23 Blast

Posted on October 23, 2014 at 3:57 pm

B
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for some teen drinking
Profanity: Mild schoolyard language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Teen drinking, drinking game
Violence/ Scariness: Character becomes blind, scenes in hospital, sad offscreen death
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: October 24, 2014

23 Blast is the name of a football play, and “23 Blast” is based on the real story of Travis Freeman, a high school football star who lost his sight, but, with the help of a courageous coach and committed teammates, was able to keep playing.

The real hero of the movie is the coach, played by “Avatar” villain Stephen Lang, with a touch of dry with along with his determination and sense of honor. The film’s very first scene, with the coach working with a group of young boys as he learns he will be getting a job with the high school team, introduces us to him as a man of character who understands that the win that counts is the integrity and teamwork he instills in his players. And it introduces us to the tone of the film, honest, unvarnished, and real. You may think you know where a fact-based story about a blind player on a high school football team is going, but this film will surprise you.23blast

That first scene also introduces us to the boys who will become the stars of the team, Travis (a very likeable Mark Hapka) and Jerry (Bram Hoover, as the bad boy with a good heart but a weak will). They are very different people. Travis plays by the rules. He is respectful, reliable, and grounded in his faith. Bram cannot resist a party, and as for rules, they are for ignoring or for breaking. But on the football field, they have a bond. Their passion for football, and their deep understanding of its options, demands, and strategies connects them. Travis is devoted to football because it is his nature to give himself fully to whatever he takes on. Bram is devoted to football because it is the only place where he feels at home.*

One night following a game, Travis becomes ill at a party. The next day he wakes up with severe swelling on his face. His parents take him to the hospital and the doctor tells them he needs immediate surgery. “You’re going to have to take the cross off,” the nurse says as he is wheeled into the operating room. He survives the surgery, but he is blind.

At first, Travis is devastated. He will not leave his room. He refuses to cooperate with the occupational therapist (a warm and spirited Becky Ann Baker). But a dream of a sermon seemingly directed to him and a visit from the coach opens up possibilities he thought were foreclosed. “I’m going to need you to step up,” the coach tells him. “The team needs a leader. Are you that guy?”

It seems impossible. How will he run, tackle, catch? The coach makes him the center and he has to learn a whole new set of skills. But learning that he can learn is revelatory. Some of his teammates are not on board. His ties with Jerry are tested by Jerry’s irresponsible and self-destructive behavior. But the coach understands that the most important thing he can teach these players is not the techniques or strategy but the meaning of being a part of something bigger than each of them.

This is quiet, even modest storytelling, with a surprising final punch, an inspirational tale that never becomes sugary or preachy.

Parents should know that this film includes teen drinking and a drinking game. A character becomes blind and there is a sad offscreen death.

Family discussion: What do we learn from Travis’ dream about the sermon directed at him? Why was Patty able to help him? Would you be willing to have a disabled player on your team?

If you like this, try: “Brian’s Song” and “Remember the Titans”

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Based on a true story Disabilities and Different Abilities High School Movies -- format Spiritual films Sports

After the Ice Bucket Challenge: Two Upcoming Movies About People With ALS

Posted on September 2, 2014 at 7:00 am

The Ice Bucket Challenge has brought a lot of money and attention to a devastating illness, ALS or Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, sometimes called Lou Gehrig’s Disease for the the New York Yankee who had to leave baseball when he was afflicted with ALS.

Two upcoming films about people with ALS should help bring attention to ALS and other neurodegenerative diseases and the people and families who are struggling with them. The Theory of Everything is based on the real-life story of Stephen Hawking, one of the most brilliant scientists in history. Here is the real Professor Hawking in a guest appearance on “The Big Bang Theory.”

And double Oscar-winner Hilary Swank plays a musician with ALS in the upcoming “You’re Not You.”

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Disabilities and Different Abilities Trailers, Previews, and Clips

Musical Chairs on HBO

Posted on May 18, 2014 at 9:38 pm

Try to find time to catch the touching “Musical Chairs” on HBO this month from director Susan Seidelman (“Desperately Seeking Susan”).  EJ Bonilla, Leah Pipes, and Laverne Cox (“Orange Is The New Black”) star in this inspiring romance about a wheelchair dance competition.

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Disabilities and Different Abilities Neglected gem Television

White Actors Cast In “The Gods of Egypt”

Posted on April 6, 2014 at 10:10 pm

I’m in favor of race-blind casting except when race is a part of the story.  And that seems to be the case in a $450 million epic film called “The Gods of Egypt” that takes place in Egypt.  But instead of casting people of Middle Eastern ethnicity, the parts of the gods Set (Gerard Butler) , Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldeu), and Ra (Geoffrey Rush) plus Brenton Thwaites as a “common thief” are played by European white actors.  As Rebecca Cusey wrote about the casting in “Noah,” it would be nice to see the actors reflect the breadth and diversity of humanity.

Scott Jordan Harris wrote about a related issue on rogerebert.com, casting non-disabled actors to play disabled characters.

Consider “Glee”, a TV show unmistakably self-satisfied with its inclusiveness. Its makers would never have considered having Rachel, the female lead, played by a man in drag. They would not have considered having Mercedes, the most prominent black character, played by a white actress in blackface. But when they cast Artie, the main disabled character, they chose an able-bodied actor and had him sit in a wheelchair and ape the appearance of a disabled person….the most important reason for casting disabled actors as disabled characters does not concern how films will be viewed in the future. It concerns how they are made now. Every time an able-bodied actor plays a disabled character it makes it harder for disabled actors to work.  Indeed, if we are okay with disabled roles being played by able-bodied actors, we are okay with disabled actors being prevented from acting at all. Able-bodied actors can play able-bodied roles. Disabled actors cannot. If disabled actors cannot play disabled roles, they cannot play any roles at all—and they are excluded from film altogether.

 

 

 

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Actors Commentary Disabilities and Different Abilities Race and Diversity
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