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Author Topic: (American) Football  (Read 4612 times)

pixote

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Re: Football
« Reply #100 on: May 08, 2020, 11:50:54 AM »
I do have the one documentary included here, Undefeated, mostly because it looked too good to leave off. But yes, there are a lot more throwaway comedies here than I would like.

I can vouch for Undefeated, along with the Netflix series Last Chance U.

Yay!

I just finally caught up on the last four pages of this thread. Really good reading. Oddly, though, the number one film I feel inspired to watch is Johnny Be Good — just to see how bad a football movie can be.

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Corndog

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Re: (American) Football
« Reply #101 on: May 08, 2020, 12:24:46 PM »
Haha, thanks for reading along. I can't say I haven't felt the same impulse re: watching Johnny Be Good to see how bad something is. I obviously would warn you, but discovering the worst can sometimes be good for the soul somehow.
"Time is the speed at which the past decays."

Corndog

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Re: (American) Football
« Reply #102 on: May 08, 2020, 01:02:07 PM »
When the Game Stands Tall (Thomas Carter, 2014)

There are many different types of sports movies, told from all sorts of different perspectives, but the idea of a powerhouse, undefeated team and the pressures and elements that make up that dynamic doesn’t come first to mind. I suppose there is some precedent on an individual basis with films such as 61* from the baseball world. I had heard of De La Salle High School and its unbelievable winning streak, but I never knew anything about the program, the coaches, or the players that contributed to this decades long streak. It is hard to imagine the kind of pressure that would mount with each passing win, to continue the streak and not be the team that lost it. A lot of stress for a bunch of teenagers to shoulder when they should be thinking and enjoying much lighter times in their lives.

Bob Ladouceur (Jim Caviezel) is the legendary football coach of De La Salle high school, proud owners of the nation’s longest winning streak of 151 games, an incredible decade long streak. As the team gets ready for its new season, the seniors, including star player Chris Ryan (Alexander Ludwig), shoulder the load to continue the streak. But after losing the first two games of the year, and heading into playing the #1 team in the country, the De La Salle football program has a lot of adversity to face, both on and off the field.

I largely struggled to connect with the message of this film. Sure, pressure and adversity hit everywhere, and it definitely hits here, but this is a story about the most successful program perhaps ever losing two games and it being the end of the world. It’s about a head football coach who was likely the most successful in the country losing two games and it being the end of the world, wondering what the next steps are. I do not mean to diminish what must have been tremendous pressure to succeed, and especially since Coach “Lad” suffered a life threatening heart attack as well. I really respect the work these people went through, but I definitely struggled to largely sympathize with proven winners who experienced very little real downswings.

So while right off the top, the storyline failed to win me over, the rest of the film felt slight as well. It felt very glossy and I was underwhelmed by the characters and especially the performances. Caviezel was very ho-hum, very mild mannered and stood at stark contrast across from Laura Dern as his wife. The young part of the cast felt like they were definitely first time performers, some with more long term promise than others (like Alexander Ludwig and Stephan James).

The large problem with these type of “inspirational” football movies is they are often so formulaic and familiar. So safe and standard. We’ve seen this approach to football movies time and time again and on top of failing to provide anything new to the genre, When the Game Stands Tall also fails to connect with a fresh perspective of a team that always wins losing a couple of games. Give me Friday Night Lights for a real look at the pressures of high school football. Give me Remember the Titans for overcoming obstacles to win. When the Game Stands Tall is just largely a forgettable experience about an element of football I have very little interest in. Its greatest crime was not doing anything interesting with the material either.

★★☆☆☆ – Didn't Like It
"Time is the speed at which the past decays."

Corndog

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Re: (American) Football
« Reply #103 on: May 08, 2020, 02:23:48 PM »
My All American (Angelo Pizzo, 2015)

There are plenty of luminaries throughout the history of football and perhaps especially so college football. There are countless heroes that many college programs can point to, and some that even transcend the institution where they made their mark. But for all the legends of the game, there are so many more unsung heroes who were either overlooked, or whose stories came to tragic end. Freddie Steinmark is not a name, as a huge fan of the game, I was not familiar with before seeing this film. Despite going to the University of Texas, one of the storied programs in the history of the game, Steinmark is likely only known to Texas Longhorn fans, and a few very ardent fans of the game. His time in the game came and went, leaving a lasting legacy in Austin.

Freddie (Finn Wittrock) was an undersized superstar at his Denver, Colorado high school. So when a football sized Californian (Rett Terrell) joins the team, the two transform the losing program into a winner, which they parlay into scholarship offers from the University of Texas under famed Coach Royal (Aaron Eckhart). Freddie’s high school sweetheart Linda (Sarah Bolger) also gets accepted to Texas, where after a tough freshman year on the football field, the Longhorns turned to this young, small, energetic, tough football player to transform its defense, while changing their offense with fellow newcomer James Street (Juston Street, playing his father) under center to lead them once again to a winning program.

