Thursday, June 23, 2016

Thursday Movie Picks: School Competition


I love sports. Somewhere in the annals of history exists pictures of me at three or four years old, sleeping while wearing a football helmet of my own volition. Most of my earliest heroes were sports stars. Seeking to understand baseball statistics drove me to learn math. Armed with that knowledge, it's easy to see why I was excited when I saw the topic for this week's Thursday Movie Picks. It's "School Competition." However, my balloon was quickly deflated as I read into the parentheses that accompanied that theme. It explicitly said "Not sports." It goes on to say "could be singing, music, science." I'm going to add et cetera because I'm assuming that's what our host meant. Oh yeah, our host is Wanderer at Wandering Through the Shelves and Thursday Movie Picks is her brilliant baby. Check out her site and join in on the fun, if you don't already take part. Let's get to it.


Revenge of the Nerds
(1984)
The short version of the plot is a bunch of nerds fail to get into any of the popular fraternities on their college campus and decide to form their own frat. Sorta. Despite being almost all white, the boys decide to apply to become a chapter of the all black Lamda Lamda Lamda fraternity. This grants them at least sixty days as a probationary chapter. With that, they enter into the school's "Greek Games" and try to take down the hated jocks of Alpha Beta. These games include such events as tricycle riding (while chugging beer, naturally), pie selling, and belching. The grand finale is a musical competition that is the film's most iconic moment.


The Great Debaters
(2007)
We switch from a completely fictional sex farce to a true story. The Great Debaters gives us the rundown on a debate team from historically black Wiley College located well within the unfriendly confines of the Jim Crow south back in the 1930s. The team would eventually participate in the first interracial debate competition in the United States. As is par for the course for such a story, we get to see many of the hardships the team faced getting to that point. Despite it being on the cliche side, it's still a very good watch. It helps to have Hollywood's number one weapon against racism as the professor who leads the squad, Denzel Washington. By the way, this leads to a very minor piece of trivia. I've already said Denzel Washington is in the film. Forest Whitaker is also in the film. The interesting part of this is that the kid playing Whitaker's son, a team member, is named Denzel Whitaker. No, he's not related to either guy, but is named after Mr. Washington.


Louder Than a Bomb
(2010)
This time, the switch is from college to high school. And this is a documentary. About poetry. Don't you run away, dammit! This is about an annual city-wide poetry slam that takes place in Chicago, Illinois. For the unhip among us, a poetry slam is a poetry competition where performance is as important as the content of the poem's themselves. In this case, there are both individual and team categories. We spend time with the defending champs, the team from Steinmetz Academic Academy, but see that they are still underdogs. We also spend time with several solo poets from other schools. It is both heart-wrenching and exhilarating. Oh yeah, it's underseen, too. Way underseen. (Click here for my full review)



24 comments:

  1. Revenge of the Nerds.... how can anyone go wrong with that film? Especially in what the nerds did to beat the jocks. Especially with how they sold the pies..... "that's my pie!" I haven't seen the other 2 films though as I just have a lot of love for Revenge of the Nerds.

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    1. I went to see it when it came out in theaters. I was probably too young at 13, but there were a bunch of kids in there and we all had a blast. I watched it another 10 or 12 times throughout my teenage years. Looking back, the morals are a bit skewed, but back then it was lots of fun.

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  2. I LOVE Revenge of the Nerds!! It's goofy and often stupid but so sincerely played and just flat out fun that's it's irresistible. The sequels not so much but the first is a joy.

    Great Debaters sounded interesting when it was out but what probably drew most people slackened my interest in it, Denzel Washington. I don't flat out dislike him but he often irks me so I rarely go out of my way to catch his films. Now if it had starred Don Cheadle it would have been a different story. Reading about it again has restored my interest so I'll have to check it out.

    Though I'm not much of a poetry fan that documentary sounds worth seeking out as well.

    Speaking of which my first choice is a doc too! I had a bit of a struggle this week because I would think of a film and realize it was a sport competition and have to go on the hunt again but I did finally come up with these.

    Chops (2007)-This documentary follows different groups of students as they prepare and then compete in the annual Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band competition. Terrific look at the commitment of both the students and teachers who care passionately about music and what it takes to compete.

    Fame (1980)-Covering four years at New York’s High School for Performing Arts where students are constantly competing for advancement and acknowledgment all leading up to the big finale and graduation. This led to a successful spin-off TV series.

    Strike Up the Band (1940)-It’s Judy Garland & Mickey Rooney as high schoolers and aspiring musicians who want their band to compete in the upcoming Paul Whiteman competition for high school bands. Problem is the fare to the contest in Chicago is $200. What to do? Why put on a show of course!! Mickey’s a bit much as he usually was but Judy is lovely and sings like a dream naturally. The tagline will give you some idea of what to expect "Their Sunniest, Funniest, Down-to-Mirthiest Hit! It Beats the Band!”

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    1. Ugh. The RotN are dreadful. Not a fan of Denzel, eh? I am, but I'll concede he's in that Pacino/Nicholson category of guys who often just play the same character, just with different names.

      Never heard of Chops, but it sounds very interesting.

      I love Fame, probably more than I should. The film and the TV show were nice chunks of my childhood.

      Strike Up the Band has been on my radar, but never struck me as something I just had to see. That tagline isn't helping. Just sounds like Rooney going bonkers. I have to be in a special mood for that.

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    2. I understand about Rooney. I love Judy and I mean L-O-V-E her but though they came during some of her peak performance years I revisit her films with Mickey the least because he can just be TOO much despite the irrefutable fact that he was very talented. Still the film is packed with good music and a couple of chances to see Paul Whiteman and his band perform so it's a case of checks and balances.

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    3. Too much is right. He's very talented, but not my cup of tea.

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  3. Haha :D I always love how different your choices are. Revenge of the Nerds is the only movie Ive seen here and needless to say I love it.

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  4. I haven't seen any of these. Louder than a Bomb and The Great Debaters sound good.

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  5. These are great picks! Very unique and I am really interested in the Great Debaters. That is pretty cool about the kid's name.

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    1. Thanks. I really enjoyed The Great Debaters. I highly recommend it.

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  6. Great picks Wendell. I'd still like to see your own sports list.

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    1. Thanks! Just off the top of my head there's Rudy, Remember the Titans, Teen Wolf, The Program, Varsity Blues, Blue Chips, Glory Road. I'll have to do some more thinking to come up with something special, though.

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  7. Having ended up at a poetry slam before, Louder than a bomb sounds interesting. I haven seen the other either but I have been put off from Revenge of the Nerds.

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    1. Definitely check out LTaB. It's a fascinating doc. Nerds is one of those rated R movies that you need to see before you're technically old enough to watch in order to love. If that makes sense.

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  8. Revenge of the Nerds is a great choice. Louder than a Bomb sounds interesting. I'll have to add that to my list.

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  9. Revenge of the Nerds is the only one I've seen but the other two sound interesting, especially Louder than a Bomb.

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    1. LTaB is really interesting. Well worth your while.

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  10. Great picks! Louder than a Bomb sounds amazing. I remember The Great Debaters, but I never checked it out. Need to. Revenge of the Nerds is a brilliant classic comedy. Love it.

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    1. It really is amazing. Hope you check it out. Hope you get to see The Great Debaters.

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  11. Revenge of the Nerds is the only one I've seen and that was too long ago. I don't even remember the whole thing about joining a fraternity.

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    1. Lol. It's been a while for me, too, but not quite that long.

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