Best Sports Movies

I don’t like sports, and I rarely/barely played a sport. I was good at tennis, but never played on a team, just the community court after 5:00 when it was free. Also, I was center fielder on a field hockey team for one season, I was OK. That’s it. I don’t watch sports on TV or go to any sporting events.

When I was growing up, the Wide World of Sports on Saturdays was the sports show to watch. I think it was the ONLY sports show to watch, except for Monday Night Football. Remember, this was before cable.

The rotation on WWoS was indeed wide From gymnastics to figure skating to wrestling to swimming & diving to track & field to bowling. You heard me. Bowling. The IMDB summary of the show is:

ABC’s weekend extravaganzas about everything that can be called a sports event.

I also remember the Wide World of Sports intro with Jim McKay intoning “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat”, and the agony was always shown a clip of a ski jumper crashing ignominiously. (Czech jumper Vinko Bogataj). As Jim McKay said, Vinko appeared on WWoS more than anyone else.

Amazingly, for the few times I actually watched a sporting event, I was lucky enough to see several thrilling and memorable moments live as they happened.

1976: Nadia Comeneci earned the first perfect ten in gymnastics history. It was great.
1980: The US Hockey team beat the Russian team. “Do you believe in Miracles? Yes!”
1984: Doug Flutie’s hail Mary pass to win Boston College over the Miami Hurricanes.
1974-1981: Bjorn Borg. Just any and all tennis with Bjorn Borg. He was an amazing athlete.

For all my sports-avoidance, it seems I’ve watched quite a few sports movies in life, lol. Cool Runnings was fun (Jamaican bobsled team with John Candy), and Bull Durham, (baseball with Kevin Costner) Tin Cup (golf, Costner again) and The Karate Kid (Ralph Macchio) were all pretty good.

I know a lot of people insist on putting Chariots of Fire (track) and Rudy (football) on their lists but I’ve tried several times and have never been able to get through either of them. I absolutely hated Field of Dreams. I hated it at the time and I hate it now. It’s a stupid, stupid movie. Obviously it is not on my list.

But some sports movies are great, just great. No other word for it. Here are some of those sports movies that I consider worth watching. Not all are feel good. (Moneyball). Not all of them have the team win at the end (Rocky anyone?). Hoop Dreams is a documentary. But all of them have something to say, especially the ones based on real events, which is to say, most of them.

Rocky (Boxing)
Rocky Balboa, a small-time boxer, gets a supremely rare chance to fight heavy-weight champion Apollo Creed in a bout in which he strives to go the distance for his self-respect. With Sylvester Stallone. He also wrote the film.

Hoosiers (Basketball)
Based on a true story. A coach with a checkered past and a local drunk train a small town high school basketball team to become a top contender for the championship. With Gene Hackman.

The Blind Side (Football)
With Sandra Bullock and Tim McGraw. Based on a true story, The story of Michael Oher, a homeless and traumatized boy who became an All American football player and first round NFL draft pick with the help of a caring woman and her family.

Remember the Titans (Football)
The true story of a newly appointed African-American coach and his high school team on their first season as a racially integrated unit. With Denzel Washington.

Hoop Dreams (Basketball)
A film following the lives of two inner-city Chicago boys who struggle to become college basketball players on the road to going professional.

Moneyball  (Baseball)
Based on a true story and the book of the same name. Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane’s successful attempt to assemble a baseball team on a lean budget by employing computer-generated analysis to acquire new players. With Brad Pitt.

The Sandlot  (Baseball)
In the summer of 1962, a new kid in town is taken under the wing of a young baseball prodigy and his rowdy team, resulting in many adventures. Inspired by a true story, albeit one that was in real life a bit darker- so the writer changed his own history by writing The Sandlot.

Eddie the Eagle (Ski Jumping)
The story of Eddie Edwards, the notoriously tenacious British underdog ski jumper who charmed the world at the 1988 Winter Olympics. With Taron Egerton.

