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Author Topic: (American) Football  (Read 14300 times)

Corndog

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Re: (American) Football
« Reply #90 on: April 28, 2020, 12:42:29 PM »
The Express (Gary Fleder, 2008)

The sports movie genre seems to lend itself extremely well to telling not only true stories, but also true stories in the form of biographies. Sports is such a central element to American culture, dating way way back, which also means that many heroes have been built through the arena of sport. Some more interesting than others, some with more incredible and fascinating back stories than others. Some are simply great at sports, while others had a difficult upbringing, or a tragic end, or another fascinating anecdote which transforms them from simply being a hero in their time to a legend of the game. A quick glance at Ernie Davis might tell you a story of a man who followed the legend Jim Brown at Syracuse, when in reality, his story is far more impressive than that.

Syracuse coach Ben Schwartzwalder (Dennis Quaid) has just lost his legendary tailback Jim Brown to the Cleveland Browns, but lucky for him, he finds his replacement in the Elmira Express, Ernie Davis (Rob Brown), who is so phenomenal he manages to dress varsity his freshman year, despite being unable to play due to NCAA rules. But once he gets his crack at playing for the Syracuse Orangemen, Davis does not disappoint, becoming the first African American to win the prized Heisman Trophy for the best player in the country. But his ascent was anything but easy, as the color of his skin caused tension not only at the southern schools he played, but within his own locker room.

The story of Ernie Davis was one I admittedly was not familiar with. He is not the type of name that quickly comes up when discussing the best of either college football or the NFL, but he is an historic figure, a member of both Halls of Fame. Perhaps he should be more talked about after seeing his story. With big shoes to fill (Jim Brown), and the pressure of racism that came at him from all sides, Ernie Davis was able to rise above and make his own mark on the game, ultimately leading his team to a National Championship, something no other Syracuse team has been able to accomplish either before or since. The story of the Elmira Express is truly an incredible one.

So then why wasnít the movie? There are plenty of factors which lead The Express to being just another run of the mill average sports movie. To start, the formula. Itís tried and true and weíve seen it a million times before it seems. While Davisí story is true and his own, the filmmakers rely on so many cliches and things weíve seen before in both in the biopic and sports genres. There is nothing new here. Rob Brown is another element in this formula. His quiet, reserved performance may reflect the real Ernie Davis, but he lacks on screen charisma you might expect from a great of the game. Interestingly enough, we are treated to a late appearance from the young Chadwick Boseman as Davisí successor, fellow Hall of Famer Floyd Little. Boseman is the type of performer who could handle and elevate this role. Brown gets lost in the crowd.

It is hard to really call this a bad movie, it isnít, but after seeing so many others within the genre, it is clear The Express offers very little new to the genre apart from telling the story of an underappreciated legend. It plays as such a middle of the road, completely forgettable entry into the genre, which is why I struggled so much in reckoning with how I felt about it. There isnít nearly enough to say, one way or the other. Nothing great about it, nothing abjectly poor about it either. It exists. For fans of Syracuse, or specifically Ernie Davis, I suppose itíd be worth checking out, but otherwise, itís safe to avoid.

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

colonel_mexico

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Re: (American) Football
« Reply #91 on: April 28, 2020, 01:55:11 PM »
Cleveland was a gorgeous city, as was the countryside near Canton (got to see the HoF and play a round of golf near there).  What was crazy to me was Mike Trout and the Angels were in town, while the Browns were having like the brown vs white team scrimmage, I could not believe how many fans were out to watch the dawg pound.  Super impressive and legit fanbase there.  Cleveland, in an upset, was an incredibly fun time and Progressive Field was really nice-best stadium food (Fatheads Pirogi dog FTW) I've ever had at a ballpark.
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1SO

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Re: (American) Football
« Reply #92 on: April 28, 2020, 03:41:05 PM »
The Game Plan and The Tooth Fairy are on my very small list of Dwayne Johnson films I never intend to watch. Game Plan is also on my small list of Disney films I plan to avoid.

