Oscars Project: Movie #6

(Explanation of The Oscars Project found here. And need I say it? This post contains SPOILERS.)

From 2003: Seabiscuit

The unofficial tagline: "You don't throw away a whole life just because it's banged up a little."

Summary: In the 1930s, just about everyone is down on his or her luck. Even Seabiscuit, a horse from a powerful racing lineage, is stuck losing race after race. That is, until he is transformed into a national champion by the collective efforts of inventor-turned-success-story Charles Howard (Jeff Bridges), his second wife Marcela (Elizabeth Banks) who helps him get over the loss of his son, quiet but passionate horse trainer Tom Smith (Chris Cooper, as a character very unlike the creepy orchid guy in Adaptation), and Johnny "Red" Pollard (Tobey Maguire), a book-loving teen abandoned by his impoverished parents to a horse trainer. Seabiscuit's success seems to buoy the nation's spirits and, on a local level, the spirits of those people around him. (Note: this movie is #50 on the American Film Institute's 100 Most Inspiring American Films.)

What I liked:

  • Great cast (even if I kept thinking Elizabeth Banks could be Parker Posey's twin. Maybe it was the costuming).
  • The story was told well. I did struggle with the exposition in the beginning, so I wasn't completely into it for the first half hour, but the payoff was a good one.
  • It's a genuinely decent story. The characters aren't extraordinary--they all have their flaws--but they are all very relatable.
  • All the gorgeous scenery and horses. Seriously, by the end of the movie, I wanted to take riding lessons. (Did I mention I've been on a horse only once in my life? Bareback, too--I was hanging on its mane for dear life and always wondered if that hurt the horse.)

What I didn't like:
  • It was a wee bit too long. Maybe that exposition could've been condensed a bit.
  • Seven Oscar nominations and no wins! Are you kidding me??? Chris Cooper can win Best Supporting Actor for Adaptation the year before, but in spite of having the best line of the entire film (see unofficial tagline above) there's not even a nomination?

You might be wondering how this movie ended up in the book, then, if it's supposed to be about winners. This movie wound up in a special feature (found in each chapter) titled "What Were They Thinking?" If a movie ends up here, it's because--in the authors' opinion--either a good movie was ignored by the Oscars or an inferior movie garnered a lot of Oscar attention. In this case, Peske and West demand to know, "How could Oscar fawn all over Lord of the Rings and snub this movie about a Depression-era racehorse who served as a metaphor for triumph over adversity?" (p. 17)

I don't know the answer. Maybe it was a matter of degree of difficulty--although I ask you, isn't it pretty hard to work with animals, or stage several horse races?

Maybe Oscar was still mired in 9/11 issues and wanted to reach out to more foreign-produced films and actors. In a similar vein, maybe fantasy served a greater purpose in 2002-2003 than another difficult time period in America did at that time.

That second suggestion makes me recommend this movie all the more for today. I got a paycheck yesterday and sent 88% of it back out the door today for utilities and next month's rent. I've got a senior-age family friend on my mind who wasn't able to attend her older sister's funeral today, nor her middle son's funeral a couple weeks ago, because she is recovering from pneumonia and in the middle of chemo. The lousy weather is driving me stir crazy.

I think I might go back and watch this movie, or at least part of it, again.

Next up: Oscar in the 1990s: We Are the World Movies


ccr in MA said…
I did find Seabiscuit inspiring, though I haven't watched it again since. When I need a lift, I re-watch Miracle. Good one for hockey fans especially!
Kate P said…
You are so hard-core on hockey, CCR. :)

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