Splinters (Surfing)
Splinters is the first feature-length documentary film about the evolution of indigenous surfing in the developing nation of Papua New Guinea. In the 1980s an intrepid Australian pilot left behind a surfboard in the seaside village of Vanimo. Twenty years on, surfing is not only a pillar of village life but also a means to prestige. With no access to economic or educational advancement, let alone running water and power, village life is hermetic. A spot on the Papua New Guinea national surfing team is the way to see the wider world; the only way. Surfing. You can see this film for free at Snagfilms.com

We Are Marshall (Football)
When a plane crash claims the lives of members of the Marshall University football team and some of its fans, the team’s new coach and his surviving players try to keep the football program alive. Matthew McConaughey.

I’ll leave it to you to check imdb.com reviews (general movie reviews/expert movie reviews) or Common Sense Media (reviews from a parent and family perspective) or World Movie Reviews (reviews from a Christian perspective) to decide if the movies I’ve listed and recommended suit your preferences or match your family viewing habits.

There are a lot of movies out there that are good to watch with a thought provoking story to tell, even if you’re like me and don’t like sports!

Movie Review: Autistic Driving School

Autistic Driving School is a 2010 one-hour documentary on Netflix (and perhaps other places too) highlighting Julia Malkin’s founding of a UK driving school that caters to teaching autistic people how to drive. Malkin is autistic herself.

With a driving license comes freedom, something most people want. For autistic teens and young adults however, the challenges of learning to drive safely can seem insurmountable, especially if receiving an instructor with no knowledge of how to teach to their special needs. As was stated in the movie, Autistic people are literal, so there’s no saying ‘take the next left’ because they’re likely to wind up in someone’s garden. Some autistic people do not take instruction or correction well. While some can become excessively distracted, following anything and everything that interests them like a rabbit, others hardly notice anything around them, both of which are a problem when driving. The possibility of becoming overwhelmed and having a meltdown while driving is real. And more.

In comes Julia Malkin.

A woman with autism herself, Julia suffered through years of bullying in school, attempted suicide twice, one at age 16 and another at age 18, suffered through a nervous breakdown at 18, and lived as an adult by subsisting on dead end jobs…until….

Her diagnosis at age 40.

Since then, following her diagnosis of Asperger syndrome, Julia started up Excel Driver and Instructor Academy, which expanded rapidly and now helps people with autism learn to drive, provides education support and offers counselling, is still the only one of its kind in the UK.

She has achieved highest honors for her profession as the safest driver in England, earning an OBE, which is “The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is a British order of chivalry; rewarding contributions to the arts and sciences, work with charitable and welfare organisations, and public service outside the Civil Service.”

According to the information given at the link, Julia attained four degrees in six years at two separate universities between 2008 and 2015 and became a Doctor of Philosophy, and founded another course of training to train Driving Instructors to teach autistic clients. The UK National Autistic Society shortlisted her as one of three finalists for the National Autistic Society’s award for outstanding achievement by a professional with an autism spectrum disorder.

Wow.

If you listen to Julia on the documentary it’s obvious she is brilliant. She is articulate, passionate, and her powers of observation are astounding. At one point during the movie, she’d been asked to speak out loud what goes through her mind as she drives down the road…her observations of her surroundings combined with lightning fast sifting of that information was remarkable.

The documentary wasn’t about Julia directly though. With sensitivity and compassion, several youths were featured in their process of the two-pronged driving training they must go through to attain a license. There is the book test and the on the road test. Several candidates were followed. Each student spoke of the special challenges unique to autistic drivers, according to the student him or herself, or according to their parents. One young main has set a goal for himself to become a Military Transport driver, so of course passing his first license test was important. But a wrinkle to his story is that his doctor had recommended taking a certain prescription medication for his OCD, but if one is on or has ever taken such a drug, it would immediately disqualify him for ever entering the military in the UK. He had a dilemma. He decided to forego the medication, but the result was he’d have to work even harder to manage his condition while he was on the road.

A 22 year old mother had earned her licence a few years prior, but had lost her nerve to drive. Another, a set of twins, create crafts and wanted to found a business of traveling town to town to fairs and such, selling them.

They all wanted freedom and independence that a driving license would provide.

I found the documentary instructive and interesting. It was produced and edited in such a way that you pull for the students and cheer the inspiring story of Julia. With so little attention paid to adults with Autism, and with so few generally inspiring stories around, this was a documentary I’d recommend as a DON’T MISS!

