Globe Critic Ty Burr Shares His Favorite Football Flicks

North Dallas Forty took a cynical look at the North Dallas Bulls, a team which had a
striking resemblance to the real-life Dallas Cowboys. Mac Davis and Nick Nolte starred.
Credits: Buena Vista Pictures

Jared Bowen sits down with Boston Globe film critc Ty Burr to talk whatelse, football, and what you should be watching this Thanksgiving.
if you’re not going to be watching football on Thanksgiving, the second best thing to do is watch a football movie. And there are plenty of choices.
What makes a good football movie? According to Boston Globe film critic Ty Burrr, “It’s got to have a knowledge of the game, and get the audience in there, so they know what’s going on.  And, you also need a certain amount of sentiment, but not too much sentimentality.  And the best ones balance mom and apple pie, football, and Thanksgiving sentiment with some tougher outlooks on life.”

What Do You Think?

What are Ty’s favorite football movies? “There are some really good football movies, not as many as I think baseball movies, but it’s a smaller genre. North Dallas Forty is one of my favorites.  That’s the cynical sort of pro-movie, but I think the all around sentimental favorite has to be Rudy. “
“Oh, I know, the grizzled hardened movie critic…but Rudy gets me weeping every time. When Charles S. Dutton gets up at the end of the movie and starts doing the slow clap. I actually think this may be the first instance of the slow clap in movie history.  You know you do the, clap... clap... clap... And then everybody starts getting on there and chanting Rudy, Rudy. It’s the classic little guy who wants to prove himself on the football field. You gotta get behind that movie.  I mean, it’s corn, but it’s honest corn, well served and well mounted.”

Rudy's locker room speech

So, what’s the worst football movie out there? “For my money,” says Ty. ”It has to be Radio with Cuba Gooding Jr.  The one in which he plays a mentally challenged young man who becomes sort of the mascot for this local high school team with Ed Harris as the coach.  Remember, what I said that a football movie has to have sentimentality, but not too much—man this movie lards it on. It’s an embarrassment to watch.”
Now, what’s the movie that people should seek out that they haven’t seen that they won’t know about?
“The sleeper of football movies, to my mind, is a documentary that came out a couple of years ago. It’s called Harvard Beats Yale 29-29. It’s a documentary about a 1968 football game played in Harvard stadium against Yale. Both teams undefeated, but Harvard the underdog. With a minute and 42 seconds to go, Harvard was down 29 to 13,  and they came back to tie it.”

View the trailer for Harvard Beats Yale 49-49

“It’s not just about that, it’s about everything else that was going on in 1968. The movie’s a microcosm of what was happening in this country. One of the players was a Vietnam vet, one of the player’s was dating Meryl Streep, another one had George Bush as a roommate at Yale. Tommy Lee Jones is interviewed cause he was on the Harvard football squad, and his roommate was Al Gore. There’s so much that sort of criss-crossed into this movie. This game sort of reflects that in the background and solves it a very weird, sort of triumph surreal way.”

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