Cinematic Underdogs
Cinematic Underdogs
Paul Keelan / Jordan Puga
Cinematic Underdogs is a joyful, intellectual, and nostalgic look at sports movies of all forms, shapes, and sizes. Hosted by Jordan Puga and Paul Keelan, this overlooked genre is re-evaluated with the sincerity that it deserves.
115. The Longest Yard (2015)
The Longest Yard is a total smorgasbord of tones, jokes, and cultural winks, whiffing at laughter from start to finish. We get a jail yard-sized salmagundi of half-baked jokes. Wet Willies. Terry Crewes peddling McDonald's cheeseburgers, fries, and McAssholes. Pegging the refs in the nuts. Dan Patrick cameo as a cop, clowning on Frodo. Goldberg rockin' an XXL jockstrap. Tracy Morgan as a prison yard Ladyboy. Adam Sandler drinking a six-pack during a high-speed chase. Chris Rock riffin' on white guys and Prozac. James Cromwell acting much too prestigiously for a Happy Madison project. Rob Schneider yelling, "You can do it!" as a callback to The Waterboy. Burt Reynolds hired as a nod to the much-superior original. Bob Sapp doing his best Michael Clarke Duncan in The Green Mile impression. The Great Khali looking huge. Nelly, band-aid on his cheek and all. Jim Rome and Chris Berman being themselves, offering tongue-in-cheek color commentary. Kevin Nash, Brian Bosworth, and William Fichtner doing their best as prison guards, trying to infuse redemptive nuance into their villiany. Joey Diaz being chubby, homophobic, and unfunny. Steve Austin being stone-cold silly. Suffice to say, this one wasn't for us. But we do our best to tackle it anyway. Enjoy the smackdown!
Jun 14
55 min
114. Semi-Pro (2008)
We're back with our Adam Sandler vs. Will Ferrell mini-tournament/bracket and covering the overlooked sports comedy, Semi-Pro. Chronicling the travails of Jackie Moon (Ferrell) as he tries to get his flailing minor league team, the Flint Tropics, promoted to the NBA, Semi-Pro is very much a byproduct of its era. Filled with bear wrestling, stoner humor, bantering broadcasters, a cuckolded super-fan, a classic 70s soundtrack, lots of funky callbacks to blaxploitation films, and even more cameos, Semi-Pro is definitely a laugh a minute outing. Unfortunately, much of its humor felt played-out by the time of its release, causing it to bomb at the box office and signal the end of Ferrell's silly, man-child reign of 00's studio comedies. On the pod, we discuss the comedic range (and lack thereof) of Ferrell's comedic career, his off-screen persona and presence in the sports industry, the ways in which Semi-Pro feels like an all-star mixture of tired/reused gags, and the ways in which it would have fared better if it came out earlier in his heyday. We then debate whether the film's veteran brand of dumb-bro humor should've been retired by its release or whether it offers the charm and humor of a comeback sports comedy, even if it arrived in theaters a few years past Ferrell's prime. Enjoy!
May 24
1 hr 27 min
113. Challengers (2024)
Matt Belenky joins the pod to breakdown Luca Guadagnino's Challengers, a breakout 2024 hit about a steamy tennis threesome. We discuss Zendaya's star power, the nuanced dynamic of the film's central love triangle (in comparison to other love triangle movies: Vicky Christina Barcelona, Yu Tu Mama Tambien, The Dreamers, Bull Durham, etc.), Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross's thumping and ecstatic electro score, how this fits into the pantheon of great tennis movies, Luca's incremental acclimatization to shooting suburban America, the refreshing arrival of an adult romantic/sports drama with palpable buzz and fervor, whether the film is kinky/erotic or a giant marketing tease, and the use of tennis as a sublimated metaphor for sex. Enjoy!
May 10
1 hr 31 min
112. Happy Gilmore (1996)
We've finally found our home on the putting green and covered Happy Gilmore, the seminal millennial sports comedy classic that largely inspired us to start this podcast. If you love Happy, Chubbs, Shooter, Subway ad placements, hockey shenanigans, and the rest of the 90s Happy Madison crew as much as we do, then you've stopped by your happy place! Grab a pitcher of beer and gallop that horse-y around your own personal heaven cause you've hit jackpot! And stay tuned, because Happy Gilmore is the first in a bracket of Sandler vs. Ferrell sports comedies coming your way this spring and summer! Cheers!
May 1
1 hr 19 min
111. Bingo (1991)
We’ve officially been Bingo-pilled and there’s no going back. Seriously ya’ll, this episode with Bingo-superfan Jed Bookout is bonkers. Completely unhinged. We talk Bingo playing cards, Bingo revolutions, Bingo’s wine drunk slutty dog shenanigans, potential Bingo sequels, Bingo sex-capades, Bingo legacy media, Bingo’s Schrödinger's box theory, Bingo merchandise, and so much more Bingo!  Enjoy! 
