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WEB ONLY: Top Football flicks

December 29, 2009
By Tony Rutherford
”Any Given Sunday” (1999): Oliver Stone has often provided provocative suggestions of real events with his politically incorrect vantage (“J.F.K.,” “Nixon,” “Wall Street,” “Platoon”) that often goes graphically to the guts of the matter that higher-ups do not want us to think too hard about. Same with, “Any Given Sunday,” which stars Al Pacino in a film about pro football. The NFL declined to allow Stone to use their team names and logos.  

”Black Sunday” (1977) / “Two Minute Warning” (1976): They were 'disaster' films with a packed football stadium background. However, both creepily come close to a lesson in terrorism. “Warning” has a sniper planning to shoot up a championship game as a diversion for a jewelry store robbery; “Sunday” has authorities attempting to prevent a Vietnam Vet from reeking Super Bowl havoc with a blimp. Goodyear gave permission to use its blimp as long as the floating air ship did not directly inflict injury on anyone.

”Blindside” (2009): Still playing at many megaplexes, “Blindside” is about a boy (Michael Other, Baltimore Ravens) who has spent 17 years in foster care and is befriended by his interior decorator foster mom (Sandra Bullock). The foster mom keeps his head pointed to the books and the football field. Numerous NCAA coaches make cameos. Bullock has a delicate, feisty manner of coaching this gentle giant. Keep eyes turned for her threat as he starts his University of Mississippi career.

”Brian's Song” (1971): Billy Dee Williams and James Caan ushered in male bonding on the football field as Chicago Bears players Gayle Sayers and Brian Piccolo find the season marred by Piccolo's coping with a fatal disease. Re-made in 2001 featuring Sean Maher and Mekhi Phifer. The second version concentrates more on Piccolo's struggles with the illness and how it impacts the friendship.

”Everybody's All American” (1988): Director Taylor (“Against All Odds,” “Officer and a Gentleman,” “White Knights”) Hackford, whose rep emphasizes sentimental and touching moods, places Dennis Quaid and Jessica Lange as a college football hero couple facing life when the aches, pains, addictions, and money splurging times have come to an end.

”Friday Night Lights” (2004): Billy Bob Thornton plays the high school coach in a small Texas town where the game resembles a weekly revival meeting for the community. Of course, the players are not necessarily ready for the pros; they have personal problems that the film generally dilutes. Made into a critically acclaimed TV series. Won the ESPY Award for Best Sports Movie of the Year.

 ”Express” (2008):  I'm putting this on the list for the infamous negative publicity that it generated for its too liberal interpretation of how West Virginia University audiences treated Ernie Davis, who would become the first African American Heisman winner. This would be on our Governor's “worst” list; at the time of release, he complained strongly about the inaccurate depictions. More script changes than just West Virginia, the Texas bowl game has lots of factual mishaps, too.

”Invincible” (2006): Ultimate underdog and fan fantasy based on true story. A 30-year-old down on his luck bartender, Vince Papale (Mark Wahlberg), opts for a rare “open tryout” for the NFL Philadelphia Eagles. Against all odds (and with lots of cinematic fact changes for dramatic impact), he makes the team. He remained an Eagle for three years.

Longest Yard (1974): Burt Reynolds starred in the original prison football competition that contains banter and rushing for the end zone.

North Dallas Forty (1979): Loosely based on the '70s era when the Dallas Cowboys shined on the field with the game and cheerleaders, but the players became overgrown “little boys” and the team owners saw them as a hunk of rushing meat. Nick Nolte plays an aging wide receiver trying to remain a pro one more year.

Radio (2003): Based on a true story, a developmentally disabled kid wants to play high school football. Ed Harris plays the coach who gives Cuba Gooding Jr. a chance to take the field.

Remember the Titans (2000): When two segregated Virginia schools are consolidated, an African American coach replaces the highly successful white coach.

Rudy (1993): Probably the ultimate underdog story - Rudy grows up in a steelworking town. His grades are low, his athletic skills marginal, and he's about half the beef of Notre Dame players. No matter: He dreams of playing for the Irish. Can he overcome these and other obstacles and don the uniform of the cherished Indiana college? Some call this the best football flick made; it gave “We Are Marshall” a nip and tuck, bring in the chains measurement when competing in online polls.

Semi Tough (1977): Burt Reynolds and Kris Kristofferson (both former football players) star in this parody of the “finding yourself,” “new religion,” “greater consciousness”  and “self improvement” cons of the '70s. Both men share a mutual gal friend, Jill Clayburgh, who swoons each time one of the guys one-ups the other. 

The Program (1993): A coach and his mediocre team struggle with college football pressures of winning games and receiving bowl bids, while dealing with relationships, academics and drug and alcohol temptations. James Caan and Halle Berry star.

Wildcats (1986): Blonde “sock it to me” half-feminist, half-goofy Goldie Hawn plays a woman finally allowed to coach a high school football team- a team whom no one has the balls to mold into a group of young men who act responsibly and win a few games? 

CLASSIC ERA

When dropping back to the black and white classics, the most famous comedic football sequence comes in the Marx Brothers flick, “Horse Feathers,” which occurs at a fictitious college.

Remember Rudy's fascination with Notre Dame, “ Knute Rockne All American,” depicted the blossoming of a college football hero who's facing academic versus sports obstacles. This has Ronald Reagan uttering the “win one for the gipper” line.  Finally, “Trouble Along the Way” casts single parent, John Wayne, as a football coach at a small Catholic school. He's charged with bringing home a winning team overnight.
 
 

 

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