30-for-30: Trojan War

30 for 30 Trojan War

Release: Tuesday, October 13, 2015

[Netflix]

Directed by: Aaron Rahsaan Thomas

Another story lamenting how the mighty have fallen. That’s how Trojan War will look to anyone not familiar with the University of Southern California, Pete Carroll, the Seattle Seahawks . . . or really American football in general.

Carroll and his Seahawks have long been associated with some of the sport’s most recognizable brands, yet all this attention hasn’t always benefitted them. To a certain extent, that fall-from-grace trajectory is the genesis for the drama herein, although its exposure of infamous personnel (as well as famous personalities) is where the film sets itself apart.

Aaron Rahsaan Thomas, who brings much experience writing and producing popular television series such as Southland, CSI: New York and Sleepy Hollow, turns the spotlight on the former head coach of the USC Trojans, rewinding the tape to reveal what events precipitated his jump back into the NFL after nearly a decade of coaching inspiring college athletes in a part of the country where stardom isn’t exactly hard to come by. (The campus is but a stone’s throw away from the entertainment capital of the world.)

The Carroll era kicked off in 2001 and ended in 2009. In that time, he resuscitated a program that found itself on life support having struggled through one of the worst four-year stretches in USC history, a period in which the Trojans were essentially cropped out of the national collegiate football picture, failing to crack the top 20 in the national rankings from 1996 until 2000. Trojan War rushes through backstory, hastily developing the environment into which the new head coach would be stepping before slowing down to catch its breath and focusing on what happened in the early 2000s.

The 2004 and 2005 seasons are of particular interest, for these were the years during which Carroll and quarterback Matt “Lion Heart” Leinart led USC to 34 consecutive victories, tying the fifth longest winning streak in Division I football history. Consequently they’re also the years upon which current and past USC players and alums reflect with deep-seated bitterness. In the interviews with former players like LenDale White and Leinart, even Carroll himself, you can sense the discomfort and tension. And for good reason.

In 2010 the NCAA wrapped up a protracted investigation into violations involving star running back Reggie Bush (who played for Carroll from 2003-2005), and went on to hand down particularly harsh penalties against the school: USC was required to vacate all of its wins from the 2004 and 2005 seasons, including Bowl games; they were banned from participating in postseason games for two years as of the 2010 season; Bush was stripped of his Heisman trophy and his name permanently scrubbed from the record books. The school also forfeited 30 scholarships over the next three years.

For all intents and purposes, those years of dominance ceased to exist — years during which their profile had risen so high it wasn’t unusual to brush shoulders with the likes of Snoop Dogg, Henry Winkler, Spike Lee, Flea (of course), Jake Gyllenhaal and Andre 3000, just to name a few celebrities, at any given game. Blame it on Carroll, said the NCAA; he was the one who had fostered an environment that was both unhealthy and unstable. The specific language cited a “lack of institutional control.”

Yet ultimately these dark days don’t represent the spirit of Trojan War. Thomas, perhaps conscious of the pain the school is still experiencing now five years after the findings, elects to spend more time backtracking down the path to greatness that the team once journeyed throughout those years, reminding skeptics just how effective Carroll’s coaching and his squad were as they met each team with ever mounting confidence and matching up against old rivalries such as UCLA and Notre Dame with a cockiness that felt earned rather than created out of spite.

He profiles a few of the star athletes — including Bush (who appears in archived footage but never in live interviews for the documentary as he’s presumably trying to put this chapter behind him) and LenDale White, who comprised the ‘thunder’ part of the USC “thunder-and-lightning” duo — while taking time to assess Carroll’s thoughts and feelings on this part of his coaching career. Actor Michael B. Jordan narrates. Yes, it is all a little generic and clichéd but it does serve at least one purpose. The NCAA can wipe clean from the slate any set of numbers and names they like but in the minds and hearts of those who paid attention to this club, this is the kind of legacy not even the slow, inevitable passing of time can render irrelevant.

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Pete Carroll and the USC Trojans leave the field after another display of dominance

Recommendation: Trojan War will speak louder to California football fans but it should provide a sufficiently intriguing story to those who have been fascinated by Pete Carroll’s energetic personality. It could also benefit from a longer running time but I doubt a three hour feature would capture everything about this dynamic period either. This is a pretty worthwhile option for passionate followers of the sport and it’s right there on Netflix.  

Rated: TV-PG

Running Time: 77 mins.

[No trailer available; sorry everyone.]