My brother-in-law play Zoom in Leatherheads. It's not a big role, but he's on the poster and he's prominent on the Letterboxd page.

Sam the Cinema Snob

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Re: (American) Football
« Reply #93 on: April 28, 2020, 04:11:09 PM »
The Tooth Fairy is enjoyable family fare. I would watch it again if kids were involved.
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Corndog

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Re: (American) Football
« Reply #94 on: April 28, 2020, 08:04:08 PM »
My brother-in-law play Zoom in Leatherheads. It's not a big role, but he's on the poster and he's prominent on the Letterboxd page.

Thatís cool! I really wanted to like it so much more.
"Time is the speed at which the past decays."

Corndog

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Re: (American) Football
« Reply #95 on: April 29, 2020, 08:27:46 AM »
Big Fan (Robert Siegel, 2009)

Interesting that we are coming off a few formulaic football movies with nothing really new to offer to the genre. No new ideas, no new stories, just recycled ones. Interesting because with Big Fan we get something completely fresh and new that football movies havenít really ever seen before: the fan movie. Sports are important to so many people, and sports are successful because of those people: the fans. There is a whole industry out there covering sports for the entertainment of the fans. ESPN, sports talk radio, websites galore; all for the consumption by fans. Fans come in all shapes and sizes, and in varying degrees. Casual fans, fair weather fans, psycho fans, super fans. Come one and come all. Itís what the game is all about. So Big FanĎs perspective is not only unique, but itís an important element to telling the story of sports.

Paul (Patton Oswalt) is a bit of a ďloserĒ. Heís a middle aged man who lives at home with his mother, working nights as a parking garage attendant in New York City, and calling into sports talk radio to talk about his beloved New York Giants. He and his friend Sal (Kevin Corrigan) are super fans, driving to the stadium every week to watch the game in the parking lot (presumably because tickets are too expensive). They live for the Giants, and specifically Paulís favorite player Quantrell Bishop (Jonathan Hamm), the teamís great pass rusher. But one night, when Paul and Sal spot Bishop, they decide to follow him to a club, where they muster up the courage to go up to him and express their fanaticism, but the night does not quite end how they would have predicted, causing Paulís world to spiral out of control.

The nasty reality of sports is that there are crazy fans. Paul might not qualify, even though he takes it a little too far, but you do hear of fans of Team A beating up fans of Team B. Grown men taking things way too far for a sport that to many people doesnít mean that much. The vast majority of fans fall somewhere in the middle: devout followers who can shrug off a bad loss or unfortunate turn. But what about the other side? Those who take it so seriously that it threatens their very livelihood and existence? Worshipping the team and players, entire lives controlled by the result of a childís game. For Paul, perhaps he is happy in his current existence, but perhaps his fandom is also toxic, not only to him but to others.

What Big Fan explores is not only the angle from Paulís perspective, but also from Quantrellís. What is it like to be a professional athlete where grown men follow you around town? His response to this is at once both grotesque and horrible, but in a strange way understandable, especially when you take a moment to consider that Paul might be just one of many who exhibit this sort of fanaticism. In addition to these explorations of fan-to-player and fan-to-team relationships, the film also brings in a third: fan-to-fan. When Paul interacts with Philadelphia Phil (Michael Rapaport) over the phone, itís all fun and games, but as the film comes to a crescendo of Paulís spiral, we get the face-to-face version in what is the most tense and troubling sequence in the film.

I donít want to spoil the ending, but writer/director Robert Siegel explores these depths through the character of Paul and through this we discover the toxicity of fandom. Weíve seen this thread expand in recent years, especially in movies and pop culture, through disgusting and morally bankrupt tirads from internet trolls. Itís a problem in every entertainment industry. While Siegelís film may be brief, it is exacting and contains a singular focus on a pervasive issue throughout sports. But he does so in a very delicate and careful way, sure to presents all sides with a fair shake, a fair perspective. Sometimes what starts as an innocent passion morphs into a dangerous and worrisome obsession.

