Category Archives: Kickoff

Antsy gridiron fans, slogging out the summer months before their season starts, have been known to resort to even the cheesiest football movie to tide them over. These are the best of a sketchy lot.

The Blind Side (2009)

 

Based on Michael Lewis’s book detailing the life-so-far story of NFL player Michael Oher, who was homeless and struggling until a Tennessee family took him in and helped him join the ranks of the highly-prized college athletes. Sandra Bullock won an Oscar as the tough-talking, don’t-mess-with-my-kids adoptive mom.

 

 

Friday Night Lights (2004)

Something of a Rorschach blot among football sagas, this Peter Berg–directed vision of poor small-town Texas and its veins-in-the-teeth devotion to high school ball is, on one hand, an incisive poison-pen letter excoriating empty-headed hypocrisies and oppressive social madness; on the other hand, it strives to celebrate the rush of the game—the germ of the problem—with every shaky-cam moment of field play. Spawned a very popular TV series of the same name.

Any Given Sunday (1999)

Oliver Stone’s attempt at the definitive late-century pro football saga is as thunderous and abusive a film as you could hope for—albeit at some cost to narrative, character, and visual space. The movie manages to moralize about America’s favorite pituitary-fueled blood sport—the film doesn’t shy away from showing us the game’s harrowing physical costs, social damage, false dreams of individual glory, and commercial soullessness—and love the testosterone-heavy warfare all the same. The story hits every point: the primary (fictional) team is coached by an aging, exhausted vet (a truly haggard Al Pacino), managed by the fiery, greedy daughter of the original owner (Cameron Diaz), quarterbacked by a past-his-prime, drug-pumped all-star (Dennis Quaid), and ostensibly rescued by a hotshot (Jamie Foxx) with a race-card chip on his shoulder and an ego that, soon enough, gets him into big trouble with his own defensemen. Stone’s freeway-pileup style of filmmaking tries for nothing but unleashed energy, so this might best be enjoyed in a testosterone-amped home theater on Super Bowl Sunday—before the game, but after the drinking has begun.

Knute Rockne: All American (1940)

Ronald Reagan in Knute Rockne-All American 1940
Ronald Reagan in Knute Rockne-All American 1940 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The film that established college sports—and the sniffly, tear-jerking sports movie—as pillars of American life, this film lionizes the gridiron legacy of Notre Dame, its famous coach Rockne (Pat O’Brien), and the doomed team martyr George “The Gipper” Gipp, played with boyish likability by Ronald Reagan. If you’re a devotee of college ball, quote Rockne’s climactic speech when tipsy (“win just one . . .”), or found Reagan adorable even as president, this is a DVD worth buying. Just don’t bring it to our house.

Horse Feathers (1932)

In this now lost, deleted scene from Horse Fea...
In this now lost, deleted scene from Horse Feathers, the Marx Brothers are seen playing poker as Huxley College goes up in flames around them (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Marx Brothers attack college life, a life-brightening process that climaxes, more or less, with a crucial football match, between universities Darwin and Huxley, that is itself reduced to slapstick chicanery.