Tag Archives: Will Ferrell

Leap Year 2008: Rocka My Soul, Free Corndog Night, My Sista

Every four years February has a twenty-ninth day, giving it the distinction of being called a “leap year.” Leap Weekend 2008 started off with pure energy for me.

But First: In some Atlanta Falcons news, Chris Redman will return as a quarterback in the fall. Running back Michael Turner will know just how frustrating construction on Peachtree Road/Street can be in the 2008 season. Tight end Ben Hartsock will feel the pain of off-the-chart-pollen-count (if he’s allergic). Cornerback Von Hutchins will come to love the infrequency with which Atlanta drivers put on a turn signal–especially when they need to put them on…say in parking lots.

Click their names to read the articles.

Now back to Leap Year.

I watched the Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre on Friday at the Fox Theatre. I’ve wanted to see them perform for so long and I finally did. They put many dancers I’ve seen to shame. Their classical ballet movements may not be as sharp or polished as the principal dancers of certain companies, but they move with such emotion and emit a kind of energy that is truly astounding. Moreover, some of the choreography of group numbers (in terms of dance steps and formations) I had never seen before–it was an awesome way to spend Leap Day.

On Saturday, I watched Semi-Pro (Kent Alterman, 2008).

My initial reaction after watching this film was, “Well, that was a flatbread kneaded with lopsided helpings of crude humor and a sports inspirational parody.” Semi-Pro documents Flint Tropics owner-coach-power forward Jackie Moon (Will Ferrell) and his quest to take his team to the top of the ABA League (American Basketball Association) and, ultimately, merge with the NBA. In order to improve their skills, Jackie hires NBA wallflower Monix (Woody Harrelson) to play with the guys.

If Semi-Pro is primarily a vehicle for Will Ferrellian antics, then the film accomplishes this feat decently. I haven’t seen his other sports movies (Talladega Nights, Kicking & Screaming, Blades of Glory), so I don’t know if the partially integrated gags and jokes were no different from his other films. I wasn’t keen on the ostensible randomness of certain characters (the guy who free throws on Free Corndog Night) and scenes (“jive turkey” and quasi-roulette featuring Tim Meadows). This romance storyline with Woody Harrelson and Maura Tierney was somewhat arbitrary too.

After thinking about it for a day, though, I came to appreciate the loose ends and non-conformity to the standard sports film. The criticisms, and sometimes the sheer idiocy, of professional sports are subtly presented. They are first and foremost examples of Will Ferrell behaving like a “a well-meaning oaf afflicted by neurosis and some affliction that causes him to scream a lot” (as Peter Vonder Haar puts it). The film is called “Semi-Pro;” “semi” meaning not complete, half, not whole. Remove all the sports scenes and sequences (ten games and two to three practices; actual game-play took up only about ten to fifteen minutes of the ninety minute film), and you’d have fodder for a jab at the 70s.

Observations & Miscellania:

1. Product placement and Branding: Fondue, Pong, Converse.

2. Once I got over the non-gestalt aspect of the film’s narrative components, I still couldn’t deal with the utter lack of sympathy for the characters. Even Clarence “Coffee” Black (Andre Benjamin), who is depicted as having more than one thought or emotion and who possesses two-dimensional ambition (as opposed to one-dimensional, flat), can’t secure my support. Technically, I could say that “I just don’t care” about this film.

3. The opening newspaper, still photo montage sequence establishes that Jackie Moon’s hit song “Love Me Sexy” made him a shipload of money, enabling him to purchase and then play for the Flint Tropics.

4. My appreciation for the film’s lopsided flatbread qualities started after I thought about the final game in the film, where Jackie Moon’s team vying to win the Megabowl–a trophy he concocted just to get people to come to the stadium. It got me thinking about corporate sponsors and the creation of all sorts of awards and trophies given out just so there can be another game.

For more Semi-Pro pictures, click here.

On Sunday, I watched The Other Boleyn Girl (Justin Chadwick, 2008). I went into the film with zero expectations–I didn’t even know if the book on which the film is based was historical fiction or not. Thus, I enjoyed it more than I thought; it wasn’t a waste of time.

Eric Bana, who plays King Henry VIII, probably only had ten pages of lines. He spent most of the film striding around and looking intently offscreen or into the camera. Matt Sorrento’s review at Film Threat is hilarious–even though I don’t necessarily agree with what the review argues, it’s a better read than the film is a good watch.

A few laps, lay-ups, and complete passes and I’m Done

Adam Duerson contemplates the current status of the sports movie in the December 17, 2007 issue of Sports Illustrated magazine.

Asking whether or not “the perceived need to appeal to women–and overseas markets [has] doomed the sports flick,” Duerson begins his piece, “Endangered Species,” by remarking that “Will Ferrell! On Figure skates! For better or worse…is how sports movies in the year 2007 will be remembered” (26).

After providing some box office numbers, he wonders, “where are the HoosiersRaging Bulls? and the ” and then adds, “the reality is that it’s not nearly as easy to make a sports movie as it used to be. With movie attendance in the U.S. dropping, the new Hollywood business model relies more heavily on foreign receipts.” The problem with this method is that according to Mark Ciardi, “there’s no foreign [earning] on sports movies” overseas.

In addition to how unenthusiastic other countries are for American sports movies, Duerson argues that “there’s the prevailing notion in Hollywood that women choose which movies couples see together but that only men are drawn to sports films.” Duerson gets veteran sports film marketing man Jeff Freedman to comment on the situation, which is basically that a sports film can only be made if the sport is secondary to thematic and other narrative elements. In other words, “the first thing a studio decides…is to say it’s a love story, or a father-son story.”

