Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Chariots Of Fire (1981)

Chariots Of Fire (1981) ★ 1/5

There seems to be, at least for me, a period in film that seems familiar, yet completely distant at the same time. Chariots Of Fire is one of those films for me as are so many from the early 1980's. I was at the time 8 years old. I do recall watching the Academy Awards and being completely confused at the unknown movies nominated for awards and could not possibly understand how a film like Chariots Of Fire could win over Raiders of the Lost Ark. It made no sense. Who would even watch a movie like Chariots Of Fire? The 80's would continue to confuse me with the winning pictures. Movie that were slow and boring. They were all about dead people! Amadeus, Gandhi and The Last Emperor were some of the winners. Of course I was too young to understand and sit through these types of movies at the time. Somehow, as I grew older I never went back to them. So for me, this book is a great opportunity to see what I missed. Chariots Of Fire is the first of the serious 1980's movies that I am getting acquainted with.
Sadly, after watching this picture, I still do not think it should have won Best Picture. However I no longer think it should have gone to Raiders of the Lost Ark either. I think of the nominees that year, the most triumphant and deserving film from that group was On Golden Pond. I found Chariots Of Fire to be excruciatingly slow and tiresome. It hardly enthralled me or captivated me. The score was absolutely horrid, yet somehow that too won the Academy Award for it's category. I think this is probably because "Chariots of Fire: Titles" probably wasn't eligible for Best Song as it has no words. While I loathed the creepy synthesizer based score, I do like the iconic single and find that it was properly placed in the film - and properly parodied to this present day. On top of the score, which I feel would have fit better in a horror movie, was the odd editing style used. I found the edits and transitions used in racing sequences to be odd. They didn't feel right and I was not in tune at all with whatever the director was trying to relay.

The whole story of this movie revolved around two runners with a goal of making it to the 1924 Olympics. Eric Liddel (Ian Charleson) is a devout Christian and Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross) is of strict Jewish faith. Their racing techniques and goals revolved strictly around their religious beliefs. They run for God. Liddel runs to honor God and turns it into a huge deal when he finds out one of the races is on Sunday. Because of this, he won't race and has to switch which race he will run. Abrahams runs because he is "Jewish." Both win their races for the glory of God and the honor of their country.

Not impressed at all with this movie. There were some things I can give praise to. The costumes were great. Very well done. That was an Oscar the film was deserving off. With the costumes, they captured the spirit of 1924 and reflected the different styles from the different nations participating in the Olympics. I also like seeing Ian Holm as Abrahams' trainer. This was his only Oscar nomination in his career as of 2012. A long illustrious career at that!

But, my favorite part of the film was when Liddel met with The Prince of Wales (David Yelland). The reason I like this scene is because after seeing The King's Speech (2010) I had become quite enthralled with the history of the Royal Family during that period of time. The Prince of Wales would later become King Edward VIII, and leave the throne to marry Wallis Simpson. It is interesting, for me at least, seeing different historical aspects brought to life across various films. This also helps piece together history and create strong timelines. It will be interesting to see the movie W.E. (2011) and find where this falls into the historical timeline. This is part of why I feel films portraying historical events should stay true to being factual. It makes the viewing experience of not just that movie, but other movies dealing with the same characters or issues so much easier.

Other then the scene involving The Prince of Wales and the costume design, this film did nothing to spark my interest. even the scenes with the competition were not compelling to me. I feel that the characters were not very identifiable and I could not connect with them. For the first half of the movie I had a hard time keeping the characters straight. It was not easy to follow who some of the people were, or who was who. In many scenes the cast members looked very similar.

I understand this movie has topped favorite lists and is ranked with high praise. I am completely missing that and am not sure why I can not find why this movie is held in such high regard.

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