An aging high school baseball umpire Ray Cook (Nick Nolte) calls a pitch from Dave Tibbel (Trevor Morgan) a ball when it may have been a strike, and causes them to lose the game and eliminates the team from playing in the State Playoffs. But Dave Tibbel (Trevor Morgan) falls easy to peer pressure and in retaliation for the umpires bad call, Dave Tibbel (Trevor Morgan) and two members of his baseball team seek revenge by trashing the outside of Ray Cooks house with toilet paper. During their act of revenge, Ray Cook awakens and catches one of the boys (Dave Tibbel) and instead of having Tibble arrested, Cook who has not spoken to his own son for some time, finds an unusual way to show the young man (Tibble) responsibility for his actions and settle the debt to Cook for his involvement in the retaliation against him. What transpires is an unusual bond for each other, and as they both try their best to confront their own personal demons, a relationship worthy of father and son becomes obvious of which they are both seeking to have in there own lives.
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In baseball terms, its a breaking ball -- looking like one kind of story pitch, but curving into another. While tag-wise, its a sports story, Off the Black is more accurately a father-son story, told with gritty finesse and laced with a strong, hard performance from Nick Nolte. Like a good pitcher, Trevor Morgan varies his emotions and perfectly grooves his role as the high-school star. Huffing and puffing, Nolte plops around with brilliant finesse, smartly exposing this frustrated old ballplayers inside strength and fears. In a supporting role as the teen ballplayers depressed father, Timothy Hutton is haunting as a man who is functionally comatose.
I watched this movie with anticipation, because I've always enjoyedmost of what Nick Nolte has done in the past. But I just simplycouldn't grasp this plodding film, its ridiculous premise, its weakstoryline, the poor acting and bad direction. Virtually every person inthis film seemed catatonic, especially Tim Hutton. Why did he evenbother? His character was so one-dimensional and shallow it was like hewasn't even there. There was a total lack of chemistry between TrevorMorgan and Nick Nolte, which made the film drag and I found myself justwishing it would end after about 3/4 through it. I imagine this filmwill fade away quickly into the abyss of forgettable celluloid trash.NEXT!!!
This review is from: Off the Black (DVD) If your a nick nolte fan this is a great movieGreat story line and good all around movieHad seen it a long time ago and still hasn't lostit's pzazz.
Let's get something straight. I rented "Off the Black" because of Nick Nolte. No other reason. This beautiful and touching 2006 film was a fine surprise. As usual, Nolte delivers another in a long line of brilliant characters. Our greatest living American actor, Nolte has truly never given a bad performance. Even during his most commercial ventures, when he's all but sleepwalking, he steals the show. In many ways, I believe Nolte is bored with acting (most of the great ones eventually are), so it's a testament to his legend that he continues to challenge himself with thought-provoking and interesting independent films. He's not looking to make big bucks and he could care less about his legacy. "Off the Black" (a baseball term) is a wonderful slice of life detailing small town loner Ray Cook (Nolte) who works at the auto junkyard while serving as a baseball umpire at high school games. At night, usually after being booed off the field by angry fans, he passes out in front of his TV after downing a few beers, mumbling to himself in all but unintelligible dialog. Every town and city has someone like Ray Cook. These lonely souls, usually widowed, barely function on a day-to-day basis as life dwindles to a quiet close. We see these guys working at the grocery store or gas station and often times wonder what their lives were like before decline and disillousionment. They seem to have memories of better times and places, wondering how everything went to hell. Nolte's Ray Cook is one of these men, living, breathing, limping from the hard knocks of life with a voice that sounds like alley gravel. He catches Dave Tibbel, one of the local baseball-playing youths, vandalizing his yard and cuts a a deal with him to clean up the mess.Tibbel (in an excellent performance by Trevor Morgan) has an AWOL mom, a hapless dad sleeping off hungover depressions and a younger sister he cares for. Thus begins an unlikely friendship between two lost souls, a hermit pushing 60 and a confused kid with a miserable homelife. Through it all, promising writer and director James Ponsoldt displays an interesting visual eye contrasted with thoughtful restraint. Much of the story is insinuated, though I would have enjoyed a bit more explanation. I love the nameless locale, a small industrial town that has seen better days. Filmed in New York state, "Off the Black" could have just as easily taken place in Michigan or Ohio.Early on, Nolte's character is diagnosed with a fatal disease, so there's a sense of urgency to his budding friendship with Tibbel. His 40th high school reunion is coming up, so he asks Tibbel to accompany him in the guise of his son. It's all very touching and subtle, and we learn much about Cook's sad past. Several interesting supporting characters are introduced, including Tibbel's dad, a nice turn by Timothy Hutton, and a local 20-something single mom played by the lovely Rosemarie DeWitt. Neither character is properly fleshed out and I would have liked to see more of their lives. No matter. By the conclusion, we have been introduced to a sad but wonderful world in "Off the Black." These are tender, believable characters and we do not wish the film to end. In Ponsoldt's "Off the Black," nameless and forgotten men like Cox are given a brief moment to provide influence and, in the end, perhaps help someone avoid a similar fate. This is not only one of the best films of 2006, but it is one of Nolte's greatest performances.
The experience of seeing "Off the Black" did what very few films have done for me lately; it left me with a tear in my eye and a smile on my face.Within seconds, literally, we are introduced to young Dave Tibbel (Trevor Morgan). He's standing on the pitcher's mound, sweat beaded on his brow, studying the catcher's signals. His face completely fills the screen, as if the director is saying, "here you go. If you don't like what you see, this will be tough for you. If you do, sit back and watch the story develop." The story is that of a relationship between Dave and someone else, of course. But that someone is no blonde bombshell or voluptuous vixen. The other half of that relationship is Ray Cook (Nick Nolte), the ump standing behind home plate. But this is not "Brokeback Baseball," no, although surely that may enter your mind. It's something else. It's something rarely explored in American cinema, and it's bold and daring. It's a love story -- a good old-fashioned romance between two individuals who just happen to be male, and it's totally platonic. "Is this possible?" you may ask. It sure is, and "Off the Black" will prove it to you.This film is made with passion and care. The soft, natural lighting of the interiors allows the full mystery of the characters to flourish. Single point lighting allows interplay of light and shadow which echoes the bright and dark sides of Dave and Ray, as well as the family members who surround them. Dave's father Tom (Timothy Hutton), withdrawn and distant. Sister Ashley (Sonia Feigelson), on the cusp of adulthood, gawky and afraid. All have secrets to tell, but don't, or won't, or can't. Cinematographer Tim Orr manages to find beauty in every little thing -- contrails, dripping gutters, siding and eaves and gently sloping roofs. And the countryside -- oh my. The lush scenery of the Catskills is indescribable. The setting is supposed to be Ponsoldt's Georgia home. But it could be anywhere where sea and sky and small towns predominate. Some of the shots are literally breathtaking. I found myself gasping several times. But what tugged at my heart even more was the sparse, almost homespun soundtrack. Punctuated by the occasional train whistle in the distance, the music never distracted, never shouted, "this is important." The contrast between the beauty of the setting and the ugliness of the fractured individuals who populate it is stark. It is on this canvas that writer-director James Ponsoldt, in his first feature, crafts a work of art that is simply one of the most poignant love stories imaginable. The protagonists meet, get tangled in tension and deception, and finally fall in love. Occasionally that's followed by breakup and tragedy. Ponsoldt has said that he actually wrote the film as a romantic love story. It just happened to be played by two male actors and is platonic.To be honest, the film can be hard to watch at times. Nolte's portrayal of the seldom sober Ray is unsettling and painful, like a bad toothache that you can't wait to be pulled. Morgan's sensitive, vulnerable, sad-eyed Dave is like a puppy cowering beneath Ray's rolled up newspaper. But the bravado falls away on Ray's part, the sarcastic self-confidence and humor emerges from Dave, and the boy who needs a father draws closer to the man who needs a son. Finally, what makes this film so joyful to watch is the interplay between the two. It is all so natural that it seemed unscripted. As it turned out, much of it was. Ponsoldt has admitted that he gave free reign to Nolte and Morgan quite often, and some of the best lines in the film were theirs and theirs alone. And only the best directors are willing to step back and let that happen. And only the best actors can pull it off. Most will not be surprised at Nolte's performance -- he is, after all, a veteran if there ever was one. But "Off the Black" could be the vehicle which puts Trevor Morgan on filmgoers' radar, if it's not already. I'd seen his work before (he was Ponsoldt's first choice, largely based on his performance in the indie classic "Mean Creek"), but he carries this film so confidently and easily that it left me shaking my head in wonderment. And with a tear in my eye and a smile on my face. "Off the Black" will do that to you.
Can someone tell me if I missed something, or was it never explainedwho the single mother was, her relationship to the Nolte character, whothe father of her kid was, and what was the point of her being in themovie at all if none of the above is explained. Her scenes seem likepointless time or sex fillers. I was much impressed by the moviealthough the plot really left a whole lot unexplained: Nolte is at his40th high school reunion, which would make everyone at the reunionabout 58 and their graduation year one of the hottest in the VietnamWar, the protest movement, rock and roll and the sexual revolution. Yetnot one person has anything to say or recall about these things, andthe music seems generic, not at all in tune with the late "60s.
Not quite a home-run but a very good indie debut by first time director James Ponsoldt. There are no 'bells and whistles' to be found, just a well told story and some very fine performances. Nolte, in particular, totally embodies his characters ailments and addictions. The viewer can almost hear his bones creak with each movement. His voice is like a rake over gravel with the volume turned down. A very brave and fine performance.Also worthy of mention are a very natural performance by Trevor Morgan, an understated Timothy Hutton and a surprise (to me) appearance by Sally Kirkland. A very nice movie for fans of indie films or character studies.
This review is from: Off the Black (DVD) movie came on time and was in great condition. not nick noltes best work but an okay story. movie was a little slow and drawn out.
Really strong performances by all involved, especially Nick Nolte andTrevor Morgan. But it is James Ponsoldt's meaty script that is reallythrilling. The depth of feeling he gets from his actors is good too. Iwish he had more than 23 days to shoot, since some of the photographyis marginal, but some shots are just beautiful, especially theclose-ups of the actors' faces.Mild spoiler: This is a film of the human spirit, and human nature, andthe nature of families: especially ad hoc families. And it has one ofthe most subtle uses of a female character in recent memory (thecharacter Debra).
We see the story of the washed out basketball coach (Nolte), depressed father of two children (Hutton) and one young teenage boy Dave (Morgan) trying to overcome his own misery of pre-adolescent life. Fine cast includes Nick Nolte as a coach, Timothy Hutton as a father and newcomer Trevor Morgan who is the latest version of young Sean Penn. Thru a set of circumstances, Dave establishes a friendship with the coach that leads them both to a pact where Dave will accompany Ray on his 40th high school reunion party. Dave's role at the party is to pretend to be Ray's son. The experience is life changing for both of them, but Ray is too old, too sick, too lonely to carry on in this world. As we watch the story unfolds, we connect with the beauty of growing up, no matter how painful it may be. This is beautiful movie for entire family. Nolte is great as grumpy, alchoholic, washed out man; while Hutton delivers wonderful rendition of deeply depressed middle aged father who says so much by barely uttering a word during the entire movie.
Family is family, and sometimes that is unfortunate. Especially if one has to deal with an absent parent or a psychologically dysfunctional one ...or both. And such is the case for Dave Tibbel (Trevor Morgan) who's mother left him and his kid sister with their severely depressed father played by a surprisingly effective Timothy Hutton. But much of this is slowly unveiled and OFF THE BLACK begins with an umpire making a pivotal call at a baseball game which ends up costing Dave Tibbel and his team their high school championship. The umpire is a gruff man named Ray Cook played by Nick Nolte (Over the Hedge (Widescreen Edition)). It is Nolte who carries the entire film, really. And it probably wasn't that much of a stretch for him to play the drunken Cook character considering Nolte's past notices on the local news. Which, of course, made him the perfect casting choice. His gravelly voice and fading good looks matched Ray Cook's persona to a tee. When Ray finds a bunch of team members toilet-papering his home, he's able to catch one of them and, of course, it's Dave Tibbel. They strike up an interesting relationship. Dave needs something more of a father figure (which he's not getting at home), while Ray needs to connect with someone from the outside world in a meaningful way. ***SPOILERS AHEAD***The two bond in father/son fashion one night after Ray takes Dave to his 40 year class reunion posing as Ray's son. It is here that Dave learns much about this enigmatic patriarchal man. Ray has a real son that he sends video recordings of himself to, only to have most of them returned unopened. Ray leans on Dave as a crutch and Dave does likewise to Ray, each needing and receiving something from the other. And it isn't always a "good" something. But it is a needful something that leads both of them to an understanding of what lay ahead. For Ray, it's not a good thing, as he recently received some bad news from his doctor. For Dave, we just aren't sure because his home-life seems totally dysfunctional. Nolte's performance is outstanding, but it is his performance (and only his performance) that pulls the story along in any satisfying way. Trevor Morgan tries his damnedest to match Nolte but can't quite muster enough of himself to make his Dave character very sympathetic. Timothy Hutton did a fine job as the depressed father but has so little screen time that you never get a good sense of him. Dave's sister Ashley played by Sonia Feigelson is another example of a character that could've pulled in some emotional weight but was never given enough time on-screen.So the entire production felt a bit stilted, hedging all of its bets on Nolte's shoulder ...which was probably for the best considering the overall story/script.
This review is from: Off the Black (DVD) I started watching this move on the cable and i could not change it. I found it to be an exceptional drama with Nolte giving a remarkably beliveable performance. If your a Nolte fan see it. It also has a better than average supporting cast with some little known actors.
not sure if nick nolte was acting or simply playing himself. either way the performance is excellent. he creates a compelling character whose flaws could be considered attributes in others. i wish they had explored more the role played by timothy hutton, who also gives an excellent eprfomrance as father broken after his wife leaves him. i am surprised this movie didn't get better support from the studio.
This review is from: Off the Black (DVD) NicK Nolte won the Academy Award for best actor in my dreams.No better performance in 2006. Nolte held me tranfixed.Ray asks the kid if he thought he was happy. No I am miserable.When you reach the bottom than you know what your missing in your life.Ray has cancer, no family and still Ray will reach out till he hasbeen been beaten down so far and missing so much that its time to go.It's the backroads American story the one the ads on TV will never tell you.The rest of the cast is excellent. Everyone does a great job. The picturecenters around Nolte. Like most of us his life is a little Off The Black.
A couple of shades short of a masterpiece, "Off The Black" is still a superlative and very assured debut from a new director - James Ponsoldt. Nick Nolte plays an old-school Baseball Umpire called Ray Cook - a 57-year old drunk by night barely holding it together on the field by day. At the very beginning of the movie, Ray makes what most of the town considers is a 'bad call' on the pitch of a minor Leagues game. The recipient of this gaff is a young baseball hopeful called Dave Tibbel (played by Trevor Morgan - he looks like the son of Sean Penn and Elizabeth Hurley) and it changes both of their lives forever.In revenge for the sending off, Morgan and two of his mouthy team-mates shower Nolte's home that night with toilet rolls, spray paint his driveway with a dick drawing, break his car window and generally vandalize his property. But the young and inexperienced Morgan gets caught in the act by a boozed-up Nolte who vows that Morgan will have to pay for his actions - in short - clean up the mess. Morgan's character David - being essentially a nice kid - agrees - and over the next few days, they enter into an unexpected and unlikely bond - David slowly becoming the son that loser Nolte never had. While this is going on, David's real father, Timothy Hutton, offers little help to either him or his lost little sister at home. David's sister is played by Sally Kirkland - who looks like a young Natalie Portman - just as beautiful and an actress that's definitely one to watch. Hutton's character is a man who's lost his wife two years back for inexplicable reasons (possibly mental illness, maybe drink) and seems to have mentally checked-out ever since. He offers his kids mumbles at the breakfast table, distant platitudes that have no teeth. He seems more lost in his own way than Nolte's character is - and gives the two kids worry instead of real guidance when they need it the most. Both the young Morgan and Kirkland are fantastic in these scenes - displaying a confidence and calm in the presence of such big hitters as Nolte and Hutton. Nolte gets a diagnosis from his doctor that is unsurprising given that he has a cold tin in his hand for most of the movie. There isn't much time left. Nolte then gets his annual high-school reunion of '66 invitation in the post, which he would normally bin, but not this year. He persuades young David to accompany him to the reunion - pretending to be his son - the boy agrees. And on the story goes."Off The Black" is a Baseball term - it's the Umpire's call - and his call sends the Pitcher who threw the ball either into the ecstasy of winning or the misery of losing for his whole team. It's a film that has little real story but says a lot - and contains scene-stealing performances from the whole cast (most of whom are young) but especially from the gruff and growly Nolte - who could just stand there and you'd still love him...I liked it a lot - "Off The Black" has heart and is well worth checking out. Destined I suspect to become a cult classic.
This is a quiet, dis-enchanting yet very real film about the need ofyouths and adults for family-identity. I found it quite touching;Trevor Morgan was great, as Nick Nolte, as usual (altho' Nolte mumblesso well that you have to really let go of listening and "go with it"... also, as usual).I was really struck with Nolte's vulnerable character; a classic"loser" profile of the "boy who would be king". And Timothy Hutton isalso credible as the father-who's-given-up versus Nick Nolte'sfather-who-keeps-on-believing, though neither are portrayed as"victims" of losing their wives and still having to raise the kids.This is a brave film. Usually, scripts like this are about SingleMothers and how they cope with the dissolution offamilies-with-children. This one goes a step beyond. It is a dignified,raw glimpse of the difficulty of being a father who has lost his"family" -- either to, or from, alcohol; either to, or from, pride.
