“Field of Dreams”:
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Showbiz 7s: Sean Astin’s sports faves

By Deborah Netburn, a Los Angeles Times staff writer

We’re happy any time Sean Astin surfaces in the pop culture landscape — whether it’s narrating “Meerkat Manor,” playing the only guy who does everything right in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, or showing up as an evil ex-boyfriend on “Monk.” So we were pleased to see he has the lead role in “The Final Season” which comes out Friday.

The film is based on the true story of a tiny town that is fighting to keep its legacy as the best baseball team in the area despite merging with a different school and the loss of their head coach. Astin plays the assistant coach who has to take over when his superior is fired.

Since “The Final Season” is a sports movie, we asked Astin to recount his favorite such movies of all time. We figured he’d be a nice guy, and he was, but we didn’t count on him being so smart. His explanation of why he loves each of these films is as good as anything we’ve published in this column since it started a year and a half ago.

‘Field of Dreams’

“Fathers and sons. Enough said.“ (Melinda Sue Gordon)
‘The Karate Kid’

“’The Karate Kid’ captures that feeling when you are just leaving your childhood behind and you are starting to come into adulthood but you are not quite there. It’s that feeling when you want and need to become a man and you aren’t sure you can. I love how in that movie all of a sudden Reseda, Calif., is like the Serengeti plains for a young leopard. And I love the idea that athletics and karate can help you fight off the forces of darkness around you and you can channel your own insecurities and frailties into the power of your body. As a young man, it spoke right to me when it came out.” (Columbia Pictures)
‘The Black Stallion’

“You would probably say that every inspirational sports movie is about the triumph of the human spirit. But ‘Black Beauty’ is really about the juxtaposition of innocence and power and their sacred relationship to each other. You have this kid who is young, innocent and fragile, but unafraid and a horse that is wild. When those two beings meet each other and those two qualities collide, watching that kid race that horse when he can barely hold on is incredible.” (United Artists)
‘Chariots of Fire’

“There are two real major themes in that movie. One is commitment to your beliefs — there’s one character that won’t race because it is on the Sabbath, and it almost costs him his spot on the team. And the other one is the idea of one’s place in history. And that is actually something that can be said for every movie. And to add a third thing, it’s also about friendship.” (Warner Bros.)

My favorite moment in the movie is when Gene Hackman gets out the tape measure and in that huge stadium he measures the distance to the net from the floor and it’s 10 feet, just like at home. There’s something so empowering about that. Most of the time when you think about having perspective, it’s about remembering how small you are in comparison to everything else, but in ‘Hoosiers’ it’s about how big you are in comparison to everything else.” (Los Angeles Times)

“When I saw ‘Rocky’ it was in Westwood Village at Mann’s Westwood. I stood in the back of the theater just jumping, screaming and shouting the whole time. That’s one of those quintessential American stories that combines a couple of genres — he’s a thug mobster muscle for hire, and to be able to punch and take physical abuse in the face and the head and body to break yourself out of the shackles of that life, it’s laudable and exciting and fun. That’s the first time I saw a sports movie where the winner didn’t actually win whatever the event was, but he triumphed over everything and that was more important.” (MGM/UA Home Entertainment)