The Olympics and Movies: Inspiring Audiences Everywhere

Droves of people tune in to watch the Olympics every few years. Many of these people who watch the games so faithfully are not usually sports fanatics. In fact, some of them never watch sports outside of the Olympics. So, what is it about the Olympics that drives so many people to watch so faithfully? You find the answer when you consider why people crowd movie theaters to see blockbusters and new releases. Movies have many ties with the Olympics.

Human beings love classic underdog stories in which a seemingly unimportant person with a difficult background can rise above his or her challenges and truly succeed. Most blockbuster movies feature rags-to-riches stories, whether it’s a movie with an Olympic theme or not. “Miracle” tells the story of the 1980 United States Olympic hockey team and how they won despite seemingly impossible odds. “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” is not about the Olympics, or even about sports, but it does tell the story of a seemingly unimportant hobbit and his journey to greatness. The Olympic Games offer the same inspiration to viewers. Many of the incredibly skilled athletes come from humble backgrounds but win gold medals despite their setbacks. Stories like these inspire us as human beings and remind us that we, too, can succeed in our everyday challenges.

The Olympics also remind us of what we can become. Our bodies and minds are capable of so much, and watching Olympic athletes use the strength of their bodies to their full extent reminds us that we can always better ourselves. Movies often have this same effect on viewers. “A Beautiful Mind” shows audiences what the human mind can do, which can make them want to unlock the true power of their own minds. “The Karate Kid” shows people that anybody is capable of disciplining themselves to use their minds and bodies for good. Movies and the Olympics both make people want to become better, and that’s a message that everyone is ready to receive.

Drama is another main draw for movies. People watch dramatic movies to feel intense emotions that they don’t normally feel in their everyday lives. This allows them to open their minds and learn new things. Movies like “Apollo 13″ teach us, through the drama, about the possibilities of technology, and movies like “The Young Victoria” teach us about the wonders of human history. The Olympics have much of the same drama that movies do. Audiences see the athletes struggle towards their goals, triumph with their successes and accept their losses. All the while, the people watching can learn and understand the intricacies of the games, which also helps to open their minds and expand their knowledge.

Most people have a desire to feel like they’re a part of something bigger than themselves. They want to be part of a good cause and know that there’s something more to life than the things they experience from day to day. The Olympics and movies both give viewers that sense of a greater good. The Olympic athletes, in all of their skill and glory, show normal, everyday people that they can find something that’s worth striving to achieve. Inspirational movies like “The Bucket List” fill our minds with ideas of things we can do to improve our lives. That sense of the greater good is what keeps people watching great movies and the Olympics.

Finally, everybody wants to know that they’re not alone. Whether you have a specific challenge or you just feel like nobody understands you, it’s always good to see others just like you succeed. The Olympics gives a sense of national pride. Every viewer looks at his or her fellow countrymen competing and feels connected to them. Watching a war movie like “Lawrence of Arabia” allows audiences to cheer on the protagonists just as they would the athletes in the Olympics. This can cause them to feel camaraderie with the characters, which helps them to feel more involved in the story.

People watch the Olympics for many of the same reasons they watch movies. Both offer drama and inspiration to millions of people. The Olympics are so inspiring that many filmmakers make movies based on real Olympic stories. In this way, the inspiration of the Olympic spirit can live on long after the games are over, and film audiences can continue to enjoy their favorite underdog stories.

15 Great Sports Movies

There are plenty of sports movies out there, but which ones are worth not only watching, but potentially owning? Which ones are not just great sports movies, but good movies in general? Here’s a list of fifteen of the best sports movies to ever find their way onto the silver screen.

The Waterboy
Funny to think of Adam Sandler on a list that’s praising movies, but here we are. Looking past the initial issues with praising Adam Sandler, the movie was sweet, heart-warming, funny, and home to some great tackles,, including one by Kathy Bates that’s worth the price of admission alone.

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
Another SNL alum, another great sports movie. During the time that many consider the height of Will Farrell’s humor, this movie about a simple man that just wanted to go fast featured Jane Lynch before her Glee days and the always funny Gary Cole (Office Space).