This is part of the documentary, ‘Autistic Driving School’ which was broadcast on BBC3. It tells the story of Julia Malkin, the most qualified driving instructor in the UK. It shows her battle with autism and her mission of inclusion in education both inside and outside the driver training industry.

Three Scandinavian movies worth watching

If you like foreign films there are a few coming out of the Scandinavian nations that I’ve enjoyed so much.

The Wave

Topping the list for quality production values is Norway’s entry to the Academy Awards for best foreign film, The Wave. Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus reached 8% approval rating, and the comment: “Well-acted and blessed with a refreshingly humanistic focus, The Wave is a disaster film that makes uncommonly smart use of disaster film clichés.”

Based on true information about quakes and fjords and tsunamis in the region, we read

Nestled in Norway’s Sunnmøre region, Geiranger is one of the most spectacular tourist draws on the planet. With the mountain Åkerneset overlooking the village – and constantly threatening to collapse into the fjord – it is also a place where cataclysm could strike at any moment. After putting in several years at Geiranger’s warning center, geologist Kristian is moving on to a prestigious gig with an oil company. But the very day he’s about to drive his family to their new life in the city, Kristian senses something isn’t right. The substrata are shifting. No one wants to believe that this could be the big one, especially with tourist season at its peak, but when that mountain begins to crumble, every soul in Geiranger has ten minutes to get to high ground before a tsunami hits, consuming everything in its path.

Wikipedia’s summary:

A Norwegian geologist (Kristoffer Joner) and his family (Ane Dahl Torp, Jonas Hoff Oftebro) fight for survival when a massive landslide causes a 250-foot tidal wave.

It was gripping and realistic and tense without being over-the-top ridiculously stressful or gory. The LA Times wrote, “Norway’s ‘The Wave’ shows Hollywood how to make a disaster film with real thrills.”

Recommended! On Netflix. In Norwegian with subtitles. In watching it thought about the Alaskan tsunami in the 1960s when a part of the mountain collapsed and the displaced water rushed to shore. It’s happened before. It will again, Revelation 6:14.

A Man Called Ove

This entry from 2016 is from Sweden-
Rotten Tomatoes’ Critics Consensus:

A Man Called Ove’s winsome sincerity — and Rolf Lassgård’s affectingly flinty performance in the title role — keep it from succumbing to excess sentimentality. Stepping from the pages of Fredrik Backman’s international best-selling novel, Ove is the quintessential angry old man next door. An isolated retiree with strict principles and a short fuse, who spends his days enforcing block association rules that only he cares about, and visiting his wife’s grave, Ove has given up on life. Enter a boisterous young family next door who accidentally flattens Ove’s mailbox while moving in and earning his special brand of ire. Yet from this inauspicious beginning an unlikely friendship forms and we come to understand Ove’s past happiness and heartbreaks. What emerges is a heartwarming tale of unreliable first impressions and the gentle reminder that life is sweeter when it’s shared.

Though religion or faith is not mentioned, what I took from it is how to love people, even the unlovable, and how much of a difference that committed persevering love makes. In Swedish with English subtitles. On Amazon Prime and maybe elsewhere.

On Youtube is a one-hour documentary called Hugo and Rosa, another Swedish movie, this one is a documentary released in 2002. The director Bengt Jägerskog visited aged siblings Hugo and Rosa for ten years, the last ten years of their extraordinarily long life. When we meet, Hugo is nearly 100 and Rosa is 96.

Finlander summarizes the documentary this way-

“Hugo is approaching 100 and his sister Rose is 96. In their little red house in the Swedish countryside they live in the same way as people there lived 100 years ago. “The trick is in staying happy,” the always elegant Rosa confides to the filmmakers. In addition to cooking and caring for the household, she also sometimes plays the accordion. And when a sparkling Hugo with his amusing tales is chopping wood and digging in the garden, it appears as if nothing can disturb the idyllic life of the siblings. The march of time, however, is relentless, and after Hugo’s health complications, both find themselves in a retirement home. Even here they do not lose their remarkable optimism about life, their good mood, or their ability to take a humorous and detached view of the ailments associated with their age. A discreet camera follows Rosa and Hugo up to the final climax of their long life’s pilgrimage.”

