Remember the Titans

Remember the Titans

Welcome to Sport on the Silver Screen. In this series, I will be looking back over sports movies that I have recently watched/re-watched and giving my thoughts on them. Getting into the Schmoedown and starting to follow a number of the personalities from the show has given me a much greater appreciation of movies and seen me starting to watch more.

Being a fan of both movies and sports, I have taken the chance to start highlighting the sheer volume of sports movies out there. For each movie I will be giving some details about the movie and then a quick review, including a section giving a sports fan’s perspective of the action’s realism.

This series has been heavily influenced by Ben Bateman and Andrew Ghai of Action Industries, and as such I will be borrowing a couple of sections that they use in their weekly show Action Movie Anatomy: Fist-pump moment and favourite line. Be aware, there will be spoilers, but I will try to keep them to a minimum.

Having looked at 2 of my favourite sports movies for my first 2 articles int eh series, I was planning to look at something new for my third. But after everything that has been going on over recent weeks, there was only one movie that felt right and topical: Remember the Titans

sport screen remember the titans

Key facts

Directed by Boaz Yakin

Music by Trevor Rabin

Released in 2000

Starring: Denzel Washington, Will Patton, Wood Harris, Ryan Hurst, Donald Faison

Synopsis: The movie is based on the true story of the 1971 T. C. Williams high school football team in Alexandria, Virginia. After the school integrated, Herman Boone is brought in to coach the team. The story shows how the black and white players (and the coaches) come together as a team and then follows them through a season while having to deal with the racism of those around them.

Review

Let me start by acknowledging that as a white male, I have things very easy in my life due to an undeserved privilege. I don’t know what it is like to experience racism or discrimination. Do I think that Remember the Titans accurately depicts the racism the team had to deal with? To a degree, yes, but I admit that as a Disney movie intended for families, certain dramatic liberties are bound to have been taken that will have likely toned down some moments but also created or hyped up others. What it does though is leave me with a feeling of how the situation was and allow for a clear growth from the characters throughout the film as they begin to see beyond the colour of each other’s skin, shown well by characters like Gerry Bertier’s mother who goes from her initial racism to helping comfort Julius Campbell and forcing him to stay strong following Gerry’s accident. Similarly we get the growth of Gerry’s girlfriend (played by Kate Bosworth) from not even wanting to touch Julius to shaking his hand before the final game. Similarly, I love the growth amongst the players, with initially just a few bonding but more over time as they find common ground (such as Ryan Gosling’s Alan Bosley bonding over music) or come to respect each other on the pitch like Gerry and Julius.

The movie itself could be considered somewhat formulaic – a new team of players comes together over time and has to overcome difficulties caused by those around them on their way to a climactic final match (note the similarities to The Replacements when summarised like that) – but that in no way makes it a bad movie as this will often be the case with sports movies. The characters themselves are on the whole likeable (except the ones who aren’t meant to be like Burgess Jenkins’ Ray Budds – who was made up for the movie), and while Coach Boone does often come across as too strict and not likeable – including deliberately showing up two of the players in front of the team and their families when they first meet, there are also some scenes that explain why he is strict and other moments, like with Ethan Suplee’s Louie Lastik or during his speech at Gettysburg, that shows his softer side. Of the players, the performance that really stands out for me is that of Wood Harris as Julius Campbell. As one of the driving forces and star players on the team, he gets a lot more serious screen time than others players, but he uses this time really well, with his notable scenes being an argument with Gerry about why he should play for the team when Gerry is captaining them but not calling out the whites for not blocking for their black Quarterback – a turning point for the pair and the team – and the scene where he reaches the hospital to find out that Gerry is paralysed from the waist down and breaks down, but has to try staying strong. Finally, I really need to praise the performance of Hayden Panettiere as the daughter of Will Patton’s Coach Yoast. Child actors can so often break a movie, but she does a great job here as a young girl obsessed with her father’s football team and she never feels out of place in scenes with greats like Patton and Denzel Washington.

Remember the Titans features a mix of a soundtrack along with a score from Trevor Rabin and the pair mesh brilliantly together, with the soundtrack providing the general tone to the movie, but then the score replacing it to underline many of the more inspirational speeches and moments, add tension where appropriate and place the focus on the football scenes. It does not draw your attention in the same way some scores will (though it certainly deserves the love) but it works underneath what we are watching to accentuate the moment.

