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8/10/15 Sundance Doc Club
While the title takes any suspense about the outcome away the director and players bring it right back. With game footage intercut with player interviews you can't wait to see how the game ends, nice job. I enjoyed the personal takes of the players and it was nice so many were interviewed, not just a few star players. This was my era of playing and watching so it was a great trip down nostalgia lane. The social commentaries were as interesting as the football commentaries so Rafferty did a great job of covering all the bases.
Does a good job of adding historical background and lets the game speak for itself when it's necessary.
Harvard Beats Yale 29-29, named after the infamous headline on the Harvard Crimson paper, is a basic but thorough documentary. There is the original game footage, supplemented by commentary from players - including Tommy Lee Jones who played Guard for Harvard - and some simple photos and cartoons by a pre-Doonesbury Gary Trudeau who was enrolled at Yale. The beauty of the documentary is how the directory Kevin Rafferty used simple storytelling to transport the viewer to a game which was played over forty years ago.
Firstly, Rafferty establishes the context of the game. Vietnam and civil rights were issues which had polarized each campus, especially Cambridge. Despite occasional chaos and opposing viewpoints, football games proved to be a unifying experience for students, teachers, and the community. There is a personal connection established with players on each team as they recount tales from their past:
One Harvard player had served in Vietnam and yet developed profound friendships with teammates who had protested the war;
The Harvard team essentially ignored their coach and led the team themselves;
Tommy Lee Jones roomed with Al Gore and found him to be a very funny person. Al Gore was so mesmerized by the introduction of touch-tone telephones that he learnt to play âDixieâ? on the keypad;
Yale players recall one game where George W. Bush was arrested by Princeton police for drunkenly hanging on the goal posts after a game;
The Yale quarterback had not lost a game since the seventh grade;
Grant Hillâ(TM)s father, Calvin, was a starting half-back for Yale.
Both teams were undefeated heading into the game for the first time since 1909 but Harvard was a massive underdog. Yale established a large first half lead, 22-6 at half-time. There was an element of foreshadowing as the Yale cheerleading squad badly botched a stunt where one cheerleader would leap over several of his colleagues who were performing handstands, legs spread in a âYâ? formation. Harvard had started very poorly but gradually clawed back into the game. Still, it was 29-13 with a minute to play. Obviously (based on the filmâ(TM)s title), Harvard scored two touchdowns and two two-point conversions. Fans flooded the field and the tie felt like a victory.
The film displays some truths about sport that are still applicable. Even four decades later, players feel bad for having let down their teammates. When Yale called timeout with a minute to go and fans began taunting Harvard players, chanting and waving white hankerchiefs, it helped inspire the comeback. Yale had never bothered to plan for an onside kick so they were totally unprepared when the critical moment occurred.
Some players describe the sensation of Tachypsychia, explaining how time seemed to slow down during the comeback. We now know that this is due to the release of hormones in high intensity situations. Due to the pressure of the game, some poorly conceived decisions were made by normally reliable players. Some players were certain that they had performed a certain task on the field but game film shows that they were nowhere near the particular play. Time may have passed but the effects of pressure remain.
It takes a great deal of skill to make a football game suspenseful when the outcome is in the title -- and that football game is 41 years old. This is a fun movie that also takes care to showcase the changing times and the involvement of some of the influential people of our time -- George W. Bush! Al Gore! Meryl Streep! -- in a historic game.
An engrossing documentary not just for its dramatic retelling of perhaps the greatest game in Ivy League football history, but also for its evocation of the late 1960s. Some engaging cameos along the way, too, from famous people all tied to that fateful game: a Hollywood actor, a future president, a future vice-president, a future Oscar-winning actress, a future Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist...
What a fantastic documentary. A really great way to tell the story of a game. Just show the game and talk to the men who were a part of it. The game itself, which is one of the all-time greats, makes it even more compelling.
Was a little wary of watching this, associating football as I do with living rooms full of men yelling things at the TV, things like "What'd he do that for?" and "For crying out loud," and versions of those with modern expletives. Imagine my surprise as I found myself getting drawn into this game more and more, and the amazing sequence of events it tells. Not just a great game, but told well and with the excitement that it deserves. Bravo!
In the spectrum of potential audience size, Kevin Rafferty's moment by moment review of a 40+ year old Ivy League college football game must be close to the lowest end. Game footage from Harvard's television station accounts for somewhere between 3/5ths to 2/3rds of the documentary's run time with men in their late 50's talking about the game accounting for all of the remainder. Now it helps that one of these men was former Harvard offensive lineman and current movie legend Tommy Lee Jones who seems oddly somber and off put about having to discuss the game despite the fact that his team is Rocky Balboa to Yale's Apollo Creed. It also helps that some of the discussion involves future Presidents, Vice Presidents and other screen legends. Beyond the shine of celebrity, the proceedings also benefit from the darkness of war, specifically the Vietnam war and the coming together on a sports team of veterans of it with active protesters of it. However, women, residents outside the Northeast United States and those born after the Beatles broke up will struggle to find relevancy in this tale of an old football game. In short, see Rafferty's "Atomic Café" instead, an absorbing study of just how crazy the cold war got.
Well, who doesn't love a good comeback? And this one is just wonderful. With three minutes to play, vast underdog (but still undefeated) Harvard needed 16 points (two touchdowns and two two point conversions) to tie the nationally ranked powerhouse Yale (also undefeated), a feat which seemed impossible. Through a crosscutting of interviews with the players and the TV broadcast of the game, director Kevin Rafferty weaves the improbable tale to a thrilling climax, suggesting not only perseverance and heart, but divine intervention. This is a fun sports documentary.
Oh my god. Terrific job of taking one of the most exciting games in history and turning it into one of the most excruciatingly boring.