Calgary ’88: 16 Days of Glory
I think I figured out what I don’t like about these Bud Greenspan Olympic films. They center the athlete above all else. There are two main problems with that approach. One, athletes aren’t very interesting. The number of inane comments from top athletes in this film is staggering. I just don’t really care what most of them are thinking.
Two, my contention is that the Olympics are a bigger moment than their role as simply a major sporting event. To the athletes, that’s often not the case. For them it really is, especially for the top competitors, just about winning and losing. This is their career, this is their legacy. To focus exclusively on the competition angle is to miss out on all the other things that make the Olympics so special.
This film has none of those things. Nothing about the place, the culture, the spectators, the food, the village, whatever. It’s just a series of endless vignettes of people winning medals or losing in tragic ways. These films have a formula, which is fine I guess. This ensures that their floor in terms of quality is pretty high. It also ensures that their ceiling is low. There aren’t likely to be any truly standout films that follow this pattern.
To be special you have to take some kind of risk, you have to allow for the possibility of failure. These don’t. It’s a real shame.
This feels like a made for TV special, and not a film. It’s like a series of ESPN shorts, which I guess makes sense as I think Greenspan’s approach essentially created the formula ESPN has mined for the last few decades. These are not artistic statements, but rather attempts at decent human nature stories. I’m sure many people feel exactly the opposite to me, and love these films, but they are most certainly not my thing.