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And they're off to the races...
October 8, 2010 7:49 PM   Subscribe

Andrew O'Hehir, writing for Salon.com, called Secretariat: "A gorgeous, creepy American myth". Roger Ebert described O'Hehir's review as "insane". O'Hehir responds.
posted by Joe Beese (56 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Not to make a band name comment, but Nietzschean Überhorse would be a good-ass band name.
posted by Powerful Religious Baby at 7:54 PM on October 8, 2010 [17 favorites]


O'Hehir's response seems to boil down to "I was trolling!" and "It was a joke, anyway! Geez."
posted by rtha at 7:59 PM on October 8, 2010


And all of this will be more interesting than the actual movie.
posted by HostBryan at 8:04 PM on October 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


This strikes me as being like one of those "point-counterpoint" editorials in The Onion.
posted by Schmucko at 8:14 PM on October 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm not saying that Secretariat the horse was not heterosexual, after all, he was a horse...
posted by ovvl at 8:14 PM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I envision Nietzschean Überhorse as a gay Norwegian Rhythmic Death-Metal band.

Their first chart-topping hit will be a song called The Will To Power (My trousers are calling).

I have forseen it.
posted by Avenger at 8:15 PM on October 8, 2010 [12 favorites]


*steeples fingers*
posted by Avenger at 8:16 PM on October 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


The only place I can think of where no one is deferential to the boss is the Chicago Tribune.

Ah, good old Ebert, keeping the long Chicago tradition of jibes at the other newspaper's expense. (Usually, it's one of the best parts of reading either the Tribune or the Sun-Times)
posted by Ghidorah at 8:23 PM on October 8, 2010


actually there was still a lot of ozzie and harriettness still left in the 70s

The year Secretariat won the Triple Crown was the year the Vietnam War ended and the Watergate hearings began.

free clue - most people were sick to death about hearing about the war, especially seeing as it was "over" for us, and not too many people realized at the time of the belmont stakes just what a big deal watergate was going to be

what does he think, that people spent the 60s and 70s obsessing over everything they read about in the paper? - they didn't then, they don't now - hell, nowadays, they don't even bother to READ the paper
posted by pyramid termite at 8:29 PM on October 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


well, I have to say - the original review just isn't very good, satire or not, but especially if it was meant to be satire. He spends half the review backtracking over the other half.

what rtha said: "O'Hehir's response seems to boil down to "I was trolling!" and "It was a joke, anyway! Geez."

personally, I would have appreciated something like an admission that the review just smelled up the joint.

and Ebert, in the update where he acknowledges he didn't read it as satire, is more gracious than I think O'Hehir realizes.
posted by victors at 8:33 PM on October 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm waiting for someone to pitch a movie about the late John Henry. His career would fit just perfectly into all sorts of classic American myths (underdog--er, horse--makes good, champion comes out of basically nowhere, etc.). You'd even have a terrific horse race, which is exciting for reasons exactly the opposite of Secretariat's Belmont. (The video includes one of NBC Sports' more notorious screwups...)
posted by thomas j wise at 8:37 PM on October 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


I like O'Hehir's review, for its style if nothing else, but he fails to acknowledge that "Meet Me in St. Louis" idealized 1904 Missouri; "A Beautiful Mind" idealized John Nash and 1947 Princeton; "A Color Purple" idealized Georgia in the 1930s; "The English Patient" idealizes an Italian villa during World War II; "A Streetcar Named Desire" idealized "a two-story building of a street in New Orleans which is named Elysian Fields and runs between the L&N tracks and the river"; and so forth and so on.

The movie "Secretariat" is Oscar bait. Seeing it as anything else, or seeing it as secreting hidden meanings, is absurd.
posted by blucevalo at 8:44 PM on October 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


I haven't seen either the movie, or the the reviews.

(I'm making a break line here so the haters can easily paste that into a response about how I should should STFU)

Derails forthcoming or not about all your favorite movies and what Ebert considered them, I just have to huff up some Chicago pride and defend the man. He has been, well, while it might seem cliche, pretty cutting edge his whole career.

He drank with the best of them, then stopped and watched the rest of them go on without commentary. He was in an inter-racial marriage, when sure thats fine, didnt go over well with mainstream newspaper types at the time.

There were instances he made Siskel so mad, just because he was so right so often (and history tends to prove him right) that he became a bigger icon, and more respected journalist.

He has done Op-eds that are stunning, and personal things that are about the best New Journalism you will ever read,

And now, battling a horrible cancer that has left him without the power of speech, is launching an new TV show.

This is one of my faves, and a small, beit, very small insight, into some of things that made Roger Ebert what he is.

I was way younger. I used to do my boozing at the place down the street and a half way around the block. Given the business I have chosen, I wish that were not so. I would have been happy to be the speck. much less the fly, on the wall in this place. With these people.

