SEABISCUIT Add To My Top 10

Content -2
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Language        
Violence        
Sex        
Nudity        

Release Date: July 25, 2003

Starring: Tobey Maguire, Jeff Bridges, Chris Cooper, Elizabeth Banks, Gary Stevens, and William H. Macy

Genre: Drama

Audience: Adults REVIEWER: Lindsay
Stallones with Dr. Tom
Snyder SEABISCUIT is either
the best episode of PBS’ AN
AMERICAN EXPERIENCE ever made,
or it is a movie with the most
innovative use of narration
and historical fact to tell a
story. The movie opens with
photographs of the era, easing
the audience into America’s
shoes during the Roaring
Twenties. Many period films
set the historic stage, then
abandon it to tell the story
of their characters, usually
taking wild liberties with
history in the process.
SEABISCUIT, however, is the
genuine article. It promises a
1930’s movie, and it
delivers. At times it’s hard
to tell if Seabiscuit and
company are being used to tell
the story of America, or if
America is being used to
illuminate the characters. In
either case, this movie, like
its heroes, is a diamond in
the rough. In a series of
short, perfectly tailored
vignettes, the audience meets
the three central characters.
Charles Howard (played by Jeff
Bridges) is a self-made
millionaire devastated by the
loss of his son. Tom Smith
(played by Chris Cooper), a
rugged cowboy, is a man who
has lost his way of life and
his purpose. Red Pollard
(played by Tobey Maguire), a
too-tall failure of a jockey,
still reels from the loss of
his family. Each man seeks to
solve his own problems and
fails, and, though none of the
characters meet until well
into the film, their stories
intertwine from the beginning.
While historian David
McCullough’s familiar voice
fills in the gaps in the
audience’s historical
knowledge, Gary Ross, the
screenwriter and director,
wraps his story around it, as
a microcosm of the American
experience. When his wife
leaves him after the death of
their only son, Howard’s
friends try to cheer him up by
taking him to Tijauna, where
he meets his second wife, the
loving and lovely Marcela
(played by Elizabeth Banks).
Due to a U.S. ban on gambling,
all of America’s racing
greats are drawn to Tijuana to
ply their trade. Among them
are, of course, Tom Smith and
Red Pollard. Howard meets
Smith first and recognizes his
talent immediately. Smith is a
healer, a man who takes care
of horses that others have
deemed useless. When Howard
asks him why he fixed up a
broken horse, Smith looks at
him as though he ought to know
better and answers, “Because
I could.” Confident that
this is a man who can find him
a champion, Howard hires
him. As it turns out, Smith is
not only good at finding
horses that people have
forsaken, he also has the same
talent for people. In a scene
that can only be described as
brilliant, Smith stands
between the abused and ornery
Seabiscuit fighting off his
handlers and a fiery young
red-headed jockey named Red
fighting off a group of
stableboys. Smith glances back
and forth between the two, and
he knows he has his jockey.
The rest, as they say, is
history. The unexpected
four-way partnership that
develops not only changes
history, but it also changes
them. SEABISCUIT is an
excellent movie on so many
levels, it would be difficult
to recount them all. Perhaps
the most surprising element in
the movie is the fact that,
though it would appear to be a
vehicle for rugged
individualism, it actually
goes out of its way to show
that typical American grit
isn’t enough to truly live.
Despite the amazing feat of
turning an abused, obstinate,
no name horse into 1938’s
Horse of the Year, and the
even more amazing feat of
bringing the same horse back
from a career-ending injury,
this movie shows that success
is an empty goal. The true
importance in these events is
the effect they have on the
lives of three men. Seabiscuit
is a great racehorse, but
ultimately he is a healer
himself, bringing Howard,
Smith, and Pollard out of
themselves and their dismal
pasts and into the thing that
