The Oscar Project
A film that made you angry
I’m not going too far back in my watch history for this one and it is the only movie released this year that makes my list. It is also the only documentary to appear on my list this month, but one that I hope more people see.
You’ve likely heard of the gymnastics doctor named Larry Nassar and know that he is in prison after pleading guilty to child pornography charges in 2017. What you might not know is that the problems in the gymnastics world go back much farther than just Nassar and after watching this film, I feel that there are a number of people who should probably be charged in connection with his conduct but have not been to date.
Athlete A goes through the full story of these scandals and presents interviews with several victims across the decades. You get to hear first hand some of the accounts of the acts that were carried out on young girls. These girls were made into pawns in an enormous game, the only goal of which was money and power for those in charge. Even names like Bela and Marta Karolyi, long hailed as the saviors of USA Gymnastics, are not safe in this film. It becomes increasingly clear towards the end of the film that they knew, or at least had some idea of what was happening with Nassar, but said and did nothing, choosing instead to look the other way and continue to put the girls on their teams in harm's way.
It's rare that a film can anger me the way this one did, but having a daughter of my own who is almost three same age as some of these girls were when they started being abused makes it hit home that much more. I can't imagine the outrage I would feel if I ever found out some treated my own daughter, or sons for that matter, the way the people discussed in this film did.
I think this is an important film for people to watch because it shows that what we see on TV during the Olympics is not always the full truth. There is corruption and deception under the surface, sometimes not very fast out of view. We turn a blind eye toward it in the name of patriotism and national pride, but in doing so, we too become part of the problem. And if this film isn't enough to make you angry, I would also recommend a pseudo companion piece in a podcast from ESPN's 30 for 30 series called Heavy Medals. While the film focuses more on Nassar, the podcast focuses almost entirely on the Karolyis and the gymnastics training empire they built over the course of 30 years.
Athlete A is available on Netflix.
Day 21 – A film that you dozed off in | Day 23 – A film made by a director that is dead
A film that is personal to you
Today’s film gets a little more personal, much like my first film in this list (the first film I remember watching – Dumbo) but for a very different reason.
There are some films that cement themselves in your brain in relation to a specific event or episode in your life and Dodgeball is one of those for me. Besides being a hilarious film, it is one of the movies that I watched on the evening that I proposed to my wife nearly 15 years ago.
The story goes like this. My girlfriend at the time (now my wife) and I had been invited over to a friend’s house to celebrate the New Year. It was a small gathering of a few friends and we spent the evening just relaxing, enjoying a few drinks, and watching some movies. My wife will tell the story and stress the fact that I was being a complete jerk the entire evening. Of course, she didn’t know that I had a ring burning a hole in my pocket and was planning on popping the question at midnight when the ball dropped in Times Square. (I know it’s cliché, but it was the best I could do). I had asked her father’s permission a week prior at a Christmas gathering and had only told him, my own parents, and a few select co-workers about my plans.
Obviously, she said “yes” and we were married a year and a half later, spending the last 14+ years together.
Not only did watching this movie the first time coincide with our engagement, but it’s one we have returned to over an over throughout our relationship. We often quote lines from the film to each other. (“If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball” anyone?) We love the oversized personalities in the film, especially Ben Stiller’s White Goodman and Rip Torn’s Patches O’Houlihan. The main cast is hysterical and there are some great cameos from Gary Cole and Jason Bateman playing the dodgeball tournament announcers to Hank Azaria as a younger Patches and of course Lance Armstrong, Chuck Norris, and David Hasselhoff, all playing various versions of themselves.
I’m not sure if it’s because of the association I have with that happy day of my life, or just because it’s such a fun movie, but I come back to this one often. Just like yesterday’s pick, I find myself watching this through to the end if I come across it on TV. If you haven’t seen it before, or it’s been a while, go check it out and have a few laughs at the expense of being getting smacked in the face with big rubber balls!
Day 15 – A film that makes you feel happy | Day 17 – Favorite film sequel
A film that makes you feel happy
OK, it’s Sunday and we’re heading into the third week of this project this November. After a few days of downer categories, it’s time to lift things up a little with today’s selection, a film that makes me happy!
If you’re too young to remember when Cool Runnings first hit theaters, go check it out immediately. It is based on the true story of the first Jamaican bobsled team that competed in the fifteenth Winter Olympics held in Calgary, Albert, Canada in 1988. Now, I remember this Olympics probably as the first one I remember seeing live. Being born in 1982, I was only two years old in 1984 when the previous Olympics were held, so this was my first exposure to athletics on a world stage. I’m not sure if I watched any of the bobsled at the time, though I’m sure I saw some in highlights since having the Jamaicans there was something of an oddity.
This film makes me happy because it is a true underdog story. Forget that many of the elements of the story have been tweaked or embellished for the sake of the film narrative. It’s just a fun film and it has a little bit of everything. You have Derice Bannock who is a champion sprinter trying to live up to the name of his father, also an Olympic sprinter. Derice’s friend Sanka Coffie is the loveable jokester, always ready with a smart comment, but a genuine and true friend so stands by Derice’s side, even if it means freezing his “royal Rastafarian nenes off.” Rounding out their team is Junior Bevil, eternally bowing to his father’s will in hopes of currying his approval and acceptance, and Yul Brenner, the tough guy who comes to show his own heart of gold by taking former rival Junior under his wing. Top off this cast with the late John Candy playing Irv Blitzer, their troubled coach who only takes up their cause after much nagging.
There are so many great scenes in this movie, and it’s one of those that’s hard to not watch to the end when you see it on TV. In true sports movie fashion, I always find myself watching the movie, hoping that the outcome might be just a little different. <SPOILERS AHEAD> For those who don’t know, the Jamaicans are in position to move into medal contention in the final day of competition, before an accident derails their chances. I always cross my fingers for these four unlikely heroes that they will make it through those final few turns and claim a spot on the medals stand.
Unfortunately, they did not medal, and while the Jamaicans sent bobsled teams to the Olympics throughout the 1990s and even sent a women’s team to the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, those teams have never medaled.
Regarding the film, it is a tight 98-minute runtime and feels like even less once you get into it. It is available on Disney+ and perfectly suitable for kids.
Day 14 – A film that gave you depression | Day 16 – A film that is personal to you
I'm just a film buff who wants to watch great movies. Where else to find the best, than the list of those nominated by the Academy each year?