Category Archives: Other sports

Revisiting the Redemption Narrative

It’s been a few years since I’ve seen Stomp the Yard (2007), the sports inspirational dance film, directed by Sylvain White.  I can’t believe it’s thirteen years-old and these other dance films are at least that old too.

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Today’s viewing puts the total number of times I’ve watched this film at approximately ten.  While I jotted down thoughts as the film played (including the refreshing lack of smart phones and the cell phones that were in use were strictly modes of communication — there was no social media happening in the story world), it made sense to me suddenly why pride, pain, and sadness underpin nearly all sports inspirationals and the redemption narrative.  The athlete protagonist cannot evolve nor can he win if he refuses to acknowledge he’s too proud to admit he’s hurting due to a figurative or literal loss (or both).  Anger is easy and however understandable an emotion it is to inhabit, it often masks more than it purges.  Athleticism is a conduit for and symbol of psychological struggle.  Although it is most evident in boxing and football films, where physicality is highlighted, the kind of dancing that Stomp the Yard depicts drives this message home very well.  Moreover, the main character DJ (Columbus Short), must learn how to be a part of a team — the crux of virtually all sports films about teams.

Additionally, what sports inspirational would be complete without a female character who may or may not be a love interest but who profoundly affects the protagonist’s journey?  For DJ, that woman (Meagan Good) not only witnesses the start of his psychological healing, but she facilitates his ability to complete his redemption as an actual plot point.

According to the making-of featurette, the director operated the camera during the dance sequences.  He incorporated cinematographic styles from sports films and martial arts films.  I did not fully appreciate his aesthetic choices upon the initial screening, but now I do.  Having the camera in the midst of all the choreography is much more effective in conveying energy and intensity than from a merely voyeuristic position.

 

Off Topic: 50 nifty United States part 7

It’s been about four years since I last made a post about the goings-on across the United States.  With all of the shite-has-hit-the-fan news all over town and reddit posts about employers not taking the current world-wide situation seriously, I wanted to know what good, uplifting, and reassuring things are happening across the country.  I don’t mean the ignorance-is-bliss sort either.

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Alabama – Ghost Train Brewing Co. and curbside beer

Alaska – Cargo shipments continue (for now at last I imagine)

Arizona – Holiday lights are coming back (good idea or bad idea?)

Arkansas – Businesses help with free WIFI and PBS education materials

California – Netflix’s $100 million fund and look at all the non-traffic

Colorado – Free eggs in Loveland

Connecticut – Distillery making hand sanitizer

Delaware – Doghead Fish also making sanitizer

Florida – Miami Dolphins donate $500,000 and Omari Hardy

Georgia – Arthur Blank Foundation donates $5.4 million, Atlanta Hawks donate food, Atlanta Braves’ relief fund

Hawaii – Seal pup birthrate in 2019

Idaho – free 5-pound dog food

Illinois –  Jazz band practice virtually  Also, stay at home.

Indiana – Niles factory and light medical equipment

Iowa – Cats (not the musical)

Kansas – sending KS love

Kentucky – More distillery sanitizer

Louisiana – Crawfish farmers and Chili‘s (they could do more especially since not everyone who gets CV19 has symptoms, and people can get sick for other reasons)

Maine – Adopt this dog and a skunk takes a swim

Maryland – Helping the homeless

Massachusetts – Hannaford Supermarkets donate food

Michigan – GM and more hand sanitizer

Minnesota – Wanting to make masks not bags

Mississippi – Foster cats

Missouri – Christmas reappears

Montana – Make art

Nebraska – Art for seniors

Nevada – Gotta keep building (I get why it’s not the best idea but what better time to build when street closures or traffic won’t be a hindrance, n’est-ce pas?

New Hampshire – Teen meets his rescuers

New Jersey – Governor on party-goers

New Mexico – Getting creative

New York – Good question

North Carolina – Carolina Hurricanes doing good

North Dakota – Woman organizes meet and swap of goods

Ohio – Coaches talk

Oklahoma – National guard activates

Oregon – PSA: stop flushing non-flushables

Pennsylvania – Conserve energy

Rhode Island – Masks donated

South Carolina – And stop lying

South Dakota – Protecting the homeless and the definition of community

Tennessee – Good on the owner (but he should probably save the beard)

Texas – Billy Bob Texas

Utah – Even more hand sanitizer and don’t be this guy

Vermont – Resort donates food

Virginia – Trying to get people jobs

Washington – Getting creative as well

West Virginia – Horse racing (but should it still go on, really?)

Wisconsin – Fire departments need help

Wyoming – Animal shelter needs help

Washington DC – Don’t be like these people

Puerto Rico – Curfew crackdown

Guam – Meanwhile

US Virgin Islands – Meanwhile

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Map cred: usgs

Creed after Creed

I liked Creed (Ryan Coogler, 2015) a lot when I watched it the first time.  Each subsequent viewing on DVD has been equally fulfilling as a boxing film and a film in general.  I didn’t see Creed II (Steven Caple Jr., 2018) in the theatres and waited a while after it came out on home video before I decided to give it a try.

