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The reason Varsity Blues is so much like Friday Night Lights is b/c VB
is a fictional story which was written 10 years after the true story of
FNL took place in Odessa, TX in 1988.
The game faces worn by the players in FNL are genuine. The "Religion" of High School Football gave them no other choice. H.G. Bissinger spent almost an entire year with his family in 1988 in Odessa, TX. He essentially became a part of the community and team in documenting and then writing his book Friday Night Lights. He said that due to depressed economic conditions, lack of higher education, and good paying jobs, the communities in West Texas looked upon the high school football programs as saviors from reality.
I am not a professional movie reviewer. And I did not play for Permian.
I have seen many great high school football movies including Remember the Titans, All The Right Moves, Radio, Varsity Blues and others and there is nothing better than non-fiction. My high school coach made us read this book during summer ball and I can honestly state that this is what West Texas High School Football is all about. No matter what the "Movie Review Nerds" say, this is great story. Watch it, watch it again and buy the DVD for your kids. Teach these values to your kids. Forget about preconceived notions about the actors.
THIS IS WHAT FOOTBALL IS ALL ABOUT!!
No shock that when Bissinger's incredible book of the same name came out, residents of Odessa were none too pleased with what they read. It painted Odessa as a very backwards and overtly racist town. Countless examples and incidents revealed a Texas town still stuck in the Jim Crow days of years passed, inspired only by high school football victories. High school football was the main theme of the book, but the racism found in the community was right there with it. Enter Peter Berg, who wished to make a film about high school football, in particular, he wants to make this book into a movie. The community of Odessa made it clear, no way. Berg would not be allowed to use Permian images or Permian facilities. Berg pleads with the Odessa district to let him make the film, he pledges that he will remove all of the racist elements in the book that made Odessa look bad. In fact, Berg went one step further, he decided he would deal with the prejudice angle, by using African Americans as the example of the bigotry. The black coaches of the all-black Dallas Carter team that faces Permian in the championship game complain bitterly about the initial lack of black referees, implying they want to stack the deck for the black team. During the game, the black refs wink and smile at the black players as they taunt, cheap shot, showboat and play dirty. A black referee blatantly cheats on a call in favor of Dallas Carter. It is incredible! This is when you realize, this horrible excuse for a movie had nothing to do with the actual book it was based. It is very difficult for me to tell anyone that they should watch a movie, when the story being told, completely distorts the truth of what that film was supposedly based on.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Based on the award winning book by H.G. Bissinger, Friday Night Lights provides the audience with an inside look at the magnitude of high school football in Texas. The film follows several players, as well as the head coach, as the Permian Panthers attempt to win the State Championship during the 1988 season. The roles of Mike Winchell and Don Billingsley are portrayed well by Lucas Black and Garrett Hedlund. Through their performances, Black and Hedlund were able to show the pressure and stress that football players felt. At one point in the film, one football player says, "relax we're seventeen" and Billingsley responds, "do you feel seventeen?". This quote emphasizes how in Texas, high school football players are held to higher standards than most teenagers. The best performance came from Billy Bob Thornton though, as he played Head Coach Gary Gaines. Thornton does a great job in showing the anxiety of a football coach in Texas. It was cool to see Billy Bob Thornton and Lucas Black together again, eight years after they starred in Sling Blade. The film is directed well throughout, but the final scene stood out the most to me. The scene consists of three football players standing in the parking lot of the stadium a couple days after their last high school game ever. As the players bid farewell to their careers, you can see how a huge part of their lives is over. High school football really isn't like it is in Texas anywhere else. Through excellent directing and acting, the film is successful in highlighting the enormous impact that high school football has on small towns in Texas.
Released in 2004 and based on H.G. Bissinger's true-life book, "Friday
Night Lights" details the 1988 football season of the Permian High
School Panthers of Odessa, Texas. Billy Bob Thornton plays the resolute
yet caring coach who has to deal with the pressure to win while Connie
Britton plays his wife. Lucas Black, Garrett Hedlund, Derek Luke, Jay
Hernandez, Lee Jackson and Lee Thompson Young appear as the players,
amongst others. Tim McGraw is also on hand.
While based on a true story, the film borrows heavily from 1999's "Varsity Blues, which concerned a central Texas team, about 300 miles southeast of Odessa. But, then again, "Varsity Blues" no doubt borrowed from Bissinger's book and made a fictionalized version of the events. In any case, "Varsity" is a Hollywoodized version of a Texas champion football team whereas "Friday Night Lights" is a docudrama. Whether you prefer one or the other depends on what you want. In my opinion "Varsity" is the better film simply because it's more entertaining and entertainment is the name of the game in cinema. Yet "Friday" is a compelling realistic take on the same topic. With the exception of Boobie Miles (Derek Luke), "Varsity" has far more memorable football players; in "Friday" they're bland by comparison.
However, Thornton is noteworthy as the coach. Speaking of which, the character of the coach is the most significant difference between the two films. In "Varsity" the coach (Jon Voight) is power-mad and abusive whereas in "Friday Night" he's determined yet goodhearted.
The film runs 118 minutes and was shot in Texas (Odessa, Abilene, Elgin, Taylor, Austin & the Houston Astrodome) with the opening trailer shot filmed in Manhattan, Kansas.
