Robert Wuhl picks his favorite football films

By Christy Lemire

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 2 2011 8:25 a.m. MST

Fe Gillies, left, visiting from Australia, poses for a photo for her daughter Dina Gillies in front of a giant Super BowlXLV sign in Dallas, Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2011. Five days before the Super Bowl, a wintry blast dumps snow and ice on the Dallas area.

LM Otero, Associated Press

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He's an Oscar voter and a sports expert. Is anyone better equipped to talk about football movies than Robert Wuhl?

The 59-year-old comedian, who starred as a sports agent on the HBO series "Arli$$," also has written for Academy Awards ceremonies when Billy Crystal was hosting, which earned him a couple of Emmys in the early '90s. These days, he's the host of a new sports talk radio program, "The Robert Wuhl Show," on Westwood One.

With the Super Bowl coming this weekend, we asked Wuhl to visit the Five Most space and select his top football films. But since he was so thorough — and he's such a nice guy — we let him put his own spin on it, and even pick a couple extra:

The thing about football-themed movies is that you must divide them, as you must divide all movies (are you listening my academy brethren?) under comedies or tragedies. With that in mind, I present to you my favorite (perhaps not the best, but my favorite) football movies:

TRAGEDY

— "Brian's Song" (1971): The movie that made men cry as much as women. The relationship between Gale Sayers (Billy Dee Williams) and the doomed Brian Piccolo (a pre-"Godfather" James Caan) is the stuff classics are made of. Plus, you've got the great Jack Warden as Coach George Halas, and that Michele LeGrand score.

— "Everybody's All-American" (1988): Based on Frank DeFord's best-seller, this underrated film scores because of Dennis Quaid's performance as a celebrated college football star whose career path goes from the heights of adulation to the depths of being like the rest of us. (The fact that Dennis and I were college classmates at the University of Houston has zero bearing on my opinion. He's just damn good.) Also, a terrific early performance by John Goodman.

— "Jim Thorpe, All-American" (1951): One of the more underrated directors in Hollywood history is Michael Curtiz, who was at the helm of such favorites as "The Adventures of Robin Hood," ''Yankee Doodle Dandy," ''Mildred Pierce," ''Captain Blood," ''The Comancheros," and — oh, yes — "Casablanca." Burt Lancaster brings star power, authenticity and multiple dimensions as the title character. An early Hollywood look at the darker side of sports complete with racism, alcoholism and politics.

COMEDY

"The Longest Yard," (1974): Arguably the best Burt Reynolds comedy —not a high bar, mind you — this is the standard all hardcore guy sports comedies have to compete against. To prove how much this film works, not only has there been an American remake with Adam Sandler, but also a British one, changing the sport to soccer in 2001's "The Mean Machine."

"Heaven Can Wait" (1978): Warren Beatty's remake of "Here Comes Mr. Jordan" is not just the best football romantic comedy but one of the best romantic comedies period. Changing the lead character from a boxer to a quarterback allows Beatty and co-writer Elaine May to dish out stinging satire about pro football. Great support from Dyan Cannon, Julie Christie, Charles Grodin, Jack Warden (again), James Mason and co-director Buck Henry. A memorable score by Dave Grusin.

"Horse Feathers" (1932): Groucho Marx as a college president who enlists Chico and Harpo to come to campus, where they chase gamblers and coeds in an effort to beat their football rival. This may be the funniest of all the Marx Bros. movies. And that's saying a lot.

However, my favorite Football movie is ...

"North Dallas Forty" (1979): A film that nestles between comedy and tragedy. Ted Kotcheff directed real-life Dallas Cowboy Peter Gent's story about the "real world" of pro football, including drugs, sex, greed, competition and self-preservation. Nick Nolte, Mac Davis (excellent, really), the great Charles Durning, and G.D. Spradlin as a Tom Landry-esque coach help put this film at the top of my list.

Think of any other examples? Share them with AP Movie Critic Christy Lemire through Twitter: http://twitter.com/christylemire .

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