sure as shit know all about horse races. You go to the track, you
look at the numbers, you study the odds, and then you pick the horse
with the funniest name, like "Cram It Cousin" or "Dippin'
Willie." Then you do some math in your head: if I bet ten dollars
and win at thirty to one, that equals boasting rights for six months,
plus I can buy everyone a round at the Arvada Tavern. Though I'm
unlikely to treat those bozos to anything. Instead I'd say, "Bartender,
I just won a zillion dollars on a horse called ŽLicking Stick! Serve
me a shot for every person in here, and let them watch me drink."
know more about dog races. That's where the real money is. I once
won twenty-five dollars on a dog called "Maggot." Though that
bought only ten beers and one of those little bottles of coconut
rum (big mistake), I sure made the most of the bragging rights.
In fact, do you recall that one time I totally cleaned up at the
dog track? I am a very good gambler on dogs. Or horses, too. Same
thing basically, just different-sized mounds of shit out back.
Yes, a win like
that can keep me going through any number of trips to the track
where I blow Mrs. Filthy's "cookie-jar fund" and wind up swimming
through dumpsters trying to find a winning ticket that someone might
have accidentally thrown away. On the occasions that I fall asleep
in there, I always have the sweetest dream that Maggot has just
crossed the finish line first and has started licking my face. When
I awake, I'm usually not so far from wrong.
When I stumble
home in the blinding light of a new day, the Mrs. is usually pissed,
but if I loofah her stretch marks, she'll give me a second chance.
And that's what Seabiscuit is all about: second chances.
Based on the
true story of the famous nag from the 1930s, Gary Ross' adaptation
of the book by Laura Hillenbrand remains pretty faithful to history.
Maybe too faithful. The movie opens and is punctuated throughout
by History-Channel-style narration over black-and-white stills.
As an opening, it's not bad, but the repeating intrusion, sometimes
completely out of context, reminds me of jalapeno-powered flatulence.
They could have farted out all the information they wanted about
the roaring 20s and then let the story unfold, but instead, the
gas keeps coming back, and the tale, clinging to real life like
a Klingon on Uranus, keeps getting interrupted by bits about soup
kitchens and FD fucking R.
plays Charles Howard, Seabiscuit's owner. Howard starts out as a
bicycle repairman in NYC, but escapes to San Francisco to start
his own business, which goes quickly from bikes to cars (but not
before the old-timey narrator farts in with a lot of good humor
about Model A's). Bridges is in a class by himself when it comes
to squeezing out feel-good moments, pithy sentiments, heart-warming
humanity. On top of this, the character of Charles Howard also loves
such moments. In spite of myself, I wasn't too repulsed by Bridges'
constant ooze of schmaltz. Like I said, he's in a class by himself.
Though Charles Howard makes his fortune quickly, family tragedies
strike on the heels of The Great Depression, and Bridges turns on
the pathos full force.
At the same
time, Red Pollard (Tobey Maguire) is growing up. Tough times force
his family to turn him loose at an early age with nothing but a
sack of classic texts. Red is smart, but he's also damaged. Though
not too short, he's lanky enough to land a job as a jockey. His
early employers are harsh, and he makes extra money by entering
(and mainly losing) prize fights.
Tom Smith (Chris
Cooper) also appears on the scene. He's an old-time mustang wrangler
who turns up in California in time to save a wounded mare from being
killed. Sleeping outside and scraping by on his wits, he's seen
as a kook by the folks who care for the horses at Santa Anita. But
things all start to come together when Bridges, now in southern
California, decides to buy a horse and spots Cooper out in the bushes.
Bridges is constantly
reminding us about second chances. He's remarried to a young woman
(Elizabeth Banks), and we all know that love is sweeter the second
time around. Stickier, anyway.
So he gives
Cooper a shot at being his trainer. Now all he needs is a horse
and a jockey. At last, Seabiscuit enters the story. The stallion
suffers from the horse equivalent of neurosis. He's been ridden
harshly, condemned as lazy, and trained to lose races in order to
build the confidence of other horses. But he's got a lot of spirit,
which Cooper, the fucking horse whisperer, recognizes instantly.
But ŽBiscuit doesn't want to be ridden. He attacks jockeys and rails
against the reins. As fate would have it, Cooper notices young Red
Pollard getting into a fist fight at the same time that Seabiscuit
is having his tantrum.
fictionalized, the connection takes a fucking eon of screen time.
The audience chuckled at it as soon as the camera cut from screaming
Seabiscuit to brawling Pollard. Cooper, on screen, takes another
fifteen seconds to put it together, and the camera cuts back and
forth between horse and jockey three more times before the movie
finally gets on with the fateful meeting.
What I'm saying
is there's a shitload of "silver-plattering" in this movie.
The movie gives everything formally, slowly, obviously, and repeatedly
to make sure that even the retards in the special seats understand
what's going on. Fine, I have nothing against retards unless they
get so involved in a movie that they forget to go to the toilet
to relieve themselves of all that coke and licorice. Next thing
I know, I'm watching a movie in Smell-o-vision. But telegraphing
messages like this, as well as all that farty narration, are what
make this movie take 2 hours and 20 minutes. It's a plod, not a
The last hour-twenty
of the movie is like racing around and around the same track. The
book, adhering to history, depicts a hell of a lot of races. Seabiscuit
wins some and loses some, and we get either a big feel-good feeling
or learn a life lesson after each one. When Seabiscuit loses, Bridges
gets some time to wax maudlin about something or other, usually
second chances. When Seabiscuit wins, Bridges gets all humanitarian
and positive, demanding a race against War Admiral, known as the
greatest horse of his day. Bridges links Seabiscuit with the common
man: unextraordinary breeding, win one for the little guy, and all
that crap. Nevermind that Bridges is a millionaire.
film doesn't have any real bad guys, War Admiral's owner, a tycoon
called Riddle, is played (by Eddie Jones) as despicably as possible.
An untimely racing accident pulls Maguire out of the fateful race,
but it's taken Bridges so long to convince the stodgy east-coast
millionaire to race War Admiral against Seabiscuit, that Maguire's
jockey friend George Woolf (played by real-life jockey Gary Stevens)
takes the reins for the exciting climax.
Still in all,
the film's not bad. For one thing, it's pretty to look at. The races
are actually exciting. Cooper, Maguire and Stevens are genuinely
likeable as characters and turn in credible performances. The documentary
material is interesting if you can get over the fact that you've
just paid $9.50 to watch The History Channel. And, shit, I just
like horses! And racing too. Did I ever tell you about the time
I totally cleaned up at the horse track? Actually the dog track.
Three fingers for Seabiscuit.
to tell Filthy Something