Author Topic: Football  (Read 412 times)

Corndog

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Football
« on: June 12, 2017, 02:14:06 PM »
Springboarding off my Baseball marathon, which was very fun and enlightening, discovering many great baseball movies, and re-discovering countless more, I would love to explore the world of the Football movie a little more. Baseball is my favorite sport, and as such, I have seen a good number of the films I included as part of that marathon, but I have only recently become more engaged in the sport of Football. There are certainly fewer movies centered around the sport than Baseball, but there is great opportunity in Football to explore films I have never seen before. I tried as best I could to include a good mix of styles and eras of film.

I figured now was as good as any time to start this process, overlapping with my Westerns marathon which will seemingly last forever anyway. And with football only a few months away, I will hopefully be watching a number of these in season, or at least pre-season.

As always, I encourage you to follow along and be a part of the discussion! Enjoy!


  • The Freshman (Fred C. Newmeyer & Sam Taylor, 1925)
  • Horse Feathers (Norman Z. McLeod, 1932)
  • Knute Rockne All American (Lloyd Bacon, 1940)
  • Trouble Along the Way (Michael Curtiz, 1953)
  • Paper Lion (Alex March, 1968)
  • Brian's Song (Buzz Kulik, 1971)
  • The Longest Yard (Robert Aldrich, 1974)
  • Semi-Tough (Michael Ritchie, 1977)
  • Heaven Can Wait (Warren Beatty & Buck Henry, 1978)
  • North Dallas Forty (Ted Kotcheff, 1979)
  • All the Right Moves (Michael Chapman, 1983)
  • The Best of Times (Roger Spottiswoode, 1986)
  • Wildcats (Michael Ritchie, 1986)
  • Lucas (David Seltzer, 1986)
  • Johnny Be Good (Bud Smith, 1988)
  • Everybody's All American (Taylor Hackford, 1988)
  • Necessary Roughness (Stan Dragoti, 1991)
  • The Last Boy Scout (Tony Scott, 1991)
  • Rudy (David Anspaugh, 1993)
  • The Program (Davis S. Ward, 1993)
  • Little Giants (Duwayne Dunham, 1994)
  • Jerry Maguire (Cameron Crowe, 1996)
  • The Waterboy (Frank Coraci, 1998)
  • Varsity Blues (Brian Robbins, 1999)
  • Any Given Sunday (Oliver Stone, 1999)
  • The Replacements (Howard Deutch, 2000)
  • Remember the Titans (Boaz Yakin, 2000)
  • Radio (Mike Tollin, 2003)
  • Friday Night Lights (Peter Berg, 2004)
  • The Longest Yard (Peter Segal, 2005)
  • Invincible (Ericson Core, 2006)
  • Gridiron Gang (Phil Joanou, 2006)
  • We Are Marshall (McG, 2006)
  • The Game Plan (Andy Fickman, 2007)
  • Leatherheads (George Clooney, 2008)
  • The Express (Gary Fleder, 2008)
  • Big Fan (Robert D. Siegel, 2009)
  • The Blind Side (John Lee Hancock, 2009)
  • Undefeated (Daniel Lindsay & T.J. Martin, 2011)
  • Draft Day (Ivan Reitman, 2014)
  • When the Game Stands Tall (Thomas Carter, 2014)
  • My All American (Angelo Pizzo, 2015)
  • Concussion (Peter Landesman, 2015)
« Last Edit: November 06, 2017, 01:18:24 PM by Corndog »
"Time is the speed at which the past decays."

pixote

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Re: Football
« Reply #1 on: June 12, 2017, 05:31:22 PM »
I hope there are some hidden gems in here, especially since this slate doesn't seem as strong as the Baseball lineup (at least at first glance).

From what I've seen, football has been much better served by documentary films than by fiction films (going back at least as far as 1962 with Mooney vs. Fowle).

pixote
« Last Edit: June 12, 2017, 05:33:18 PM by pixote »
I think I'd love how awkward it'd be, or how awkward it should be.

