Sports In Film- Low Score At The Oscars

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Hollywood released plenty of sports films over the decades but few managed to score an Oscar.  Since 1929 when the annual prize gala debuted, 89 Best Picture awards were handed out and only three went to movies in the sports genre- (2004) Million Dollar Baby, (1981) Chariots of Fire, (1976) Rocky. 

Overall, 19 sports films won Oscars and 33 trophies were awarded.  Boxing, with its familiar subject matter of grit and hardship, leads the category with 16 statuettes. 

(1931) The Champ was the first to hold up an Oscar, winning Best Actor and Best Story. Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby tops the trophy count with four- Picture, Director, Actress, Supporting Actor.  Chariots of Fire is second with Picture, Original Screen Play, Original Score, Costume.  (1999) One Day In September is the only other Olympics winner, receiving Best Documentary for examining the terrorist massacre at the 1972 Munich games.  

The classic and iconic Rocky landed three- Picture, Director, Editing.  (1980) Raging Bull, a black and white masterpiece directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Robert De Niro as middleweight prizefighter Jake Lamotta, picked up only two.  (2010) The Fighter and (1956) Somebody Up There Likes Me were additional themes on fisticuffs that received two Oscars each.  Ali and Foreman’s captivating “rumble in the jungle” championship bout won Best Documentary in (1996) When We Were Kings. 

Beyond portraying the grueling struggles inside and outside the ring, Hollywood found fertile ground depicting life around smoke filled, seedy pool halls.  (1961) The Hustler cast Paul Newman and took Cinematography and Art Direction.  Twenty five years later, Newman resurfaced with an Oscar in another billiards piece, (1986) The Color of Money. 

Closer to family oriented  productions, (1944) National Velvet starring Elizabeth Taylor galloped away with two figurines.  The horse found popularity again in a Disney Documentary winner, (1960) The Horse With The Flying Tail; a generation later, (2003) Seabiscuit would take seven nominations, but no trophies. 

Since the early 1930’s, there was no shortage of baseball pictures on the big screen but only one film hit an Oscar home run - for Editing, (1942) Pride of The Yankees, a tribute to Lou Gehrig who died a year earlier; Gary Cooper portrayed the hero while Babe Ruth played himself.  Three football films scored an Oscar touchdown- (2009) The Blindside with Sandra Bullock for Actress, (1978) Heaven Can Wait for Art Direction, (2011) Undefeated for Documentary.  1979 coming of age comedy-drama Breaking Away cycled off with Original Screenplay and (1996) Jerry McGuire clinched with Cuba Gooding Jr. as Supporting Actor. 

(2016) O.J.: Made In America is nominated this year for Best Documentary- will sports have its 34th Oscar trophy ?

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THIS WEEK

10 years ago

SOCCER August 29, 2009  Christiano Ronaldo makes his debut with Real Madrid. He stayed with the European powerhouse club until 2018, making 292 league appearances and scoring 311 goals. One of the greatest on the world soccer stage, the Portuguese striker who also captains his national team started his top flight career in 2003 with Manchester United, winning the FA Cup in just his first year.

20 years ago

TENNIS August 30, 1999  The 119th Edition of the US Open kicks off at the USTA National Tennis Center in New York City. 18-year old Serena Williams won her first grand slam singles title after defeating #1 ranked Martina Hingis at the final. On the men’s side, Andre Agassi claimed the singles championship after outlasting fellow American Todd Martin in 5 hard-fought sets.

30 years ago

BASKETBALL August 26, 1989  NBA star James Harden is born in Los Angeles, California. The future guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets led his Artesia High School team to a 33-1 record and the state title. Playing at Arizona State for just two seasons, Harden joined the NBA in 2009 and was recipient of multiple awards & recognitions, including 2018 NBA Most Valuable Player.

40 years ago

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