Two movies that win you big in unexpected ways

42. Both this ESPN piece and this story from colleague Gene hit the meta issue spot on. 42 is one didactic flick. It’s the most sentimental movie I’ve ever watched in a theater. But, with that caveat, I’ve recommended it to all the friends and family who’ve asked if they should go. Why? Because unless you’re a hardcore baseball scholar, you need the refresher course.

As the Internet’s ridiculously sad Cheerios flare-up this week showed, racial progress comes damn hard in America. And on top of far-better-than-the-writing performances from Chadwick Boseman and Nicole Beharie as Jackie and Rachel Robinson and Christopher Meloni as Leo Durocher, momentary but glorious escapes by Harrison Ford and T.R. Knight (George from Grey’s Anatomy!) from their sepia-starched roles, some brief but really well done baseball action, and an unabashed love of the game and the places where it’s played, we need every minute of this reminder of what Robinson did.

The other movie?

Mud. This year has a long ways to go, but any arriving movies are going to have to work to beat Mud for my favorite film of 2013. Part Tom-and-Huck, part criminal thriller, part meditation on poor Southern river life, the movie takes its time with all three parts, and there’s not a minute I would trade. Strong performances come all around, especially from the starring kids and Matthew McConaughey. If you’ve never read the Times profile of his shift in job choices (“The Rake’s Progress: A Midcareer Leap for McConaughey“), go back and do so and be thankful for people who challenge themselves.

The closest point of comparison among recent films might be Beasts of the Southern Wild. But Mud is different, original animal — making you warm, gasp and warm again a way that, outside of Flannery O’Connor or (more recently) Karen Russell’s best short stories, you wouldn’t expect. Bonus? The soundtrack, from David Wingo, Lucero and others, alt-country with a subtle hard edge. Lucero’s Take You Away is song that hooks you deep.

Oxford American had a good new SoLost video this week on the movie.

 

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