He includes an unnamed Hollywood marketing professional’s observation that “if somebody wanted to make Raging Bull today, I don’t know that it could happen” because “it’s too dark.” Duerson’s article then implicitly criticizes Hollywood’s multiplex complex as a limitation to the production and wider distribution of sports films that possess artistic qualities on par with dramas and action films. To get funding or a distribution deal, filmmakers are “plugging away with the same old sports comedy-drama-romance hybrids.” He then cites the Will Ferrell basketball comedy Semi-Pro and George Clooney’s period comedy Leatherheads as 2008’s sports film offerings.

Duerson closes his thoughts by pointing out that independent sports cinema may inspire the critics and are received well at film festivals, but distributors aren’t convinced the general public will buy it.

As a one-page article, Duerson understandably doesn’t have the space to delve deeper into the issues and examples he brings up as indicating the steady decline of the sports film. I’m going to attempt to contextualize or offer some more points to ponder. Duerson’s three concerns are profits, audience, and distribution. Ultimately, though, it’s one issue: money. Whether or not a movie is to be made depends on how much money it could make. Hollywood is a business and has always operated along the paradigm of telling stories the audience will purchase (with or without encouragement from the studios). Artistic innovations and creating the impression or building the mythology that making movies (and any art form for that matter) privileges the art above else is realistically speaking wishful thinking.

The example of Raging Bull as a sports film of quality and not just a guilty pleasure (entertainment) needs a bit more background explanation. Kevin J. Hayes articulates in the introduction of Cambridge Film Handbooks’ edition on the film that “superlatives abound whenever people talk about Raging Bull. Not only is it an exemplary cinematic work, it is also a cultural icon representing a rich cross section of themes, issues, and characters that reflect American culture in ways that typical Hollywood films do not” (1). Wouldn’t you say that the bulk of commercial, mainstream American films today don’t come close in this respect? Hayes later adds, “Raging Bull owes an important debt to the heritage of the boxing film genre” and boxing itself (10).

Culturally, Scorsese’s film was conceived in an atmosphere that allowed it to be brought into the world. Its examination of masculinity, violence, and the notion of loss isn’t what would keep a studio head or a distribution company today from a greenlight. Instead, it’s about the way the entertainment industry has changed post-highspeed internet and DVD. The idea of diversification of markets isn’t new to advertisers. Merchandising of characters in films and books aren’t limited to the movies and the publishing industry. Dialogue and images from a film can be found in all consumer markets (ahem, George Lucas). Cross-stitching the music with the movie industry isn’t new either. Elvis. Frank Sinatra. Louis Armstrong. Barbara Streisand.

The difference now is that the internet is a new medium through which music, moving images, and literature can circulate. The behaviors and the tendencies (and preferences) of the buying public (which is primarily teenagers) is devastatingly significant in determining how to make the most amount of money (over a short or long period of time). If the sports film (as a drama) today can’t narratively or thematically be similar to those of earlier generations for reasons of economy rather than artistry, it’s happening across the board. Outside independent cinema, studios have little motivation to make movies–they want to make franchises (that include video game tie-ends).

And, if you want originality in content and form, you might not find it in a movie theatre. You might have to turn to Youtube or an art gallery.

I don’t think it’s that unfortunate that studio heads have to view sports films as not being sports films. Thematically, they’re about more than whatever sport is involved. These films are about relationships between people, self-discovery, and hope, or, in other cases, defeat. Instead of employing the motif or metaphor of a soldier or an artist, these movies elect the athlete.

Adam Duerson, if you’re reading this entry, when I make my football movie, it should be a sign of better things to come. Mine won’t be a sports romantic comedy.

I’m cognitively wiped out right now. I’ll revisit this post again.

Originally published at Century Fille.

Sports Movies News: Will Ferrell goes Big Hair; More on G. Clooney and Pigskin

I went to see The Golden Compass (Chris Weitz, 2007) today. I read the Philip Pullman His Dark Materials trilogy and wanted to see the cinematicizing (not a real word!) of the armored bears. This post won’t be about this film; instead, it will concern two of the previews.

In a previous post from around Halloween, I mentioned reading about a forthcoming George Clooney film about 1920s professional football called Leatherheads. IMDB’s plot synopsis reads as follows:

a romantic comedy set in the world of 1920s football, where the owner of a professional sports team drafts a straight-laced college sensation,” who then must “watch his new coach fall for his fiancee.”

The trailer and ClooneyStudio.Com, however, both indicate that the miracle boy from college doesn’t have a fiancee. In fact, Renee Zellwegger plays a journalist who believes that the new kid on the team might not live up to the hype (misrepresentation of his past and the like).

I am so looking forward to watching this film for reasons that I expressed in my other post.

The other sports film preview that came with The Golden Compass was Semi-Pro (Kent Alterman, 2008). Written by Scot Armstrong, this sports comedy follows Jackie Moon (Will Ferrell), a basketball player-turned coach, who wants his team, the Tropics, to be integrated into the NBA-ABA merger. Genre formula mandates that in order for Jackie to get what he wants, he has to fall very far from grace and prestige. Expect many scatalogical jokes, chest hair, and satirical remarks about the professional sports business.

Here’s the trailer for Semi-Pro.

I haven’t been able to find a trailer for Leatherheads just yet. Please click here for more information about the film.

Don’t forget to watch Sunday afternoon football this week (December 9th). The Patriots go head to head with the Steelers.