Corndog

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Re: Football
« Reply #2 on: June 12, 2017, 05:41:43 PM »
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 wonder why there haven't been more great football movies.
"Time is the speed at which the past decays."

pixote

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Re: Football
« Reply #3 on: June 12, 2017, 05:48:37 PM »
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.

I wonder why there haven't been more great football movies.

I was wondering that too. It seems like an odd gap in the history of movies.

pixote
I think I'd love how awkward it'd be, or how awkward it should be.

1SO

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Re: Football
« Reply #4 on: June 12, 2017, 08:56:08 PM »
Your list has everything I thought of. Excited to read another opinion of Trouble Along the Way, Brian's Song and North Dallas Forty. You've got three of my least favorites in there too... all in a row. (12-14)


I find it amusing that these marathons keep throwing Lloyd Bacon at you. Baseball gave you It Happens Every Spring and Kill the Umpire, Westerns sparked our debate over The Oklahoma Kid. Now, you'll have Knute Rockne All American. That's also one of the few titles on your list I haven't seen, even though it stars Pat O'Brien, who is a favorite of mine. Guess that'll be my 25th Lloyd Bacon film.

Corndog

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Re: Football
« Reply #5 on: June 20, 2017, 02:38:56 PM »
The Freshman (Sam Taylor & Fred C. Newmeyer, 1925)

Harold Lloyd is the underappreciated, underseen silent comedy star. Along with Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, Lloyd helped pioneer the genre and form, but to this day his name run third behind the other two. I myself have never seen a Harold Lloyd film, which makes The Freshman the perfect starting point to "kickoff" this football marathon. I know far less about football compared to baseball, so my experiences with these films will likely be a bit different. For instance, I have no sense of the popularity of the sport of football at a time like 1925, when this film was produced. Not having a vast knowledge of the history of the game, most of what will come in this marathon will be personal experiences, and how I feel about the game that has likely surpassed baseball in terms of popularity in this day and age.

Harold (Harold Lloyd) is an enthusiastic young man who cannot wait to go off to college. Certainly at the time, college was not a well trodden path for most families. Off to Tate (College? University?), Harold hopes to be popular by mimicking a character in his favorite movie, and by joining the football team in hopes of becoming captain. While Harold thinks he is becoming popular, he is really becoming the laughing stock of campus. With the help of Peggy, whom he met on the train to school, Harold starts to realize that his true self should be enough to be popular, and that he is trying to hard to be someone he is not. Clumsy and nerdy or not, Harold hopes to help Tate beat their rival Union State in the big football game, if he can ever get off the bench and into the game.

Chaplin and Keaton each have their own unique style, and it works wonders. Chaplin plays the hapless Tramp character, while Keaton's stone faced delivery sets him apart. So what makes Harold Lloyd unique. From first viewing, I would say his sincerity. Of the three, Lloyd is likely most adept at communicating a feeling. His acting style is so conversational, so natural that it feels as though he is a trained actor from today, avoiding the often boisterous and outlandish acting styles of the silent era in favor of an expression of reaction of sincerity. This was quite refreshing and makes me want to seek out more of his popular films.

I think the central storyline is well conceived as well. It's something we've likely seen countless times: be yourself, but Lloyd's sincerity and sense of humor make it a success in spite of this. Not fully understanding the history of the game, I found it interesting that even in 1925, being captain of the football team made you the most popular student on campus. The football scenes are exciting, if not a little disorienting (I'm not sure you can figure out the rules of the game by watching this). Played for laughs here, the brutal nature of the sport will likely be a common thread throughout this marathon. In 1925, when they hardly wore pads, it might seem funny to see a woozy and clearly concussed Harold "brave" his way through tackling practice. He's applauded for his spirit and drive. Today it just looks dumb.

