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  • Secretariat movie finishes out of the money

       October 10, 2010

    I saw the Secretariat movie this weekend and it reminded me of why I hate going to movies. I hate wasting $10 of my money and 2 hours of my time on a piece of crap.

    I should have loved this movie. I love horse racing. I admire Secretariat and his owner Penny Chenery. I was even willing to accept the inevitable historical inaccuracies (Riva Ridge anyone?). What I wasn't willing to accept is a film that fails to give Secretariat's accomplishments any historical perspective and takes perhaps one of sport's greatest moments in the Belmont Stakes and utterly strips it of its importance, drama and excitement. It's actually quite an achievement. Is there an Oscar for Best Performance in Ruining a True Story, because this film would win it in a walkover.

    This is a movie that should have basically made itself. William Nack's source material is excellent and the climax of Secretariat's story, the Belmont, is unbeatable. They needed to trust that people can care about a horse (as evidence, please see Zenyatta) and take the time to make the understand why his Belmont victory was so spectacular. This is how I would have scripted the movie:

    • Film starts with a voiceover by Diane Lane as Penny. She talks about how there hasn't been a Triple Crown winner since 1949. We see stills of news clippings chronicling the failures of such greats as Tim Tam, Carry Back, Northern Dancer & Majestic Prince.
    • She mentions the 1957 Belmont Stakes and we see the great Bold Ruler crawling to a stop in the stretch after a half in 46 4/5. We learn that Bold Ruler has since become the greatest stallion in the world and that Penny's family farm, Meadow Stud, believes they can breed a great horse by combining the speed of Bold Ruler with the stamina of their mares.
    • Cut to the first "now" shot of the film which is of a magnificent young Secretariat romping in a field.
    • We see more of Secretariat's two-year old campaign and see how he's become a superstar while at the same time the man who bred him, Penny's father, is getting sicker and slipping more into Alzheimers or whatever.
    • When Penny's father dies and they have to syndicate Secretariat, the story isn't about her salesmanship, it's about her having to share this horse with others and about the subsequent pressure for the Triple Crown
    • We see his three-year old season unfold and get a real sense of what a HUGE deal this was nationally as he goes for the Triple Crown. I mean, in real life, he was on the cover of all of the national magazines leading up to the Belmont.
    • Because the movie explained it earlier, we understand how amazing it is that Secretariat can run a half in 46 4/5 and three quarters in 1:09 and change and not just hold on, but destroy the field. We understand that we're not just witnessing the Triple Crown, but we're actually witnessing the single greatest performance in the history of the sport.
    • The movie ends with stills explaining what happened to the major players. When it gets to Secretariat it mentions his foals and then says that "perhaps fittingly, Secretariat is most remembered now for the accomplishments of his daughters, who produced some of the world's most important and successful stallions."

    Isn't that so much better? You can still keep your precious people front and center, but at least you've given the audience a chance to truly appreciate the horse.

    Posted by kris at October 10, 2010 09:38 PM

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    #  October 10th, 2010 9:41 PM      kris
    speaking of impressive horses - here's Uncle Mo's latest race. He tied Seattle Slew's Champagne Stakes time here.

    #  October 11th, 2010 7:19 AM      james
    I don't see what the big deal is about Secretariat. It's a horse that can type. So what?  
    #  October 11th, 2010 8:13 AM      kris
    #  October 11th, 2010 3:07 PM      kris
    new trailer:




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