Sports perspective

So as mentioned before, this is based on a true story, but a lot of changes have been made for theatrical reasons. The real Titans were more successful than the movie suggests with a number of big wins on the way to their 13-0 season, while the game with Marshall that the final game was based off was actually mid-way through their season (and the actual State Championship game was a 27-0 blowout). There is also no evidence that any of the Titans’ games were officiated as blatantly unfairly as we see in the Regional Championship, while in reality all of their opponents would have been integrated schools rather than all-white.

In terms of the actual action, though, Remember the Titans feels very believable. As high school football, it is easy enough to believe players would be able to switch between offense and defense with more ease, while the gameplay feels natural and not reliant on gimmick plays, even the last-ditch play to win the State Championship feels very natural and something that we could see even in an NFL game.

Useless trivia

Ironically, Remember the Titans is probably one of the least remembered movies in the Movie Trivia Schmoedown, with players having frequently missed questions relating tot he film, including Above The Line missing 2 questions on the film in their first shot at the Team Title, which cost them the match.

Fist-pump moment

Seeing the team begin to come together in the classic “Strong side”, “Left side!” scene was very close, I had to go for a moment mid-way through the Regional Championship game.

Having seen the team be unfairly penalised all game. Coach Yoast sacrifices his hall of Fame place by threatening to go to the press if the officials don’t let the game play out fairly. He goes back to the sidelines,makes some adjustments and gives the “Leave no doubt” speech (one of the most inspirational in the movie) and the defense immediately begins to dominate the game.

“All right now, I don’t want them to gain another yard! You BLITZ ALL NIGHT! If they cross the line of scrimmage, I’ll take every last one of you out! You make sure they remember, forever, the night they played the Titans! Leave no doubt!

Favourite line

While the “Leave no doubt” speech was certainly up there, I ended up picking something that felt much deeper. After Gerry’s accident, Julius goes to see him in hospital, but the nurse tries to stop him, leading to this great response from Gerry:

“Only kin’s allowed in here.”

“Alice, are you blind? Don’t you see the family resemblance? That’s my brother.”

As someone who has played team sports for years, your teammates really do begin to feel like family. And especially with my rugby 7s team the Pistol Shrimps, I find that we can go a year (or more) without speaking, but as soon as we meet up, we’re ripping into each other but will always stand up for each other if someone outside the group causes trouble.

More than that, though, this line is a beautiful reminder that the colour of your skin should not be defining you. Hopefully we are close to seeing a day where that is a reality rather than a dream.

 

What did you think of this movie? Let me know in the comments. Until next time!

The Replacements

The Replacements

Welcome to Sport on the Silver Screen. In this series, I will be looking back over sports movies that I have recently watched/re-watched and giving my thoughts on them. Getting into the Schmoedown and starting to follow a number of the personalities from the show has given me a much greater appreciation of movies and seen me starting to watch more.

Being a fan of both movies and sports, I have taken the chance to start highlighting the sheer volume of sports movies out there. For each movie I will be giving some details about the movie and then a quick review, including a section giving a sports fan’s perspective of the action’s realism.

This series has been heavily influenced by Ben Bateman and Andrew Ghai of Action Industries, and as such I will be borrowing a couple of sections that they use in their weekly show Action Movie Anatomy: Fist-pump moment and favourite line. Be aware, there will be spoilers, but I will try to keep them to a minimum.

Today I will be looking at one of my favourite sports movies: The Replacements

ss the replacements

Key facts

Directed by Howard Deutch

Music by John Debney

Released in 2000

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Gene Hackman, Orlando Jones, Jon Favreau, Rhys Ifans, Brooke Langton

Synopsis: When the NFL players all go on strike with 4 games remaining in the regular season, the Washington Sentinels bring in head coach Jimmy McGinty (Hackman) to help the team make the playoffs. Rather than bring in semi-pros, McGinty chooses to bring in a hodgepodge of players he has watched through their careers to create the craziest team of replacements ever.

Review

If you’re looking for a piece of cinematic greatness, this is not going to be it. What it is though, is a genuinely fun sports comedy movie. I can’t even remember exactly how I first found this movie, I just came across the DVD at the bottom of my box of DVDs one day, decided to watch it and fell in love and it is a feel-good movie that I will consistently return to.

