Archives for posts with tag: sports movies

Even after all these years, “He Got Game” (1998) might still do the best job of any movie when it comes to depicting the pressures and temptations of being a great athlete in the ghetto. It also has all the Spike Lee hallmarks: intelligent music choices, inventive editing and cinematography, and a strange mix of professional and amateur actors. The latter hurts the movie’s flow, because, frankly, some of the performances are awful. Ray Allen does OK as a high school basketball phenom. Among the pros, Denzel Washington is his usual amazing self and Jim Brown makes a welcome comeback.

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Underdog Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards beat the odds to make history as an Olympic ski jumper. It’s a sweet story. All the makings for a movie. Unfortunately, movies can’t leave well enough alone. Instead of just sweet, “Eddie the Eagle” (2016) gets infused with high fructose corn syrup, emulsifiers and xanthan gum (whatever that is). Eddie’s unique story gets refabricated to resemble every other formulaic sports movie ever made, with the pep talks, speeches, father-son conflict, the coach with something to prove, the horny fraulein manager at the biergarten, blah, blah, blah. (Wait! What? Before the blah, blah, blah part.)

 

Disney knows what you like. You like predictable. You like pleasant. No matter what you say, you ride It’s a Small World. So Disney pulls out every cliche in the sports cinema book for “McFarland USA,” a 2015 heartstring-puller starring Kevin Costner. The sport is cross-country, but you feel like you’re watching a circa-1987 ripoff of “Hoosiers” with Mexican farmboys instead of Indiana farmboys. But hey, people like fairy tales because they know everyone lives happily ever after. And this is that, even if it’s based on a true story (with a lot of stuff left out and/or glossed over).

When I was a kid, I’d get very upset if a sports movie wasn’t realistic enough to suit me. Heaven forbid if it took dramatic license with actual events. I’m not a kid anymore, so I could appreciate all the melodrama and spectacle that director Ron Howard packs into “Rush” (2013), a based-on-a-true story Hollywoodization of 1970s Formula One racing. The rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda is exaggerated. The race results are embellished. Get over it. It’s a good story with interesting characters, providing a new take on how opposites can bring out the best in each other.

I don’t know much about Renee Zellweger (I even had to look up how to spell her last name.). I know she’s won some awards. I’ve heard she smokes and she’s batshit crazy, but I have no first-hand evidence of either. I do know that in 1996, she made a movie with Tom Cruise. Written by Cameron Crowe. A romantic comedy for guys. Every woman’s favorite football movie. She played a certain type of character. She was at a certain point in her career. Lightning in a bottle. “Jerry Maguire.” I hope she can look back on it with satisfaction.

A lot of people believe sports are a metaphor for life. And a lot of people believe strong metaphors drive great movies. Thusly, a lot of people believe “Hoosiers” (1986) is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, sports movies of all time. It helps that it was born from a wonderful, true underdog story about a basketball team from a tiny town in Indiana that goes all the way to the state finals. The moviemakers then weave in multiple layers of additional underdogs and others struggling for redemption. And it all comes together in the big game. Perfect.