Bernardo Villela is like a mallrat except at the movies. He is a writer, director, editor and film enthusiast who seeks to continue to explore and learn about cinema, chronicle the journey and share his findings.
This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!
I have to say this one has a tremendous hook. With the fact that Julie Foudy was by natural proclivity the de facto videographer on the team there are some great candid moments in this film. The editing really does well to incorporate them to establish a tone. However, they’re discussed up front and not so much the thrust. A lot of it is a chronicle and a reminiscing as several players meet.
Not that there are not great moments to be found, both in new footage and in the old, but the film buries both that and its most important question about where the game has come since then. The answer, when taken fully into consideration, is about as good as it can be, there’s just little lead up. The forays outside the personal chronology to the wider impact of the event since then are few.
This is still, overall, a very well done and compelling piece, it just had the potential to be a lot more than it was.
I did a post like this for the Vancouver games a little more than two years ago and I shall unearth it again at some point at least on Letterboxd because that was certainly a lot more fun and in many cases weirder. However, the variety that is provided by the over-stuffed nature of the summer games is nothing to sneeze at. I think that these films that feature the sports of the warmer Olympiad will likely introduce you to something you want to check out. I know I found a few. These picks will be posted in three parts. You can read part one here.
Since the Olympics is global I will use the international name and translate for America, this is soccer. All kidding aside, as I looked through some lists of soccer movies I was struck by the realization that the disparity between the greatness of the game and the quality of films generated by it is greatest here. Most of the ones I saw listed were sad. There are some I heard good things about but have yet to see, like The Damned United, Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos, and Pelada. Many of them in the US are usually about a ragtag bunch of kids on a team the best probably being The Ladybugs. As for the adult version of the game the best most recent one I saw was Rudo y Cursi which gave us this song too:
However, world cinema does provide a few more options which are suitable for all ages. If you like your soccer with genre-bending weirdness, I’d suggest the Die Wilden Kerle series from Germany. However, I’d stress you not watch any of them dubbed. I saw one dubbed the first time and it was some of the poorest collective work I’ve seen, aside from the fact that in the US we for some reason altered the chronology.
Then O Menino Maluquinho (The Nutty Boy) has a climatic game which features brilliant, practically superhuman goaltending by the protagonist, which is one of many great aspects of the film.
Gymnastics (Artistic & Rhytmic)
Unless I’m missing something major, gymnastics hasn’t had a lot of great representation on the big screen. Christopher Campbell’s list definitely makes me want to see Gymkata and it’s certainly more compelling in concept than anything I thought of or found; a rash of biopics, lame parodies and anorexia-themed MOWs and, of course, the most unfortunately executed death in Final Destination 5.
Now, Rhythmic Gymnastics seems to be absent from any real representation. Like synchronized swimming it has its notable parodies like that on Lizzie Maguire and by Will Ferrell in Old School, but I can’t seem to find anything straight. It could be great fodder for a doc in the vein of what I perceive Pina to be, as I still need to see it. There is a niche waiting to be had.
Yup, this is what thew world thinks of when you handball, just another example of our at times jingoistic naming practices, though to be fair Wall Ball is used to describe the one we know better too. Handball is another sport I’m glad to see roll around every four years and I agree wholeheartedly with this Awful Announcing post that it should be a featured on ESPN more often.
With regards to movies there wasn’t much to find. There’s Szansa a Polish film which seems to pit a nurturing, caring, intellectual, literary teacher against a hard-nosed, disciplinarian, gym teacher who crosses the line to win and winning said handball games is good for the school. Then there’s Forever the Moment a fictionalized account of the South Korean women’s handball team that competed in the 2004 games.
Only during my occasional watching in the last games did I finally come to appreciate the version of the game which is played on grass and not ice. The only movie that seemed to jump out was Chak De! India, which is a kind of underdog story about a former player turned coach who takes over the long languishing national women’s team. This title is available to stream on Netflix (US).
Judo is a martial arts discipline I enjoy watching and pretty much always have since I’ve known of the games. The issue, as with many of these sports, has been finding a filmic representation of it.
Some quick searches brought some docs partial and short, but then as it turns out Kurosawa’s debut is a judo film, Sanshiro Sugata, wherein a young man struggles to learn the nuances and meaning of judo and life. This film is available from Criterion in one of their excellent Eclipse collections. This film is accompanied by a sequel and is referred to collectively as the Judo Saga.
Honestly, when I went to search out film ideas for each of these sports the one I pegged as being the hardest was the pentathlon. Truth be told, I only found one movie to pick from, but it’s called Pentathlon and Dolph Lundgren is in it. Essentially, Lundgren’s character and his sadistic trainer meet up eight years after their Olympic sojourn in an ever-escalating series of action nonsense, much of which you could have spoiled for you by the Wikipedia entry. It sounds like one of those movies that’s so brash it’s brilliant or painful – it does strike me as one of those movies I’ve seen on TV and all but forgotten.
I mentioned in the canoe section that rowing could be found in The Social Network, however, there are a few more options to be had. You could pick either of two versions of the same tale, as comparing an original and a remake can be fun in A Yank at Oxford and Oxford Blues. For a more sports-oriented choice there’s True Blue (called Miracle at Oxford on US Home video) about a famous 1987 race. Lastly, if you want your sport as more of a setting for your drama than the premise, you have Summer Storm, which is about relationships and sexuality, and Queen of the Night, with a backdrop of politics, handicaps and romance.