What we discover early in the film is that their unique worldview is due to their faith. From my research, and what I can surmise, they belonged to an evangelical Lutheran church all their lives. Hugo taught Sunday School for many, many years, at one time, his class held 40 students. “It was a lot,” he said with a twinkle. Even in their last year of life, an entire service was held by them, with Hugo speaking and Rosa playing the accordion. They sing hymns, look forward to and speak of heaven, and have a placid and rock-solid assurance of reuniting with their Lord, whom they identify as their Lord, and with their 7 other siblings who have passed on before them.

I noticed at the outset, Rosa’s face. It was lit from within with calm serenity and joy. As the documentary progresses, the reason for her serene joy is made evident- it’s faith. Hugo also. It is a simple documentary, the director allowing the brother and sister speak for themselves, as well as his juxtaposed film shots space to be interpreted by the viewer.

What the documentary made me think of are all the Christians that have lived in obscure corners of the world, planting and marrying and living and dying, and passed on to eternity. I can’t wait to meet them. There are so many saved people I will look forward to meeting when we all get there. Hugo and Rosa’s life was simple. Hugo was born in 1900 in a simple farmhouse with no running water or electricity, and it stayed that way for almost their entire lives. They got electricity the last months of their lives. For one-hundred years they worked hard, chopped wood, milked cows, shoveled snow, planted fields…and loved it all because they loved the life the Lord gave them.

If you want some sweet movies or a good action movie, these are it. Note: The Wave is rated R for action disaster scenes and some language.

Movie reviews: Chef’s Table, On the Way to School, A Princess for Christmas

Since summer started and I’m not working at school, I have been watching some movies and television shows. It’s admittedly hard to find anything good. By good I mean well-produced, written, and acted, (quality); and good in the sense of nothing offensive, gory, profane or blasphemous (morality).

I would like to recommend three items. The first is called Chef’s Table and it’s on Netflix and Youtube. The blurb says-

Chef’s Table goes inside the lives and kitchens of six of the world’s most renowned international chefs. Each episode focuses on a single chef and their unique look at their lives, talents and passion from their piece of culinary heaven.

The chefs are: Ben Shewry, Niki Nakayama, Francis Mallmann, Dan Barber, Massimo Bottura, and Magnus Nilsson.

It has a 9.0 rating on Internet Movie Database (imdb.com)

I haven’t seen all 6 segments, only 5. I’m looking forward to that sixth one, it is about Magnus Nillson. You will know him from Chopped and other cooking shows. I enjoyed them OK but the first one I watched, the one about Massimo Bottura of Modena Italy, astounded and moved me. Maybe because I connect with Italian food, or that I enjoyed the scenes in Italy, or just that his personality and that of his wife fit together so well and I loved seeing their marriage, but the segment was brilliant.

Probably it was because of Massimo’s creativity on the food. Italians are very traditional and do not like change in their foods or designs. I remember when we were treated to a personal tour of Ubaldo Grazia’s pottery (majolica) factory in Deruta (Perugia), he said his family had been in that location developing artistic dishware for 500 years. There are traditional patterns that the Italians like and they do not like deviating from them. He had hired some art students from the Rhode Island School of Design to paint some variations of the old patterns and he was encountering a lot of resistance.

Traditional Grazia designs on left, modern on right

Bottura said the same thing in the segment. Tortellini soup is tortellini soup- it’s supposed to have a broth and a ratio of ten tortellinis per bowl. Italians always want pasta and more of it. Instead, he envisioned tortellini soup this way

His own tortellini evolved provocatively with a version he served at Francescana in 1998. Six dumplings were arranged on broth set with agar gelatin. A pour of hot broth melted the gelatin, so the tortellini actually moved, “walking on broth … “

I tried to find a photo of it but could not. The concept for the dish is funny, it’s witty and a pointed joke toward the Modenese as well. For all the world it looks like a solemn lineup of soldiers proudly marching to their death. Bottura’s cuisine is inventive and witty. In one part, he explained that everyone likes the crunchy-burned corner of the lasagna dish. So he made an entire dish called

… La Dame et son Chevalier (The Crunchy Part of the Lasagna). It is made of four triangles — two Parmigiano-Reggiano wafers, two of spinach pasta (first boiled and then baked until crisp) — perched over spoonfuls of ragu and bechamel, with a long stripe of tomato terrine running down the side.

