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Thursday, September 04, 2014

Conventions of Sports Movies

I watched Ron Howard's racing film Rush last night, and while it was a passable, even enjoyable, movie, it got me thinking about how formulaic sports biopics have become.

Example:  Show me a sports movie that does not, at any time, cut up to the announcing booth for expository purposes.

And hey, I get it.  In our media-saturated world, sports memories are more likely to be memories of sports broadcasts, and if you want people to think you "nailed it," evoke that memory. 

But it's a bit lazy on the part of the filmmakers, if you ask me.

In a sports movie, if the stakes are unclear or the action confusing, just cue the announcers.  They'll explain it.  "Hunt needs to place third or better to be World Champion.  It's the race of his life."

Imagine your average car chase or shoot-out relying on such a convenient gimmick.  "Oh, the SWAT team just arrived.  The bank robbers are really going to need to step on it if they want to get away."

In a sports movie, it becomes a kind of crutch, an excuse not to tell the story visually or dramatically.  It always seems to end with people watching TV screens.  Cut to the ex-wife, watching the race on TV.  Cut to the old racing partner, watching TV.  Cut to the crew, watching the TV in the pit.

New rule for sports screenwriting:  No announcers.  No people watching TV.

You have already chosen a dynamic, interesting subject to stage and photograph.  Let it, finally, speak for itself.

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