Any Given Sunday (1999)

2009-12-04 14:07
 
Any Given Sunday classic

Like most films that deal unflatteringly with major American sports, Any Given Sunday was as much berated as hailed by the American press. And who can blame them? Being told that the game you love more than life itself is mired in smoke, mirrors and bullshit is a tough pill to swallow.

It would be like expecting South Africans to be objective about a rugby polemic. I don’t mean like the upcoming Invictus – that’s a historical movie that involves a specific event that happens to be rugby.

I mean a film that dissects everything that is political about SA rugby; a film that looks at characters within rugby and its management and administration accusingly, and that makes laughable the notion that the game is as glorious and nation-building as we’d like to believe.

Any Given Sunday is really about defying a notion of purity that the "game" wants to uphold for its audience. Its basic statement is that more than half the game you think you know is played out of sight – in boardrooms, over contract tables, and in the dressing rooms.

Football – any sport, in effect – is held by the old guard to be about the romance and glory of teamwork and individual sacrifice to achieve the goal. This view is represented by Tony D’Amato (Al Pacino), the embattled coach of the Miami Sharks, a "once great" football team.

D’Amato believes in the team aesthetic; that the game is about the men on the field and nothing else. He believes that understanding your relationship to a team is understanding your life. He’s a fatalistic old codger, for sure, but he has the look of a man who has lost everything except that belief. That belief, he says, is enough to make living worthwhile. 

On the other side of the coin is big business. Owners, management and agents represent a massive commercial interest in shaping the game, and the many ways in which this influences a team, is at the heart of the film. Their interests are served by hot-shot rookie Willie Beamen (Foxx), who is catapulted into the limelight after a serious injury to veteran quarterback Jack "Cap" Rooney (Quaid).

Beamen’s defiant behaviour and cocky attitude seem to bring success on the field and for the franchise, but his individuality threatens to tear apart the fabric of the entire team. Add to that conflict numerous subplots that expand all the major characters realistically and sympathetically, and you’ve got a larger-than-life movie about a larger than life lifestyle.

This is a world where some players play for endorsement incentives and sacrifice their lives doing so; where doctors falsify medical reports and overdose players on request; where owners break laws and sell out their staff and players.

It’s quite a simple premise – the threat of the new versus the old. But director Oliver Stone injects the film’s 150 minutes with an overwhelmingly kinetic energy; fast cuts, blistering soundtrack, seemingly off-pace visuals… it’s like one giant primetime sports event promo.

And yet, if you can concentrate through the bright shots, glorious editing and murderous audio onslaught, you’ll pick up a superbly acted (especially by Foxx and Quaid) treatise on the façade of modern professional sports.

TRIVIA


* Dennis Quaid's character's house is really Miami Dolphin quarterback Dan Marino's house.
* When Willie Beamen enters Tony D'Amato's house, the movie that is on TV is Ben-Hur, starring Charlton Heston, who also appears in Any Given Sunday as the Commissioner.
* When Tony D'Amato is in the bar, the pictures on the wall are of people in the movie. On the bottom row are "Cap" Rooney (Dennis Quaid) and Jim Brown. Featured in the top row are Oliver Stone, Al Pacino, and Cameron Diaz.
* A Warner Bros. favourite, Clint Eastwood was sought after for Al Pacino's role early on. However, he also wanted to direct the picture, but the studio declined.
* NFL running back Darnell Autry auditioned for the film, but was told that he did not look enough like a football player.
* From an editing point of view, there are over 3 000 cuts in the film.


MEMORABLE QUOTES:


Tony D'Amato: You're a goddamn quarterback! You know what that means? It's the top spot, kid. It's the guy who takes the fall. It's the guy everybody's looking at first - the leader of a team - who will support you when they understand you. Who will break their ribs and their noses and their necks for you, because they believe. 'Cause you make them believe. That's a quarterback.

Willie 'Alien' Beamen:
I'm trying to win coach. I ain't trying to disrespect nobody, but winning is the only thing I respect.

Tony D'Amato: It's TV, it changed everything, changed the way we think forever. I mean the first time they stopped the game to cut away to some fucking commercial that was the end of it. Because it was our concentration that mattered, not theirs, not some fruitcake selling cereal.

Jack Rose: It's like my ex-wife. 21 different personalities and 7 of them hated me.

Tony D'Amato:
You find out life's this game of inches, so is football. Because in either game - life or football - the margin for error is so small. I mean, one half a step too late or too early and you don't quite make it. One half second too slow, too fast and you don't quite catch it. The inches we need are everywhere around us. They're in every break of the game, every minute, every second. On this team we fight for that inch. On this team we tear ourselves and everyone else around us to pieces for that inch. We claw with our fingernails for that inch. Because we know when you add up all those inches, that's gonna make the fucking difference between winning and losing! Between living and dying!
 
Al Pacino and Cameron Diaz do battle over the business of professional sport in Oliver Stone’s frenetic classic.

Selma 2009/12/06 11:14 AM
Same old same old Al Pacino. The business of sport is business.
H 2009/12/08 5:20 PM
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One of my all time favourites. Maybe I should watch it again tonight...
preshen govender 2009/12/09 8:45 AM
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i love the nude shot
Charles 2009/12/09 11:23 AM
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I guess it's horses for courses, but this is very near the top of the list of the worst movies I've ever seen. Each to his own.
dustin 2009/12/09 12:50 PM
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One of the best made, definatly worth watching again and again
Michael 2009/12/09 1:47 PM
'Thought it was absolute cr@p. Much preffered "the replacements"...
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