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October 23, 2012


On DVD/Blu-ray – Cultural Studies Through Sports


Sports movies, that is. This post was prompted by today’s DVD release of Crooked Arrows joined to my realization that I’d seen four good sports dramas this year with the same basic plot- but set against four very different milieus.

Crooked Arrows (2012)

Call it the Hoosiers plot: New coach of underdog youth (broadly defined) sports team teaches the kids valuable life lessons, turns them into a real team, and gains spiritual renewal in return. The sport in Crooked Arrows is boys high school lacrosse. The setting is an Indian reservation in New York state, the sport’s birthplace. The characterization of the coach (a charming Brandon Routh) is familiar but also realistic and appealing. The reservation setting is interesting and the intra-tribe conflicts, topically centered on culture and casino, are fleshed out with an even-handed sympathy. It’s not a great movie by any means. The visual style is indie bland, the players are generic teenager types, and the love interest is so undeveloped as to be ridiculous. It is a thoroughly nice movie and I liked it quite a lot.

DVD/Blu-ray extras are a commentary track by some of the supporting cast members, a few short features on the making of and the sport, and the trailer.

Chak De! India (2007)

From lacrosse to field hockey. Chak De! India was inspired by the upset victory of the Indian women’s team at the 2002 Commonwealth Games. This is the only movie on this list to divide its attention evenly between coach and team, with several of the players having well-developed subplots of their own. As the coach, Bollywood superstar Shahrukh Khan gives a self-effacing performance that allows the young actresses to shine. This is also the most ideologically driven of the movies on this list, threading in positive messages of women’s rights, religious tolerance, and post-tribal Indian nationalism that are no less effective for being overt. The story hits all the usual, emotionally satisfying beats of the underdog sports drama. While any sports movie fan would enjoy it, it would most especially be a great choice to show any girls’ sports team, any where.

Producer Yash Raj Films put out a two-disc DVD/Blu-ray release of Chak De! India with plenty of extras. Those include extensive deleted scenes, a making-of short feature, two music videos (and a making-of for one of them), a joint interview with three of the actresses and three of the players on the winning team, an interview with Shahrukh Khan, and trailers.

The Mighty Macs (2011)

You know that saying about the past being another country? It does seem that way at times when watching The Mighty Macs, which is set in the 1970s and* takes as one of its main themes the era’s struggles over funding and recognition of women’s college athletics. Like Chak De! India it’s based on a true story of an upset victory by a women’s team in a male-dominated game, in this case basketball. The title is the affectionate nickname of the 1972 championship team of Immaculata College, a small Catholic university in Pennsylvania that was then a women’s college. Carla Gugino plays boundary-breaking coach Cathy Rush, who led Immaculata to three consecutive national titles (and would be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008). The movie’s major weakness is its tendency to remember that the players have inner lives only when those inner lives present opportunities for the imparting of Life Lessons. However, there’s dramatic compensation in the relationship between Rush and her assistant coach, a nun who hears the answer to a prayer in the sound of a basketball hitting a hardwood floor.

*As if that wasn’t enough….

The Mighty Macs is only on DVD; extras are deleted scenes, a making-of short feature, and “The Mighty Macs ESPN Segment,” whatever that might be.

Glove (2011)

A superior baseball movie from Korea, Glove is the most realistic- no, that isn’t really the right word for it. The victories in Chak De! India and The Mighty Macs are true to real events and the state tournament win of Crooked Arrows is perfectly plausible. It’s more that Glove is the most typical story of the four; the one that’s closest to ordinary, immediately recognizable experience. That I can write that of a movie set at a boarding school for the hearing impaired is one of its admirable points. Also admirable: The story pays more than lip service to the life lesson that there’s more to life, and baseball, than winning. It’s a principled stand that shakes up a generally formulaic story. I especially liked the relationship between the coach, a major league pitcher on the skids, and his best friend and agent, the only person who still believes in him. I also learned from watching this movie that when it comes to youth baseball, if in no other respect, Korea looks a lot like Japan.

Glove isn’t available on DVD (at least not in a US release), but you can stream it on Netflix.


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1 Comment Post a comment
  1. Miriam
    Oct 23 2012

    Thanks for the suggestions. I have a fondness for sports movies and have seen only The Mighty Macs of your list. As soon as the World Series is over I’m going to watch Gloves.