The career and life of Freddie Steinmark is pretty incredible. Sure, there may be a few other inspiring stories like his to have come along, so he is likely not one of one, but to see an undersized football player, who is smart, charming, a leader able to overcome any physical differences to become a college football star and central to a National Championship team. He means a lot to the University of Texas, and filmmaker Angelo Pizzo makes that evident with his depiction of Steinmark. But beyond that connection, the film is just another of many inspirational sports biographies.

It follows the formula, it includes all the tropes. Like so many others of this football marathon, it fails to ever set itself apart, either with character development, acting performances, filmmaking flourishes, or insightful narrative elements. But as a “based on a true story” entry, My All American is fine fare, presenting a notable and perhaps even noble figure in the history of college football. Fine is about as good a compliment as I can offer this film though, as it lives somewhere above some kind of dreck I would vehemently ward people off of, but below the baseline average I would use to recommend. This gray area of quality also makes it extremely hard to write a thoughtful review. It’s not good, it’s not bad. It just is. I fail for more words than that.

★★☆☆☆ – Didn't Like It
"Time is the speed at which the past decays."

pixote

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Re: (American) Football
« Reply #104 on: May 08, 2020, 02:34:41 PM »
★★☆☆☆ – Didn't Like It
★★☆☆☆ – Didn't Like It

On a side note, I'm having trouble getting used to the empty stars (which show your ratings to be out of five). Not to make extra work for you, but I think it might be worth coloring them gray, as in the second example above.

I occasionally need to watch a really bad movie (like Johnny Be Good) to sort of calibrate my ratings and remember that there's a difference between fair movies and bad movies.

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Corndog

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Re: (American) Football
« Reply #105 on: May 08, 2020, 05:55:56 PM »
Yea I really liked the idea of shifting to show out of five since so many people have different ratings scales. The graying out isn’t a bad idea since I can see the confusion of some people thinking it’s a full star. But then again, that also more work for me haha!

"Time is the speed at which the past decays."

Corndog

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Re: (American) Football
« Reply #106 on: May 13, 2020, 08:01:01 AM »
Concussion (Peter Landesman, 2015)

The current landscape of professional football is a far cry from a player’s safety standpoint than it was even 10 years ago. Football is easily the most popular sport in America, fueled by exciting play, violent action, and the inclusion of not only sports betting, but also and perhaps especially fantasy sports, which have attracted millions to the game. But we have seen over the years the toll the game takes on player’s bodies, seen and unseen. NFL players have aches, pains and deformities from their playing careers, but in recent years there has been a vast exploration of the toll concussions and head injuries have caused on the game. There was a point when all this research was breaking when I didn’t think the sport could survive long term. Rules changes and other considerations have perhaps changed my mind, but there is no denying just how violent football has been in the past, and continues to be today, regardless of safety improvements.

Bennet Omalu (Will Smith) was an immigrant doctor living in Pittsburgh and working in the city morgue, conducting thorough autopsies when the body of famed Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Webster came across his path. A seemingly young, healthy veteran of the league, who had been driven to a madness that couldn’t be explained. When more ex-football players starting turning up dead due to suicide and other mentally related causes of death, Omalu took his findings to an ex-Steelers doc (Alec Baldwin). When his findings of a brain trauma injury caused by football, CTE, Omalu became public enemy #1 of not only the NFL, but fans of the game around the country. But Omalu did not hate football, he just saw what everyone else had been denying: that it was killing those who played it at far too young an age.

Seeing a story like this one unfolds is often frustrating, for many reasons, but specifically to this marathon due to its effects on the game of football. I started this film marathon because I love the game of football, so anything that strikes a black mark on the game is troublesome, but at the same time, this is not the type of scandal you can ignore and sweep beneath the rug. And that the NFL attempted to hide this great risk from its employee base is pretty incredible, especially when you consider that today in 2020, the game is still just as popular as ever, even when the game faces the same issues. Any safety rules and considerations that have been made have certainly helped, but many of them are motivated simply by optics. My relationship with the game remains tentative, in that I enjoy it a great deal, and play in many fantasy football leagues, but I still know about the games dangers and dirty little secrets.

As for the movie, which itself is not a documentary, it works largely as a vehicle for its star Will Smith, whose central performance helps carry an investigative thriller type narrative. As the filmmakers focus on the chase of the truth, the righteous outcome of the deaths of these famed players, Omalu’s drive, passion and compassion come through Smith’s performance. It morphs into a fairly standard procedural type of film, exploring this process with little pizzaz or enhanced sense of drama, but the story itself is entertaining enough to sustain the runtime, even if the romance story with Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s character feels very tacked on. Mbatha-Raw is good here too, and I’m sure the character was important to the story of the real life Omalu, but here her character adds little to the main narrative.

