Author Topic: Football  (Read 639 times)

smirnoff

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Re: Football
« Reply #20 on: October 05, 2017, 01:45:28 AM »
Not a film I'd ever heard of. You spoke of how if nothing else it shows the potential brutality of the game, which got me to wondering if you had included Concussion in your marathon (you had). Then I got thinking about the story I heard this week that Aaron Hernandez had severe CTE, and the daughter is suing the NFL. I wonder if they're working on a 30 for 30 around that. Does it seem like the kind of story they might do a doc around?

Corndog

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Re: Football
« Reply #21 on: October 05, 2017, 07:12:48 AM »
I imagine someone somewhere will do a CTE documentary in connection with the NFL at some point, despite the league's desire to cover it up.

Apparently Steve James has one, not specific to the NFL, but head injuries in general.
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Re: Football
« Reply #22 on: October 09, 2017, 02:34:14 PM »
Brian's Song (Buzz Kulik, 1971

While I have plenty to chose from while compiling my list of films for the Baseball marathon, Football was much more scarce, for whatever reason. I have often wondered what it was about the sport of football that makes it so much harder to film, so much harder to tell a story around. Is it the action that makes it difficult? Is it the popularity? Football has long been pushing baseball for most popular in the United States, having likely surpassed it in the last decade or two. I'm not sure my exercise here will be able to find the answer to this question, though if I had to guess it would have to do with the violent nature of the game, while baseball is a far easier sport to romanticize. Whatever the case, I was forced to dip into the well of made for television movies to fill out my roster, but Brian's Song is so much more than a TV movie, and earns its spot on the team.

I have often heard of the greats of the game, but never had a chance to truly witness their greatness. Gale Sayers (Billy Dee Williams) was one such great. A running back for the Chicago Bears who was so fast, so agile, so light on his feet, capable of running either around or through the defender to gain a yard on the field. I, on the other hand, have never heard of Brian Piccolo (James Caan), a fellow Bears running back. The two played on the same teams lead by legendary coach George Halas (Jack Warden), but they formed a unique bond off the field as well. At a time when black and white was just that, separate, the black Sayers and white Piccolo found a way to become great friends. And while competing for the same spot on the field, they found themselves pulling for each other's livelihoods off of it.

Brian's Song is a brief film, registering under 80 minutes, but it packs enough of a punch in that short time to be remembered. It should not be taken as high art, as it very much feels like a made for television film, but I mean no disrespect by pointing out this lack of technical achievement. In fact, the film plays within its constraints by focusing on the central relationship in the film, connecting to the audience in its screenplay and performances. Billy Dee Williams and James Caan have remarkable on screen chemistry, with Caan giving such vitality to Piccolo, and Williams providing necessary perspective to the Sayers character. 

The film is mostly short on football action, but that is simply because it is made to show the bond which can be formed between players off the field, not just on it. What limited in game action is showed appears to be archival footage of the actual Sayers and Piccolo, and it's a joy to watch, as I said earlier, to watch Sayers glide on the football field to gridiron glory. Piccolo, while not garnering the same historic praise, shows himself a capable player as well. There is some training camp action, mostly featuring Sayers and Piccolo racing each other, as they also end up doing during the course of Sayer's recovery from injury. It doesn't rival Paper Lion for its depiction of game action, but that is not its intent.

Instead, Brian's Song soars in its communication of the heart and relationship of these two men, at a time when society thought they ought not to be friends, they were there for each other, steadfast and unflinching, even in the face of death, forming a bond that could not be broken. It's very sentimental for that reason, but it also works for that reason. It's such a touching story, in fact, that it was re-adapted into another TV movie in 2001. And while that film was not included in my marathon, I see no reason to, as Buzz Kulik's 1971 version is all the more one could ask for about the story of Gale Sayers and Brian Piccolo, especially too since it features a wonderful score from Michel Legrand. It's a film that may be limited by its resources, budget and ambition, but it also succeeds in spite of these limitations.

*** - Good
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smirnoff

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Re: Football
« Reply #23 on: October 13, 2017, 11:10:16 PM »
Brian's Song (Buzz Kulik, 1971

While I have plenty to chose from while compiling my list of films for the Baseball marathon, Football was much more scarce, for whatever reason. I have often wondered what it was about the sport of football that makes it so much harder to film, so much harder to tell a story around. Is it the action that makes it difficult? Is it the popularity? Football has long been pushing baseball for most popular in the United States, having likely surpassed it in the last decade or two. I'm not sure my exercise here will be able to find the answer to this question, though if I had to guess it would have to do with the violent nature of the game, while baseball is a far easier sport to romanticize.

It is a hard question to answer. When I think of the men on the field, in baseball or football, there are really only a couple of positions around which they tend make movies. In baseball your protagonist is either a big hitter or a pitcher. In football they are the quarterback, or very rarely another position. The difference of course is that a pitcher or hitter can win the game in a solitary moment of greatness, where the quarterback can throw the perfect ball but someone still has to catch it. Perhaps that's why many football movies tend towards being coach-centric, instead of player-centric.

Perhaps too the answer is in the physique. To play a convincing baseball player does not require a phenomenal athletic body, and so you can cast your film from a much deeper well. John Goodman, Tommy Lee Jones, Robert Redford, and so on. Football requires you to cast actors who can be convincing football players, which is a much stricter requirement. A quarterback can and has been played by pretty ordinary looking actors, Dennis Quaid for instance, but outside of that your D-line is not going to be made up of A-list Hollywood everymen. :)) So maybe that plays a part. Basketball movies seem to bear that out as they are almost entirely coach-centric (which is the only position you typical Hollywood actor would be suited for in that sport).

Quote
I have often heard of the greats of the game, but never had a chance to truly witness their greatness. Gale Sayers (Billy Dee Williams) was one such great. A running back for the Chicago Bears who was so fast, so agile, so light on his feet, capable of running either around or through the defender to gain a yard on the field. I, on the other hand, have never heard of Brian Piccolo (James Caan), a fellow Bears running back. The two played on the same teams lead by legendary coach George Halas (Jack Warden), but they formed a unique bond off the field as well. At a time when black and white was just that, separate, the black Sayers and white Piccolo found a way to become great friends. And while competing for the same spot on the field, they found themselves pulling for each other's livelihoods off of it.

It'll be interesting to see when money becomes a big component of these stories. Or maybe it already has?

Corndog

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Re: Football
« Reply #24 on: October 25, 2017, 10:15:40 AM »
Thanks for the response smirnoff! I think you're right in terms of not only physique but also the style of the game being barriers to convincing football movies, with most actors better suited to be coaches, and for the story to resonate a little more through the coach's story.
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Re: Football
« Reply #25 on: November 06, 2017, 01:17:32 PM »
The Longest Yard (Robert Aldrich, 1974)

It seems every good sports movie deserves a remake. At least it would seem that way based on what I have seen from my Baseball marathon, and now rolling into my Football marathon as well. The Longest Yard is the only remake on my football movie list, but it seems to be quite the peculiar choice. This review concerns the original film from 1974. I will revisit the 2005 remake starring Adam Sandler later on in this marathon. I am sure I will revisit this topic upon reviewing that film, but after seeing the original once again (one of the few films on this list I have already seen), I am not quite sure what it is about the story which requires an updating to current pop culture. I guess I will find out when I get to the 2005 version. But for now, the great 1974 version starring Burt Reynolds...

Paul Crewe (Burt Reynolds) is a former star professional football player, spending his retired days drinking too much and neglecting his woman. After a fight, Crewe goes for a joyride in his girlfriends car, landing him a few years in Citrus State Prison. Upon learning of the star quarterback's arrival in his prison, the warden (Eddie Albert) is excited to have a celebrity among his inmates, especially as he takes great pride in his prison guard football team, lead by Captain Knauer (Ed Lauter), who is competing for a semi-professional national championship. After originally declining his offer, Crewe agrees to round up an inmate team to face the guards in an exhibition game to help the team gain confidence. But when the inmates learn about the opportunity to play football against the guards, they happily enlist for every cheap shot they can possibly get in before the whistle.

It's kind of hard to put my finger on why this film is so entertaining. At the surface it feels juvenile and simple, but perhaps that is its charm exactly. Unlike what you would expect from an Adam Sandler movie (I am sure we will discover the remake is exactly what we think it will be), though juvenile and simple do come to mind, the comedy here is more effective than simple slapstick, and it has social undertones which run throughout which give the film a little more weight than one might expect. These are criminals behind bars, facing time for crimes committed, and that should not be forgotten. I don't think director Robert Aldrich neglects this, but his narrative does bring a sympathetic focus which paints them as human beings, instead of the thugs and animals the guards seem to think they are based on how they treat them. By framing the inmates as the heroes against the evil guards, Aldrich turns the narrative on its head. It's always more fun rooting for the bad guys.

But Aldrich humanizes the inmates to make them easy to root for. Crewe has a chip on his shoulder, out to prove himself after ruining his life with gambling accusations. His redemption is more than simply about atoning for the crime that landed him in jail in the first place. Others, like Scarboro (Michael Conrad), Granville (Harry Caesar) and Caretaker (James Hampton) all have something to prove as well. Something to redeem their faults and past missteps in life. This is more than just a game for the inmates, and Aldrich captures these stakes with great care, while also making sure the setup is fun as hell and funny.

A number of the actors had played professional football before, including Mike Henry, Joe Kapp, Ray Nitschke, Ernie Wheelwright, Ray Ogden and Pervis Atkins. As one might imagine the actual football game is brutal as hell, but the way in which Aldrich films it makes it the marquee sequence in the film. Scarcely remembering the film from my first viewing years ago, I was expecting a fun time, especially during the game. And I got that. This is not the first time that a football film culminates in a featured game, but The Longest Yard features the most effective game played in the marathon thus far. What surprised me was everything else, which was a compelling story of redemption. At the end of the day, above all else, The Longest Yard is just a fun as hell film.

*** - Very Good
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Corndog

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Re: Football
« Reply #26 on: January 16, 2018, 10:05:54 AM »
Semi-Tough (Michael Ritchie, 1977)

With 2017 (mostly) behind us, and the football season crescendoing to a Super Bowl finish in the coming weeks, I thought it was high time I returned to my Football Movie Marathon, which I started back in the summer. I made some headway, but not much, and unfortunately was forced to abandon it upon the close of 2017 and the deluge of awards worthy films being released. Getting back to these football movies is like a lovely reprieve from the fare I've grown accustomed to in recent months. Getting back to older movies, and sports ones at that is like a much needed vacation. Of course this is all considering that the movies I explore in this marathon are actually good. And coming off one good Burt Reynolds football movie (The Longest Yard), it should be easy to assume that another Reynolds football movie would be more of the same. Unfortunately, I was wrong, and Semi-Tough was an all-the-way tough entry back into the marathon.

Semi-Tough plays out more like a buddy comedy than we saw in The Longest Yard, as Reynolds shares the limelight with fellow player Kris Kristofferson. The duo plays for the Miami professional team (nickname not included), with Billy Clyde (Reynolds) as the running back, and Shake (Kristofferson) as the wide receiver. The two like to be the outlaws of the team, having more fun than perhaps they ought to. A kink is thrown into the storyline when we find out they share an apartment with the owner's daughter, Barbara Jane (Jill Clayburgh). But the three are able to coexist in a platonic atmosphere, until that is Shake and Barbara Jane begin to fall for each other, resulting in their wedding, and potential falling out between them and Billy Clyde as the team works its way to a championship.

My immediate reaction to the film was shocked at just how slight it all felt. Such a strange narrative with a story about these three characters and their relationships with each other with very little drama, tension, or stakes. In many ways it felt like the pilot episode for a sit-com, which left much of the character development to later in the series, as we get a little more and more about each, with evolving stakes in the relationships. As a result, in a feature length film package, Semi-Tough felt a little bit like a joke which literally couldn't take itself less seriously. And I am all for the funny party movie, or whatever, but it hardly made me laugh, often making me cringe instead, as it appears the filmmakers wished to depict the lewd locker room culture of a pro football team in the 1970s.

I just wasn't that interested in taking a step into that space, especially in a story devoid of characters worth caring about, or cheering for. I expected more from director Michael Ritchie, who balanced these elements so effectively just a year before in The Bad News Bears. The cast was of no help to the proceedings either, lead by Jill Clayburgh who felt more out of water than anyone else. Barbara Jane was made to be "one of the guys", but Clayburgh's performance feels so false and delivered, as though she is a goody too shoes forcing her way into this role. And it shows, painfully. Reynolds and Kristofferson, on the other hand, are just fine. With little to work with in regards to their characters, neither stands out, nor brings the film down.

In terms of the football action, Semi-Tough does very little to push the envelope in how the game is depicted in film. There are very few sequences, and Reynolds and Kristofferson appear athletic, but the football sequences do nothing to really show the speed or physicality of the game. There is nothing memorable from that standpoint, especially since the team's performance takes a backseat to the love triangle narrative. I think the biggest detractor for me in the whole film was its locker room talk, and its inability to really reckon with how horrible some of these people can be, like Brian Dennehy's character. It's not a good look for dumb football players who only care about sports, alcohol and women, taking whatever they can get. It's particularly awkward given the current culture in 2018. This film did not age well.

★★ - Poor
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1SO

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Re: Football
« Reply #27 on: January 16, 2018, 10:41:38 AM »
The career of Burt Reynolds is amazing to study. He was the biggest star in the 70s but his films were mostly bad then and play even worse now.


Corndog

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Re: Football
« Reply #28 on: January 16, 2018, 11:34:37 AM »
Yea, I don't know much about his filmography, but his is obviously a name everyone seems to know. Have you seen Semi-Tough? I certainly liked The Longest Yard a great deal, but perhaps that puts me in the minority?
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Re: Football
« Reply #29 on: January 16, 2018, 01:25:05 PM »
Heaven Can Wait (Warren Beatty & Buck Henry, 1978)

Perhaps one of the most well-respected and well-known movies (at least for film buffs) in my Football Movie Marathon, Heaven Can Wait features Hollywood darling Warren Beatty pulling triple duty directing, writing and starring, featuring help along the way. It's a movie I decided to include at the last minute due to its reputation, which includes several Academy Award nominations, including for most of the major categories, and one Oscar win (for Art Direction). It is light on football, although no less than some of the other films included in this list. I was most pleasantly surprised by that, as it was one reason I hesitated including it. Due to its aforementioned reputation, I was excited to sit down and see it, especially coming off the disappointment that was Semi-Tough, the previous film in the marathon.

Joe Pendleton (Warren Beatty) is the likable backup quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams, a contending team who may be looking to make a switch to Pendleton to make a playoff push. But when he mistakenly dies one day while riding his bike, Joe must jump through hoops to try to make it back to the Rams in time to win the Super Bowl. Joe was not meant to die in that bicycle accident, but he was taken from his body prematurely by a wet behind his ears angel (Buck Henry). His manager (James Mason) looks to correct the mistake by offering Joe other bodies which have recently become available, including Leo Farnsworth, whose wife (Dyan Cannon) and secretary (Charles Grodin) have plotted to kill him, steal his fortune, and run off together. Accepting this new body, Joe must deal with the moral wrongs Farnsworth and his company are involved in, including displacing a nice lady (Julie Christie) and her fellow townspeople, all the while trying to figure out how to once again become the quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams and win the Super Bowl.

Based on a 1940s film, Here Comes Mr. Jordan starring Robert Montgomery and Claude Rains, Heaven Can Wait is a bit of an odd thing if you ask me. It has ambition in that it tells a compelling, fantastical tale about how heaven might work, and it does so in a lighthearted, and sometimes funny manner. Grodin and Cannon are there merely for comedic relief, while Beatty does much of the heavy lifting alongside James Mason. But at its heart, this is a very light movie, even with the death implications. The balancing act is difficult, especially when I often found the film to be painfully unfunny. Despite Grodin and Cannon, their antics just didn't do anything for my funny bone. I couldn't find the humor in the morbidity of their intentions, especially not knowing what kind of a man Farnwsworth was before Joe took over.

Now Beatty on the other hand does very well in playing the kind and positive Joe Pendleton. He is a little bit eccentric, living in a mobile home in the Southern California hills, playing a poor saxaphone and generally liking everybody he encounters. His is an attractive personality, and one which welcomes the viewer into his story. And the morality play on display here is compelling to some degree, as Joe must grapple with what it means to be reincarnate, and wishing to pursue his own desire, while also being cognizant of the responsibilities of his new life as Farnsworth. It's an entirely unrealistic and unrelatable situation, but it's also an interesting character study to reveal how Joe decides to live his life given his new money and status as Farnsworth. At his core he still wishes to do good and play football.

In the end, I couldn't help feeling disappointed by everything, however well intentioned it seemed to be. I simply couldn't get over how slight everything felt, especially the romance between Joe and the Julie Christie character. It was very manufactured and felt insincere. Based on his personality, Joe is a very eligible bachelor. A professional football player and all around likable guy, yet he somehow lives alone in the hills and takes a literal change in status to attract a worthy partner. All this combined with what seemed like a complete disregard for how professional football works. It was too much of a stretch to believe that Farnsworth could buy the team and push to play as QB, or that the lead athletic trainer could take his days off to help train Farnsworth, amidst a Super Bowl run by his team. These small details, on top of the already mediocre storyline, did the movie in for me. It's not without its merits, including its production values, but Heaven Can Wait was simply a disappointment for me.

★★ 1/2 - Average
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