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Movies go for the Olympics gold, so you don’t have to

The Olympics come once every four years. Wait! The Summer Olympics are every four years but the Winter Olympics are every two years. No, that isn’t right either – the Summer Olympics are every four years and the Winter Olympics were also every four but then they were changed to every two for a few years and then back to four. Now the Olympics rotate. The Summer Olympics happen and then two years later it’s time for the Winter Olympics.

Whew, and I thought athletes didn’t have to be smart. That just shows how little I know about sporting events. To learn more about the ultimate athletic contest other than what I learned about it from “E! True Hollywood Story of Tonya Harding” I went straight for the video store. If you want to experience the backstage terror and excitement without having to give up every thing you hold dear in order to train in hopes that you will be good enough to compete, just rent these movies. Now, let’s go to the tape.

For all the would-be runners/history lovers out there “Chariots of Fire” is the film for you. This Best Picture Academy Award Winner from 1981 has one of the most recognizable theme songs in film and some of the most beautiful cinematography as well. The film is set in England and Scotland, or just Great Britain I suppose, around 1920. Two very talented sprinters are training for the Olympic Games. One is a missionary studying for the priesthood and the other is a Jewish student at Cambridge.

The priest is conflicted about devoting his energy to training and taking time away from his religious duties but decides that God has given him a gift and he should use it. The Jewish man has a chip on his shoulder the size of England and yearns to win so he can show the world what he is made of. The beauty of this film lies not only in the scenery but also in the costumes, music and story.

“Without Limits” and “Prefontaine” are both films about University of Oregon’s own Steve Prefontaine, the kid from Coos Bay who made it to the Olympics. “Without Limits” stars Billy Crudup as “Pre” and Donald Sutherland as his mentor/coach, future Nike founder Bill Bowerman. This particular version was produced by Tom Cruise’s company and directed by Robert Towne.

The production did not have the permission of Prefontaine’s family, unlike “Prefontaine” which had the full cooperation of those who knew the real man. “Prefontaine” stars Jared Leto as “Pre” and R. Lee Ermy as Bowerman. Both of these films are solid but Leto’s portrayal makes the star distance runner look like a spoiled asshole in some parts. Crudup and Sutherland have a wonderful chemistry and talent that pushes their film further than their counterparts could go. Both are worth the trip, but if you are short on time I recommend “Without Limits.”

“The Cutting Edge” is a love story that mixes figure skating with romance. I know what you are thinking, “aren’t most male figure skaters gay?” That goes unanswered in this one. The male counterpart to this skating team is a former hockey player who really wants to earn an Olympic gold medal. DB Sweeney plays the manly hockey player and Moira Kelly plays the bitchy ice skater.

Kelly’s character is so awful, mind you, she can’t keep a partner. That is why she is forced to choose a hockey player to partner up with. The film predictably has the two at each other’s throats and then madly in love. The movie is fun if you don’t want any surprises, just an old-fashioned love story that includes figure skating.

John Candy was a funny man, but the last few movies he made were incredibly stupid. That was until he made “Cool Runnings.” This flick is marvelous for kids and good for adults who like kids’ movies. It tells the story of a Jamaican bobsled team! Ridiculous you say? Don’t believe your cynical heart. They are a bobsled team that has never seen snow. How funny is that? Very funny indeed. Have a great time and enjoy these fine features.