Perfectly encapsulating not only the high stakes sport that is American
college football but the trials, triumphs and all in between for those
growing up in an environment that builds pressure upon shoulders not
yet acclimatised to the highs and lows of adult life, Peter Berg's
frenetic and heartfelt Friday Night Lights is a stunningly crafted
example of the power of sporting themed movies and a career highpoint
for many involved.
Based upon H.G. Bissinger's book which is itself centred around the real life Permian High Panthers football team that was the heart and soul of the small Texan town of Odessa in the late 1980's, Friday Night Lights is not merely built for an excuse to deliver action packed staging's of football matches but is built to allow heartfelt and important messages to play out around it, so much so that this moderately financially successful film spawned the well liked Emmy winning TV series of the same name.
Berg (who at the time was better known as a character actor in films like Cop Land and Smokin Aces) displays a natural talent as a story teller here, as well as a fine orchestrator of his young actors (who almost pass as 17/18 year olds) and as we're introduced to the Panthers team from Billy Bob Thornton's well-meaning and measured Coach Gaines, Lucas Black's conflicted quarter back Mike Winchell, Garret Hedlund's pressured Don Billingsley and Derek Luke's flashy star playmaker Boobie Miles, it's easy to be pulled into this world of eventual pettiness and goal driven attitudes that consumes all those that inhabit it.
These characters feel alive, cut from reality, the town they live in eats, drinks and thrives off them and their sport and Friday Night Lights showcases a realistic view of what the college football scene represents to those that follow it. There's the young men who have had their chance to build their life upon one successful year, those that have found success in the arena and now struggle to live out of it and those that merely find themselves driven by the idea of the team's success, an outlet if you like to allow them to forget their woes. It's in this broad spectrum of characters and snippets of Odessa life that we get that sets Friday Night Lights aside from other films of its ilk and become something more, something truly special.
Much more than a mere sports movie, Friday Night Lights is quintessential viewing for movie lovers even if sport is but a foreign occurrence to them. From Berg, the fantastic soundtrack by Explosions in the Sky through to Billy Bob Thornton and an impressive young (at the time) cast with standout turns from Black, Hedlund and Luke, Friday Night Lights saw the nigh on perfect culmination of material and participants come together to deliver one of, it not the best sport movies ever made.
5 coin tosses out of 5
I am writing this review about 3 weeks after I actually watched the movie. Guess what? I had to re-read the storyline on IMDb to make sure I remembered what this movie was about. Even when looking at some of the frames, I have a very hard time remembering something about it. I guess my inability to write something about Friday night lights is the perfect proof of how this movie lacks any character or anything that would make it mildly memorable. I guess being a sports movie, you can still watch it on a Sunday afternoon and be OK about it. But surely, it will not make it into your top 100. There's better movies about sports and much better ones about American Football. Try Rudy instead. Only my modest opinion.
Almost everything works in this portrait of the madness for and around
high-school football in a small Texas town.
One of the best sports movies I've seen, largely because it's not really about the sport, or the big game, or winning and losing. It's about growing up, letting go of dreams, the pressure adults put on kids to fulfill their own dreams, losing perspective and gaining it. It seems to try and honestly look at both sides of high school football; how it helps young men grow, challenge themselves and bond, but at the same time how it subjects them to physical harm, an unrealistic set of expectations about life after being a local star, and being forced to carry a whole town on your shoulders when you're only 17.
Some terrific visuals, both in the quick cutting ferocity of the games, and in the long aerial views of the empty Texas plains.
A movie like this depends on its actors, because it is a character drama at its core. Much noise has been made of Billy Bob, and how he gives a great performance, and this is very true, but he is not the only star in this movie. The boys all do a great job too, especially Lucas Black. I have never noticed this actor before, but he is so intense as Mike Winchell that he makes you really feel for him. The other boys, including Derek Luke and Jay Hernandez, are also note- perfect.
Few plot twists feel too familiar from other films. I understand those that say the film displays a superior attitude towards these small town people. But I found those weaker moments fleeting in a film that surprised me with the strength of it's acting, writing, and film making.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In my opinion Friday night lights is the greatest sport movie of all time. The movie was good back then and it is good now. This movie is about one of the prestiges high school in Texas for football. The football team has to live up to the whole towns expectations. In the first game the star football player tore his ACL and was out for the season. The shot of boobie about to get hit by the linebacker can be seen as if you know that he is about to get hurt. The movie goes on and the team has to come back from big loses. The team goes through emotional and physical changes. The team gets back on track when the little voices became big voices on the team. The third string running back became the first string. At the end of the movie the team is about to win the game but the quaterback gets stopped on the goal line. This movie was a great movie.z
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There are many reasons why the movie will forever be better than the TV series, and here's one of them, more emotional than the TV series, while the FNL show has a few good episodes that I actually enjoyed, ultimately, the FNL movie will always be better than the TV show due to its emotion and theatrical writing. I personally think that Mike Winchell was the real star of the movie. A film better than its spin- off show. The citizens of Odessa-Permian would be proud of Peter Berg for his movie, and I gotta say, since I recently saw the movie, I still stand by my opinion, saying that the FNL Movie is better than the FNL series. Nuff' said.
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