★★★★☆ Ė Loved It
"Time is the speed at which the past decays."

1SO

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Re: (American) Football
« Reply #96 on: April 29, 2020, 09:27:13 AM »
A very memorable experience.

Your last line. This film (and my wife) steered me away from film-watching and Filmspotting being a worrisome obsession. I'm now happier with my innocent passion.

Corndog

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Re: (American) Football
« Reply #97 on: April 29, 2020, 09:46:52 AM »
A very memorable experience.

Your last line. This film (and my wife) steered me away from film-watching and Filmspotting being a worrisome obsession. I'm now happier with my innocent passion.

Great to see something like this have a good impact. And I realized when I was done writing I didn't really touch on Oswalt's performance, as you highlight in your review. He is definitely great in the role here.
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Corndog

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Re: (American) Football
« Reply #98 on: April 29, 2020, 01:09:42 PM »
The Blind Side (John Lee Hancock, 2009)

Football movies and the Academy Awards is an interesting history to explore. A quick, cursory glance at all the films included in this marathon of mine finds a few Oscar winners and nominees. The films that were nominated for Best Picture: Heaven Can Wait, Jerry Maguire, and now this, The Blind Side. The only major Oscar winners are Cuba Gooding Jr. for Jerry Maguire and now this, Sandra Bullock for The Blind Side (Heaven Can Wait won for Art Direction while being nominated for 8 other awards in 1979). I am sure I missed some others in my quick research, but those three movies are the only ones that stood out as Oscar fare. What an odd bunch. The throughline for all three in addition to football is that theyíre star driven: Warren Beatty, Tom Cruise and Sandra Bullock. But does it makes these three movies the best of the marathon? With The Blind Side, I can easily say ďnoĒ.

Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) is a gentle giant who has had a troubled childhood. When a friendís father pushes for him to be admitted to a private Christian school, the football coach drools over Big Mikeís potential as an athlete. But the problem is his grades, which is rather poor. Michael has never known his father, and his mother is a drug addict who is unreliable. When forced into this new world, now homeless, Michael is taken in by a good family (Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, Lily Collins, and Jae Head) whose Christian heart beams for this bright, young, talented man who simply needs to be given a chance. Michael soon proves all his doubters wrong, by improving his grades, and performing on the field to a degree where he begins to draw the recruiting eyes of all the powerhouse colleges in the south.

This version of a poker movie is a blend of many different things. Itís a true story. Itís a racial struggle story. Itís a biopic. The Michael Oher story is one Iím not well versed in, other than knowing about him as an NFL player. So when this movie came out, and it received all the attention it got (feel good movie of the year type reputation), including a Best Picture nomination and Best Actress win, IÖ.didnít see it? Yea, every year there seems to be an obvious movie you would think someone like me would see that I just miss. And Iíve not caught up with it until now. I really wonder how I would have responded to this film in 2009 upon its initial release. My movie tastes have certainly evolved, as has the industry in general. Perhaps I would have championed it, but seeing it in 2020, I find it rather generic.

The first two-thirds of the movie are more human interest than football. We get introduced to everybody, and see how Michael becomes a member of the Tuohy and the school. Itís a touching story and obvious the filmmakers are able to effectively capture the heart of not only the family but also of Michael, who is easy to root for given his circumstances. What struggled to connect with me were the performances from the cast. I was honestly a little surprised this Bullock performance won Best Actress (I looked up the other nominees afterward and I suppose it was a rather weak year for the category overall). Bullock is very animated and plays it pretty big, but to her credit she nails the smaller, more genuine moments. Quinton Aaron, who plays Michael, turns in, for lack of a better term, an amatuer performance. Itís clear he is new to this, and while the role doesnít ask much of him, his quiet presence doesnít present well next to a seasoned performer like Bullock.

