OSCARS WEEK- MIDWEEK MATTERS: Should sport movies get more recognition?
We're midway through our celebration of the coming Oscars but now it's time to ask whether sports movies and the impact they have is recognised enough by the Academy. Sports Gazette takes to the weekly debating stand to discuss...
Warren Muggleton, Editor
“The inches we need are everywhere around us.”
This quote is from Any Given Sunday (1999) which follows the fortunes of struggling American football team, the Miami Sharks.
Their coach, played by the iconic Al Pacino, motivates his team before their final game of the season based on this concept in one of the most powerful speeches in movie history.
“It ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning’s done!”
These are the words of Sylvester Stallone, playing the career-defining Rocky, as he speaks to his son after announcing he will re-enter the ring in Rocky Balboa (2006).
Rocky (1976) is one of only three sports film to win an Oscar for ‘Best Picture’ in the last 40 years alongside Chariots of Fire (1981), and Million Dollar Baby (2004).
Sandra Bullock won ‘Best Actress’ for her depiction of Leigh Anne Tuohy in The Blind Side (2009), which tells the true story of her adoption of Michael Oher, a homeless black teenager who went on to become a Superbowl winner.
Sport is an enterprise where the lessons learned can be applied to everyday life, such as those detailed in the speeches by Pacino and Stallone.
It’s not just the speeches though- take that chant four Jamaicans bobsledders make in Cool Runnings (1993), or that shot of the American hockey team winning Olympic gold in Miracle (2004) - even Coach Carter!
These are images that are recreated time and time again, indicating the huge level of influence sport movies have had on popular culture.
Considering this, how has such a level of cultural influence been rewarded so few times by the world’s leading academy for movie-making?Sport is an enterprise where the lessons learned can be applied to everyday life”
Guy Giles, Editor
There are two simple reasons why sports films do not deserve more recognition.
Firstly, there are much bigger issues to be explored. While sport has a massively wide appeal and can entertain like nothing else, it just does not have the depth of meaning or universality that is seen in other genres of film.
A quick look at some of the films that have been nominated for Oscars this year confirms this: Moonlight, Fences, Hidden Figures and Loving all explore, in their own unique ways, the issue of race.
Manchester-by-the-Sea and Lion both look into the universal subject of family, and the joy and pain that family can bring to everyone.
Hacksaw Ridge harks back to World War II, illustrating the death and destruction faced by the world 80 years ago.
Sports films, in their own way, can indeed touch on many of these themes and emotions, but simply cannot achieve the depth that these other films can.
Whichever way you look at it, sport will never reach the same level of importance as race, family, gender, war, or any other similar theme.
Yes, sport can help us understand and overcome these issues. Yes, sports films can touch on these themes and emotions, but it is still not deserving of the same recognition as these other films.
Secondly, it could be argued that sports films already gain a lot of recognition and cannot ask for more.
Within film, sport is a relatively small genre, with only a handful of movies made each year. This is in comparison to the hundreds or even thousands that are released under the banner of other genres, and there is usually at least one sports film that garners interest and excitement yearly.
The Rocky series is one of the most iconic of all time, and films like Chariots of Fire, Raging Bull, The Blind Side and Million Dollar Baby have received ample recognition.
For a genre that cannot capture universal themes and emotions like others can, sports films are doing well enough and do not need any more recognition than they already receive.