The Replacements: A Retrospective Look at a Piece of NFL History

A story of second chances, redemption, and a humorous look at the business of football. There were some mixed reviews about the film, but overall, it seems that it was received well. The film grossed nearly forty-five million dollars in the United States. There are still some that may have not liked this film. Some people may have loved it. And it may have not been an Oscar winning, stellar film but it had a story, some good characters and amusing moments.

Reliving NFL history

 So, was the film a true depiction of the 1987 football strike? Probably not, but it made for some good entertainment. The great, or not so great, football strike in 1987, where free agency seemed to be the spark that raged the fire, was the basis for the film. In the article, “The 1987 Football Strike” by Glen Levy, it states that the players called a strike after the second game of that season. Instead of resolving the issue, however, NFL owners cancelled the games in the third week of the season and began putting together replacement teams. For three weeks, spectators saw the likes of the Los Angeles Shams, Chicago Spare Bears, Seattle Sea Scabs, and others take the field of play.  Rick Reilly wrote in Sports Illustrated that in the first week of these replacement games, it drew “more viewers than the last game of the Detroit-Toronto series for the American League East title.” Very interesting.

It’s interesting to note that there was another strike that preceded this one in 1987 and it lasted nearly two months. The strike occurred in 1982 and after the second game of the season, the strike was called. When it ended, there were some issues still unresolved which lead to the 1987 strike. It’s also interesting to note that these two football strikes, 1987 and 1982, were numbers four and seven, respectively, on a list of the top ten strikes in sports, according to Time magazine. So, football is not the only sport that has had strikes or lockouts, but apparently football is the only sport that has had a film based on a strike or lockout, in recent years anyway.

The film did show a good contrast between the replacement players and the real players. And it showed how the real players and community reacted to the replacement players. After they began winning, the replacements were fully supported by the community.

Entertaining Characters

The characters were interesting and varied. There is a speedy wide receiver, Clifford Franklin (played by Orlando Jones), who can’t catch the ball; a troubled, chain-smoking soccer player, Nigel Gruff (played Rhys Ifans); a former S.W.A.T. team member, Daniel Bateman (played by Jon Favreau); a deaf tight end, Brian Murphy (played by David Denman); and Shane Falco (played by Keanu Reeves), a college quarterback who gave up football after a loss in a big game in the Sugar Bowl. There were other characters that rounded out the ensemble to make for an entertaining film.

Shane Falco showed a dramatic contrast within himself. He does not yet realize his full potential and has been given a second chance to prove to himself what he can be. Personally, I can’t say that I’m a big fan of Keanu Reeves. He’s not a bad actor and his performance was adequate for the film. But there’s something about his vocal characterizations that leave something to be desired. However, that’s another story for another time.

Coach McGinty (played by Gene Hackman) tells Shane early in the film, “I look at you and see two men. The man you are and the man you ought to be, some day those two will meet. Should make for a hell of a football player.” Through the continued mentoring from Coach McGinty, Falco becomes the man he ought to be. I view this relationship as a father-son relationship where an element of humanism is shown.

I liked Danny Bateman, played wonderfully by Favreau. It appeared that he had an almost warrior-like quality, be also a softer, more congenial, quality as well. The aggressiveness he shows on the field is contrasted by the other side of his personality and make for an interesting and entertaining character.

Legendary sports broadcasters Pat Summerall and John Madden, playing themselves, calling the game action sequences, were a nice addition to the film. It added a bit of realism to the film.

Grid Iron Humor

 This was not a dramatic retelling of that 1987 strike. It was written as a comedy. Vince McKewin wrote the film and blended great football sequences with comedy and a little romance. Some of the scenes appeared as realistic, and then there seems there were unrealistic scenes and bits, like the how quickly a character gets from one place to another, how quickly a play was called and started between dialogue, or how there were replacement cheerleaders too. Why would there be a need to replace a few cheerleaders towards the end of the season? That just seems kind of odd to me. But then, the cheerleaders wouldn’t be replaced by strippers and exotic dancers, which added to the humor. All in all, the film had a story and good characters.

One humorous bit in the film was when Falco met Annabelle Farrell (played by Brook Langton), the head cheerleader and becomes Falco’s love interest, after the first day of practice. She gave him a ride home and was speeding through the streets of Washington D.C. and weaving in and out of traffic. The game sequences provided much of the humor with players throwing up on the field during a game, the replacement cheerleaders supplying some erotic dances for the fans and disrupting an opposing teams’ offense, Bateman’s antics on the field, a humorous bar fight between the replacement players and the picketing players, and Falco and company get put in jail and dance to Gloria Gaynor’s hit “I Will Survive,” among others.

The Story Theme

In the final game sequence of the film, Falco tells his guys in the huddle “pain heals, chicks dig scars. Glory – lasts forever.” This energized the players and finally gave the replacement players the drive to win the game. They won three out of four remaining games and put the team into the playoffs. They all got a chance to be part of something great. For a moment, they had their shot to shine.

