Last night brought a “gallant effort” double feature to the Shire on the Hudson. I can’t really explain why, but my mood turned in that direction.
The evening began on the Edge of America. Directed by Chris Eyre, the story is loosely based on a true story about a black English teacher who comes to the Three Nations Reservation and ends up coaching the girl’s basketball team. The team has lost consistently. Racism, daughter-father relations, grief, cross-cultural confusion and conflict, and questions of self-esteem are among the issues that the film explores. Among the memorable scenes, a conversation between coach Kenny Williams, played by James McDaniel, and assistant coach Annie Shorty, played by Irene Bedard, stands out:
Annie: Those girls do everything you ask them to do. They practice hard, they get good grades, they win.
Kenny: Then you tell me why I’m pissed off.
Annie: Because you’re a black man in America.
Kenny: That’s right, I’m good and pissed off.
Annie: Well then get over it! You’re talking to Indian people here! Get over it, get on with it, or get the hell out!
Williams gets on with it. The young women play their way to the state finals. There they lose to the state powerhouse when a last-second shot bounces off the rim. Coach Williams blames himself and asks for forgiveness for failing the team and leading to the loss. As they return to a rousing welcome from the community, the players point out that they have nothing to forgive as the community and the players realize they have won in every sense of the word.
Mystery, Alaska closed the evening. A small town, Mystery loves its hockey. The sport unites the town. Each week brings “Saturday Game”, four-on-four pond hockey played on the open ice of the town’s frozen lake. Charles Danner, played by Hank Azaria, has left Mystery and become a sports writer. His story on the town and its hockey appears in Sports Illustrated. It leads to a game against the New York Rangers. Subplots weave together as the plot moves toward the climactic game – the pride of the town, father-son relations, infidelity, youth and age, a superstore moving to town, a trial of Mystery’s leading scorer. the unwillingness of the Rangers to play during their break, and more. The day of the game arrives. Little Richard, who notes that “It’s cold,” sings both the Star-Spangled Banner and O Canada to prolong the exposure of the Rangers to the frigid Alaskan air. In the first period, the Mystery team, coached by Burt Reynolds and captained by Russell Crowe, jumps out to a lead. The Rangers roar back in the second period to go ahead. Mystery closes the gap in the third period only to fall short when the game-tying shot bounces off the goalposts and into the goalie’s glove. The town, the Rangers, and eventually even the Mystery players recognize and celebrate the effort. Son Eric, friend Sparky and I noticed that several cast members appear with Crowe in 2010’s Robin Hood.
Two enjoyable films, two powerful tales of giving our all, two parables on the meaning of winning, made for a good evening.
See you along the Trail.