quality that ultimately won over the audience. He died in 2007.

ROSCOE LEE BROWNE

Another wonderful voice here – a baritone dipped in honey, with exquisite elocution.  He was a stage actor who brought his Shakespearean chops to such fare as westerns (“The Cowboys,” with John Wayne), science fiction (a crazed robot in “Logan’s Run”) and just about every sitcom made in the 1970s. He also did a ton of narration work, including the movie, “Babe.” His 2007 death stilled an amazing talent.

DARREN McGAVIN

Everyone remembers him as the gregarious dad in “A Christmas Story.” So do I. But McGavin always brought a larger-than-life, sly quality to his roles. He was game to tackle all TV genres, from westerns, cop shows and hospital dramas, to his memorable gig chasing down supernatural foes in “Kolchak: The Night Stalker.” I liked him in “The Natural,” too. He’s been gone since 2006.

BURGESS MEREDITH

What a craftsman Burgess Meredith was. Here was a guy who could end up with the girl in a romantic comedy (“Tom Dick and Harry”), handle literary drama with ease (“Winterset,” “Of Mice and Men”) and be completely convincing as a war correspondent (“The Story of G.I. Joe”). His TV career was long and varied, from beautiful turns in “The Twilight Zone” to his gloriously funny take on the Penguin in “Batman.” As an old man, he elevated the stock character of a boxing coach into something big and grand in the “Rocky” movies. It doesn’t seem like it’s been 15 years since his passing, because his performances are still talked about and admired.

I’m sure you have your own favorites, too. I’d love to hear them.