Much like many ensemble team sports comedies, the members of the team we follow all fall into their distinct roles: Keanu as Shane Falco is the heart of the team who has his funny moments but is generally used as the more serious spine to keep the story on track along with Hackman, Rhys Ifans is the one trying to run from his past, while Jon Favreau and Orlando Jones are key to a lot of the comedic moments as they play a maniacal linebacker/SWAT officer and a shop assistant who speaks before he thinks most of the time. Langton is there primarily as a love interest, but I do appreciate that she is shown to be highly knowledgeable about the team and the sport, helping her feel like a character in her own right rather than just a female for the lead to fall for.

As with many sports movies, it is always interesting to see where the antagonists come into play. The opposition are antagonists to some degree – especially specific players at times and the way Dallas are portrayed as so superior to the Replacements in the final match – but the real antagonist is the usual Quarterback, Eddie Martel (Brett Cullen) and his group of striking players, which is a dynamic that I think works quite well in that he is there at the start, but dealing with him brings the replacements together and it is only when he returns for the final match that things start to go wrong for the team again.

For me, the comedy really hits in this movie. Orlando Jones, Jon Favreau and Rhys Ifans are all incredible comedic actors and Gene Hackman plays off everyone around him so well. All of this then allows for more poignant moments, much like Keanu’s “Quicksand” speech and the scene where McGinty has to tell him that Martel has returned to the team.

Finally, I just want to mention the music of the movie, as I have had the soundtrack downloaded for years. I really like what John Debney does in this movie, combining a soundtrack of existing songs and a score to create something that works really well in the moment. The score works really well to cover a lot off the more sports-heavy moments, while the use of existing songs has led to me really appreciating Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” and discovering “Heroes” (They use a cover by Marc Bonilla & Font 48, but it led me to David Bowie’s version).

Sports perspective

The movie utilises the actors playing the game as much as possible in the Baltimore Ravens’ stadium, which really helps in terms of making everything look realistic – though if you pay attention you will notice it leads to a number of inconsistencies as plays are shown from different angles.

The movie itself is very loosely based on the 1987 NFL strike and the Washington Redskins (who won all 3 games during the strike and went on to win the Super Bowl), but it is only really as far as the general premise and some similarities in the teams faced and the QB controversy. Archie Lee Harris, Jr. (who plays Wilson Carr, one of the striking players) was in fact one of the replacement players during the strike, playing tackle for the Denver Broncos in 3 games on their way to the Super Bowl.

Having real NFL coaches portraying the opposition head coaches and having the commentary duo of John Madden and Pat Summerall for the matches goes a long way to helping the action feel authentic, and it genuinely feels like the pair had fun with some of the commentary.

As someone who has been watching the NFL for years, though, there are a number of occasions where what we are seeing doesn’t quite match up with real life. Though I understand that a big part of it will be to keep the focus on our main characters, we do end up with circumstances where players are involved in plays where their position would usually not feature, such as a QB on a kickoff return and a linebacker and corner both involved in an offensive play. Similarly there are instances where the rules of the game are not quite as we see in the movie, such as having to call a timeout at the end of the play after fielding the kickoff (the clock would automatically stop) and the officials combining a number of penalties against the Sentinels on one play (in reality, it would have been just 1 penalty, though I wonder if any players would have been ejected, especially under modern rules).

Finally, I just need to mention the oddity that Keanu’s character Shane Falco is goes from starting QB to being cut when Martel returns to the team. QB is such a vital position, teams will always carry at least 2 on the roster, so from a sporting sense, Falco would just be benched rather than cut. Obviously, this wouldn’t have been as impactful narratively, but from a sporting perspective, it would have been easy enough to add a moment in where McGinty is forced to cut Falco as well as take back Martel.

Useless trivia

Keanu’s character in this movie, Shane Falco, studied at Ohio State, which is also the alma mater of his character Johnny Utah in Point Break.

Fist-pump moment

I almost went for Fumiko’s “fat-man score” against San Diego, but for me, the fist-pump moment is the bar brawl after the first match. We get to see all of our main characters from the team working together, while also bringing out the individuality of each character.

Favourite line

Falco’s “Quicksand” speech is definitely up there in showing how so quickly a situation can deteriorate when things start to go wrong, no matter what you do. Instead, I ended up going for an inspirational quote from one of the huddles in the final game.

“Pain heals. Chicks dig scars. Glory lasts forever.”

 

What did you think of this movie? Let me know in the comments. Until next time!