Now, I won’t be vague with shooting because the number of films that involve gunplay are countless. So I sought out films that at least feature competitive marksmen and there are two provided by Honk Kong cinema called Double Tap and Triple Tap, the former spins off from the first. Both involve rival shooters and getting involved inadvertently in crime and intrigue.
Swimming is one of the most populated sports in terms of events, and one of the most popular at the games in general. Even on dedicated websites like Sports in Movies there isn’t a long list of swimming films. It’s hard to imagine that recreational swimming is something that needed to be created, much less that sport needed developing. However, there is a share of cinema in the pool.
Going back to 1931 you can watch Jean Vigo’s 2nd short film Taris, which is a rather artistic rendition and promotion of France’s swimming record-holder at the time. This film is available in the Complete Vigo through Criterion. If you prefer your star-power cinematic The Swimmer stars Burt Lancaster. If your inclinations are more stalker-crazy there’s the fairly recent Swimfan. In the more family-friendly realm there’s the fantastical DCOM The Thirteenth Year and swimming features somewhat in A Dolphin Tale.
With synchronized swimming there is actually rather a balanced choice. You can either enjoy it rendered comically in this classic bit:
On in a light, whimsical, biopic musical called Million Dollar Mermaid.
It is just by its very nature one of the easiest sports to poke fun at but it is really something when done well, and something else when it’s not which both those clips prove.
As those who know me, and if such a person exists, cyberstalk me, know I created this blog after writing on another site, which shall remain nameless, for a while. The point is, I have material sitting around waiting to be re-used on occasion I will re-post them here. Some of those articles or reviews may have been extemporaneous at the time but are slightly random now, hence the new title and little intro, regardless enjoy!
Rudo y Cursi is the feature length directorial debut of Carlos Cuarón, brother of Alfonso Cuarón. It tells the tale of two brothers who live in a rural economically depressed section of Mexico who are discovered by a talent scout and promised their chance at stardom in the Mexican soccer league with two fictitious teams.
The thing this film does best is incorporate a storytelling voice-over which draws parallels between soccer and life and also gives a little insight into the character of Batuta, played by the scene-stealing Guillermo Francella. Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna work together as if Y Tu Mama Tambien was completed yesterday and not eight years ago. Each is a bona fide star in his own right.
Both cinematically and as a soccer enthusiast one might be slightly disappointed by the in-game action. Very few of the game scenes shoot on field action but rather a reaction in stadium or around a TV or just the ball entering the net and people on the sideline.
The trajectory that each character takes to fame is quite different both as players and people – and that’s great. While their declines are also different they are equally predictable, however well-executed. Cursi (Bernal) offers a tremendously funny Spanish rendition of “I Want You to Want Me,” the music video thereof is undoubtedly the best scene of the movie and one of the best of the year, as he desperately wants to be a singer and shouldn’t be. Luna (Rudo) is spotted at a track and taken deeper into the gambling world.
There’s nothing terribly wrong with Rudo y Cursi. It’s a fine watchable film and even incorporates a decent subplot with Rudo’s wife looking for money and falling into a pyramid scheme but with such talent assembled on camera you kind of want it to do more. Things which get glossed over you want examined in more depth.
The ending ultimately, while you like Rudo and Cursi, was a bit too facile and I think as good as the voice over was, telling the tale from Batuta’s point of view might have been a mistake because it ultimately creates a distance. In the beginning we as an audience are wondering “Who is this guy?” If it was either Rudo or Cursi we might’ve been even more invested in the brothers’s plight even if all events played out the same.
Michel Joelsas in The Year My Parents Went on Vacation (City Lights Pictures)
Windows doesn’t discriminate between regions any longer, and neither does Macintosh. Even if they do you should get a warning when inserting a Non-Region 1 DVD (meaning one made for distribution outside the US, Canada and Mexico) saying what region it is and asking if you want to change your computer’s region. Typically, there has been a set limit on how many times you could change regions before it became a permanent switch. Even if your computer is more finicky you still have an opportunity to watch many more DVDs, many of which you can only find online, that you never thought you could before.
Some foreign films have limited appeal and distribution internationally. With that in mind you should take that into account when traveling overseas and pick up some movies you won’t find in the US. Taking that in to consideration this critic made a number of purchases when in Brazil in 2008 to set up yet another mini-festival.
O Ano em Que Meus Pais Sairam de Ferias (The Year My Parents Went on Vacation)
In the way pretty much only a Brazilian film can this film combines football (the global variety), politics and coming of age. A child’s parents are forced to leave the country in 1970, months before the World Cup, due to their opposition to the dictatorship. He is left with his grandparents but fate has other plans for him.
What develops from there is a very interesting and very steadily built drama. It is a testament to the Brazilian people. The story is literally told like a slice of life in which tenebrous things can be going on in the background and all around but life goes on and it still is for the most part fine. There obviously is some focus on the revolt but they are also seen through the eyes of a child who only wants for his parents to return.
The end of the film, which merges the World Cup final with a police raid and then the denouement with us seeing what becomes of Mauro, is also perfect. This was a reality that faced many Brazilians of all walks of life in this era. It is quite a good, unfiltered, unsentimental coming of age film and like most that are good it’s different and so are the circumstances.