The Natural

  • Directors: Barry Levinson
  • Producers: Mark Johnson
  • Writers: Roger Towne and Phil Dusenberry
  • Genres: Drama, Sport
  • Actors: Robert Redford, Robert Duvall, Glenn Close, Kim Basinger, Barbara Hershey, Darren McGavin, Wilford Brimley, Richard Farnsworth

The beginning of the movie introduces Roy Hobbs (Robert Redford) as a child, playing baseball with his father. Mr. Hobbs dies suddenly while Roy is still young, collapsing under a tree. That tree is split in half by lightning, and young Roy carves a baseball bat from it, on which he burns the image of a lightning bolt and the label ‘Wonderboy’.

At age 19, Hobbs is recruited by the Chicago Cubs in 1923. On the train to the tryouts, he wins a wager to strike out “The Whammer” (Joe Don Baker), the top hitter in the major leagues. Back on the train, the naive Hobbs is seduced by Harriet Bird (Barbara Hershey), an alluring but sinister woman, who gravitates to him after judging that he, rather than The Whammer, is now the best baseball player in the world. Bird lures young Hobbs to a hotel room and shoots him.

The story skips forward 16 years, to 1939. A fictitious team called the New York Knights has signed the now 35-year-old Hobbs to a contract, to the ire of the team’s gruff manager and co-owner, Pop Fisher (Wilford Brimley). For a time Pop does not allow him to play, but after impressing in batting practice, Hobbs literally knocks the cover off the ball in his first major league game. Hobbs rises to stardom and reverses the Knights’ fortunes.

Roy comes to bat in the bottom of the ninth with, a chance to win the game. Lightning flashes as Hobbs hits a long drive that twists foul, and sees that Wonderboy, his “magical” bat, has shattered. The young bat boy brings Hobbs a bat that they made together. Hobbs hits a towering shot, a pennant-winning home run, which soars into the stadium’s lights and starts a chain reaction of sparks that rain down onto the field. The Knights won the pennant. The final scene shows Hobbs playing catch with his son in a sun-dappled wheat field, with Iris proudly standing by.

A Christmas Story

  • Directors: Bob Clark
  • Producers: Bob Clark, Gary Goth
  • Writers: Jean Shepherd, Leigh Brown, Bob Clark
  • Genres: Comedy, Family
  • Actors: Peter Billingsley, Darren McGavin, Melinda Dillon

The movie takes place in the fictional northwest Indiana town of Hohman (based on real-life Hammond, Indiana). 9-year-old Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley) wants only one thing for Christmas: “an official Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model air rifle with a compass in the stock, and this thing which tells time.”

Between run-ins with his younger brother Randy (Ian Petrella) and having to handle school bully Scut Farkus (Zack Ward), Ralphie does not know how he will ever survive long enough to get the BB gun for Christmas.

The plot revolves around Ralphie’s overcoming a seemingly insurmountable obstacle to his owning the precious Red Ryder BB gun: the fear that he will shoot his eye out. In each of the film’s three acts, Ralphie makes his case to another individual; each time he is met by the same retort. When Ralphie asks his mother (Melinda Dillon) for a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas, she says, “No, you’ll shoot your eye out.” Next, when Ralphie writes a theme about the BB gun for Mrs. Shields (Tedde Moore), his teacher at Harding Elementary School, Ralphie gets a C+, and Mrs. Shields writes “P.S. You’ll shoot your eye out” on it. Finally, Ralphie asks an obnoxious department store Santa Claus (Jeff Gillen) for a Red Ryder BB gun, and Santa responds, “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid. Merry Christmas! Ho, ho, ho!”, before pushing Ralphie down a long slide with his boot.

Other vignettes include: