Shelton’s new memoir, The Church of Baseball, does for filmmaking what Bull Durham did for the national pastime: it demystifies the craft, pillories the business, and celebrates the calling with wit and passion ... Shelton’s prose is as natural as his dialogue, and he conjures characters with casual mastery ... In The Church of Baseball, as in Bull Durham, Shelton riffs on life in the American grain, and scales the heights of the homegrown surreal. Like Mark Twain, he reveals an unsentimental education that reads like a robust and impudent yarn.
Eminently readable ... A down-and-dirty account of how the unlikely 1988 classic was conceived, made and sold, soup to nuts, from idealistic plans to corporate reality. Its ground-level tone and attention to detail strip away the romance of moviemaking, with only minimal rancor. In contemporary parlance, Shelton keeps it real.
... a peek behind the curtain, to be sure; Shelton is upfront and honest about the process, both with regard to what worked and what didn’t … and how much fun everyone had along the way ... a delight, a combination of insider observation and shaggy memoir. Shelton’s memories of this time are vivid and razor-sharp, resulting in a detailed picture of the realities behind getting this movie made. The disconnect between the film’s canonical status today and the uncertainty that surrounded it in the moment makes the story of its making all the more fascinating. Talk about inside baseball, you know? ... offers equal appeal to lovers of baseball and movies, a book that breaks down an iconic work of great importance to both realms. Smart, funny and charmingly self-deprecating, it’s an absolute home run of a read.
Shelton goes into great detail about the post-production work, as the movie team and studio executives argue endlessly about which scenes to include and which to cut. He also takes us through the nerve-racking process of test screenings, in which the movie is previewed for carefully chosen audiences ... What could be more American than baseball and movies? The tale of how Bull Durham became a classic American sports movie is engaging, informative, and, in its own way, an inspirational story. If you liked the movie, you’ll love the book.
Breezy ... Unlike most making-of books, many pages are devoted to how Shelton conceived the characters, developed a framework for a movie, sold a studio on it, then wrote and rewrote and rewrote the script. And the creativity continued during the actual filming, the editing, the music, the costumes and all the other stuff that goes into making a movie. Fortunately, creativity can be pretty funny as well as pretty interesting, and The Church of Baseball is consistently both.
... should probably wind up on the syllabus of every film school in the country. In it, Shelton delivers a primer on the absurdist business of Hollywood filmmaking and on the art of narrative storytelling. His book glides along its own narrative arc as Shelton overcomes one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after another, each time leaving the reader breathless at the sheer improbability that Bull Durham got made at all. I highly recommend it for fans of the film, storytellers, and those who’ve thought of naming their children Crash and Nuke.
... shows that Bull Durham is popular partly because it is funny, but it also reveals an additional source of the movie’s enduring appeal: willingness to address aging ... Annie would channel Walt Whitman here, but I am reminded of Abraham Lincoln, who, upon leaving Springfield, Ill., in 1861, noted his passing from young to old. Shelton’s book illuminates the centrality of that universal passage.
... mostly droll, sometimes dolorous account ... a fraught, rollicking and gossipy romp through the funny-in-retrospect ordeal of fighting for a cinematic project that seemed as unlikely to succeed as a Class A shortstop making it to the Show ... Mr. Shelton has been in the movie business for a long time, and he has the exasperation with studio decisions to show for it.
More than a behind-the-scenes look at one of the best baseball movies of all time, the book is a filmmaking primer in which Shelton never presupposes the reader comes with the knowledge of what a 'grip' or a 'second unit' does ... Usually, as I read a book on a topic in which I’m particularly interested (or well-versed), I will make notes on the pages, rather than in a notepad, questioning why the author included this, excluded that, or chose a distinct word or phrase to make a point. The more pages I dog-ear, the more compelling I found the book. By that standard, The Church of Baseball has to be one of the best to combine my two favorite pastimes.
...an entertaining, casual book with the tone of a dinner table conversation. While detailed and multifaceted, the book is very much Shelton’s perspective from beginning to end, and does not pretend to be a comprehensive history...It is a memoir with very specific framing, and under these parameters the book certainly delivers ... The details, the inspiration, the writing routine—in these chapters we’re gifted a craft book and textual analysis all at once, and the experience is unbelievably rich ... Shelton’s writing voice is clear and good-humored, and while nothing groundbreaking, the book embodies the vintage wistfulness and romance that the movie continues to represent.
Jaunty ... There’s plenty of the inside-the-movie revelations that making-of fans crave, about the film’s stars ... A marvelous book about a classic movie that is guaranteed to send fans back to the Church of Baseball to hear their favorite sermon one more time.
Shelton takes readers through the writing of the script in detail, highlighting his aims in each scene ... Told purely from the creator’s perspective, this book is a lively, witty master class in screenwriting and film direction, much in the cheeky spirit of Bull Durham ... Highly entertaining and informative look at a popular film classic, this book should find wide interest among film and sports buffs.
... what sets [Shelton's] memoir apart are its insights into the process of filmmaking, from the initial concept through to the script stage, casting, assembling a crew, production and post-production. It’s a remarkably lucid and instructive primer.
Spectacular ... Shelton produces a work that’s humanizing and intimate ... In addition to his fascinating analyses of the script’s genesis...readers will revel in Shelton’s own accounts of playing baseball professionally in the minor leagues in the 1960s ... The result is an immensely moving look into the mind behind the masterpiece.
Shelton’s book is not simply a jaunty recollection of his directing debut, with all its attendant breakthroughs and headaches. The author, who displays sheer, unadulterated love for his subject, also delivers a savvy, unusually informative tutorial on how to take a motion picture from the concept stage to script development, casting, production, and post-production. Shelton examines all of this in a charismatic style that decodes jargon and engages from first page to last. There’s plenty of gossip (mostly generous), surprising insights, useful screenwriting strategies, and tips for would-be directors on how to combat studio meddling ... Fans of the film will have new reasons to appreciate it—and the team that made it.