A Bar On North Avenue.
posted by timsteil at 9:06 PM on October 8, 2010 [6 favorites]


This Andrew O'Hehir seems to be the Secretariat of backpedaling. Hey-o!
posted by millions at 9:12 PM on October 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wow, this really reminds me of something I would have expected to see over on Fandom Wank (generally randomly nsfw language and some links), not between two professional movie critics.

Seriously, I cannot believe I just saw O'Hehir nearly say "IT WAS A SOCIAL EXPERIMENT GUYS!" in that response. Wow.
posted by strixus at 9:22 PM on October 8, 2010


I think that O'Hehir realized that, even though his fellow Salonian Camille Paglia is written off as an irrelevant, over-the-top clown, at least she gets the fucking page hits, so what the hell.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:26 PM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Way back when (the 1980s), Roger Ebert gave thumbs down to both Blue Velvet and Time Bandits, two of my all time faves. Not saying this makes him forever WRONG WRONG WRONG ABOUT EVERYTHING, but it did color my perception of him very early in the game -- ie: just another reviewer who, when he agrees with me (and he often does) I'm happy agree with him; but when he doesn't, well, life carries on.

Having not seen Secretariat, I, of course, only have hearsay to go on -- but what I am getting from various reviews ("A solid, old-fashioned movie" - "the wooden acting and a horsepucky script" - "glossy-coated biopic") is a sense that yet another piece of not-so-distant history has been rewritten toward some gleaming, triumphal American past that, of course, never happened. In other words, propaganda. So yeah, why not cry " ... a work of creepy, half-hilarious master-race propaganda almost worthy of Leni Riefenstahl"! It may ring a bit extreme but so what? Propaganda's extreme, too.

My only criticism thus far of O'Hehir is that he seems to have backed down so quickly. I mean, just because you've raised the ire of ole man Ebert doesn't mean you you're wrong.
posted by philip-random at 9:53 PM on October 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


We can agree perhaps on one thing: Your review helps us define what Rotten Tomatoes considers "positive."

Heh.
posted by mazola at 9:53 PM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wish O'Hehir had defended his original claim and focused on what he claimed he would -- "the cultural gulf between our understandings of 'Secretariat' ... all kinds of stuff film critics don't generally discuss: the nature and meaning of propaganda, the ideology (or lack thereof) of Hollywood movies, the role of religion in public discourse and maybe the gap between idealism and cynicism when considering movies, or the world."

There were substantive assumptions that he didn't fully defend, such as whether embodying a fantasy world that plays a role in political discourse is a political act worthy of comment by those who find that discourse harmful (I'd say yes).

Those aspects were intermixed with legalistic denials and "my trap worked! you responded!" Plus, he seemed peeved, or at least rattled. I wish he'd slept on it and posted a more thoughtful and polished response to Ebert.
posted by salvia at 10:14 PM on October 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


Hmmm, where else have I seen divisive trolling put forth as honest criticism? Oh yeah, Video Games can never be Art.

I believe Ebert also backed down there.

Really though, O'Hehir has good insight here, and some of Ebert's argument against it are weak:
Nor did many consider the Triple Crown victories as a demonstration of white superiority, because race horses (which seem to enjoy winning for reasons of their own) are happily unaware of race. Does a horse think of a human as belonging to another race?


The movie isn't about the race horses, and he knows it.
posted by formless at 10:17 PM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


The problem with talking about subtext is that sometimes, other people don't see it. Ebert dismisses the review as mere satire, but O'Hehir didn't describe it as satire. He said it was a bit hyperbolic, but that he fully embraced every point he made. I haven't seen the movie (and I won't) but I've seen enough movies with that sort of deep subtext that I can easily believe it was there, and I think O'Hehir supports his reading of the subtext with good examples.

Further, Ebert seems to be confusing the real events with the movie, and critiques of the portrayal of characters in the movie with criticism of actual people, as if he thought the movie was a documentary assembled from live footage of the events depicted. That's kind of bizarre for a critic. He does know where movies come from, doesn't he?
posted by Jimmy Havok at 10:29 PM on October 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


I envision Nietzschean Überhorse as a gay Norwegian Rhythmic Death-Metal band.

I envision a monstrous stage prop that is a Horse Fractal, where each part of the horse is a smaller horse--on down to its smallest cell, and Nietzsche is embracing every single neck of it.

