Tuesday, 9 March 2010

"I. Don't. Want. Your. Life" and other screen sports gems

In a recent discussion with friends about the new British basketball feature film Freestyle, which I plan to review as soon as I can manage the two hours off from normal life, we got onto the dicey subject of the best and worst sports films of recent memory.

Obviously, the movie referred to in the title had an early mention. Varsity Blues falls, in my view, into the bad sports movie camp, despite some lovable characters (not including James Van Der Beek doing an appalling Southern accent) and a halfway decent depiction of a head coach bent on winning the title at all costs.

Where it fell down was in the actual game scenes. Obviously you don't expect super-realism - this is not a Dan Marino or Timmy Tebow documentary - but the overused and now very lame cliches of the last five seconds of a game that take up four minutes of screen time (and the annoying use of the Foo Fighters' My Hero set to pictures of Van Der Beek and co trotting on field for their final push) are vital flaws.

Any Given Sunday, Friday Night Lights and any other football movie with a day in its title did a better job of the game scenes. Some would say even Jerry Maguire did better on game action but those people are idiots.

Varsity Blues

On the basketball front, there have been too many bad films to list here. I say bad as in the films that lost out when it came to the actors' believability, through both acting and gameplaying ability. I've never rated Kevin Bacon as an actor and he lost major points with his scarcely comprehendible role as a jaded college basketball coach in The Air Up There.

A more streetball-focused film, Above the Rim, had some very tight game scenes but was let down by appalling acting. And I won't even go into the major dent in Michael Jordan's reputation gained by doing Space Jam.

The film that non-players and court stars all can relate to and enjoy in the same way was White Men Can't Jump. Woody and Wesley handled those parts exceptionally and the director and cinematographer showcased both stars' strengths: Wesley with the physical game action, Woody with comedic moments and the actually believable three-point shootout. It's a very well-shot and edited movie that can make you believe the actor really did hit that tray or made the game-clinching dunk without the obvious mashing together of various takes.

And - the key ingredient in my opinion - a good sport film will make you want to get off the couch and go out to play the sport you've just watched. WMCJ did that over and over again for me, in the days when highlight reels from NBA games weren't just filled with huge dunks and the achievements on screen looked, well, achievable to the average baller.

White Men Can't Jump

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