Thursday, May 7, 2009

REVIEW: Prefontaine

I am continuing to keep my Netflix account hard at work during my vacation and got "Prefontaine" sent to me yesterday. The movie is a biopic of the phenomenonal runner Steve Prefontaine. For brief historical background, he was born in Coos Bay, OR, showed some promise in high school cross country, but then exploded on the running scene when he began running distance track and field events, like the mile. He attended U of Oregon and was coached by the legendary Bill Bowerman (coach of numerous top runners and co-founder of Nike). He set record after record, went to the Munich olympics in 1972 and narrowly lost a medal in the 5K Meters. He was tragically taken from his family and the running world in a car accident before he could return to compete in the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal.

Now, The movie covers all this material and, to the best of my knowledge, is historically accurate. There were moments that I appreciated and I thought were well directed and acted, such as how the athletes were affected by the tragic hostage crisis that marred the Munich olympics. I was less sold on the presentation of some of the other historical events, such as how Pre and other amateur athletes dealt with the AAU in trying to compete and maintain their "amateur" status. I can appreciate that this was a big point of contention at the time (indeed it still is when you look at some of the teams that the US sponsors, like basketball). But somehow, the athletes came across as petty, and the AAU as Sith lords and it seemed all too black and white, when I'd imagine there were and are a lot of nuanced arguments to the question of amateur status and the Olympics.

Another element I did not really like is how the director kept cutting back to the key participants (Bowerman, Pre's girlfriends, etc.) as if this was a documentary, but these were actors, and it was clearly a "based on true events" kind of movie. Overall, I found the approach to Pre's history a little hamhanded. I enjoyed it, but would certainly not keep it in a stable of "movies to watch before a run to get me pumped up".

Next in the queue is probably Chariots of Fire, which I have somehow managed to miss seeing, but that's what vacation is for, right?

Training note: Went for 4 miles this AM. Not very fast, but I used albuterol this time and my breathing was much easier. The heat kept me slow today (it's only May, but it is Florida).

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