Major League
Charlie Sheen, Wesley Snipes, and Corbin Bernsen in one movie together? While it would spawn numerous sequels, each one less successful and less filled with original cast members, the original was unique, fun, and played on our love of an underdog and the Yankees losing.

Days of Thunder
Featuring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman before they were the Cruises, the film was essentially Top Gun in cars, which was not a bad thing. Making NASCAR cool before it enjoyed the popularity it does now, it features intense race scenes and cameos from some of racing’s biggest stars.

A League of Their Own
Tom Hanks, Gina Davis, Madonna, and Rosie O’Donnel headline one of the few sports movies to feature women. Set during World War II, the film follows the female baseball leagues that sprung up and reminds us all that there’s no crying in baseball.

The Bad News Bears
A curmudgeonly Walter Matthau leading a rag-tag group of child baseball players? What could possibly go wrong? Also starring Tatum O’Neal and a young Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen), the movie is more about the game and having fun than about actually winning.

Brian’s Song
Based on the true story of Hall of Fame running back Gale Sayers, played by Billy Dee Williams, and Brian Piccolo, played by James Caan, the story details the friendship between the two teammates as Brian battles and eventually loses his battle with cancer while on the Chicago Bears. Originally made for TV, it was so popular that it was actually shown in some theaters.

It’s one of the few movies that men are allowed to cry during. Based on a true story, the film featured Sean Astin (The Lord of the Rings trilogy) in the title role as the under-sized walk-on football player at Notre Dame that finally got his shot and was carried off the field by his teammates. It’s the quintessential “never say die” movie.

A comedy starring Paul Newman and the creation of the iconic hockey goons the Hanson brothers, this movie was so influential that many of the terms used in the movie invaded the hockey lexicon used to this day. The actors that portrayed the Hanson brothers still do appearances in character and appeared in supporting roles in the two straight to DVD sequels.

Bill Murray, Rodney Dangerfield, and Chevy Chase in a single movie? How can shenanigans not ensue, especially when you throw in a golf course for good measure. Bill Murray trying to blow up a gopher that’s been terrorizing the course is just one of the many highlights of this film.

Bull Durham
Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon, and Tim Robbins in a baseball movie that most studios passed on. Kevin Costner is brought in to help prepare Tim Robbins for the major leagues, and throwing Susan Sarandon into the mix certainly doesn’t help. This is a classic movie that is regularly voted one of the top sports movies of all time and was where Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon met before entering into a relationship.

Field of Dreams
Another film featuring Kevin Costner, and one of the other films that men are allowed to cry during. Everybody knows that “If you build it, he will come”. Also starring James Earl Jones and Ray Liotta, it’s the quintessential baseball movie and a heart-warming story about a game of catch and the relationship before a father and son.

Inspired by true events, this movie featuring Gene Hackman and Dennis Hopper is the underdog story of a high school basketball team in Indiana that was undersized and undermanned, yet still went to the state championship game. Regularly listed as the best sports movie ever made, Dennis Hopper received an Oscar nomination for his role in the film.

The film that helped launch Stallone’s career, as well as five sequels. Undersized Rocky Balboa gets a shot at the title held by Apollo Creed, with Rocky’s only goal for the fight being to go the distance against the champion, something that no other person to face Creed has managed. The scenes of Rocky training by punching frozen meat carcasses and running up the steps in Philadelphia are iconic. The movie was nominated for ten Academy Awards and won three, including Best Picture and Best Director.

Raging Bull
Considered by many to be not just the greatest sports film, but the greatest movie ever made in any genre. Directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, the movie is based on the true story of boxer Jake LaMotta and documents his rise and fall, as well as the toll it took on his family and friends.

A Pie for Critiquing Movies

When the average movie goer watches a movie, most of the time people would rate it just for story only. But there are more elements than that which compose a movie. A movie depends on not just story, but how it is acted, how it is directed, how it’s paced well and various smaller components that can affect how good or bad a movie really is.

Allow me to show you how I look at a movie and I will use a pie model to determine how it all fits to enhance the movie going experience.

