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Movies of 1988 Bracket Game: Bull Durham Vs. Beetlejuice

Posted by lebeau

Over the course of this bracket game, we’ve talked a lot about what a great year 1988 was for comedy. But that’s a pretty broad umbrella. Both of our movies today could be classified as comedies, but aside from laughter they don’t share a lot in common. Bull Durham is equal parts sports movie and romantic comedy. A lot of the humor comes from how perfectly Ron Shelton captures a world he knew well; minor league baseball. Beetlejuice, on the other hand, is a fantastical creation filled with oddities without a sports team or a love triangle in sight.

But first, it’s time to review the results of yesterday’s match-up.

This one wasn’t especially close, but it wasn’t exactly the blow-out some readers might have been expecting either. Working Girl managed to capture 20% of the votes. That still left Die Hard with a handy victory. So Die Hard advances to the semi-finals where it will face its first real challenger in A Fish Called Wanda.

Prior to starting his career as a writer, Shelton was an infielder in Baltimore’s farm system. During the 80’s he wrote a couple of scripts which he did not direct. Neither Under Fire nor The Best of Times set the world on fire. Shelton’s first attempt at writing a script about his experience playing baseball was a script titled The Player To Be Named Later. According to Shelton, “the only thing it had in common with Bull Durham was that it was about a pitcher and a catcher.”

Then Shelton had an idea for a different take on a sports movie. He wondered if he could tell the story from a woman’s point of view. While driving around North Carolina, Shelton dictated the movie’s opening monologue into a tape recorder.

When Shelton shopped his script around town, there were few takers. The studios felt that baseball movies didn’t sell tickets. Plus, Shelton wanted to make his directorial debut which made Bull Durham and even riskier proposition. Orion decided to take a chance on Bull Durham, but they minimized their risk by giving Shelton an eight-week shooting schedule and a budget of $9 million dollars.

The gamble paid off. Bull Durham grossed more than five times its budget and Shelton was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay (which he lost to the writers of Rain Man). Shelton followed up Bull Durham with the political comedy Blaze. The movie wasn’t a hit, but Shelton ended up marrying the movie’s leading lady, Lolita Davidovich.

In the nineties, Shelton was pretty active as a writer and director. He had a hit with the basketball comedy, White Men Can’t Jump and reunited with Kevin Costner for the golf comedy, Tin Cup. Following some disappointments and bombs, Shelton has cut back his work load pretty drastically. Last year, he wrote and directed the comedy, Just Getting Started which starred Morgan Freeman and Tommy Lee Jones.

Tim Burton worked as a concept and storyboard artist for Walt Disney Productions early in his career. He submitted artwork for The Fox and the Hound, The Black Cauldron and Tron, but none of his off-the-wall ideas ever made it into the finished film. Burton did direct a number of short films such as Vincent which employed stop-motion animation and the live-action black-and-white short, Frankenweenie.

Frankenweenie was intended to be shown alongside Disney’s summer rerelease of The Jungle Book, but Disney deemed it “too scary” for kids. Burton was fired or as he put it he “parted ways” with Disney. It ended up working out well for the director. Despite having been terminated, Burton has collaborated with Disney on several projects including the 2012 remake of the movie that got him canned.

Other studios really liked Burton’s quirky short films. The positive buzz reached Paul Reubens who was developing a movie based on his Pee-Wee Herman character. Burton and Reubens quickly bonded which led to Burton being hired to direct Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. The surprise success of Pee-Wee paved the way for Burton to helm Batman and Beetlejuice for Warner Brothers.

You may like both Bull Durham and Beetlejuice. But as different as they are, I am willing to bet most readers have a clear preference. Which movie do you want to see in the final four?



Which is still fun today, after repeated viewings. "BAD" hasn't rated repeat viewings, not when I left the theater thinking "Well, I guess that wasn't as bad as I thought it would be".