Go Seabiscuit, go

seabiscuit and shirley templeAre these hard times? Well, it’s not quite 1933, or even 1943, but we are less than two years removed from Sept. 11. We’ve recently fought two wars and are now deep into reconstructing a damaged nation. Our economy is faltering. It seems, maybe, that we could use some good news or maybe a happy story.

Where’s Frank Capra when you need him?

A movie opened last night, and we went to go see it this afternoon, that is capraesque not just because it’s set in the 1930s, nor is it capraesque because it is without guile or cynicism, nor is it capraesque because it has heroes. It is all those things, but what makes it the most capra-like movie that I’ve seen in a long time is that it validates the importance of hope and the value of dreams. It shows that no adversity is too great to be overcome.

I can’t imagine this movie getting boffo box office prior to Sept. 11. We were all too cool to be taken in by the idea that everybody lives happily ever after. But when a movie sells out on a bright, beautiful, sunny day in Ventura, and when the audience cheers the forgone-victory of a movie-screen horse, and when that same audience sits through most of the credits at the end, you know Frank Capra is smiling in heaven.

Seabiscuit has been getting a lot of press, and rightfully so. It deserves consideration as one of the best movies of the year. It’s a great script; it’s well edited and deftly acted (Jeff Bridges is my early favorite for Best Supporting Actor), and it entertains from beginning to end. I’m not sure if the Academy of Motion Pictures has caught on yet that cynicism no longer sells and that dreariness is no longer an artistic virtue, but if they have, Seabiscuit should have its title called out a bunch of times at the next Oscars.

BTW: This isn’t the first movie about Seabiscuit. Last night I TiVo’d one from 1949 starring Shirley Temple. We’ll probably watch it sometime this week. I don’t expect it to be as good, but old movies are always worth watching.

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