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.usa.newonnetflix.info; http://www.bleacherreport.com 

TBT: Happy Gilmore (1996)

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Well, clearly this month is going to go one of two ways for my loyal TBT readers — May is a month officially dedicated to the trashy, juvenile and downright offensive antics of one Adam Sandler. While I’m of the camp that actually doesn’t completely hate his guts yet, his insistence on recycling the same group of jerk-off friends and characters in films is a tactic that’s clearly established an alarming rate of diminishing returns. It’s not the slump itself that makes me lose respect for the guy so much as it’s his indifference to being in a slump. He’s acting as if he’s already entered his twilight years, which very well may be the case now, given future productions requesting his services don’t appear to be trying anything different. The funny Adam may as well be in retirement. Nonetheless, there was a time when I truly enjoyed what he brought to the big screen. Sure, he never was a contender for any award outside of a Golden Raspberry, and his routine has always revolved around foul language and debasing himself in a variety of ways, but these are things that I’ve never personally had a problem with laughing my fool head off at. The good old days have long since passed, but I still get a bit of nostalgia looking back on them. 

Today’s food for thought: Happy Gilmore

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Release: February 16, 1996

[DVD]

I’m sure to many Happy Gilmore will always be Adam Sandler. Wait, shit. Strike that, and reverse it.

It’s the role that competes with maybe only one other — his insanely childish Billy Madison from the year before — as being THE character I would frequently and mistakenly associate with Sandler’s real-life persona. (Maybe it really is similar.) There was something natural and believable about Sandler’s on-screen energy. This was also my first impression of the guy, so I had nothing to compare it to then. I was a sixth-grader in New York at the time when I first watched Sandler throw his temper tantrums out on the 18th green; when I witnessed golf clubs flying through the air with uncommon grace; when I first realized that, holy crap — some women really can rock short hair.

This was the story of everyone’s favorite hockey player-turned-golfer who switched sports out of necessity to keep his sweet old grandma in her home and out of the wretched old-people facility she was forced into by the government. An emotional person, Happy got tossed from his hockey team after getting into a fight with virtually everyone on it, and only became further enraged learning of his grandma’s situation. When his aptitude for golf was subsequently discovered by a former pro named Chubbs (Carl Weathers), who now spends his days maintaining a shoddy driving range, Happy’s quick to dismiss the idea and conveniently tried to prevent the rest of the film’s beyond-inevitable developments.

Speaking of inevitable: I think the time has come once again for the review format to change here. This showcase of Adam Sandler’s profound talents deserves a different treatment, seeing as it’s a true testament to classic cinema, and adds further proof that, indeed, “all of life’s riddles are answered in the movies.” (I hope to God that at least someone has picked up on the mounting sarcasm here. . .)

Instead what I’m going to do is list five life lessons you can learn through the film’s butchering of the sport of golf. Without further ado, let’s tee off, shall we:

  1. happy_gilmore_1996_baseball_maching

    Life requires thick skin, so learn how to thicken it. Try taking 100-mile-an-hour golf balls straight to the chest every day for ten minutes, and see how quickly you man up. If this doesn’t prove quick enough, maybe try taking them to the forehead.

  2. 4308_4

    Life’s going to force you to make some tough choices. For the love of God and all that is holy, please, make the responsible one(s).

  3. xcapture2ebh2.431

    The world isn’t an awfully logical place. It helps to be able to think rationally every now and again. When you feel like you aren’t, all you need to do is visit your happy place. Everyone has one.

  4. HappyGilmoreDL

    Life is going to kick, knock or trample you down. But no matter how you fall, it’s how you respond to that goddamn game-show host who’s all up in your grill that counts. So make it.

  5. draft_lens17663790module148391311photo_1298358222happy-gilmore-original.jp

    Above all, observe the Golden Rule. Yes, doing unto others as you would have others do unto you does apply to inanimate objects. Don’t be ignorant.

There we have it, a very hastily-compiled list of five profound take-aways from one of Sandler’s unquestionably stronger films. Happy Gilmore may not offer much in the way of genuine advice or even much of an inspiring story, but the film was a great deal of fun, and it excelled in generating fond memories. In particular, Ben Stiller’s cameo as the world’s worst orderly and the gigantic Richard Kiel (playing Gilmore’s construction boss, Mr. Larson) only seemed to get better with age. Adam may be broken now and in disrepair, but once upon a time he really worked well.

Now — on to the next phase! Tune in next week folks. Or don’t. Because it’s going to be Adam Sandler all month long. 😀

3-0Recommendation: Happy Gilmore stands out among Sandler’s filmography since it remained in an era that was more or less free from the symptoms that plague his films of today: it can’t exactly be called original, but it featured rip-roaring humor, a touching story (who doesn’t root for grannie, come on) and a hilarious foil in Christopher McDonald’s Shooter McGavin (what a great name, by the way) — three elements that eventually will come to be recycled to death in his later offerings. All that said, this film does nothing to sway the opinion of anyone on the other side of the fence. Of course, all of this is pretty obvious. . .do I need to actually recommend this one?

Rated: R (for really really really ridiculous)

Running Time: 92 mins.

Quoted: “You can trouble me for a warm glass of shut the hell up! Now you will go to sleep, or I will put you to sleep. Check the name tag; you’re in my world now grandma!”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: google images