Oscar Catch-Up #7: They Shoot Seabiscuit, Don’t They

So this weeks had nothing to do with each other thematically, only titles that were very close to each other on my Netflix queue and had a giggle-inducing juxtaposition…

Seabiscuit (2003) Directed and Written by Gary Ross
Starring Tobey Maguire, Jeff Bridges, Chris Cooper, and Elizabeth Banks
Nominated for 7 Oscars including Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Art Direction, Cinematography, Costume Design, Editing, and Sound Mixing

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (1969) Directed by Sydney Pollack, Written by James Poe & Robert E. Thompson
Starring Jane Fonda, Michael Sarrazin, Susannah York, Gig Young, and Red Buttons
Won 1 Oscar for Supporting Actor (Young), Nominated for 8 more including Actress (Fonda), Supporting Actress (York), Director, Adapted Screenplay, Art Direction, Costume Design, Editing, and Score

Seabiscuit is just plain bad.  I mean, really bad.  I mean, okay, it’s photographed prettily.  And horses are beautiful and majestic.  But, c’mon, this hackneyed screenplay is like a book of screenwriting cliches.  The twee performance of Tobey Maguire is consistently obnoxious, and Jeff Bridges/Chris Cooper are putting in absolutely no effort.

On the other hand, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? was absolutely wonderful.  Just a brilliant, haunting masterpiece.  The psychological torture film takes us to a dance marathon during the Great Depression; the contestants are left on the feet, exhausted and lifeless, for weeks for the promise of $1,500 and free food.  Pollack has created a film environment so tense and so pulsing that you can’t bring yourself to look away from the circus of human misery for the two hour runtime.  The ‘derby’ scenes are stunning.  Much more exciting than the racing found in Jane Fonda gives a definitive performance, leading a uniformly outstanding supporting cast.  Put this to the top of your queue if you haven’t seen it, what a trip this was!

 

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