You certainly can't fault the film for something like that, but it definitely shifts the perspective of the film. Seeing it in the lens of 1925, these moments are funny. Look at how the nerdy student gets beaten up! But in the lens of 2017, they hardly seem funny at all, more concerning and sad really. Endorsing the game of football is not what this film is about though, thankfully. Rather, Lloyd and the filmmaking team set out to make some funny scenes revolve around a heartwarming story about a nerdy kid being himself, and being accepted because of it. The very fact that Harold try to be someone he is not in order to be popular seems an ironic twist in 2017, when Harold Lloyd, for being himself, is not as popular as the cool kids Chaplin and Keaton. Perhaps one day the world will see him for who he truly is: a great comedian.

*** - Very Good
"Time is the speed at which the past decays."

Corndog

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Re: Football
« Reply #6 on: June 22, 2017, 11:47:23 AM »
Horse Feathers (Norman Z. McLeod, 1932)

Only two films into my football marathon, and already it has been a marathon of discovery. Things got started with a Harold Lloyd classic silent film, The Freshman, my first experience with the silent film star. The second installment features the famed Marx Brothers, also my first experience with the legends themselves. Of course, this also means that I don't know quite what to expect from their brand of comedy. I'm not warmed up to them, which means I can either be bowled over by their comedic style, or even potentially bored to death or completely thrown. Regardless, it is an exciting proposition and exactly why this marathon exists: to discover new things, like just how zany a football game could possibly be.

Professor Quincy Adams Wagstaff (Groucho) has recently been appointed the new president of Huxley University, whose football team has been atrocious for many years, instead focusing its funds and attentions on academics. With Wagstaff now in charge, he hopes to revamp the football team to beat rival Darwin University. Employing the help of the hapless duo of Baravelli (Chico) and Pinky (Harpo), Wagstaff aims to recruit two burly football players from the speakeasy to help his team. However, Darwin beats them to the punch, and now Huxley is forced to try to win with just Wagstaff and his airheaded companions Baravelli and Pinky. Somehow, they compete. Somehow they coerce laughs out of the audience with their bumbling, fumbling ways.

As I said, I had no idea what to expect, but I quickly found out what the Marx Brothers brand of comedy was about. It's very broad. The film opens with a introductory speech from Groucho which perfectly frames everything about the film I wasn't going to like. It's forced, scripted, and Groucho delivers it in a way as to suggest he was so proud of just how funny he though he was. All of these things work strongly against my ability to enjoy the film. There are laughs, sure, and good gags, funny songs, etc. But everything feels diminished due to on screen expectations. It's hard to buy into something when the performers so clearly think they're more clever and funnier than the actual content suggests.

There is humor here, and I had a few laughs at the Marx Brothers expenses. But the laughs are few and far between, so thankfully the run time is a very short 70 minutes, otherwise it would have been far more difficult to suffer through the many lulls in the film where my attention wandered. Once the football game finally gets started, things pick up somewhat with some crazy in-game action. I'm not sure what game they're playing, or by what rules, but at this point all convention and structure has been thrown out anyway, which gives Harpo, Groucho and Chico the canvas necessary to make fools of themselves. The game is when the best gags are actually landed.

 In all I can't say I was overly impressed by the Marx Brothers. In a time when there wasn't television yet, they could have been great television stars. I guess that means their only outlet was these short little films for audiences to eat up, and I can fully appreciate that. Maybe my reaction is a failing of my own expectations, but I didn't laugh much. So far there have been two football movies, and both have been comedies. I look forward to seeing a greater variety of stories and styles, ones that aren't necessarily comedies, and ones that aren't just incidentally football movies. There are greener pastures ahead, though I also know there is plenty of dumb football humor in store as well. I'm glad I've meet the Marx Brothers, and maybe now that I know what to expect I'll be better prepared to enjoy their other works.

** 1/2 - Average
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Corndog

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Re: Football
« Reply #7 on: July 10, 2017, 12:18:10 PM »
Knute Rockne All American (Lloyd Bacon, 1940)

The game of football has changed and evolved a lot over the past century. What started as a tough game for college men to compete in, has become a billion dollar professional industry where star players make millions of dollars, and team owners make millions more. Even when you consider the college game, it has become such a corporate thing, with the top schools netting millions of dollars for their institutions. The conversation has even been had about college players being paid for their play. Viewing Knute Rockne All American under the current climate of the game seems a little odd. This film, made in 1940, depicts the more innocent times when the game was played for fun, for pride, and making a living out of football was frowned upon, not celebrated.

