Olympic Film Festival – Seventeen days in Review
Well the games in London have come and gone, and so has the One Movie Each Day Olympic Film Festival. While the last seventeen days have seen the greatest athletes in the world compete on the grandest of stages, in which records have fallen, I’ve been watching a lot of movies. I found it an interesting experience, watching and reviewing 17 movies (plus one TV movie) featuring The Olympics or Olympians in 17 days.
My biggest observation is that I’m surprised at the lack of movies of good movies about subject. It seems like that in any given Olympic games there are at least three or four stories that should lend themselves readily to a big-screen adaptation, and yet there are very few of these. And it’s not just that there aren’t a lot of good Olympic movies, there aren’t that many Olympic movies of any quality. This is really disappointing to me. I’m not one that generally set’s high standards for what Hollywood can produce, but given the plethora of stories that would seemingly write themselves, I really think that they can do better.
One film that I suppose could be considered a glaring omission from my list of Olympic films is Steven Spielberg’s Munich. I had originally thought I would review it at some point during these games, but after watching the two films on Steve Prefontaine, and their handling of the horrific events that marred the Munich games, I just didn’t feel my little celebration of the Olympic games was the right time to do it. The film is still on the list, and I do intend to review it sometime soon.
The films I did see were incredibly varied. There were films released as early as 1932, and as late as this year. I saw films depicting competitors in events from equestrian to swimming, from rowing to the modern pentathlon, from handball, to gymnastics. There was a terrible American movie ping pong and fantastic Korean movie about Weightlifting. And then, of course, were films that covered the full-spectrum of track and field events, there was sprinting, more sprinting, distance running (twice), the marathon, race-walking, the pentathlon, and the decathlon, and of course, even more sprinting. Of course, most of the films had American athletes as the protagonists, but the USA was joined by Olympians from Great Britain (four times), Korea (twice), Australia, China, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, and, of course the team from the Republic of Klopstokia.
This was an interesting and at times extremely frustrating way to celebrate the Olympic spirit, while continuing with One Movie Each Day. While there were three movies that I rated as “Must See” and only two that I rated as “Avoid Seeing” there were seven “Not Worth Seeing” to six that I called “Worth Seeing” so overall the mix between good and bad was dead-even. I can, if I choose to, rank the three films I rated as “Must See” to come up with the medalists from my film festival. I’d give the bronze medal to Walk, Don’t Run. The silver goes to Lifting King Kong. As great as these two movies were, the gold medal goes to Chariots of Fire. It was, in a bad piece of planning on my part, the very first movie I reviewed as a part of this festival, and nothing was able to surpass it.