Warrior (2011)

Warrior (2011)

Welcome to my new series Sport on the Silver Screen. In this series, I will be looking back over sports movies that I have recently watched/re-watched and giving my thoughts on them. Getting into the Schmoedown and starting to follow a number of the personalities from the show has given me a much greater appreciation of movies and seen me starting to watch more.

Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic stopping most sport, I have taken the chance to start highlighting the sheer volume of sports movies out there. For each movie I will be giving some details about the movie and then a quick review, including a section giving a sports fan’s perspective of the action’s realism.

This series has been heavily influenced by Ben Bateman and Andrew Ghai of Action Industries, and as such I will be borrowing a couple of sections that they use in their weekly show Action Movie Anatomy: Fist-pump moment and favourite line. Be aware, they will be spoilers, but I will try to keep them to a minimum.

I wanted to start the series with a bang, so I have started with a movie I was watching for the first time after hearing Ben and Drew continually praise it: Warrior

sport screen Warrior (2011)

Key facts

Directed by Gavin O’Connor

Music by Mark Isham

Released in 2011

Starring: Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, Nick Nolte, Jennifer Morrison, Frank Grillo

Synopsis: Two estranged brothers come back into each others lives as they find themselves both competing in a winner-takes-all mixed martial arts tournament.

Review

After hearing Ben Bateman and Andrew Ghai hype up this movie so often, I was keen to watch it but also a little nervous that it would not live up to the hype… I needn’t have worried. I immediately fell in love with this movie and already feel comfortable putting this in my top 5 movies after just 1 watch!

This is not just a sports movie. It is an emotional drama set around a sports event, with everything going on away from the octagon being as important (if not more so) than what is actually happening. All 5 of the main actors feel perfect for their roles and while it was potentially a risk to cast Hardy and Edgerton in the lead roles when they were still relative unknowns, they carried the movie so well and were so believable in both the drama and the action sequences. Grillo and Morrison were fantastic in their supporting roles, but Nick Nolte was absolutely superb in the role of the alcohlic estranged father and Tommy’s (Hardy) coach. He was fully deserving of his Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor and Christopher Plummer’s performance in Beginners must have been amazing to deny him the award!

What the movie does really well is build on what you know about the brothers and their backstory as the movie goes on. At the start, you know very little about them, but as the story continues you slowly get to see why each of the brothers is motivated to win the tournament, why they became estranged and how they both came to be in their respective situations. The way that Tommy’s backstory comes out slowly as the film progresses is amazing and I must admit that I didn’t see the final reveal coming but it did a great job of making everything click into place. What this means is that our feelings for the characters are built on how they act and talk rather than what we initially know about them. I also really like how neither of them is really a villain (Hardy could probably be considered an antihero), which creates a different dynamic to what you would see in most sports stories, as the most villainous characters are the brothers’ semifinal opponents. This allows for a final where you feel conflicted as to who you should want to win (even though it should be Brendan, there is enough to make you cheer for Tommy) and the brothers’ relationship can become the focus as much as the actual fight itself and building to a beautiful ending.

If you’ve never watched this movie, stop reading this and put it on now!

Sports perspective

So I want to start this section by saying that MMA is far from my strong suit, I will watch on occasion but not regularly, so the sporting aspect is not one that I can judge as closely as I can in some other sports. It certainly feels though that the fights are realistic, as we see different fighters using different styles (Hardy’s Tommy is more of a brute fighter, Edgerton’s Brendan is more technical).

The joy of combat sports like MMA and boxing are that they are easy for someone watching the movie to pick up the basics without having to know the full ins and outs. All you need to know is that the fights are split into rounds and that one guy is trying to knock out their opponent or make them submit.

Fist-pump moment

For me, this was Brendan’s semifinal against Koba, going from Frank’s (Frank Grillo) talk in the corner right up to the end of the fight when Koba taps out. The speech in the corner was fantastic and the build through the round as Brendan went from being bullied around the octagon to slowly taking control and pulling off the victory felt like an amazing climax… and that was with the final still to come!

“Look at me! Look at me! Why are we here, Brendan? Why are we here? Are we here to win this fight? You tell me, ’cause if we’re not, I’ll throw in the towel right now. We’ll get Tess and we will go home. You don’t knock him out, you lose the fight. Understand me? You don’t knock him out, you don’t have a home!”

Favourite line

If we’re talking inspirational lines, it’s the one above, but as with so many sports movies, we got an absolute zinger in the commentary that gets my pick here:

“He ripped the door off a tank!”

 

What did you think of this movie? Let me know in the comments. Until next time!