This film is an excellent independant film and is very underrated. The story basically has Nick Nolte as Ray Cooke, a baseball umpire and Dave Tibbel as Morgan, a player on one of the teams. When Ray gives a call in a game the players don't agree with a group of kids get together and trash his house. Ray catches Morgan in the act and holds him responsible. They come to an agreement that he will work off the cost of the damage that was done to Ray's car during the trashing. They bond and Ray later asks Morgan to go with him to his High School reunion pretending to be his son so that he will make a good impression.There the plot is in a nutshell but the movie is about so much more than this. The film is a very intelligent, highly effective character study. The characters of Ray and Morgan are very complex and the process through which they bond is very realistic anvd very believable. As their relationship develops they find in each other things they didn't even know they were lacking. The high school reunion is merely a small part of the plot. The story is really told through the relationship of Ray and Morgan. Nick Nolte gives an excellent performance and shows he is still a force to be reckoned with. This was definitely an Oscar worthy performance. And Dave Tibbel gives a performance that is far beyond his years.The whole cast is exceptional but the movie rests on the shoulders of Nick Nolte and Dave Tibbel. The way they play off of each other is superb and to watch two lonely people form a real, honest, emotional bond that is based on trust and true affection is expertly told here. And to fully satisfy, the movie builds to a very realist conclusion and does not leave you hanging.This movie is emotional throughout and I highly recommend it.
James Ponsoldt is an impressive new talent whose gifts are well displayed in this very excellent small film, OFF THE BLACK. Ponsoldt is that rare combination of writer/director who has something unusual and significant to say and has the skills to tell his story with genuine sensitivity and with amazingly polished skill for one so new on the scene.In a small town anywhere in the US aging alcoholic Ray Cook (Nick Nolte) lives alone, spends his time making videotapes of himself in conversation with his son from whom he has been separated for years. He also is the umpire for the local baseball team, the pitcher for whom is a teenage lad Dave Tibbel (Trevor Morgan), a boy whose mother deserted her family leaving Dave and his younger sister Ashley (Sonia Feigelson) in the care of functionless distant father (Timothy Hutton), a man who would rather avoid any conversation or emotional support with his confused kids. Dave and two friends visit Ray Cook's house one night, empty trash on his lawn, scratch graffiti on his driveway and throw toilet paper streaming from the tree and TV antennae. Ray is sober enough to catch one of them - Dave - and makes a pact with the boy that he will not call the cops if Dave promises to clean up Ray's cluttered yard.Dave keeps his promise and gradually Ray and Dave warm to each other, each finding in the other the desperate needs to fill their empty lives - a 'son' and a 'father'. Ray convinces Dave to pose as his son at his high school reunion and the results of that experience coupled with numerous other incidents bond the two in one of the more tender love relationships ever captured on film. No, this film is not about physical attraction: it is about the kind of love that is a basic need in each of us and one that sadly is lacking in so very many lives today.Nick Nolte delivers a superb performance and it is refreshing to see him once again prove that he is a fine character actor. Trevor Morgan (at age 20!) is a revelation, that kind of actor who apparently excels in his craft intuitively. The supporting cast is likewise first class and the musical score by Claire Campbell, Alex Neville, and Brian Petway fits the film like a glove. Tim Orr's cinematography is so attuned to the story that it feels like the camera is another character. OFF THE BLACK is yet another little Indie film that came in under the radar and deserves so much greater an audience than it has had. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, May 07
I recently rented Off the Black and was pleasantly surprised how goodit was considering it had not gotten much recognition in media coverageor advertisements. I find it to be another quality independent filmthat unfortunately seemed to slip under the radar or fall throughcracks. Not only is it a finely directed tale from first time directorJames Ponsoldt, but the acting performances by Nolte, Morgan, andHutton are stellar. One might expect such performances by the veteransNolte and Hutton, but the way Morgan held his own scene for scene withthese icons shows his versatility and promise as a coming of age actorsoon to be recognized by all as a talented force. I thought he lookedfamiliar so after investigating I realized he was in Mean Creek andalso had a fairly long list of credits, including starring oppositeVanessa Redgrave in Rumor of Angels (another great film and anotherfine performance for Morgan). I am looking forward to seeingPondsoldt's next film and the what the future holds for Morgan!
This altogether engaging slice-of-life story features NN as a hermit, small town, baseball umpire who lives with his bulldog and Bud Lites. As the story unfolds, a young man enters his world and an unusual and engaging friendship ensues. A high school class reunion provides a dramatic insight into his character and this wonderful look into the lives of two people ends with a sense of real humanity. Nolte has once again shown why he retains his place as a national treasure. And Trevor Morgan as the youngster is quite good as well. Add this one to your Netflix list!