Friday, October 08, 2004

Friday Night Lights

I saw Friday Night Lights and it isn't worth a full review. I'll just say this: Friday Night Lights isn't the best sports movie ever made (Bull Durham). It's not the best football movie ever made (Any Given Sunday). It's not even the best West-Texas, high-school football movie ever made (Varsity Blues). Instead, it's a mish-mash of every cliché imaginable, all filmed with an annoying, cinema vérité-style shaky camerawork. The result is something like The Program crossed with Kids.

Sadly, there's a good movie in there somewhere. If the script had been reworked three or four times, if the director had made better choices, if the editor had been more disciplined, Friday Night Lights could have been a fine film.

As it is, stay away.


Dean Barnett said...

Wait, you're saying it's "The Program" mixed with "Kids" and we shouldn't see it? Really now? And I'm the one losing his sanity?

If your description is accurate, I'll see it SEVERAL times!

Anonymous said...

You may be right about FNL, but if you think Any Given Sunday and Varsity Blues are good "football" movies rather than the over the top but relatively enjoyable trash that they are (no one, not no one, loses an eye in one! and in Varsity Blues, every football play featured someone being flipped head over heels...), then its obvious that you've never been on the business end of a gridiron.

These two movies are the football equivalents of Slapshot, rather than Miracle--in Varsity Blues, the kids coaching themselves is the equivalent of that dude stripping on ice during the hockey game.

The closest a movie has come to being a "real" football movie is All the Right Moves, which struck a false note only with the Head Coach walking around with a golf club (No Western Pennsylvania Coach would ever be caught dead doing that), the 1,000 high fives spaced throughout the movie, and the lack of one defensive adult offended by the kids' (and the coach's) such palpable need to get the hell out of town.

Football has taken over from baseball the mantle of the sport that is used as a "metaphor of life" (I believe there was an SI article on this a few years ago) and because of this it deserves a serious treatment. I believe that the "West Texas" or Texas in general model will never get to the essence of football; Texas is all about speeding things up, making them larger than life; football is a slow game in many ways, and needs a director who is not afraid to pause and think things over -- David Gordon Green, for instance. The best football movie ever, I predict, will take place in the Rust Belt, or the Appalachian hills of the South, where the talent base is small, the distances are intimate rather than vast, and the towns are small enough that everybody--players, coaches, parents--knows the NFL or even Division I college aren't an option, never were, but they still sell their bodies and souls out anyway.

I leave you with a great poem by James Wright: Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio

In the Shreve High football stadium,
I think of Polacks nursing long beers in Tiltonsville,
And gray faces of Negroes in the blast furnace at Benwood,
And the ruptured night watchman of Wheeling Steel,
Dreaming of heroes.

All the proud fathers are ashamed to go home.
Their women cluck like starved pullets,
Dying for love.

Their sons grow suicidally beautiful
At the beginning of October,
And gallop terribly against each other's bodies.

A. Pease