 

The first viewing of Creed II did not motivate me to think much about it let alone write about it, but I woke up today and decided I wanted to do a double-feature and come what may.  The post I wrote on Creed is more typical of a sports film analysis.  This one, on the other hand, spotlights one question: Can a sports film exist without the element of pride and ego as both foundation and weakness in its protagonist?

Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) goes from wanting to honor the memory of his father Apollo Creed to proving to himself that he can beat Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), the son of the man who boxed his father to death.  In this mindset, the protagonist won’t listen to reason, so the only thing to do is to make sure he doesn’t fail without at least having the best chance to win.  Enter all the pep talks and training montages.  The fighter will never learn how to gauge what risks are worth taking or what contests are worth accepting if he doesn’t get to make mistakes — whatever the consequences.

The competitions in sports films signify more than mere triumphs and defeats — they’re often emblems of redemption or humility.  Winning does not happen with skills or talent alone, there must be passion and the right reason to fight in the first place.  Take away the athlete’s unwavering need to redeem himself, which is primarily fueled by pride and ego, and what is left thematically?  An exercise in Zen Buddhism possibly.

Favorite lines from Ford v Ferrari

Ford v Ferrari (James Mangold, 2019) came out on DVD and Bluray today.   It won the Academy Award for Best Film Editing and Best Sound Editing.

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I have transcribed all of my favorite lines from the film below:

Carroll Shelby: There’s a point at 7,000 RPM where everything fades. The machine becomes weightless, just disappears. And all that’s left is a body moving through space and time. 7,000 RPM, that’s where you meet it. It asks you a question, the only question that matters. ‘Who are you?’

~!~

Ken Miles: Nothing wrong with the car, it’s the way it’s being driven.
Customer: The way it’s being driven?
Ken Miles: Too much fuel, not enough spark. That’s what’s making her misfire.
Customer: You wanna run that by me in English?
Ken Miles: All right, sir. So, that there is a sport car. You have to drive her like a sport car. If you drive her like a school teacher, she’ll clog up. All right? Try changing up at 5,000 RPM, not two. Drive like you mean it. Hard and tight. She’ll run clean.
Customer: Are you telling me I don’t know how to drive my own car?
Ken Miles: No. But if you ask me, this isn’t your car. Your car’s more of a Plymouth or a Studebaker.

~!~

Henry Ford II: Hear that? That’s the sound of the Ford Motor Company out of business. In 1899, my grandfather, Henry, by God, Ford was walking home from Edison Illumination after working a double shift. He was ruminating. That morning he had himself an idea that changed the world. Sixty-five years and 47 million automobiles later, what shall be his legacy? Getting it in the tail pipe from a Chevy Impala. Here’s what I want you to do. Walk home. While you’re walking, I want you to ruminate. Man comes to my office with an idea, that man keeps his job. The rest of you second-best losers, stay home. You don’t belong at Ford.

~!~

Carroll Shelby: Do you know who that was I was just talking to?
Ken Miles: Bill.
Carroll Shelby: Before that.
Ken Miles: No.
Carroll Shelby: It was Dieter Voss.
Ken Miles: Who’s that?
Carroll Shelby: He runs Porsche, Ken. It’s a little German car company. Maybe ya heard of it.
Ken Miles: All right.
Carroll Shelby: He wanted you to drive at Sebring, but he’d heard you were difficult.
Ken Miles: I thought we felt the same way about, uh, Germans.
Carroll Shelby: Do you like losing, Ken?
Ken Miles: Excuse me.
Carroll Shelby: Oh, you heard me.
Ken Miles: I don’t lose.
Carroll Shelby: Without sponsors, you get no car, Ken. And the last I checked, the professionals all have a car.
Ken Miles: Shel!
Carroll Shelby: You cannot win the SCCA without one. If you’re not winning, you are losing.

~!~

Lee Iacocca: In 1945, our soldiers came home. What was the first thing they did? They had sex. Seventeen years later, those babies, they’ve grown and they’ve got jobs. They’ve got licenses, but they do not wanna drive the same dull 50s cars their parents drove. You see, kids today, they want glamour. They want sex appeal. They want to go fast. Gentlemen, it’s time for the Ford Motor Company to go racing.
Henry Ford II: We’re already in racing, Iacocca.
Lee Iacocca: NASCAR? It’s, it’s regional, sir. If you go to the movies, you open up a magazine, you don’t see good ‘ol boys and Winston-Salem. You see, uh, Sophia Loren, Monica Vitti. James Bond does not drive a Ford, sir.
Henry Ford II: That’s because he’s a degenerate.
Leo Beebe: Lee, in the last three years, you and your marketing team have presided over the worst sales slump in the US history. Why exactly should Mr. Ford listen to you?
Lee Iacocca: Because we’ve been thinking wrong. Ferrari. Now, they have won four out of the last five Le Mans. We need to think like Ferrari.
Henry Ford II: Ferrari makes fewer cars in a year than we can make in a day. We spend more on toilet paper than they do their entire output. You want us to to think like them?
Lee Iacocca: Enzo Ferrari will go down in history as the greatest car manufacturer of all time. Why? Is it because he built the most cars? No. It’s because of what his cars mean. Victory. Ferrari wins at Le Mans. People, they, they want some of that victory. What if the Ford badge meant victory? And meant it where it counts, with the first group of seventeen year-olds in history with money in their pockets?
Leo Beebe: This would take years, decades to test and develop a race team capable of taking out Ferrari.
Lee Iacocca: Ferrari’s bankrupt. Enzo has spent every lira he’s got chasing perfection, and you know something? He got there. But now he’s broke.