Apr 8
1 hr 26 min
110. Love Lies Bleeding (2024)
Jed Bookout joins the pod to discuss A24’s early breakout hit of 2024, Love Lies Bleeding: a sapphic, bodybuilding, ultra-violent fever dream of a movie. Set in a scuzzy and sordid 1989 New Mexico setting, and tracking a pair of lesbians turned serial killers by necessity, Love Lies Bleeding is a tonal tour de force evoking the likes of Paul Schrader, Lynne Ramsey, & David Cronenberg. Perhaps the best synopsis of her sophomore entry: Imagine Nicolas WInding Refn directing a Coen Bros script.  Over the course of the episode, we also discuss Rose Glass’ promising future, Kristen Stewart’s best career performances, the film’s moral neutrality toward ‘roid rage and its juxtapositions between the seedy and the sultry, the unorthodox structural brilliance of Vox Lox, the underrated sub-genre of vagabonds going on vacations in hell (namely, Spring), and the many influences of Love Lies Bleeding’s neo-noirish, black comedy beats. And yes, we make sure the conversation veers podcast relevant by intermittently debating whether it could be considered a quasi-sports movie, likening it to everything from Black Swan to The Wrestler (although, upon further reflection, Stallone’s arm-wrestling masterpiece Over the Top or the Farrelly Brothers’ bowling romp Kingpin may serve as better reference points). Enjoy!
Mar 25
1 hr 22 min
109. Million Dollar Baby (2004)
It's Oscars season and so we're back with Matt Belenky to spar with a Best Picture winner: Million Dollar Baby. Starring and directed by Clint Eastwood and written by Paul Haggis a year before he penned yet another Best Picture Winner in Crash, this pugilistic take on euthanasia is a classic tearjerker. It is also a mixed punching bag: filled with melodramatic fetishization of the southern bumpkin archetype, brilliant cinematography, a florid narration by none other than Morgan Freeman (channeling strong Shawshank Redemption vibes), and a plucky Best Actress performance (earned or not) by the always endearing (if not a little cloying) Hilary Swank (to be fair, everyone in this is a maudlin caricature, to degrees). Though nowhere near as bad as we make it out to be (one might say it's more appropriately "between nowhere and goodbye"), Million Dollar Baby received a good old-fashioned beatdown on this episode. If you're in the mood for some Academy Award-adjacent schadenfreude, you've come to the right place. Enjoy!!!
Mar 4
1 hr 15 min
108. The Underdoggs
We're back to the basics this week, covering Charles Stone III's "The Underdoggs," starring Snoop Dog, Mike Epps, and George Lopez. This is a film we've been barking for: a kids' centered sports movie in the vein of The Might Ducks, Little Giants, or The Big Green, only raunchier. Filled with direct callbacks to each of movies (including a scene where a Hummer arrives on the football field just as Emilio Estevez infamously had his limo driver park on the ice, an Annexation of Puerto Rico-inspired trick play, and an asthmatic kid with an overbearing, neurotic mom a la the nose-bubble dweeb in Little Giants), The Underdoggs fills like a giant homage to his 90s predecessors. For what this 90-minute comedy offers, we found it a success. As most know, boys are a puerile bunch. They curse, they say dirty jokes, they're rowdy. The Underdoggs leans into this reality, and it does so with winks that let us know that the kids sports movies we grew up loving still have a niche place in the culture today. Sure, the dramatic beats and attempts at poignancy feel rushed and hasty (lost in the glib pastiche of surface sentiment and elision by way of meta winks), but The Underdoggs' rehashes the tropes and archetypes we know so well at the same time, reviving this little subgenre with blunts, runts, and unfiltered glee. Enjoy!
Feb 25
1 hr 1 min
107. Ferrari w/ Bilge Ebiri
Bilge Ebiri joins the pod to talk Michael Mann's Ferarri! We chat about the film's multidimensional themes, its subtle subversion of conventional sports tropes, and the powerful way its irreconcilable conflicts and philosophical tensions linger long after the initial viewing. We also discuss Bilge's Top 5 Sports Movies and the state of the genre. *A preemptive apologies for the mixed vocal quality. There was a mic issue that caused a postproduction headache.* Enjoy!
Feb 16
2 hr 11 min
106. Beckham (2023)
On this episode, Chad Lott of Scary Thoughts Podcast joins us to talk about the Netflix documentary Beckham. We chat about Brit fashion, culture's uncouth obsession with exhuming salacious details on celebrity affairs, and the remarkable resilience of Posh and Becks, both on and off the pitch. Enjoy!
Feb 3
1 hr 31 min
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