Thursday, January 27, 2011

Tennis Movies

I don’t know about you, but I can do without having to watch another Hollywood boxing movie.  Yes, the tried-and-true clichés usually make an entertaining drama and boxing films typically garner attention from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and SciencesThe Fighter (2010) just picked up seven Oscar nominations – but they seem to have crowded out other sports movies, and have kept my favorite sport from getting much cinematic attention.

While we tennis fans did see our sport featured in Wimbledon (2004) and Match Point (2005) within the past several years, tennis is typically relegated to the background of the few movies in which it appears.  In fact, as a film historian, I’ve chronicled less than sixty-five movies in which the playing of tennis can be seen on the screen, and only slightly more than a handful of these feature a main character and/or plot directly related to the sport.  You can read the entire compilation in my Classic Film Guide.

Don’t get me wrong, I love boxing movies and most other sports films as well; I just think that tennis – which is metaphorically similar to boxing (i.e. a physical mano-a-mano sport featuring blow-by-blow action) – could be used to construct similarly compelling dramas also.  I wonder why screenwriters, who may have actually played our sport, aren’t able to relate to tennis better than boxing, especially since audiences are far more likely to have played it (in lieu of boxing).

Personally, I find 5-set tennis matches – like the men’s Wimbledon finals in 2008 and 2009 – to be much more compelling than most any 12-round boxing match, and perhaps that’s the problem.  Our sport may not need Hollywood to make it interesting:  its ‘characters’ fascinate us more than the ‘brutes’ that box, and the drama doesn’t need scripting to be unforgettable.

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