The Olympics Go Hollywood

How on EARTH is it May already? What the heck? Pretty sure we skipped March and April, and mother nature still seems to think it's January; it's currently snowing. But either way, the calendar tells me we're now five months into 2014, and I'm still doing pretty well with my New Year's resolutions. I got a job (for the time being), I'm working out more, I'm reading regularly, I get up in the morning like a grown-up, and I've flossed every single day (woop woop for no gum disease!). But for the longest time, I was majorly slacking on #7 - "put leisure time to good use."

After the Olympics and Paralympics ended I had plenty of leisure time... but what was I doing with it? Not watching sports movies like I said I was going to, that's what. But then I happened to mention my desire to expand my Olympic movie repertoire to Brandon, my boss (the same one I called dude, if that gives you an idea of our relationship), and suddenly he's showing up to work with DVDs for me to borrow! Seriously, only one of the movies below belongs to me. So basically, this post could be called "Darci raids Brandon's Olympic movie collection." And it just so happens that they all divided nicely into two weekends, and two Olympics. :)

Without Limits and Munich

Munich: I knew going in that Munich is NOT the kind of movie I seek out and enjoy. Call me crazy, but I tend not to like watching people get killed in various violent ways. However, this movie is very highly regarded, and while I can't say I'll watch it again, I can say that it was really good. Avner and his crew were secret agents assigned to kill the people responsible for the massacre of the Israeli Olympic team, and the longer they were under cover and killing people, the more and more paranoid they got. By the end, Avner had spiraled so far into his paranoia that he could barely function. And as the movie ended, I found myself sitting in my otherwise empty apartment and wondering if someone wanted to kill me. They get into your head, these psychological thrillers!

While seeing the Israeli athletes get taken hostage and murdered was a wee bit traumatizing, I did like learning a bit about the aftermath. Munich is not entirely factual, but everything I know about the Munich Massacre is about the day itself. I knew basically nothing about what happened next, or if Israel retaliated at all. So learning that much was pretty interesting, even if I do have to take everything else with a grain of salt. But if it's good enough for Cool Runnings, it's good enough for Munich.

Without Limits: I had zero expectations going into this movie. I knew nothing about it other than its subject, and judging by the DVD cover I figured it would be pretty bad (I mean, look at it!). But I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it! It follows distance runner Steve Prefontaine from his high school days up through his death. I didn't know all that much about Pre beforehand, other than that he (spoiler alert?) finished fourth in Munich and (spoiler alert?) died really young, so it was really cool getting to hear about the kind of impact he ended up having on track and field in the U.S. He also seems like a pretty interesting character. Considering his final record didn't fall until 2012 (holy craaap), I have to wonder what he could've accomplished had he not died so young. There was, of course, a love story subplot, but I didn't totally hate it. They really loved each other but it was far from all sunshine and rainbows. The girl actually had a personality! It was refreshing.

My main complaint is the fact that the movie didn't make clear the passage of time. You know that time has gone by, but the only indication of that is Pre's slightly longer hair and the sudden appearance of a mustache. Have we just skipped ahead several months? A year? And then, unfortunately, there was the utter predictability of Pre's death. Even if I hadn't known it was coming, the absolutely heinous foreshadowing all but told me it was going to happen. He was literally counting down to his death. Alas.

Miracle, Mirace On Ice, and Lake Placid: An Olympic History

Uh, hi, my name is Darci and I'm obsessed with Lake Placid 1980. Is there a support group for this? (Also, Miracle is obviously mine. And it is not new. But if you thought I'd have a Lake Placid movie weekend and wasn't going to include Miracle...)

Lake Placid, An Olympic History: This baby both started and ended with a song from the Miracle soundtrack. ;) I wouldn't recommend this to anyone who isn't psychopathically in love with Lake Placid and/or the Olympics (like myself), because it's very much a documentary; lots of history. But considering I own a book on the very same subject, it was right up my alley. Anything that talks about Eric Heiden and the Miracle on Ice is a winner in my book. It was also cool to hear about all the Olympians from Lake Placid; apparently there's been at least one at every single Winter Olympics. Pretty impressive. OH, and I learned that the bobsled track I took a ride on was the exact one used at the 1932 Olympics!

Miracle On Ice: Do I even need to explain how excited I was to watch this? I randomly found it for sale on the same website that gave me DVDs of the actual 1980 Olympic hockey games (aka a veritable wonderland of glorious things). I'd read conflicting things about this movie -- which was, by the way, a made-for-TV movie released in 1981 with a limited budget and production schedule. Some said it's better than Miracle, some said it's crap, but what really got my attention were the reviews that said they wished it could be combined with Miracle. That it showed a ton of what Miracle left out, and the two together would've been the perfect movie.

After seeing it for myself -- and cringing, flailing, and cackling -- I totally agree. Miracle On Ice + Miracle = pretty perfect.

Most of my reaction comes from the fact that I know a whole heck of a lot about this team and its stories, and there's a TON that Miracle doesn't even touch. Miracle On Ice shows the guys getting their invitations to training camp, arriving at the Colorado Springs OTC (YAY!!! And it looks like it was actually filmed here!), finding out that they made the team, etc. So that was pretty glorious. We also got to see how the players' agents and lawyers factored in, and more of Jim Craig's relationship with his father, and more Mike Eruzione storylines than I ever thought I wanted. And more players got slightly bigger roles in Miracle On Ice than they did in Miracle, which was awesome. But with all that came stuff that Miracle included that Miracle On Ice (very, very unfortunately) left out. There's actually surprisingly little from before the Olympics that directly overlapped.

Most of my other complaints are related to the rushed production and the fact that it's a typical cheesy '80s movie. The hockey was slow and clunky (and when they used real game footage, they didn't make it blend in very well), the Boston accents were really thick and really fake, Karl Malden was 20 years too old to play Herb Brooks (and Steve Guttenberg as Jim Craig? Really?), and some of the writing/dialogue/acting was just... yikes. Holy bad.

However, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, and this boils down to the little details that were included that only an... uh, slightly overzealous fan such as myself would appreciate. I mean, Rob McClanahan talking about geopolitical absorption (and Jack O'Callahan responding with total snark)? Hello, flawless. Mark Pavelich wearing flannel, playing guitar and being late because he was fishing? Be still, my fangirl heart! The vote for team captain coming down to Mike Eruzione and Buzz Schneider? Yes, thank you. Dave Christian getting called Koho? A+. But MOST IMPORTANTLY... Ken Morrow had a beard. *standing ovation*

It's glaringly obvious why Disney wanted to make Miracle despite the previous existence of Miracle On Ice, and I myself see Miracle On Ice as more of a supplement than a stand-alone. Kind of like fanfiction; oftentimes questionably executed, but gives you stuff you wish the original had included. So, yes, if you smush Miracle On Ice and Miracle together, you'd have one fantabulous movie.

So this was a good first step in my endeavor to watch more sports movies! I do still need to see Chariots of Fire, though. Whoops. Are there any others that you think are must-sees? Recommendations are always appreciated! :)

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  1. Definitely see Chariots of Fire! They did a play version in London a little while ago and people loved it! x

    1. Oh really?! Aw man, I would've loved to have seen that! Definitely need to scrounge up that movie somewhere!