Undefeated – best sports film of the year

The nation, indeed the world, is enthralled by Jeremy Lin, the undrafted humble Harvard underdog who has stunned the NBA and the New York Knicks with his performances on the basketball court these last couple of weeks.

But hidden in the deep South, somewhere around the decrepit environs of North Memphis, Tenn., a high school football team struggles to succeed just as it did in 2010 when The Tigers, the school’s football team, for the first time in the school’s 110 year history, made it to the playoffs.

“Undefeated” is an Oscar-nominated feature-length documentary about that team that enthralls from the first two minutes. I admit, I was not enthusiastic about reviewing another sports film, let alone football.

Now I can say that I understand why people see football as a religion — in a good way. Why? Because over the six years that the chubby white volunteer coach Bill Courtney guided this team, they prayed, fought, asked forgiveness, and lived genuine “agape” as a community.

Continue reading here …

The Mighty Macs

The St. Anthony Messenger November 2011 issue has a feature about the story that inspired the film. Check it out! 

Here’s my review:

THE MIGHTY MACS (not yet rated): It is the early 1970s, at the dawn of the women’s movement and just before Title IX programs for athletics were extended to women. The president and mother superior (Ellen BurstynW.) of the small Catholic all-girls Immaculata College, northwest of Philadelphia, hires a new basketball coach, Cathy Rush (Carla GuginoRace to Witch Mountain).

Rush, who is non-Catholic and newly married to Ed (David Boreanaz, Bones), discovers that the team has no uniforms or a gym to practice in and that the school itself may soon be sold. But she takes on these challenges with sheer determination. Ed thinks that she is just trying to find a way to spend her time, but becomes confused by her dedication and their marriage suffers.

Sister Sunday (Marley SheltonW.) is questioning her vocation and wants to request a leave of absence from the community. But Rush notices her interest in basketball and invites her to be the assistant coach. They become friends, and the young nun grows in her understanding of her own calling.

With the energy and talent of the team, coaches and nuns, the Mighty Macs power their way to the first AIAW (Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women) national championship in 1972. They would subsequently win in 1973 and 1974, as well.

The Mighty Macs is based on a true story, and the Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters were consulted on the film. The story was developed for the screen by first-time writer/director Tim Chambers and producer Pat Croce.

Themes of hard work, faith, character and heart permeate the film. Coach Cathy tells the girls before a game: “’Do you know that in a race all the runners compete? But only one receives the prize. So run, that you may obtain it’—Corinthians. You’ve earned the right to run the race tonight and it’s O.K. to want the prize. Do you know why teams get to championships?”

A player answers, “Trust.”

Rush continues, “That’s why they get to the championships. But do you know why they win championships? I want all of you to point to yourselves. That’s right. Look where you are all pointing [to their hearts]. This is why championships are won. One team, one beat, one heart.”

Though the film gives off a low-budget vibe, the feel is authentic and consistent with the story. The acting is frank, open and moving. Cathy Rush, a breast-cancer survivor, was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008 with Pat Riley and Dick Vitale, and the little college is now Immaculata University.Mature themes.

From St. Anthony Messenger May, 2010

Senna: documentary about a champion with faith

 

 

Sports films are the timeless cinematic metaphor for life. I think it is a fair question to ask which of them made you cry the most? Was it “Rudy”? “Field of Dreams”? “Brian’s Song”? For me it’s David Anspaugh’s 1986 “Hoosiers.”

Some new releases, whether based on fact or fiction, fuse sports and faith quite well and are entertaining and inspiring without falling into the “message” trap. They also avoid sentimentality, though are wrought with emotion and tension. “Senna” is one of those.

“Senna” is a brilliant documentary about Brazilian Ayrton Senna da Silva, a three-time Formula One racing champion, whom many consider him the best of all time. Formula One refers to a set of rules to which all drivers must adhere. Formula One racing takes place on racecourses and through city streets. It began in Europe in the 1920s; the current rules were established after World War II….

Continue reading on National Catholic Reporter Online

 

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