Is this movie problematic? Sure, there is a ďwhite saviorĒ type of spin to it, but I donít think thatís the message the film is trying to communicate at all, so for that reason, no, I donít see it as being problematic. Itís just a story about people with means helping those without, and itís touching. The problem I had with the film was it felt painted with very broad strokes and thereís nothing great throughout the film, just a lot of mediocrity. Perhaps I just wasnít in the right frame of mind for a film like this, because I can definitely be won over by mushy, inspirational, and sentimental movies like this. But also perhaps itís just not a very good version of the film. I wish it took some chances and tried something new and different.

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

Corndog

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Re: (American) Football
« Reply #99 on: May 08, 2020, 09:49:06 AM »
Undefeated (Daniel Lindsay & TJ Martin, 2011)

Usually when I compile movie marathons, documentaries on the subject are excluded. There isnít a great reason, although I guess with some things there would simply be way too many options on the subject to include them all. So I either have to decide to include way more than Iíd like to, or just keep them all out. But when I was putting together my list of football movies, one documentary stood out as important to me, and having not previously seen it, I felt it was a great opportunity for me to finally see the Academy Award winning documentary Undefeated. After finally seeing it, I am very glad I included this special film on my list. It has very powerful moments and stories to tell, not unlike the seminal basketball documentary Hoop Dreams. It is a real triumph in football, documentary filmmaking, and the human spirit.

The Manassas High School Tigers football program has been a laughing stock in the Memphis and Tennessee football landscape for years, until volunteer coach Bill Courtney took over as head coach. He, along with budding freshmen Montrail ďMoneyĒ Brown, O.C. Brown and Chavis Daniels, begin to turn the inner-city school around, turning the Tigers into winners. But the process is not without its bumps in the road. Money is an academic star too, hoping to escape the slums of Memphis for a college education. O.C. is a great football player, hoping to escape on the back of a college scholarship. Chavis, meanwhile, struggles to remain connected and focused despite his talents, but finds solace in football and his inclusion on the team.

Youth coaches are always the most underappreciated. They more often than not are volunteering their time to spend with our children, teaching them not only a game, but core values of leadership, teamwork, resiliency, and what it takes to win while also being a good sportsman. They arenít all created equally however, just as every youth coaching job is not created equally. Bill Courtney is an incredible figure for the tireless work he took on with these young men at Manassas. A tremendous amount of patience and caring went into what he was able to do with the Tiger football program, and his dedication and enormous heart really shines through in this film as a beacon for all youth coaches and how they should approach their relationships with their players. No matter their backgrounds, Courtney is able to represent the core tenants of what makes a great coach, on and off the field.

By limiting the focus of the film to three main players on the team, each with a different story to tell, filmmakers Daniel Lindsay and TJ Martin are able to really bring a sense of balance to the film, offering multiple points of view, while keeping it focused enough to not paint in too broad of strokes in telling the Manassas Tigersí story. It did leave me a little bit wondering about the stories of the other players on the team, but I think that sensation is a direct result to how much I was made to care about the stories of Money, O.C. and Chavis. Surely, theirs were the most striking stories on the team and that is why they were focused on, but I also imagine the other players on the team could tell similarly moving and inspiring stories of broken homes, broken dreams, and the hope of escaping the reality of East Memphis, Tennessee.

There is so much heart in this movie. Heart from coach Bill Courtney in volunteering his time, driving his team to succeed, and most importantly driving his players to succeed in life. Heart from the players in their ability to respond to what Courtney is driving them towards, becoming strong young men who can do more than just make a tackle or score a touchdown. There are so many incredibly touching and moving moments sprinkled throughout the film, it would take a truly tough cookie to not be moved to tears at some point by the stories of Courtney, Money, O.C., Chavis, and the rest of the Manassas Tiger football program.

★★★★☆ Ė Loved It
"Time is the speed at which the past decays."