USA! USA! Starting August 5th, the 2016 Summer Olympic Games commence in Rio. Sadly, this year’s athletic spectacles are likely to be overshadowed by the Zika virus that is ravaging Brazilian society at the moment and indeed many competitors might not participate this year for fear of infection. In fact 150 doctors signed a letter to the World Health Organization asking that the games be canceled or at least postponed this year for exactly that reason. Other issues dogging the games include pollution, problems constructing the necessary infrastructure, the notoriously high crime rate in Rio, ongoing doping scandals, etc. Still, those supporting Team USA will still want to watch our amazing athletes compete. To get into the mood, why not watch a film about the Olympic games?
Tokyo Olympiad (1965) This documentary directed by Kon Ichikawa (47 Ronin) about the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo was considered a milestone in documentary making, being very much a cinematic and artistic recording of the events more concerned with the atmosphere of the games and the athletes themselves than simply recording the winners and losers. That turned out though, to be the exact opposite of what the Japanese government (who’d financed the film) wanted and they made Ichikawa significantly edit it to get the 93 minute version they wanted rather than his 170 minute version. The latter version though is considered to be one of the best films about the Olympics AND one of the best sports documentaries of all time.
Chariots of Fire (1981) Written by Colin Welland and directed by Hugh Hudson, Chariots tells the true story of two athletes in the 1924 Olympics, Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson) a devout Scotsman who runs for the glory of god, and Cambridge student Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross) who runs to overcome British anti-Semitism. Considered to be one of the greatest sports movies ever filmed it was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won four including Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Score.
Cool Runnings (1993) Directed by Jon Turtletaub (While You Were Sleeping, National Treasure) this tells the story of the debut of the Jamaican National Bobsled’s team at the 1988 Calgary Olympics – despite the fact that the team members had never even experienced winter before. Funny and surprisingly touching with the late, great John Candy in one of his final roles, it was an unexpected box office hit making over $150 million on a $14 million budget.
Miracle (2004) Directed by Gavin O’ Conner, it recounts the “Miracle on Ice” when the U.S. hockey team in a startling upset defeated the Soviet team and won the gold medal in the 1980 Olympics. Kurt Russell (Escape From New York, Tequila Sunrise) is the lead as coach Herb Brooks, Patricia Clarkson plays his wife, and Noah Emmerich (The Truman Show, Cellular,) as Brooks’ assistant general manager this one has an over 80% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Top Spin (2014) This feature length documentary was directed by Mina T. Son and Sara Newens follows three American table top tennis players: Ariel Hsing, Michael Landers, and Lily Zhang, on their journey to the 2012 Olympics. The film premiered at NYC DOC 2014 where it received and audience award and was nominated for Best Documentary at the 2015 CAAMFest. It currently has a 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Top photo: Bigstock