At the end of the film Coach McGinty says, “Every athlete dreams of a second chance. These men lived it.” That seemed to be what I took the overall theme to be. Most of these characters had played some football somewhere, and for some of these characters playing football is like getting a second chance in life.

Resources

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1066627/index.htm. Accessed 11/17/11.

http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2057092_2057090_2057174,00.html. Accessed 11/16/11

http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2057092_2057090_2057206,00.html. 11/16/11

Deutch, Howard. The Replacements. Produced by Dylan Sellers and directed by Howard Deutch. 135 minutes. Warner Brothers, 2000. DVD

 

The Terminator: A Technologically Advanced story for its Time

It has been just over 27 years since James Cameron released his Sci-Fi action film, “The Terminator.” But it seems now that the film is more than just a thrilling action film. The technological science that was introduced in the film in 1984 appears to be more of a reality in today’s world.

Cameron’s use of visuals and action sequences to comprise a well-crafted and compelling technologically advanced story seemed far fetched, but audiences appeared to have accepted it. Audiences seemed to enjoy the older, but classic, great action film surrounding a great science fiction story. And with the advancement in technology and computers today, this film has an even more substantially compelling story of how technology is ultimately humankind’s downfall.

I’ll come back to that. First and foremost what made this film great was not only the story and the seemingly relevance it has today, but the visuals that were used to tell this story. It’s interesting to note that watching the film with the sound muted, I could still follow the story. I only applied this technique for the first half hour or so in one viewing one time, but that shows how effective the visuals were in the film. This film used action visuals to tell the story and there are many in the film such as police chases, chases on foot, flashbacks, or flash forwards, of a futuristic war, and a dance club shootout. The majority of the action takes place at night, which was an effective design decision because it adds to the danger and excitement of the story.

The opening sequence was a futuristic war with visual narration that explained what was about to happen. It set up the premise of the story. The next sequence, after the teaser and opening credits, showed a garbage man in a sanitation truck at night collecting a garbage container. Then, the power goes off as the wind begins to blow. There is lightening and a flash of light. This illustrates that something is about to happen. The next shot is of a large, muscular naked man, the Terminator. Choosing Arnold Schwarzenegger to play the Terminator added to the dark, dangerous feel to the character and film. Originally, this character was written as a normal, average guy that could fit into any crowd. And another interesting note, while watching some of the special features on the DVD, is that O.J. Simpson was originally slated to play the Terminator. Obviously it worked much better with Schwarzenegger in the role. The viewer can tell by looking at the Terminator that there is something not good about him. We notice this again when he comes upon a group of punks and punches a hole in one of the punks’ chest and one of them gives his clothes to the Terminator.

The same visual is used for Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) when he arrives. In a dark alley, near a homeless man, Reese arrives in the same fashion as the Terminator. Reese is shaking for a bit after he appears and he doesn’t kill anyone to get clothes. There’s the difference between the two men. Reese finally escapes from the police and gets to a phone booth. He looks up the name Sarah Connor, as does the Terminator the next morning so audiences know they are both looking for Sarah Connor.

When the audience first sees Connor (Linda Hammilton), she appears as a young, happy, care-fee woman. Over the course of the film, she develops into a stronger woman who is a little weary of the future. The character she continued in the second film.

The main action of the film takes place in present day Los Angeles in 1984. This allows the audience to become familiar with a time and place, and therefore can settle into the world of the film. There are glimpses of the futuristic war that add to the dark visual aesthetics of the film, which is visually contrasting to the modern, everyday world that the heroes and the audience know.

The film is basically comprised of three major chases with the remaining time used for character and backstory information with a few other smaller action sequences thrown in. The first major chase begins after the dance club shootout as Reese and Connor try to escape from the Terminator; another one is their escape from the hotel, and then this leads to the final chase and showdown as they enter the factory. The chases lead to a discovery of information about the story, as well as Cameron’s use of dialogue incorporated with the action sequences and visuals to gain information and not slow down the action of the film.

All of these visuals and action sequences drive the story. And that compelling story is focused on technology. Looking back at some of the technological achievements that have been made after first being introduced to them in movies, one can see that the technology of the Terminator films may not be too far off. We see this in a silent 1902 film by Georges Melies, “A Trip to the Moon,” where flying to the moon was thought of as a distant, crazy notion, but we all know became reality. Other films followed suit, introducing robots such as in “Forbidden Planet” and “I, Robot.” The Terminator introduced this idea of an all-powerful computer becoming intelligent and wiping out mankind. And it seems that technology is not far behind. For example, there exists a robot called the Rubot that is programmed to solve the Rubik’s Cube. When its done, it puts down the cube. Bruce Simmons says in his article, The Technology Of Science Fiction Is Here Now, “It’s pretty simple but is that the start of self awareness, when he knows he’s done? … just a subroutine designed to recognize that all sides of the cube are now the same color.” But whose to say it won’t become self-aware? Then there’s the Defense Advanced Research Agency (DARPA) that held a contest between a human and robot-operated vehicle to see which can get through a simulated course, much like I saw on an episode of CBS’ hit show NCIS a few years ago.

In the mid-80’s, Honda had created a robot called ASIMO (Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility). From simply teaching the unit to walk simple steps to actually walking up stairs or sloped surfaces, to today being programmed to “work with other ASIMO units” and to “serve people autonomously,” according to Simmons in his article, technology has made great leaps forward. So, now the science of The Terminator may not be too far fetched.

If you haven’t seen “The Terminator,” or haven’t seen it in while, it is worthwhile to check out. It’s a great action film with a gripping science fiction story that echoes the advances of technology today.

RESOURCES:

Lucey, Paul. Story Sense: Writing Story and Script for Feature Films and Television.  McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., 1996.

http://screenrant.com/tech-terminator-iron-man-is-here-brusimm-7985/all/1/. Accessed on Nov. 11, 2011.

Cameron, James. The Terminator. Produced by Gale Anne Hurd and directed by James Cameron. 107 minutes. Orion Pictures, 1984. DVD.

Excitement is Exciting….When you get the call….

So the topic today is “excitement.” Well, this is my first post to this daily prompt feed. And this is only my second post after a long hiatus. I posted a short blog last night about the possibility of a new Terminator film. I can say that I’m not really excited about that since I didn’t particularly care for the last two film in the series.

But I digress. Excitement. What is it? If you look in a dictionary, it could say something like this: “a feeling of great enthusiasm and eagerness.” I agree. It’s a strong feeling towards something that makes one feel…well…excited. One thing happened to me a couple of months ago. This was the initial feeling.

It was July 18, 2013…a Thursday….afternoon. I received a phone call and was offered a job as an adjunct instructor for one of the extended campuses of the community college close to my area. I spoke with the woman on the phone for a good fifteen or twenty minutes and talked about my background….personal, education, and teaching experience. After I spoke with her, I felt an uplifting enthusiasm I have not felt in quite some time. I could preface this by saying that I have been basically unemployed for a while and this was very good news. So yes, I was excited! This was also good news because I decided to go into the world of education after thinking about it off and on for the past several years.

I began an online teaching program through the university I previously graduated from several years ago with my bachelors and masters degrees. I was going for secondary speech and theatre education, since those areas comprised my educational background. I was doing well up until this past summer. Shortly after I began the program last fall, I quit my place of employment to pursue the program full time. Well, I also quit for other reasons but that could be another post for another time. Anyway, over the summer I realized I needed to return to work full time after poor results of my interviews for teaching positions this school year. I went on several but was unable to secure a position anywhere. I think it was mostly because of my lack of teaching experience, and the only experience I had was the occasional substituting I did for the public schools here in my hometown. And, as the fall was coming closer I didn’t think I was going to be able to complete the program because of having to return to work, and at the time I didn’t know what I was going to be doing. So I had to drop my classes I had for the summer and fall and withdraw from the program.

And now, here I am. I received that call about two months ago and I am teaching now…at the college level. It’s a whole new experience and I’m still getting used to it. I only have ten students in my class…so that’s a plus. Not too big, not too small. We’re getting ready to start the fourth week of the semester this week and it is a work in progress for me getting used to it and figuring out my lesson plans. Some of the excitement has disappeared, but I am still happy that I’m here. The pay may not be much, but it’s something, and it is a step in the door that could lead to other possibilities.

I am very thankful for that day in July and that one phone call.

Terminator 5?

Terminator 5?

It seems that someone is interested in directing a new Terminator film.

According to this article, it is unclear if this is another sequel or a reboot. If it’s a reboot, it might be hard to top Cameron’s original two films. However, I heard that Arnold might be on board to have a role in the film. I guess if it’s written well and this director does a decent job, it might be a decent reboot of the franchise. This director has come from directing “Game of Thrones” to directing the anticipated Marvel film sequel of “Thor.” We’ll see how he does. I haven’t seen the “Game of Thrones” but I am in anticipation of “Thor 2.”

I don’t think this franchise needs another sequel though. I thought the last two attempts were unnecessary and didn’t really move the story forward or add anything new to the story. Those are my opinions anyway. Perhaps there are others who have different thoughts and maybe are eager to see another Terminator film.

I will say this, there are successful reboots. And others, not so much. Some recent successful franchise reboots have been the Batman franchise with director Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale donning the cape and cowl, The Amazing Spider-Man with Andrew Garfield slinging Spider-Man’s web. So, as I mentioned before, if it is written and directed well then it could be an interesting film….of course, the actors and acting have to make it believable and interesting.