I would say first that the story needs attention. Most of your average film buffs just simply look at the plot line to make the viewer decide. While it is vital, it’s just taking up 30-35 percent of the pie. You can have very strong writing, great character development, tell a story that has a beginning, middle and end that gels together. Yet, if the actors involved give half-hearted to lazy performances and if the director doesn’t pace his movie well, the viewing experience goes mostly all for nought.

Let’s look at acting. Today’s actors get paid very well, but they still have to deliver, just like a pro athlete has to make good his role to earn his pay. The actors need to make the story come alive with convincing characters and situations. This also takes up 20-25 percent of the pie, and this is very true when it comes to a film based on actual facts. Here’s a case in point:

* “All The President’s Men” gave us the story about two investigative journalists trying to crack the case of Watergate. Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman gave knockout performances and became, not just playing, Bob Woodard and Carl Bernstein. I also include the wonderful Jason Robards who won for Best Supporting Actor becoming Ben Bradlee. Now if these three gentlemen had given less than stellar performances by playing, not being, these characters the film would have failed despite being a true story.

It is the job of an actor to bring the audience in, allowing the viewers to care about their lives and situations they are facing in the story. But while we have two components of a film, there is a third important element that is needed to make the film really sing: The Director.

I also give the director element 20-30 percent because he or she is responsible for making the action happen, creating a narrative flow and bringing out the best in his or her actors. Usually the director gets together with the actors and writers to make sure the product is effective. I see the director like a music conductor; getting the actors to say lines properly, making the story flow along without big bumps in the road, checking with his cinematographer and editor to get the correct shots and pacing so that the viewer can watch and enjoy the film more.

Finally, between 5-15 percent is everything else; the camerawork, editing, music, art and set decorations, special effects in most cases these days, costume designs and makeup to name a few. Sometimes one of these things can stand out and help the film become even greater if everything else fits in perfectly.

The percentages I have given can be flexible, so sometimes you can have a movie that is 30 percent story, 30 percent acting, 30 percent directing and 10 percent everything else which is just about a harmonious balance. You can also have the movie being dominated by acting over story, or having direction saving the day over both acting and story.

For me, I have two films which have created a great even blend of storytelling, acting and directing.

* “Citizen Kane”: Orson Welles gave us a wonderful film loved by very many. It works because Welles put his heart and soul into not just his role as Charles Foster Kane, but his zestful direction which allows the story to flow evenly. The opening scenes get us hooked into a mystery, as well as a magnificent essay on a very knowledgeable man who rose to fame as a publisher. His Mercury Theatre players had a true hand on making each character shine, giving each one some importance in telling the story. Mr. Welles was not even thirty years old when he made this classic which has more than stood the test of time.

* “Rocky”: Sylvester Stallone had tried to sell his story about a washed up fighter who gets a chance to compete for the heavyweight title. Eventually, United Artists did find something they liked, but wanted an established star to play the main character. It was Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff who managed to listen to Stallone who wanted to play the title role, as long it was kept on a low budget. To most, the story is a “Cinderella” type, but Stallone making his characters very real, the great direction of John G. Avildsen and very fine acting from a cast of mostly unknowns back then with the exception of Burgess Meredith made this a true classic. It is also one of the best loved sports movies of all time, managing to create five sequels. Bill Conti’s score was a huge plus here.

At times one can take a movie that has a good story but is marred by lousy acting and a flatlined pace. Case in point:

* “I Dreamed of Africa”: Director Hugh Hudson, noted for his Oscar winning “Chariots of Fire”, helmed a true story about a woman moving to an African preserve with her husband and son. In the process, she overcomes a few perils and becomes very involved with animal rights. This story is very interesting, but was marred by Hudson’s sluggish pacing and a banal performance from Kim Basinger who did not give enough conviction as the heroine.

Yet, there are times where you can have a mediocre story enhanced by good acting and good direction. Also you can have a good story and good direction which saves, most of the time, ho-hum acting.

So the next time you look at a movie, take a hard look at the three main factors: storyline, directing and acting. Put those three elements along with little things like music, camerawork and editing and you have your total experience of watching a movie. Remember, it’s the pieces of the puzzle that compose the movie and not just story, story, story.