It looks nothing like traditional lasagna but evokes all the heart and love one remembers from Nonnie’s lasagna pan, and hoping that you’d be the one this time to get the crunch corner. It’s essence of lasagna. I don’t know how he does it. But I’m totally with Massimo on all his dishes.

The second item I recommend is a movie, also on Netflix. It is called “On the Way to School” and it is a 2013 film. I mention this because there is another movie with the same title, issued in 2008. They are not the same thing. The blurb says

Jackson, the Kenyan; Carlito, the Argentinian; Zahira, the Moroccan; Samuel, the Indian… four children who live light years away from each other and who have never met but who have a common point : they have to cover tremendously long distances to reach their school. On foot, on horseback or in a wheelchair, but all with an extraordinary determination…

The documentary is filmed in National Geographic style, with sweeping vistas which include the landscape itself as a character. The film trails each child as they make their way over harsh terrain each day (or in the case of the Moroccan girls, each week to boarding school) walking, jogging, in one case, hiding from a growling lion, traipsing over the Atlas Mountains or scurrying across elephant infested African bush. The kids walk for hours, cheerfully, so they can have an opportunity to advance from their little village and make something of themselves. The children have dreams and hopes, and the movie in its quiet way, presents those to us, and completes it with interviews at the end.

These children are not high school seniors aged 18, or 20 year old youths attending a higher education- these are kids, 6 years old or 9 or 10. Maybe I gravitated to the film because I work in education and know the entitlement some American children or their parents feel. It was poignant when the teacher in the African segment started the school day by looking at his large class, asking if anyone was absent, and noting all present, thanked God that they all made it “with no accidents.” Meaning, no one got trampled by elephants, eaten by a lion, or fell down a ravine.

Watch it to be inspired, to see some of the world’s harshest and most beautiful terrain, or to show your surly, entitled tween or teen. It’s all good.

The third movie is a change of pace from the previous two. It’s mindless, sappy, beautiful to look at (because, castle) and a total chick flick. If you want to watch something just plain nice, here it is.

A Princess for Christmas, on Netflix.

See? TOTAL chick flick. From Hallmark.

This is a fantasy, fairy tale story of two orphaned kids and their struggling young aunt who now takes care of them. It turns out that her dead brother-in-law was son of a Duke in fictitious Castlebury (actually filmed in Romania) whom the Duke cut off when he married a gal from Buffalo. Turns out, the Duke is older now and regrets not seeing his dukelings, and sends his butler, Paisley Winterbottom, to fetch them. Turns out, the aunt (Jules) just lost her antique store job and is at a loss with what to do with her shoplifting nephew who is about to turn bad if something isn’t done. Turns out, the Duke has another son….

It has a happy ending. With a rose-laden carriage.

I’m not giving anything away here. You knew where this was going the minute
Paisley Winterbottom showed up in Buffalo.

And for all you naysayers, hey, it can happen. As a matter of fact, it just did:

I should also mention that I finally watched 2010’s Despicable Me. I waited all this time to see it free but it never was free nor was it ever on my streaming Netflix, so I caved and rented it it streaming from Amazon. I liked it very much! It ranks with Cars, Toy Story and Up as my animated favorites.

I hope you enjoy these. Please feel free to share your favorites as well. I’m always looking for GOOD entertainment.

Of movies, books, and art

I had fun last night watching a terrific one hour documentary on the iconic London Department store, Selfridge’s. What an amazing man Harry Gordon Selfridge was! (1858-1947). He was an American, which I did not know, self-made from dire poverty and a single family home (dad deserted, mom brought him up.) He or Marshall Field invented the phrase “The Customer is always right” but nonetheless Selfridge used it so incessantly in his advertising and in training his clerks and so it is often attributed to Selfridge.