Howard consistently emphasizes
throughout the picture: the
future. SEABISCUIT is more
than just a good horse movie.
It is far more than a
rags-to-riches Cinderella
story. It is a story of
redemption, and the truths
expressed are deep and hard.
Although the characters are
able to help heal each other,
no one’s problems simply
disappear. The central theme
of the story, expressed twice
in the film explicitly, is
Smith’s philosophy. “You
don’t throw a whole life
away just ‘cause it’s
banged up a little,” he
tells Howard, who later uses
the same line against him. The
characters in this movie know
they’re “banged up,” and
rather than define themselves
by their lack of ability, or
decide they’re healed
because they succeed, they
look to each other. In a way,
this is an inherently
Christian message. The
storytelling itself is
masterful in SEABISCUIT. Gary
Ross weaves brief vignettes of
historic photographs and
narration into the story. Most
films use old photographs to
compensate for a lack of
authenticity in the film
itself, to remind the audience
of the period of the piece.
Ross, however, uses them to
tell the story, to heighten
suspense, and to effectively
place the audience in
Depression-era America. To
further increase historical
accuracy, Ross employs
professional jockeys not just
as extras in race sequences or
stunt doubles, but even in
starring roles. Gary Stevens,
Hall of Fame jockey and winner
of eight Triple Crown races,
gives a delightful performance
as George Woolf, Red
Pollard’s more popular
friend. Ironically, Stevens
won the George Woolf Memorial
Jockey Award. His appearance,
and Chris McCarron’s race
design, add an element of
veracity to the film. From
costuming to choreography to
the screenplay’s content,
SEABISCUIT is truly a film
about an historical period. It
also puts the audience right
among the jockeys as they
battle for position during the
movie’s exciting horse
racing scenes. Regrettably,
however, SEABISCUIT’s
positive qualities are spoiled
by several objectionable
elements. For example, the
movie contains many strong
profanities and obscenities,
more than 25 instances of foul
language all together. Early
in the movie, there are also
references to the jockeys
visiting prostitutes. In one
scene, Tobey Maguire’s
character lies clothed on a
bed while the camera shows a
prostitute taking off her top,
her naked back exposed to the
viewer. In another scene,
jockeys ride scantily clad
women like horses at a Tijuana
whorehouse. Finally, the movie
implies at one point that the
Big Government, socialist
policies of President Franklin
Delano Roosevelt during the
Great Depression made
suffering Americans feel like
they are “not alone.” In
other words, the State is your
Daddy or Mommy and, when in
trouble, you should look to
the President of the United
States instead of your family,
church, the Bible, the God who
created you, or Jesus Christ,
who saves you from your sins
and helps you in times of
need. Only the foul language
is pervasive throughout the
movie, but all of the negative
sounds and images could be
completely cut out without
ruining the movie’s story,
atmosphere, or realism. Also,
a Christian, God-centered
filmmaker could have
strengthened the movie’s
positive elements to make an
even stronger redemptive
message. Therefore, moviegoers
should carefully consider
whether they want to sit
through the negative elements
in SEABISCUIT. Still, in a
season when movies packed with
explosions and R-rated
material dominate the box
office, SEABISCUIT may follow
its namesake’s example and
prove to be a longshot worth
betting on. When it is good,
it is very, very good, so
good, in fact, that it may be
well remembered next February
during the Oscar ceremony. Not
the least of its pleasures is
the heartwarming performance
by Jeff Bridges, one of
America’s best
actors. Please address your
comments to: Stacey Snider,
Chairman Universal
Pictures Ron Meyer,
President/COO Universal
Studios 100 Universal City
Plaza Universal City, CA
91608-1085 Phone: (818)
777-1000 Web Page:
www.universalstudios.com

