Sports in Movies

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Hey, y’all!

This is my first ever article for 3WG and I can’t express my excitement enough for being a part of a site I’ve been reading from for geek stuff, news and reviews. Although I can say that I’m probably the least geek of all the writers here in this site, I am here to offer a fresh-eyes take on geek matters such as movies, TV shows, a few gadgets here and there, and just about anything geek-related that comes to mind and worthy of a healthy discussion.

That said, let me put on my moviegeek hat on and talk a little about sports in movies. Although I’m not much of a big sports fan, I am a huge (literally too) movie lover, and I watch just about anything under the sun so it will not be a surprise if I come across good ones about a particular sport. If anything, a mark of a great sports movie is if it allows an audience to remain hooked on a story they have little to no background of at all. This is in fact the challenge for movies of this genre as most audiences would right away dismiss it if it’s not in their field of interest. Just like that, most of these great movies become unheard of, and/or considered box-office disappointments. Still, some make it big in the movie market, and even become critical successes as well. However, many of these movies stick to a tried and tested formula: an underdog, a coach due for retirement, smug competitors, a loss, and ultimately, a win. It is sports after all. As much as these movies profess that it isn’t always about winning, most successful sports movies have quite the most-sought after predictable ending, and it just makes sense.

Today, I will talk about some sports movie greatness, which may just have slipped through most of our radars. This won’t be about the Rocky movies, or Space Jam, but rather, it will be about some that weren’t so popular, or have not had a huge following, but all the same, great movies in their own rights. I will try as much as possible to avoid spoiler territory so you can watch them with fresh minds if you become interested (and I hope you’ll be).

The Greatest Game Ever Played (2005)

I have a problem with the title of this movie, but only because I thought that the recent NBA Western Conference Finals between the Warriors and the Thunder deserved it more. Surely the filmmakers did not know about this anyway so I’m willing to let this one slide. So what is it about? It is a biographical sports film based from a true story about Francis Ouimet, played by Shia LeBeouf, a golf amateur who takes on the US Open against legendary British golf pros Harry Vardon and Ted Ray. The story isn’t all about the silliness of an amateur going head to head against established professionals, but it was also setup in that era when golf was a sport for the wealthy (although I think the same still applies). If that isn’t enough conflict for the film’s hero, his father’s disapproval would suffice enough to break the audience’s hearts. It is not without a ray of sunshine for Francis though. He has his loving mother’s support and a very interesting caddie who brings a lot of heart to this movie. It is safe to say that this movie only requires very little knowledge of golf as a sport as the movie has quite a visual way of explaining the concept so it is easy to engage one’s self to the story. This one is directed by Bill Paxton.

Seabiscuit (2003)

Although it can be trivial to consider horse-racing as a sport, I would say that Seabiscuit is definitely one of my favorite movies, sport or not. I watch it at least once a year since it was out on 2003, and I highly regard it as Tobey Maguire’s finest piece of work. This movie came out between Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2, but did not draw as much attention as these blockbusters. Maguire’s depiction of Red Pollard, who was left to a horse trainer by his parents during the Great Depression, was to me a pitch-perfect performance that he has yet to match to this date. Not to spoil anything, what really interested me about this movie is the chemistry between Pollard and the the horse, Seabiscuit, and how they both mirror each of their struggles, and complement each other with every victory and losses. However, this actually isn’t just about Pollard and the Biscuit. It is also about Charles Howard (Jeff Bridges), the horse owner, and Tom Smith (Chris Cooper), the trainer. In many ways, the Great Depression have affected their lives differently and the sport of horse-racing is what brought these three characters together. It is a heart-warming movie for all ages and definitely something sports fanatics and movie-lovers must see. Directed by Gary Ross, this movie is based on the best-selling non-fiction book Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand.

Million Dollar Arm (2014)

Just before I watched this movie, I had my reservations. I had much respect for Jon Hamm as an actor following his TV series Mad Men, and have always thought of him as a serious actor given the role he’s portrayed in the series. It was a bit of a pill for me to imagine him doing a light Disney movie. As it turns out, I was wrong about two things. First, he indeed can carry a film like this, and second, this isn’t quite a light film. It is not dark, but it is very powerful right up until the middle of the post-credits so be sure to stick around if you decide to watch this movie. Hamm plays J.B. Bernstein, who used to be a big time sports agent, but is in the brink of losing his business as most of his clients have retired. In order to save his business, he goes to India in hopes of finding potential via his talent show Million Dollar Arm – a baseball pitching contest based on speed and accuracy. Winners of the said contest will be given a chance to play for a US baseball team. The question is, would two Indian players, who have not had any baseball experience, and not even cricket enthusiasts, make the cut? This movie sticks to the formula but then wins major points for the inspiration and message it brings throughout. There was a brilliant speech from the most unlikely character in the movie, which to me is the heart and core of this movie so be sure to watch out for that. And again, stick around for the credits as the movie was summed up in great perfection.

Warrior (2011)

I did mention that I am not much of a sports fan. If I ever were, I would be least interested with mixed martial arts. And with all that disinterest and lack of enthusiasm, here I am writing about my favorite sports drama – Warrior. To be honest though, MMA in this movie only serves as a platform to which a conflict between brothers is presented. The sport of mixed martial arts is used as a metaphor to the struggles of each of the characters in the movies, may it be their struggles with their family or their strife to escape financial tribulations. The two leads, Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton (Tommy Riordan and Brendan Conlon), have both acted their parts incredibly well and it made both of their characters so easy to relate to. So, of course, when you can relate that easily to the characters, it’s easy to root for them to succeed in what they want to accomplish. But, how about if they both wanted to win the competition? How about if they were pitted against each other? This is where the movie succeeds to me: giving the audience their own conflict – “Who would you want to win?” Also, just imagine, if the audience will find it difficult to choose a side, how would you think these brothers’ father would feel? Nick Nolte was perfectly cast to play the conflicted father to Tommy and Brendan. This movie is a must see, even if you don’t love the sport or you don’t love movies. It is THAT good.

Eddie The Eagle (2016)

When I first saw the trailer for this movie, I already knew that I was going to watch this no matter what. I loved Kingsman: The Secret Service, and Eddie The Eagle was produced by MARV films (same one that produced Kingsman). Also, Taron Egerton plays the lead in this movie, which to say the least is a world apart from his role in Kingsman. I didn’t catch the movie during its short run in the Philippines (a shame!) but now that I’ve had a chance to see this movie, I can say that it is a very inspiring film, not because the lead is great in the sport of ski jumping (in fact, he isn’t), but because he never stopped trying. In some ways, I can probably describe this film to be similar to The Greatest Game Ever Played, except that Shia’s Francis was very skilled in the sport, while Taron’s Eddie is all guts. However, in terms of achieving the impossible despite many people putting him down, Eddie’s story is heavy on inspiration and is a clear statement that no dream is too big.

These are just but a few of the good ones out there, but ones that really struck a proverbial chord in me. There is one movie being made I’m looking forward to, which I heard Jamie Foxx talk about during the NBA Playoffs. He said it was about two friends who are sort of torn apart by their separate admiration of Lebron James and Steph Curry, and went on the road to follow the two teams as they battle for the championship. Quite an interesting concept, methinks, so that could be a fun watch.

Have you seen any of these films? Do you have your own favorites? Any sports movies you are looking forward to see, or any sports event you want to see made into a movie? Hit me at the comments section and let me know your thoughts.

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