Just in time for the opening ceremonies in Beijing, we put some movies about the Olympics through their paces. Cue the anthem!
Yikes. Leni Riefenstahl was Hitler's notorious propagandist, but her documentary of the 1936 Berlin Olympics influenced both the Olympics and the nature of film. The Olympic Torch Run was invented for the documentary, and her extreme close-ups, choice of camera angles, and editing techniques changes how movies were made. DISQUALIFIED ON ACCOUNT OF EVIL.
Tokyo Olympiad (1965)
This documentary of the 1964 games was artistic as opposed to journalistic, focusing on losers as well as winners, which the Japanese government wasn't too happy about. One of those movies that looks like a cliché now (slow-mo sprints, freeze frame finishes) because so many people have copied it since. GOLD.
Chariots of Fire (1981)
Based on the true story of two runners in the 1924 Paris Olympics, this one actually won the Oscar for Best Picture. That soundtrack, though ... yecch, some things should stay in the eighties. GOLD.
American Anthem (1986)
Aww, yeah. On the heels of the big U.S. gymnastics win at the '84 Los Angeles Olympics, gymnast Mitch Gaylord was poised for superstardom. Or, at least one movie. The story of a gymnast who's given it all up to work in his dad's bike shop -- until he meets the new girl at the gym (Janet Jones, aka Mrs. Wayne Gretzky). As they train for the Olympic tryouts, they fall in love. Sweaty, sweaty love. CHEESE.
Cool Runnings (1993)
A wacky comedy about the Jamaican bobsled team, featuring character names like "Sanka Coffie" and "Yul Brynner." Oh my sides. Still, John Candy's always funny. A Disneyfied Rocky, sort of Mighty Ducks Goes to Jamaica. BRONZE.
A patriotic man-weepy about the 1980 men's hockey tournament in Lake Placid, when a U.S. team of amateurs and college players beat the heavily favored Soviets during the heart of the Cold War. Kurt Russell is great as head coach Herb Brooks (and his hair is perfectly cast), and using real hockey players instead of actors makes for good action. But what's with the cheesy American Graffiti voice-over at the end? SILVER.
At the Munich games in 1972, the Black September terrorist group left 11 Israeli athletes dead. Spielberg's version follows a team of Israeli assassins who tracked down the terrorists. It blends action sequences with the assassins' crises of conscience, but gets kind of bogged down, and I don't care how many people tell me differently, Eric Bana is just not good. SILVER.