Rating: PG-13

Runtime: 130 minutes

Address Comments To:

Content:

(BB, C, PPP, So, Pa, LLL, V, S, N, AA, D, M) Strong moral worldview extols giving second chances to people and contains brief Christian elements such as church scene and woman prays for hurt jockey, with very strong patriotic themes as well as at least two socialist elements regarding Big Government programs during Great Depression, including an implication that the State is our Big Daddy, and pagan content in scenes showing jockeys pursuing lives of hedonistic pleasure in Tijuana; 22 obscenities, 11 strong profanities, and one light profanity; mild violence during races, jockey participates in rough boxing matches, brief bullfighting scene where bull seems to be bleeding, jockey thrown and dragged from a horse and slams into a barn wall, shot of Pollard with leg at awkward angle; no depicted sex but jockeys visit prostitutes, prostitute undoes her blouse from behind for clothed customer lying on bed with her, and jockeys ride scantily clad women like horses at Tijuana whorehouse; woman’s nude back seen from behind, women in underwear, some upper male nudity, and girly pictures and statuettes in sportscaster’s booth made to look ridiculous; alcohol use and drunkenness; characters smoke throughout film; and lying and gambling in the background of horse races and boxing matches.

GENRE: Drama

BB

C

PPP

So

Pa

LLL

V

S

N

AA

D

M

Summary:

The movie SEABISCUIT is a story of three wounded men, and a hurting nation, who find an unlikely healer in a small, crooked-legged racehorse. The good feelings generated by the movie’s moral, redemptive, and patriotic worldview are spoiled by foul language, sexual content, and a brief socialist connotation or two.

Review:

SEABISCUIT is either the best episode of PBS’ AN AMERICAN EXPERIENCE ever made, or it is a movie with the most innovative use of narration and historical fact to tell a story. The movie opens with photographs of the era, easing the audience into America’s shoes during the Roaring Twenties. Many period films set the historic stage, then abandon it to tell the story of their characters, usually taking wild liberties with history in the process. SEABISCUIT, however, is the genuine article. It promises a 1930’s movie, and it delivers. At times it’s hard to tell if Seabiscuit and company are being used to tell the story of America, or if America is being used to illuminate the characters. In either case, this movie, like its heroes, is a diamond in the rough.

In a series of short, perfectly tailored vignettes, the audience meets the three central characters. Charles Howard (played by Jeff Bridges) is a self-made millionaire devastated by the loss of his son. Tom Smith (played by Chris Cooper), a rugged cowboy, is a man who has lost his way of life and his purpose. Red Pollard (played by Tobey Maguire), a too-tall failure of a jockey, still reels from the loss of his family. Each man seeks to solve his own problems and fails, and, though none of the characters meet until well into the film, their stories intertwine from the beginning. While historian David McCullough’s familiar voice fills in the gaps in the audience’s historical knowledge, Gary Ross, the screenwriter and director, wraps his story around it, as a microcosm of the American experience.

When his wife leaves him after the death of their only son, Howard’s friends try to cheer him up by taking him to Tijauna, where he meets his second wife, the loving and lovely Marcela (played by Elizabeth Banks). Due to a U.S. ban on gambling, all of America’s racing greats are drawn to Tijuana to ply their trade. Among them are, of course, Tom Smith and Red Pollard. Howard meets Smith first and recognizes his talent immediately. Smith is a healer, a man who takes care of horses that others have deemed useless. When Howard asks him why he fixed up a broken horse, Smith looks at him as though he ought to know better and answers, “Because I could.” Confident that this is a man who can find him a champion, Howard hires him.

As it turns out, Smith is not only good at finding horses that people have forsaken, he also has the same talent for people. In a scene that can only be described as brilliant, Smith stands between the abused and ornery Seabiscuit fighting off his handlers and a fiery young red-headed jockey named Red fighting off a group of stableboys. Smith glances back and forth between the two, and he knows he has his jockey. The rest, as they say, is history. The unexpected four-way partnership that develops not only changes history, but it also changes them.

