Sunday, 22 June 2014

Any Given Sunday review : England beaten by Oliver Stone, Al Pacino and Cameron Diaz (but mainly Uruguay)

World Cup 2014: Japan fans clear up stadium litter after opening game defeat
How can you not love the international celebration of national diversity that is the world cup?

This World Cup is so fantastic:
upsets, goals great games - it has even the Americans watching it.

The only group en-mass left actively resisting the call of this wonderful world wide celebration of human variety seem to be middle aged British women, and if they are as sick of the World Cup as much as I am sick of hearing them complain about it I'm going to remain single at least for the foreseeable future.
Thank god The Great British Bake Off only happens once every four years (?)

If there is more to your life than baking British cakes and you want to react against the World Cup in an original, positive way, while learning something about alien cultures and pastimes without having to deal with a round ball - here is an option.

Uruguay's heroic defeat of England last week was fueled apparently by a viewing of an old Oliver Stone movie almost unheard of in this country.

Any Given Sunday is Oliver Stone doing to America's favourite sport what he did to American democracy (in JFK), The Green Berets (in Platoon) and TexMex conservatism in Natural Born Killers. It's another agonised evisceration of a treasured cultural icon, in this case American Football. I have to assume it is because of our usual disregard for the sport that this classic movie with an all star cast and crew is virtually unknown in the UK.

The cast members I didn't recognise when I first saw this movie are all A-listers now. You'll see a young Jamie Foxx, Al Pacino, Dennis Quaid, James Woods, Aaron Eckhart and best of all a firebreathing Cameron Diaz, as toughgirl tomboy team owner Christina Pagniacci - her blazing confrontations with coach Pacino are one of many highlights away from the sporting action itself.

I've struggled to get friends into this movie because it is American football (those those that have watched it loved it). We mock American ignorance and disregard for soccer, to have the same attitude toward the highly evolved North American variant of rugby is hypocritical. Stone's dazzlingly choreographed game sequences convey the uniqueness of a sport controlled directly from the bench via headsets. (The crux of the movie is Jamie Foxx changing the coach's tactics on the field).

Unsurprisingly given some of the content, the NFL actively worked against the production of this movie and Stone and co were forced to create their own alternate football league to cover the sport with a frankness and honesty not seen yet in any other sports movie. The treatment of injury and drug use are particularly powerful.  James Woods, as a gleeful team doctor, seems to have strayed off a Cronenberg film.

The level of grit and honesty is comparable to The Wire, and aside from the sporting angle this is has a realistic and honest attitude to race without the preachiness you would expect from a film tackling the subject directly. Inserts from Ben Hur (and a cameo from Charlton Heston) make the allusions to slavery and gladiatorial combat explicit.

This is one of those movies that could be set around Crown Green Bowling and you would still watch it. The level of imagination and dynamism in the editing makes Scorsese's Raging Bull look like  a 1970s BBC Play For Today. Stone obviously shot weeks of controlled chaos and constantly incorporates multiple viewpoints making it difficult to tear the eyes away (I know this, I've just been trying to do my accounts and I've seen the movie 4+ times now).

perhaps you don't want an alternative to the world cup, and just want an insight into the source of the powerful team ethic that allowed a team of half fit journeymen from a small country to beat a "team" of millionaires from the nation that invented the sport.

Pacino's speech IS a cracker.

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