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Sunday, February 13, 2005

Watched this Billy Bob Thornton coaching movie all the way through 'cause Lisa was enjoying it, but I didn't get into it. It's another Coach And Team story, but this time based on the real life Permian Panthers of 1988, from Odessa Texas. The point of this movie wasn't the usual motley crew coming together as a team to beat all odds. Odessa has won the Texas State Championship for football any number of times. It was more an attempt to shoot a documentary-style film of the lives of the football players as they move towards the championship without their star player. It had the virtues of a documentary that I felt I saw how people very much not like me live.

Odessa, Texas seems to live for its high school football team. Its previous football stars live horrible mundane lives where their memories of their high school glory seem to be all they have to live for. The pressure put on the kids is huge. Their senior year at high school, on the team, is going to be the high point of their lives. Nothing they ever do again will be as important. The coach is the town hero when they win, and when he makes a mistake, For Sale signs appear on his lawn.

Yikes. Remind me never to live in Texas.

The problem, for me, was that I was never really drawn into the story enough. The film wasn't so documentary-style that characters talked to camera, so even if they had been able to see into themselves, we didn't get to hear it. But it was documentary-style enough that we didn't get truly evocative dialog scenes that might have opened the characters up. And, of course, being documentary-style, it had less dramatic license. The writers couldn't stretch reality enough for the sake of dramatic pacing. Like real life, nothing was inevitable; so nothing was particularly surprising. There was a driving question -- will they win the championship? -- but the individual story arcs didn't have dramatic shape. There were not individual, specific stakes for each kid -- you know, if we win, my mom can afford her cancer treatments sort of thing. All the stakes were the same: win the game because it's what you've been living to do all your life.

Well, glad I watched it. And so, so glad I don't live in Texas.

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