After a series of movies lauding the actions and careers of some of football’s beloved heroes, and done so in fairly generic bio-pic manners, Concussion is a breath of fresh air, even if it focuses on the darker aspects of the game. It follows a different path, and does so in an average way, but it also explores an element of the game that the films of the rest of the marathon have either largely ignored or shown as proof of the toughness of the players (all of the characters we remember playing hero playing through the torments of injury). But Concussion also marks a, at least temporary, freeze in the success of the football movie, as no other high profile movies have been released in the genre since, a full 5 years, despite the sport’s continued popularity. Did Concussion ruin the genre, or did concussions?

★★★☆☆ – Liked It
"Time is the speed at which the past decays."

Corndog

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Re: (American) Football
« Reply #107 on: May 21, 2020, 01:37:20 PM »
Paterno (Barry Levinson, 2018)

Any fan of college football likely knows who Joe Paterno is. Some may have much closer relationships with him than others. For instance, I am a Columbus, OH resident and therefore also a die-hard Ohio State fan, so Penn State has been a part of my fall Saturdays for my entire life (they joined the Big Ten when I was very young). So I know all about Joe Paterno as a rival. I know all about his legacy and impact on State College and the state of Pennsylvania. So when the Jerry Sandusky scandal broke, I knew all about just how huge the story was, just how impactful this scandal would be to both Penn State and Joe Paterno’s reputation. Joe Pa was beloved, now he is a fascinating character study. A fallen idol for his involvement in a series of heinous crimes.

Joe Paterno (Al Pacino) is nearing the record for most wins by a coach in college football history after an historic tenure at Penn State. But on this cusp, a young, diligent reporter named Sara Ganim (Riley Keough) has been investigating a report that accuses a former assistant coach under Paterno, Jerry Sandusky, of a string of horrific sexual crimes against young men. As the story begins to break, the luster of Paterno’s legacy comes into question. More information is coming out, more victims are coming forward. Was Paterno an enabler? Did he know about the accusations and say nothing? Do nothing? What kind of institutional malpractice took place at Penn State under his watch?

Look, I mentioned a personal connection to the true story being told by this film, but in reality, it’s not a personal connection, not like many of the people directly involved in the story. When something like this breaks in the news, my heart breaks for the victims who had to go through hell. And while Paterno did not perpetrate the crimes himself, you have to wonder what you would do in his situation. The film itself seems to land somewhere in the middle, muddled by the information available and whether or not Paterno did what he was responsible to do or not. I think by living somewhere in the middle, the movie is a little more interesting than it deserves to be. Taking a definitive side on the legacy of the celebrated coach would be a lazy approach.

But at the same time, the line filmmaker Barry Levinson toes in Paterno does lean a little to the side of condemnation, but the bit of uncertainty clouds the character as portrayed by Al Pacino, whose performance is rather subdued and ho-hum for Pacino. As an old man, only interested in coaching football, completely disinterested in the politics of an explosive scandal unfolding around him, Pacino plays Paterno not necessary as guilty, but certainly completely detached from any responsibility, whether true or not. I think anyone looking back on the story sees Paterno as an enabler, who didn’t do enough to prevent a criminal from committing his crimes. But maybe it’s not as simple as that. Maybe the doubt that is explored here is genuine. Maybe Paterno didn’t know any better, or was completely unaware of everything going on around him. It’s hard to say, but this film does little to add to the discussion.

★★☆☆☆ – Didn't Like It
"Time is the speed at which the past decays."

Corndog

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Re: (American) Football
« Reply #108 on: May 21, 2020, 01:49:29 PM »
Don't know if I have either the energy or the memory to do a full ranking of the 44 films I saw for this marathon, especially considering it spanned multiple years so it's been some time since I saw some of the early films. So just to wrap things up, here is a recommendation list, starting with the 4+ star films and then some of the better 3 star ones...

Essentials:
The Freshman (1925)
The Longest Yard (1974)
All the Right Moves (1983)
Rudy (1993)
Jerry Maguire (1996)
Remember the Titans (2000)
Friday Night Lights (2004)
Big Fan (2009)
Undefeated (2011)
Draft Day (2014)

Also Recommended:
Heaven Can Wait (1978)
North Dallas Forty (1979)
Necessary Roughness (1991)
Little Giants (1994) - childhood favorite

AVOID!
The Best of Times (1986)
Johnny Be Good (1988)
"Time is the speed at which the past decays."

 

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