Friday, April 1, 2016

When A Man Defies The Odds

Tonight's marathon is about a man going against the odds that are given to him, as well as the system that's built on making sure he doesn't succeed, and against all odds inevitably comes out as being the winner. This win is not just for sports such as racing or baseball, and it's not just for a man becoming a professional Navy Diver and Master Chief, it's about fighting for what's right. What's right is to be treated as fairly as everyone else regardless of a persons skin color, and to break a color barrier which for the times these movies took place are pretty amazing, although it comes with a great deal of mistreatment and disrespect towards these people. Our three heroes for this evening are Olympics runner Jesse Owens who ran in the 1936 Olympics beating the Aryan athletes in Berlin much to the anger and frustration of then German Chancellor Adolf Hitler, Jackie Robinson who became the first African American player on the Brooklyn Dodgers with the help of his manager Branch Rickley played by Harrison Ford, and Carl Brashear, the first African American U.S Navy Diver who eventually becomes Master Chief with the help of his own chief played by Robert Deniro. For tonight's powerful and deeply inspirational marathon, we have the following films on the menu:                                         
                                             Race 2016, 42 2013, and Men Of Honor 2000
      One word that best sums up this trio of movies is that it's beautiful. All three of these movies are perfect pairings back to back and work off each other to deliver a powerful message about when a man puts his mind towards doing something, then there's no stopping him. These men made their decisions with the understanding that no matter how good they prove themselves to be and try to meet their goals, they will face resistance at every turn  by those who don't want to see them make it because of the skin color. What helps these men get through their journeys to become the men they set out to be is the assistance of their managers or sargeants, who from the minute they lay eyes on these young men, they instantly saw talent, skill, and great character. The greatest achievements of these men is not that they ended up accomplishing the dreams they were told they couldn't have because of who they are, but that they were the first in each scenario, and would signify the beginning of a trend where others followed in their stead with a sense of hope that they too can make it.
      The first movie of the evening is the 2016 drama titled Race starring Stephen James, Stephen Sudeikis, Clarice Van Houten, and Jeremy Irons. The story centers around African American athlete Jesse Owens with his quest to become the greatest track and field athlete in history. His quest brings him to the world stage of the 1936 Olympics, where he finds himself facing off against Adolf Hitler's vision of Aryan supremacy. Race is a strong and powerful drama that works because of the power of it's source material and the strength of it's supporting cast such as the likes of Stephan James as Jesse Owens, Jason Sudeikis as Owens manager, Jeremy Irons as Owens ally Avery Brundage, and Carice Van Houten as Leni Riefenstahl, the infamous female filmmaker at the time who made the 1936 film Olympia. These key players all work beautifully off each other in showing the struggle Owens character had to endure during his time in Berlin as well as the politics behind the Olympics involving the Nazi regime. While it can be argued that the movie can never fully capture the glory and thrills of the real life event, this film does a beautiful job of showing the historic event while informing the audience about the history of the event. This was a significant race because Hitler's hope of the Aryans being looked upon as the definitive and ideal athletes was thwarted by Owens success. In terms of rich detail, the film flourishes with beautiful cinematography, art-set decoration as well as Costume Design. In regards to it's storyline, it's central focus is the race itself more so than the rest of Owens life which may come across as disappointing for some. Regardless of the movies flaws, one thing remains forever certain, this is an emotionally powerful and very inspiring true story about a man fighting not one war but two. He's fighting the war in which he must tango with a regime that refuses to acknowledge his talent simply because he's African American, while also representing his country that also views him as a social outcast or inferior during that time period.  Jesse Owens was essentially a man, who society was going to be hard on regardless of which choice he made, but he made his decision and prevailed against all odds with humility, incredible strength, and determination. Race is a great story told in a powerful film which deserves more attention and praise than what its received. Anyone who appreciates African American History, the Holocaust, or history in general will take a great liking to this movie as it's beautifully told and richly empowering with it's final message which says that racism is a horrible thing and that good will always triumph over evil. Race and 42 share the same parallel of two up and coming African American athletes, one a runner, and the other a Baseball player being handpicked by their managers that happen to be compassionate and successful businessmen with big visionary dreams.                                                     8.5/10 
