Throughout this Oscar season, as I watched the smart and aggressive campaign that the folks at Neon were mounting for “Parasite,” I couldn’t help but think about the campaign that Don Rugoff orchestrated for Costa-Gavras’ film “Z” in 1970.
Before Rugoff, no one had attempted to get a foreign language film into any of the main categories, and Rugoff pulled it off by doing some things that Oscar marketers are emulating to this day–touring the filmmaker to theaters all over the country, spending lavishly on trade ads, holding private screenings for Academy members and most effectively, getting enormous amounts of press to position the film as the long shot people could root for. The end result was a literal bombshell in its time. “Z” was the first film ever nominated for both Best Picture and Best Foreign Language Film, and also received nominations for Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Editing. It walked away with two wins–Foreign Language and Editing.
I had dinner tonight with Peter Gilbert, of “Hoop Dreams” fame. We had a great time catching up on a variety of subjects, and inevitably ended up talking about the Cubs. I spouted off on one of my theories about why the Cubs are approaching their 102nd year without a championship, and Peter told me I ought to make this public, so here goes…
Baseball teams are built for their ballparks. Some ballparks are good for hitters, some for pitchers, and some for speed. Shea was a pitcher’s park, and so is Citi Field. Both the old and the new Yankees Stadiums were and are hitter’s parks. When the Astros opened what was then called Enron Field the same year that the Tigers opened Comerica Park, each of the two teams fundamentally changed from one type of ballpark to the other. I remember reading an article that suggested that Houston and Detroit should trade their entire teams with each other. Peter made the point that the Minnesota Twins have been brilliant at tailoring their team to their ballparks.
So what about the Cubs?
Wrigley Field is a very fickle ballpark. Some days, it’s a pitcher’s park and some days it’s a hitter’s park. You can tell which it is each day by looking at the flags in the outfield.
Here is my big idea…
Instead of fielding a team based on rightly-lefty percentages, the Cubs need to have two teams that they can platoon…one is the small ball team they field when the wind is blowing in, and the other is the long ball team that they field when then wind is blowing out. If they can just put together a decent lineup for both circumstances, and then adjust the lineup depending on which way the wind is blowing, I think we can finally lick this championship issue.
“Hoop Dreams” is such an important milestone in my life that absorbing the fact that it has been fifteen years since its release makes me feel very old. There are many proud parents of this film, not the least of whom are its subjects, who allowed their lives to be laid bare on the screen; the three filmmakers, who devoted a big chunk of their lives to creating something that they had no idea would ever lead to anything; and the various funders who enabled them to keep going. Then there are John Iltis, Dave Sikich, Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel. I like to think that I have a claim to a piece of that parentage, as well.
My “Hoop Dreams” connection began at Sundance. Liz Manne, who was my marketing chief at Fine Line, told me that she loved the film. She added the caveat that she was dubious about its commerciality, but that I ought to check out at least the first half hour. About an hour into the film, I ducked out to cancel a meeting, and ran back in to see the rest of it. I was smitten. When it was over, I immediately expressed my interest, but the rumour on the streets was that the asking price was $1 million and that the filmmakers would not consider any cutting. That sounded like a dangerous combination. Continue reading “Memories on the 15th Anniversary of Hoop Dreams”