~!~

Lee Iacocca: I’m here on behalf of Mr. Ford, Henry Ford II. Suppose, um, hypothetically, that he wanted his company to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans. You’re one of the only Americans that’s ever done it, so I’m wondering what’s it take?
Carroll Shelby: Hypothetically?
Lee Iacocca: Hypothetically.
Carroll Shelby: It takes something money can’t buy.
Lee Iacocca: Money can buy speed.
Carroll Shelby: But it isn’t about speed, Lee. It’s not just like those other tracks where all you do is turn to the left for four hours. To win that race, you need a car that’s light enough to do 200 on the straightaways but strong enough to keep that up for 3,000 miles without a break. Not just the best car y’all have ever made, but better than anything that Enzo Ferrari shows up with that year. And that just gets you to the green flag. That’s where your problems really start.
Lee Iacocca: So you’re saying it’s challenging.
Carroll Shelby: Look, it’s not even a track, Lee. Le Mans is eight and a half miles of country road. It’s narrow, ungraded, it’s rough. There’s no camber on the turns, no rails. You gotta do that for twenty-four hours. Twenty-four hours, Lee. That means night. Half that race is in the dark. You can’t see shit. Cars coming up on you out of nowhere. Drivers stumbling around the track, pouring blood. Maybe one of em’s your friend. Maybe, maybe he’s on fire. You’re exhausted, you’re hungry, can’t remember your name, what country you’re in. And all of a sudden you realize you’re doing 198 on a straight. And if anything goes wrong, you blow a gasket, a five-cemt washer, that’s it, whole thing’s over. Ferrari wins again. Just like he won last year and the year before that and the year before that. Yeah, it’s challenging.
Lee Iacocca: So you don’t think that Ford Motor Company can build the greatest race car the world’s ever seen? You think that we are incapable of winning an event like that? Even if we had a brilliant partner? Even if we wrote a, uh, blank check?
Carroll Shelby: What I’m saying is, you can’t buy a win, Lee. But maybe you can buy the guy who gets you a shot.

~!~

Carroll Shelby: Well?
Ken Miles: It’s awful.
Carroll Shelby: It’s worse than awful.
Ken Miles: Yeah, it doesn’t track. You know, the third gear is too high. The torque is not reaching the road. The steering’s loose because the front end gets light. And over a 140, it thinks it’s a…
Carroll Shelby: Airplane.
Ken Miles: Yeah. It wants to lift off and fly to Hawaii.
Carroll Shelby: Anything else?
Ken Miles: One sec.

~!~

Carroll Shelby: All due respect, sir, you can’t win a race by committee. You need one man in charge. Now, the good news, as I see it, is that even with all the extra weight, we still managed to put old Mr. Ferrari exactly where we want him.
Henry Ford II: Did we?
Carroll Shelby: Oh, yes.
Henry Ford II: Expand.
Carroll Shelby: Well, sure we hadn’t…we haven’t worked out how to corner yet. Or stay cool. Or stay on the ground. And a lot of stuff broke. In fact, the only thing that didn’t break was the brakes. Hell, right now, we don’t even know if our paint job will last the whole twenty-four hours. But our last lap, we clocked 218 miles per hour down the Mulsanne Straight. Now, in all his years of racing, old Enzo ain’t never seen anything move that fast. And now he knows without a doubt, we’re faster than he is…even with the wrong driver and all the committees. And that’s what he’s thinking about while he’s sitting in Modena, Italy right now. That man is scared to death that this year you actually might be smart enough to start trusting me. So, yeah, I’d say you got Ferrari exactly where you want him. You’re welcome.

~!~

Peter Miles: Yeah, ’cause you can’t just push the car hard the whole way, right?
Ken Miles: That’s right. You have to be kind to the car. You feel the poor thing groaning underneath you. If you’re going to push a piece of machinery to the limit, and expect it to hold together, you have to have some sense of where that limit is. Look out there. Out there is the perfect lap. No mistakes. Every gear change, every corner, perfect. You see it?
Peter Miles: I think so.
Ken Miles: Most people can’t. Most people don’t even know it’s out there, but it is. It’s there.

~!~

Also, Jon Bernthal reminds me of Fred Ward.  They need to be in a movie together where they play son and father.