Thursday, April 27, 2017

Eddie the Eagle

Year 9, Day 117 - 4/27/17 - Movie #2,611

BEFORE: Day 2 of the Hugh Jackman chain, and the only film this week with a title that's longer than one word.  I've got this annoying feeling that maybe I shouldn't watch this one now, like I might need it later for linking - especially with "Kingsman: The Golden Circle" coming out in September (Taron Egerton would provide a neat link to that) and also Jim Broadbent appears here, and he could provide a link to either "The Legend of Tarzan" or "The Crying Game".

It doesn't matter, especially since there's no possible way to know how my linking's going to work in a few months - I've only got things scheduled through the end of May, after all, and the method I use to find connections can't possibly work with a film until it's ON the list.  I just can't search the casts of films that are NOT on the list, I've got to sort of mentally keep track of the cast of films like "La La Land" and "Spotlight", cross my fingers and hope that it will all work out somehow.

I'm committed to a chain now that gets me to Mother's Day and Memorial Day, and that track involves clearing out all the Hugh Jackman films, so here I go.  For tonight's film and last night's "Australia", I'm watching straight from the DVR, which means that I didn't get a peek at the events in the film while dubbing it to DVD, so anything could happen.  Hey, that was the case for "Lion" too, since I watched an Academy screener.  It's a nice feeling, not knowing what's coming up.

THE PLOT: The story of Eddie Edwards, the notoriously tenacious British underdog ski jumper who charmed the world at the 1988 Winter Olympics.

AFTER: Right now, it seems we'd be about as far as we can be from the Olympics, since they took place last summer - but the next winter Olympics will be February 2018 in Korea, so people are probably training and qualifying somewhere now.  Geez, I remember when they had the winter games and summer games in the same year, so everyone had to wait 4 years for another Olympics, but there's a whole generation now that only has to wait 2 years, and they don't know any other way.

When he couldn't qualify for the British downhill skiing team, Eddie Edwards set his sight on ski jumping, after learning that the U.K. didn't even field a team in the sport.  All he had to do was become a moderately successful jumper, and he figured he'd automatically qualify.  Well, that's not exactly how the process works, but you have to admire not only the dedication but the ability to think of a clever work-around.  But getting to the top of a 70-meter ski ramp, jumping off and, more importantly, surviving the landing at the bottom, all turned out to be more difficult than he figured.  (The most difficult winter sport, by the way, is Uphill Skiing, I don't know why that's not included in the Winter Games - but then, I'm not a sports guy.)

The actor who plays Eddie seemed to land on an odd mix of innocent optimism, unbridled determination, and possible mental impairment - but then when I saw footage of the real Eddie Edwards at the end of the film (in an end-credits sequence similar to "Lion") I thought, "Wow, he really nailed it..."

The "Rocky" formula works, which is why we've seen it again and again.  It worked in "Cool Runnings", another Winter Olympic-based film, and it's probably worked in a dozen other films, from "The Karate Kid" to "Major League" to "Seabiscuit". Take one unlikely contender, get the audience invested in him as a person, and throw in an obscure technicality that gives him a shot at the title.  Find him a crusty, burned-out trainer, who's got some unorthodox training methods that look good in a montage, and then fast-forward to the championship so we can root for the guy as he overcomes both adversity and the critics.

I don't mean to belittle the film by pointing out that it follows a formula - it's a sports movie, and those tend to favor the winners.  It's hard to call Eddie Edwards a "winner" when you look at the scoreboard, but the movie ends up making the point that win or lose, he competed in the Olympics, he achieved his personal best, and that in itself means something.  Taken as a metaphor, the way that the British olympic committee kept changing the rules so that he couldn't qualify can inspire anyone in any walk of life - you show up, you work hard and do your best, and then what's your reward?  You get to show up and do it all again tomorrow - many times, if you can't find your own satisfaction in a job well done, then you're a candidate for depression or at least extreme frustration.

Eddie at least gets a shout-out from the President of the Olympic Committee, who congratulates all of the athletes involved, some of whom managed to "soar like eagles".  And this was before shout-outs were even a thing.  It's refreshing to look back on 1988 and realize it was such a different time - Eddie was criticized for his excessive celebrating after completing a jump, and called a press conference to apologize for flapping his hands a certain way.  Think about the Olympics last year, when a certain swimmer had to apologize to the press for faking a robbery and vandalizing a gas station rest-room.  Times have changed, and not necessarily for the better.

Also starring Taron Egerton (last seen in "Legend"), Christopher Walken (last seen in "Man of the Year"), Iris Berben, Keith Allen (last seen in "24 Hour Party People"), Jo Hartley, Tim McInnerny (last seen in "102 Dalmatians"), Jim Broadbent (last seen in "Paddington"), Mark Benton, Edvin Endre, Marc Benjamin, Daniel Ings, Rune Temte, Matt Rippy (last seen in "Rogue One").

RATING: 6 out of 10 broken eyeglasses

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