Saturday, May 6, 2017


Year 9, Day 126 - 5/6/17 - Movie #2,621

BEFORE: Well, I had a movie about a winter Olympian last week, so now it's time for two films about summer Olympians, starting with a film about Jesse Owens that has a not-so-subtle double meaning in its title.

Tim McInnerny carries over from "MI-5", here he plays someone on the U.S. Olympic Committee, which is funny because last week I saw him in "Eddie the Eagle", where he played someone on the U.K. Olympic Committee, in a different year.

THE PLOT: Jesse Owens' quest to become the greatest track and field athlete in history thrusts him on to the world stage of the 1936 Olympics, where he faces off against Adolf Hitler's vision of Aryan supremacy.

AFTER: Look, I certainly wasn't around at the 1936 Olympiad, I can barely remember the one in 1980 when the U.S. team refused to go to Moscow, to protest Russia's invasion of Afghanistan.  (This was over two decades before the U.S. invaded Afghanistan too, because there wasn't enough irony in that part of the world.)  And then the Soviet Union wouldn't send their athletes to the 1984 games in Los Angeles, because if there's one thing we've learned about dictators, it's how petty they all are.

So naturally there's an attempt to make the most out of an African-American appearing at the Berlin Games and winning a bunch of medals, surrounded by a Nazi culture that was promoting its supremacy to the world through racist propaganda.  Since the roving camera of a docu-drama can go anywhere, we not only learn that the U.S. Olympic Committee was torn over whether to attend the 1936 games, but we also find out that the guy on the committee who was supposed to get the Nazis to tone the racist stuff down was also involved in a secret deal to fund a bunch of buildings in Washington, DC.  (Or something like that, maybe it was casinos in Dubai - either way, this is starting to sound all too familiar...).

This film sets out with the same good intentions as "Eddie the Eagle", to point out that the important thing is not the winning, but being able to say that you were there, you took part, you played your best.  That message probably would have had more impact if Jesse Owens hadn't won so many gold medals.  But then the focus gets repeatedly taken off of Owens and placed on the head of the NAACP weighing in on the situation, and Avery Brundage meeting with Goebbels, and look, over there, it's Leni Riefenstahl making her documentary!

What's most ironic is the fact that Jesse Owens is shown having trouble concentrating when the crowd was yelling racial slurs, and his coach instructs him to tune all of that out, because the only thing that matters is running the race without any distractions.  If only the film could have told Jesse's story the same way, because honestly, that's the most interesting part.  Maybe they tried to get into the mechanics of long-jumping and hurdles and how one man could do it so much better than the others (and this was before they invented sneakers...) and there just wasn't enough material there?

But this is still important subject matter.  I found it incredibly hypocritical that the U.S. would consider boycotting the Berlin Games over the Nazis' racist policies when the U.S. itself was racially segregated - hell, in many ways we're still racially divided NOW.  So Adolf Hitler was a petty racist with delusions of grandeur and many personal grievances who bragged about his construction projects?  (And if he were alive today, he'd no doubt be involved in Twitter feuds with any number of liberal celebrities?)

So as our own country comes to terms with the fact that we're all living in the land of propaganda under a petty dictator, how exactly are we supposed to handle that - just go about our business, play the sports and try to change things from within?  Something tells we don't have that kind of time.

Also starring Stephan James, Jason Sudeikis (last seen in "What Happens in Vegas"), Jeremy Irons (last seen in "The Pink Panther 2"), Carice van Houten (last seen in "From Time to Time"), William Hurt (last seen in "Captain America: Civil War"), Shanice Banton, David Kross (last seen in "War Horse"), Barnaby Metschurat, Chantel Riley, Glynn Turman (last seen in "Gremlins"), Shamier Anderson, Jonathan Aris (last seen in "Rogue One"), Tony Curran (last seen in "Flight of the Phoenix"), Nicholas Woodeson (last seen in "Mr. Turner"), Giacomo Gianniotti, Eli Goree, Anthony Sherwood, Adrian Zwicker, Jonathan Higgins.

RATING: 6 out of 10 qualifying heats

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