After coming to America from Norway, the Rockne's were doing everything they could to make a new dream in a new country. When Knute (Pat O'Brien) was ready to go off to college, he chose Notre Dame, a small Catholic school in Indiana. Soon, Rockne was starring on the football team, helping advance the art of the forward pass in the game. After upsetting the perennial powerhouse that was Army, Rockne used his success and fame to become the head coach at Notre Dame, where he lead championship teams with star players like George Gipp (Ronald Reagan) leading the way. Even after Gipp tragically passed away, Rockne continued to mold and inspire young men.

The romance of old time college football is on full display here, with Rockne celebrated as a legend, and Gipp memorialized as a hero. For some, this may be a turn off to the film, but I loved the tone and overall romanticism of it. In many ways, I could say the film overdoes things. It holds Rockne up on too high a pedestal, and has tunnel vision when it comes to Rockne and Notre Dame's accomplishments during the era. There were many innovators and powerhouse football programs. Rockne and Notre Dame were among the top, and this film deservedly celebrates them as such. But it does make for a rather narrow view of the culture and expanse of the game.

Of course, Pat O'Brien as Rockne himself is suitably dramatic and over-important. Reagan on the other hand brings a charm and charisma to the role of the Gipper that O'Brien lacks. Interesting how time seems to have remembered Reagan more for his role here over O'Brien. The football action in general is fine, mostly in the style of a news reel as director Lloyd Bacon neatly montages the games in favor of more character moments outside of the game itself. For instance, the moments between Rockne and Gipp on his deathbed, or the famed speech from Rockne to "win one for the Gipper", which will reappear in Rudy later in this marathon, are touching.

I have had some experience with Lloyd Bacon before, and I've always found his films to be good, but never great. His is a workmanlike style which assures entertainment, but basically guarantees a lack of greatness. The same can be said of Knute Rockne All American, which entertains, but fails to stay with you the further you become removed from the experience. It's a fine couple hours to spend, especially for fans of old time college football, or more specifically Notre Dame, but not a film to which I will soon return. In terms of its place within football movies, it marks an important document of an era of college football, but otherwise it's a rather bland entry.

*** - Good
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1SO

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Re: Football
« Reply #8 on: July 11, 2017, 05:19:12 PM »
Much as I love Warner Bros during this era, their Achilles heel was the biopic. Maybe it's because cinema was newer and less sophisticated, but their biopics tended to hit the highlights with broad strokes and immortalize their central figures as saints among us everyday people. Sure, there are some winners, like Yankee Doodle Dandy and Sergeant York, but even they are guilty of this approach.

Knute Rockne is a typical example, and Lloyd Bacon can do nothing to elevate "typical". His best moment may be a montage where the ball and players are constantly thrown directly at the camera lens. Knowing nothing about Knute, I was surprised at how rushed or telegraphed some of the key moments are. Ronald Reagan goes from a cough to dead inside of 5 minutes. Rockne's invention of a passing game is given just as little attention, but his final minutes... well I guess they assumed the audience already knew what happened. (BTW, I would have liked if the movie just told the story of the invention of the passing game and Rockne's box formation.)

I'm most disappointed in Pat O'Brien. He's usually a dynamo, but most of the time his attempt to be reverential is a wet towel over his charisma. There are later scenes full of bluster... and I think a thicker accent. I wonder if those rousing speeches were filmed first because they're not consistent.

Also, is it pronounced newt or ka-newt. It seems every actor was allowed to say it however they wanted. Nobody is corrected and O'Brien and Donald Crisp say it both ways during the film. That's just sloppy.
RATING: * *

Jeff Schroeck

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Re: Football
« Reply #9 on: July 11, 2017, 05:32:09 PM »
I love Big Fan! You could even say I'm a huge supporter of it!!