He focused heavily on customer service, was the first to use advertising and promotion so well. He was the first to use mass electricity (he kept the window display lights on after closing). Selfridge was the first to bring makeup from the dim recesses of the back of the store to the front, pairing it with perfumes to create a department store template used by every department store today. He dispensed with class distinction within the store. He invented browsing. He was the first to use and make acceptable the concept of publicity stunts. He created a safe place for Edwardian women to be in public without a chaperone. And to go to the bathroom while they were out. All that and more. It is a great little documentary and I loved all the vintage still photos from the Edwardian era and the early movies too. It is called Secrets of Selfridge’s and it’s on Netflix and Youtube

While I was watching I crafted. A colleague had given me some vintage Christmas wrapping paper from the 1940s and ’50s. I decided to do a little painting and a collage. The painted papers were drying and I turned to the collage and here is the result. I am not being disingenuous when I say that I’m not good at it. I can write and take photos but making something with my hands is a desire is never well executed. I yearn to make pretty things but my compositions are usually clumsy and unpretty. Still, I had fun.

Final product

Final product scanned and digitally added-to

The reason I think that the above is just OK is because there’s no theme, no statement, no cohesive thought. Aside from the fact that I love paper and digital art of clocks with no faces, there isn’t a unifying interest. Just some pretty things glued on a paper.

These next two are collages I made that have a theme, so they make sense.

It references Revelation 20:1-3,

Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. 2And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, 3and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.

Interestingly, I made this collage before I was saved or knew the bible.

Or this one,

That one I did make after salvation. It references the fact that the lost look for God but cannot see Him despite creation being in front of their face. (Romans 1:21-22; Ephesians 4:18) For the saved person, we can see Him but he is so holy that often we can’t even look, (Exodus 34:30, 2 Cor 3:7-8) we must look away and bow in humility. Third, I long for the day when we can look Him full in the face and understand Him more, with our glorified mind.

The problem is, I have lots of stuff to make collages and art, but not the thought. It has all leaked away. Maybe if I pray about it, my mojo will come back.

Meanwhile here is some real art to look at. I enjoy art. The art I have is mostly good, of quality if not extremely valuable. I have two Fratelli Brothers Alinari with sticker on the back indicating its origins, Via Condotti Rome. A Fred Thompson hand coloured turn of the last century photo. As this website reports, a Thompson recently sold for $3500, though the one I have is much more common and is worth perhaps $50-100.

Who in the world is “Fred Thompson”? Fred Thompson was a photographer from Portland ME who, like his contemporary Wallace Nutting , sold hand-colored photos during the early 20th century. As a matter of fact, Thompson even visited Nutting’s Southbury CT home around 1905 and collaborated with the much better- known Wallace Nutting.

Here is a bit more on Fred Thompson from an article titled Rare items not necessarily valuable:

Answer: Fred Thompson was the signature used by Frederick H. Thompson (1844-1909) and his son, Frederick M. Thompson (circa 1876-1923). The older Fred founded the Thompson Art Co. in Portland, Maine, about 1908. His son joined the company shortly before his father died. The Thompsons knew Nutting, and they produced hand-colored photographs similar to Nutting’s. The most popular Thompson photos are of Maine outdoor scenes.

So what I have is not at the Monet level. I have a signed lithograph of a limited edition from American painter Edward Ripley (b. 1929). I believe its title is “A Farmhouse” at least that is what a copy on another website said. It’s not worth a huge amount, but the Tate Gallery in London holds another of Ripley’s landscapes. So apparently I’m not the only one who likes looking at his work. Currently it hangs by my couch, where I look at it when I lay down.

I’ve got some other stuff, and one is really intriguing. I’ve mentioned it before, it is an oil painting from an Italian in the late 1950s early 1960s of Naples Bay. My landlord gave it to me. He said he’d gotten to know the painter who was part of a family that ran a trattoria by the Bay when my landlord was in the Army. When he was re-deployed the painter gave it to my former landlord as a memento. I really wish I knew the artist. If my landlord told me the name I have forgotten.

I’ve also got some Winslow Homer watercolor reprints. I love Homer. One is of a storm at Nassau, palm trees bent over rooftops from the strong wind. One is a small but bright print of the Adirondack series. A third is a seascape of surf and rocks.

Well it’s past noon. I better get a move on. Vacuuming awaits. Then books!

And maybe a nap.