Welcome to the first installment of Sunday Night at the Movies. I will be highlighting many of my favorites in the weeks to come, but tonight we begin with six classics. Click title to see preview.
Astonishing alpine locations, action-packed photography, a young Robert Redford in one of his earliest starring roles and the gorgeous Camilla Sparv, are just a few of the visual splendors of this Downhill Racer. Redford plays a ruthlessly ambitious skier competing in Europe for Olympic gold and Gene Hackman is the coach who tries to temper his narcissistic drive for glory.
This skateboard documentary chronicles the glory days of the Z-Boys, a team of hard-core surfers from the Zephyr Surf Shop in Venice Beach, California who sought to translate surfing moves onto their skateboards. In the mid-1970’s, skateboarding was widely seen as a fad of the 1960’s, but the radical moves and gnarly streetwise style of the Z-Boys changed skateboarding as a sport and blazed the trail for the extreme sports movement. Directed by former Z-Boy Stacy Peralta and narrated by Sean Penn, this might be my number one sports documentary.
This 1977 docudrama about the world of bodybuilding focuses on the 1975 Mr. Universe and Mr. Olympia competitions. Shot during the 100 days leading up to the competitions, the film focuses on the rivalry between Arnold Schwarzenegger, the five-time Mr.Olympia going for his sixth consecutive title, and his primary competitor, Lou Ferrigno. Schwarzenegger’s larger than life physique and persona are impossible to deny and with the box office success of the film a star was born. Lou Ferrigno also went on to star as The Hulk in “The Hulk”
As with boxing there are so many fantastic surfing movies like Endless Summer, Five Summer Stories and Point Break, but none of those star the incomparable Jan-Michael Vincent, along with William Katt and Gary Busey. Funny and poignant, this coming-of-age drama captures the tumultuous 1960’s with the California surf as the backdrop.
It is very hard to choose one boxing movie with such other greats as Raging Bull, Rocky and The Fighter, but the combination of Muhammad Ali and William Klein makes this my first choice. In William Klein’s fascinating documentary, photographed with his inimitable point of view, Ali demonstrates why he is known as “The Greatest,” both in and out of the ring. Events such as his defeat of Sonny Liston, transformation from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali, and resistance to the Vietnam War draft were all captured during filming.
This film starring a young Mariel Hemingway centers on a group of women trying to qualify for the 1980 US Olympic Track and Field team. Their dreams are thwarted when the United States announces its boycott of the Games for political reasons. The movie was praised by critics for providing a realistic look at the world of women’s athletics and for exploring the complex relationships that can exist among teammates and their coach. It is probably most noted for its portrayal of the lesbian relationship between Hemingway’s character and her older teammate. For me, the 1970’s track and field apparel, Adidas’s finest era when shoes like the SL 72, Gazelle and Orion were born, makes this movie a style of sport classic.