On November 23, 1968, Yale and Harvard's undefeated football teams met in Cambridge, with Yale heavily favored. Contemporary interviews with 30 men who played that day mix with game footage... See full summary »
On November 23, 1968, Yale and Harvard's undefeated football teams met in Cambridge, with Yale heavily favored. Contemporary interviews with 30 men who played that day mix with game footage (with instant replay). Led by Brian Dowling and Calvin Hill, Yale goes up 22-0. With less than one minute to play, Yale leads 29-13. For Harvard, the end is exhilarating; for Yale, supreme confidence gives way to a life lesson and to being a small part of football history. Adding context are comments about the Vietnam War, the sexual revolution, Garry Trudeau's Yale cartoons, and players' friendships with George W. Bush (Yale), Al Gore (Harvard), and Meryl Streep (Vassar). Written by
Kevin Rafferty's ("The Atomic Cafe") new documentary shows us the historical match between Yale's and Harvard's undefeated football teams, in Cambridge, back in November 1968. The Vietnam War was roaring, birth control was a brand new wonder, and these 20 year-olds were meant to give their best in the greatest match of their lives. Through contemporary interviews with the players (including Harvard graduate and Oscar-winning actor Tommy Lee Jones), now forty years older and wiser, plus the actual game's footage with instant replay, we're transported to that exhilarating moment in time - the game and the era.
Rafferty's film's best qualities - nostalgia, portrayal of an era, love of the game - should be praised; yet, it didn't always work for me. Don't get me wrong, it's a fine documentary, and I'm personally fascinated by the 1960's (it's not because I wasn't even born then that I wouldn't be interested in it!), but the main issue, with me, is the football match itself. Brazilians, myself included, just can't understand American football and its rules (I'm an even worse case since I don't even enjoy soccer; I know, shame on me!). And even though I'm not a big basketball fan either, a movie like "Hoop Dreams" managed to engage me throughout because of the humanity of its characters and the visual and narrative vigor of that long film. Not to say the players in "Harvard Beats Yale 29-29" aren't charismatic or remotely interesting; they are. But I believe being a football fan helps a lot in order to fully enjoy this film. My verdict: a fine documentary, but the thematic sport just isn't for me.
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