      The second movie of the marathon is the critically acclaimed Baseball drama titled 42 starring Chadwick Boseman, and Harrison Ford. The film tells the story of Jackie Robinson beginning with his signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers organization in 1945 up until his historic 1947 rookie season when he broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball. What makes 42 such a worthy follow up to Race ,is that it's story is told respectfully making the story earnest, inspirational, and well told about one of sports greatest American icons who endured just as much hardship and discrimination as Jesse Owens did. Harrison Ford does a terrific job as Jackie's boss Branch Rickley, who goes against the status quo that says colored people at the time cannot be brought into sports, but sees great potential in  Jackie Robinson. He informs Jackie early on that many people will be pissed about him playing Baseball with the other players, instructing him that he mustn't fight back. no matter what people say to him on and outside the field. 42 has some truly powerful moments such as Jackie breaking down emotionally after one of his opponents screams endless racial epitaphs at him, making his boss comfort him and telling him that he cannot quit because of how people depend on him. Another great scene is Jackie asking Ford's character on why he wants to help him and Ford admitting guilt for not helping someone before in the past. Much like Race, this film is about the story of a man who ignored all the horrible things said around him and never stopped fighting for his dreams while making life better for those who came after him. While the movie may come off as being too much on the safe side for some and old fashioned as a sports movie, it has a great message behind it that resonates from one generation to the next about the desire to succeed and the daily struggle to be treated fairly in a time period that didn't see the wrong in it's actions. One of the best sports movies ever as well as a solid human drama.                                                                                                                                     8.5/10
      The third and final movie of the marathon is the 2000 drama titled Men Of Honor starring Cuba Gooding Jr, Robert Deniro, and Charlize Theron. The story centers around the story of Carl Brashear, the first African American as well as first amputee US Navy Diver, and his struggle to get to that status with the help of his alcoholic and troubled Master Chief played by Deniro. Men Of Honor is virtually the same story as Race and 42, although this film ditches the sports aspect of the marathon and centers around a man's struggle to make it within the US Navy. Much like Jesse Owens and Jackie Robinson, Carl Brashear is a determined and strong-willed man who will not let anyone stand in his way of getting what he wants, especially after being told that he couldn't have his dream. While Men Of Honor is essentially a by the numbers inspirational movie that follows the same story layout of the previous two films, the film is made special by the performances of Deniro and Gooding Jr playing two characters that don't start out as friends in the beginning like the relationships Jackie and Jesse had with their managers, but both men grow to respect each other by the end of the film. What makes this movie awesome is that it doesn't have any special effects or flashy editing, but that it relies purely on storytelling and doing it very well. Men Of Honor, 42, and Race are the kind of films that you watch when you're down on your luck and remember that no matter how hard times get, there's people who had it much worse and came out stronger than ever.                           8.5/10
So what are these movies trying to say when you put all the films together as a whole? The marathon says that one should never give up on their dreams and regardless of what people say about you or your skin tone, you should never stop fighting for what you want. Telling someone that they can't have something is going to make them work ten times harder for it with the will and determination to succeed. Acceptance can mean a lot to a person and give them extra fuel in their quest to earn it. The message behind Race, is that racism is a horrible thing and a person should be given the same chances as everyone else. One of the films key moments is when he receives assistance from one of the Aryan athletes on where he should make his leap during the race, followed by a scene of the two men on opposite sides having drinks together and talking about the differences between each others society and the Aryan athletes frustration with his government. This scene is poignant because it taps into the real issue the race is surrounded by, and shows two men on opposite sides putting aside their differences and playing against each other not just in the spirit of sports but also as friends. The message behind 42,is that talent and self-control can work better than fistfights to end discrimination. Jackie Robinson not fighting back when he is called racial slurs repeatedly on and off the field can show others the evil in what's being done and take sympathy on him as all he's trying to do is play ball like everyone else. Good men like Harrison Ford's character in the movie will always be there to help men like Jackie because they believe in them and know what's right. Men Of Honor's message is simply to never stop fighting for what you want, and to always give your all for something others tell you that you can't have because you can.
Our characters for this evening:


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