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Sport in Films by Poulton M. Emma
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's review
Jul 23, 2011

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bookshelves: sport-studies

They are two of our more notable forms of popular culture – sport and the cinema – yet most cinematic (re)presentations of sport are unrewarding and for the most part finish up showing the potential for sport to be used in a jingoistic if not reactionary way. This collection of scholarly analyses of film is an attempt to address that but finishes up being strangely unrewarding. I suspect that part of the problem is that almost all of the essays deal with what might be called sports films (although there is an interesting debate in some of the early papers about whether such a genre does or can exist) and only two of the essays do not deal explicitly/completely with films about sport: one explores the comparative profiles of sport films and sport interactive games, while the other looks at a sporting metaphor in a film based on a Paul Auster short story (not about sport at all). This isn't to say that the papers are necessarily weak – for the most part they are solid, insightful, competent (or more than competent) reading of films centred on sport – although there are a couple of weak ones (dealing with Chariots of Fire and with various film versions of the kidnapping and deaths of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in particular). Some are marvellously counter-intuitive: an analysis of Disney's film about the 1980 US Ice Hockey gold medal team (Miracle) shows how stripping the events of their (Cold War) politics enhances the film's contemporary politics, although I would have liked to have seen some discussion of the timelessness of this new US patriotism brought about by this method. I found the three conceptual papers at the outset more staisfying than any of the specific readings of films – and apart from the two weak papers found the rest rewarding (two or three of which I found really very good). I suspect the book is not much use for general readers (and as a hardback at about £70 not likely to be bought by many anyway).

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