SEABISCUIT is an excellent movie on so many levels, it would be difficult to recount them all. Perhaps the most surprising element in the movie is the fact that, though it would appear to be a vehicle for rugged individualism, it actually goes out of its way to show that typical American grit isn’t enough to truly live. Despite the amazing feat of turning an abused, obstinate, no name horse into 1938’s Horse of the Year, and the even more amazing feat of bringing the same horse back from a career-ending injury, this movie shows that success is an empty goal. The true importance in these events is the effect they have on the lives of three men. Seabiscuit is a great racehorse, but ultimately he is a healer himself, bringing Howard, Smith, and Pollard out of themselves and their dismal pasts and into the thing that Howard consistently emphasizes throughout the picture: the future.

SEABISCUIT is more than just a good horse movie. It is far more than a rags-to-riches Cinderella story. It is a story of redemption, and the truths expressed are deep and hard. Although the characters are able to help heal each other, no one’s problems simply disappear. The central theme of the story, expressed twice in the film explicitly, is Smith’s philosophy. “You don’t throw a whole life away just ‘cause it’s banged up a little,” he tells Howard, who later uses the same line against him. The characters in this movie know they’re “banged up,” and rather than define themselves by their lack of ability, or decide they’re healed because they succeed, they look to each other. In a way, this is an inherently Christian message.

The storytelling itself is masterful in SEABISCUIT. Gary Ross weaves brief vignettes of historic photographs and narration into the story. Most films use old photographs to compensate for a lack of authenticity in the film itself, to remind the audience of the period of the piece. Ross, however, uses them to tell the story, to heighten suspense, and to effectively place the audience in Depression-era America.

To further increase historical accuracy, Ross employs professional jockeys not just as extras in race sequences or stunt doubles, but even in starring roles. Gary Stevens, Hall of Fame jockey and winner of eight Triple Crown races, gives a delightful performance as George Woolf, Red Pollard’s more popular friend. Ironically, Stevens won the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award. His appearance, and Chris McCarron’s race design, add an element of veracity to the film.

From costuming to choreography to the screenplay’s content, SEABISCUIT is truly a film about an historical period. It also puts the audience right among the jockeys as they battle for position during the movie’s exciting horse racing scenes.

Regrettably, however, SEABISCUIT’s positive qualities are spoiled by several objectionable elements. For example, the movie contains many strong profanities and obscenities, more than 25 instances of foul language all together. Early in the movie, there are also references to the jockeys visiting prostitutes. In one scene, Tobey Maguire’s character lies clothed on a bed while the camera shows a prostitute taking off her top, her naked back exposed to the viewer. In another scene, jockeys ride scantily clad women like horses at a Tijuana whorehouse. Finally, the movie implies at one point that the Big Government, socialist policies of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt during the Great Depression made suffering Americans feel like they are “not alone.” In other words, the State is your Daddy or Mommy and, when in trouble, you should look to the President of the United States instead of your family, church, the Bible, the God who created you, or Jesus Christ, who saves you from your sins and helps you in times of need.

Only the foul language is pervasive throughout the movie, but all of the negative sounds and images could be completely cut out without ruining the movie’s story, atmosphere, or realism. Also, a Christian, God-centered filmmaker could have strengthened the movie’s positive elements to make an even stronger redemptive message.

Therefore, moviegoers should carefully consider whether they want to sit through the negative elements in SEABISCUIT. Still, in a season when movies packed with explosions and R-rated material dominate the box office, SEABISCUIT may follow its namesake’s example and prove to be a longshot worth betting on. When it is good, it is very, very good, so good, in fact, that it may be well remembered next February during the Oscar ceremony. Not the least of its pleasures is the heartwarming performance by Jeff Bridges, one of America’s best actors.

Please address your comments to:

Stacey Snider, Chairman

Universal Pictures

Ron Meyer, President/COO

Universal Studios

100 Universal City Plaza

Universal City, CA 91608-1085

Phone: (818) 777-1000

Web Page: www.universalstudios.com

SUMMARY: The movie SEABISCUIT is a story of three wounded men, and a hurting nation, who find an unlikely healer in a small, crooked-legged racehorse. The good feelings generated by the movie’s moral, redemptive, and patriotic worldview are spoiled by foul language, sexual content, and a brief socialist connotation or two.

In Brief: