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Author Topic: (American) Football  (Read 12666 times)

Corndog

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Re: Football
« Reply #30 on: January 17, 2018, 09:44:03 AM »
North Dallas Forty (Ted Kotcheff, 1979)

Football is a brutal sport. Part of that very fact is why I believe that the Football Movie is not as popular, nor as successful as the Baseball Movie. I started this marathon with the intent of finding out not just why there were fewer football movies, but why there were also fewer good football movies. Less than a quarter of the way through the marathon, I hesitate to say I've figured it out, especially after seeing what I consider to be a good football movie in North Dallas Forty, but I think I've figured it out. Especially when compared to baseball, the brutality of football makes it a difficult sport to film, and one which is difficult to not just romanticize but also sympathize. For much of the 20th century, baseball was the American Pastime. That has changed here in 2018, but the sheer volume of baseball movies also aids that sports case as the king of sports movies. It will be interesting to see whether this theory plays out to the conclusion of this marathon.

The North Dallas Bulls, purportedly based on the Dallas Cowboys of the 1970s, are lead by quarterback Seth Maxwell (Mac Davis) and his buddy, aging wide receiver Phillip Elliott (Nick Nolte). Elliott is a bench player, who sees limited action each game. Striving to see more playing time, Elliott makes a bad drop in a game in which he went on to catch the game winning touchdown. However, it's the drop that haunts him, and which the coach (Charles Durning) doesn't let him forget. At the tail end of his career, he contemplates what his career has been, the sacrifices he has made of his body and personal life as he begins seeing Charlotte (Dayle Haddon), who wonders why Elliott continues to batter his body for a game.

More than any other film thus far in this marathon, North Dallas Forty takes the game of football seriously, which is surprising to say, but I believe it provides the first look into what the game means to its players in both a positive and negative way. The competition which Elliott gains from playing is like a drug, he keeps coming back for me, hoping to improve and come our victorious each time. But in the process he is also battering his body to death, to the point he can barely lift his shoulder, or move his fingers. This movie shows football as being a game for tough men, but also stupid men. So what drives these players to continue to play this brutal game, knowing the toll it is taking on their bodies? Seeing this film in 2018, with the current CTE controversy and multiple steps taken by the NFL to provide a safer game for players is truly eye-opening.

I think that is what this movie gets right above all else, the brutality and fragility of the game. Elliott is a sad sap of a character, but one with which the filmmakers manage to make us sympathetic. He drinks too much, takes too many painkillers, surrounds himself with disgusting chauvinist pig teammates, and yet we get an idea of why he continues to play, what the game means to him. And yes, there is plenty depicted which goes back to what I had said in my review of Semi-Tough. Plenty of "locker room" talk, in other words, men saying and doing disgusting and nearly unforgivable things to each other and in particular women. That aspect of the film has not aged well, and even Elliott partakes some, but the film succeeds in putting his experience within the context of his career goals. So while these elements felt gratuitous in Semi-Tough, it feels like Kotcheff includes them here to make a point about football culture in general, for better or for worse.

It's a fine line to walk and in many ways Elliott becomes an anti-hero. Someone who we learn to sympathize with, but I'm not sure we're ever really meant to root for him. Nick Nolte's performance is very good, and subtle, giving Elliott just enough humanity for us to pity him, but not enough for us to be able to fully explain why he has decided to live this way, to destroy his body. Like The Longest Yard before it, North Dallas Forty manages to put the brutality of the game into context while also crafting meaningful characters. This is a film which managed to creep up on me as it continued on, sneaking up and surprising me at just how good it really was. I think more than most other films in this marathon, North Dallas Forty does a great job at capturing what it means to play the game of football. And for that it is special.

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

Corndog

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Re: Football
« Reply #31 on: January 18, 2018, 09:02:04 AM »
All the Right Moves (Michael Chapman, 1983)

Most if not all of the movies thus far in this football marathon have been about either college or pro teams (mostly professional teams of late). This is a curious observation given that high school football is the lifeblood of the sport, even today with how popular the NFL and college football has become, but to overlook this very important level of football for much of the history of the genre seems like a serious oversight. Enter All the Right Moves, which finally moves into the high school football movie genre. As I will discuss as part of this review, high school football is not just essential to the student-athletes, their development as contributing adult citizens and their potential opportunity at higher education, but high school football is also essential to many small towns across America, which is what makes All the Right Moves all the more impactful as it enters that scene not yet explored by the football movie.

Stefen Djordjevic (Tom Cruise) is a promising defensive back for the Ampipe Bulldogs. Ampipe is a small steel town in Western Pennsylvania, the type of town nobody seems to be able to escape. Kids find glory in high school football, then take their turn working the steel mill, destined to remain in the decaying rust belt seemingly for eternity. Stef has hopes of getting out of Ampipe, to play college football on scholarship, to study engineering and have a say in how the steel his town produces gets used. But he finds himself at odds with his stubborn coach (Craig T. Nelson), who himself is trying to escape to the college ranks. Drawn to the dream of greener pastures, Stef must cope with playing the game the right way, and the way he knows how, while juggling life with a girlfriend, Lisa (Lea Thompson), who has her own aspirations, and his brother who was recently laid off from the mill.

Going into this movie, I admit my preconceived notions of it were not great. While I knew of it, and knew Tom Cruise was in it, I didn't look at it as anything more than a sort of saccharine high school romance with some football in it. I couldn't have been more wrong. While it is a high school romance with some football in it, the film focuses so acutely on the economic circumstance of the townspeople as to make this a really affecting drama. There are countless small towns across America, even today, where people are stuck. They are stuck in the city because of the economy, they are stuck because of a lack of opportunity. For many, sports are the only outlet, but in a increasingly competitive sport like football, a scholarship to college is anything but a give. These characters must work that much harder to climb out of the city they love so much, the city they hate so much.

There is immense pride in all these characters, and drive. What I found to be surprisingly progressive was the relationship between Stef and Lisa. Usually the jock football player dates the head cheerleader. In this case, Lisa is a band nerd. But there is a scene later in the movie between Lisa and the coaches wife which is surprisingly poignant, as it covers the role of the woman in the life of the men. The coaches wife tells Lisa about her high school beau, and how she doesn't know what he's up to now because she went on to live her own life, and found her own happiness with Coach Nickerson. There is a cultural need for so many of these small town high school couples to live forever after together, for better or for worse. As each is stuck in the town in which they grew up, neither is given the autonomy to grow out, to rise above the mundane rust belt life.

The football is good, the acting is good, the scenario is good. I was again very surprised that this was really the first true high school movie in this marathon, and I may be giving the movie too much credit as a result, but there always has to be a first. I plead for you to not simply write off All the Right Moves as "just another high school romance movie". It is that, but it's not just another, it's special in how it explores the pressure and passion placed upon these promising young people to move on, to make a better life for themselves by doing something they love, something they excel at. Not everybody has the talent to do what Stef can do, so for him to not get that opportunity, there would be nothing more cruel.

★★★ 1/2 - Great
"Time is the speed at which the past decays."

smirnoff

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Re: Football
« Reply #32 on: January 18, 2018, 03:40:41 PM »
Funny to see the casting of these older football movies. I wasn't a football fan back then, actually I wasn't alive, but everyone looks too old to be a football player. Maybe that's how it was though... a bunch of mid 30's, early 40's (if not 50's) dudes of very average size. I tried to find some stats of the average player age in the league year by year, because I was curious to see how it evolved (that and body size by position), but I came up empty.

Going merely by the screenshots you've included, the actors ages makes all the movies look like stories about late-stage athletes, not up and comers or persons in the prime. Maybe that's actually the case though so the casting is fair. I'm curious what you think of the casting generally though.

edit: wrote this moments before you posted All the Right Moves, which doesn't really apply.

Corndog

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Re: Football
« Reply #33 on: January 19, 2018, 10:59:04 AM »
You certainly make a good point about the ages of the actors. Just some quick research:

Paper Lion - Alan Alda (32) - QB
Brian's Song - James Caan (31) - RB
Brian's Song - Billy Dee Williams (34) - RB
The Longest Yard - Burt Reynolds (38) - QB (but he is supposed to be washed up anyway
Semi-Tough - Burt Reynolds (41) - RB
Semi-Tough - Kris Kristofferson (41) - WR
Heaven Can Wait - Warren Beatty (41) - QB (also supposedly at the end of his career, but 10 years younger than he really was
North Dallas Forty - Nick Nolte (38) - WR
"Time is the speed at which the past decays."

pixote

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Re: Football
« Reply #34 on: January 19, 2018, 02:12:26 PM »
Just some quick research

Well my day has officially been made.

edit: Then again, if smirnoff wants to jump in with some height/weight stats, with a graph comparing the actors to the league averages at the time of these films ...

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Corndog

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Re: Football
« Reply #35 on: January 19, 2018, 02:38:31 PM »
Also,

All the Right Moves - Tom Cruise (21) - CB

More appropriate for an 18 year old high school senior.
"Time is the speed at which the past decays."

smirnoff

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Re: Football
« Reply #36 on: January 19, 2018, 07:52:31 PM »
Alright. Building off of Corndog's list, here are the the actor heights, compared to the league average by position at the time of the films.



James Caan was short enough I had to expand the chart. Overall though the heights are actually reasonably in line with the league data.

Player age though... they are all well above average. They are anywhere from 4 to 14 years older than the average player age of the time.


Weight data is harder to come by for actors, particularly at the time of filming, but here are the league averages by position, over time.
« Last Edit: January 19, 2018, 10:31:06 PM by smirnoff »

Corndog

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Re: Football
« Reply #37 on: January 19, 2018, 09:16:36 PM »
This belongs in the Best of the Boards thread. Bravo Smirnoff!
"Time is the speed at which the past decays."

smirnoff

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Re: Football
« Reply #38 on: January 19, 2018, 10:42:58 PM »
Bah, I just plopped in a few data points. Glad you enjoyed it though. :) Now that the chart is here, I'll be checking each new film against it out of curiosity hehe.

There is quite a few neat articles out there about age/weight/height trends in the NFL once I dug a little deeper. They attribute the changes to many things. The roster size has increased over the years allowing players to fill more specialized roles. And as a result positions have their own well defined body types, where as in the past a player needed to be more of a swiss army knife. Another interesting event was how changes in free-agent policy created an average player age spike in the early nineties. I forget why exactly.

Another article spoke about a legendary lineman from the 1920's.... 5'11 and 245lbs. He dominated in his day. :)) Today there are no lineman that small. He would be more suited to being a fullback or something.


pixote

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Re: Football
« Reply #39 on: January 23, 2018, 12:30:51 PM »
You're still the best, smirnoff. :D :D :D

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