The Nietzsche Horse

by T.R. Hummer

There were two crazy men, the one with the whip and the one with the huge
moustache: they were dancing together, no, they were fighting
When the eyes of the whipless one brightened: sometimes that happens when
you bite someone, or when you’re fucking: people become disturbed
When horses fuck: to them, I think, it’s like mountains fucking: things
that big ought to keep it to themselves. The idiot man with the whip
Tore his hand away then, and hit me with the little crop—you think that hurt?
I’m a horse!—but the other man began dancing again, moustache
Covered with foam—what was that? had he run too far?—and he was muttering
in that barbaric way humans have, sounds like Bismark and German
And even the man with the whip was becoming frightened, or awestruck,
or maybe he looked like that because he was hungry, it’s hard to tell
About humans, and I was losing interest anyway, a hay wagon was passing,
it was much more interesting than the weeping man with his arms
Around my neck suddenly, or the moron with the whip—if he’d been a horse,
he’d have died at birth—moaning God, and the other suddenly
Laughing like a jackal and saying Fool, you have no notion who you’re talking to.
posted by Powerful Religious Baby at 10:43 PM on October 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


A: Nietzschean Überhorse!
B: What? You are insane!
A: You have misunderstood.
B: So I have. Whoops!

Gripping drama, that.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:51 PM on October 8, 2010


...my review of the film was willfully hyperbolic, even outrageous, in hopes of getting people to look at a formulaic Disney sports movie through fresh eyes.

Speaking for myself, hyperbole and outrageousness are not qualities I want in movie reviews, nor do I think they are required to achieve his stated goal.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:32 AM on October 9, 2010


O'Hehir: You can't celebrate winning. Winning is "acting white."
posted by Faze at 4:54 AM on October 9, 2010


I must admit I now want to see the movie, just to figure out who I agree with more. I'd also have liked to hear either of them compare the movie with something like "Seabiscuit," which of course, is explicitly interested in talking about the historical context (with typically broad Hollywood brush strokes, of course). But perhaps I would need to see the movie to figure out why that wouldn't have seemed a natural point of discussion.
posted by bardophile at 5:04 AM on October 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sometimes criticism has as much to do with what you bring to a work as with what's there. I can see how if one were worn down from weeks of hearing about Tea Party buffoons and their possible political ascendancy, then one might walk into a film like Secretariat (which I too have not seen, so...) and just get annoyed beyond belief. I mean, I've only seen the damn commercials for this thing, and I agree with O'Hehir that the role of the stablehand or...whatever he is (like I know anything about equestrianism!) seems a bit Steppin Fetchit-y, and that's based on absolutely nothing but a line something like, "Oh, lawsy, that's a fine horse there!" (not the actual line, because I can't remember it, but it's something like that). I literally cringe every time this commercial comes on. So I guess what I'm saying is I can see how O'Hehir may not be pulling all of this 100% out of his ass, but that he might not have had such a puketastic reaction to the film in a different contemporary climate. In, say, 2005, he probably would have just dismissed it as lightweight cinematic fluff and moved on.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:51 AM on October 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Well, its not like this isn't Disney's stock in trade, and certainly Secretariat or Disney are not alone in presenting these themes in movies. Critics exist at least in part to gin up enthusisam and controversy to support the commercial goals of the industry.
posted by sfts2 at 6:33 AM on October 9, 2010


Speaking for myself, hyperbole and outrageousness are not qualities I want in movie reviews

Speaking for pretentious criticism junkies like me, these are the pillars of greatness in our opinion.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:39 AM on October 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I know we're all supposed to venerate Ebert, but while I do enjoy the man's more meta writing about movies and life, his reviews have been sucking for years. He's gotten sloppy, consistently gets details wrong, and tends to take the products at face value. I appreciate reviewers that go deeper into the implications of what they are watching, and O'Hehir got the closest to what is bothering me about Secretariat.

The comparison with The Blind Side was spot on. This is a deeply conservative movie, pitched to a very specific kind of audience. Witness this delightful junket bit:

But don't call Secretariat a feminist film. The term makes the two women bristle.

"We are all certainly ... fighting to be a person and not a woman," Chenery says, impeccably dressed, a delicate string of pearls around her neck. "I like being a woman, and I'd rather look pretty than ugly, but that's not the point. The point is I, as a person, am doing something."

Lane praises her character's real-life counterpart for not allowing herself to be pigeonholed, whether as a housewife or a face of the women's movement.

"I don't think it's a feminist agenda," the 45-year-old actress says. "I think it's more of an equality agenda and a personhood that Penny's speaking of: recognition for your deeds, not for what you look like while you're doing them."

Lane added that she and Chenery "love guys, and it's fine to be an underdog in a man's world because they're pretty good."


I don't feel like O'Hehir is such a raving lunatic for going deeper into this pretty pony fantasy to make us smell the ideological manure.
posted by Freyja at 7:41 AM on October 9, 2010 [11 favorites]


Critics wrestle with their identity as a profession.
posted by Xoebe at 8:52 AM on October 9, 2010


In responding to Ebert, O'Heher says,

Now, clearly I could have written a more "normal" review, in which I said something like:
"Secretariat" was kind of fun to watch, but it bugged me. It presents a prettied-up, phony-baloney vision of America in the early '70s, in a transparent effort to appeal to the "family-values" crowd who ate up "The Blind Side" -- people who want a comforting and unchallenging movie without any sex or swearing. There's nothing wrong with that as a way to make a buck, but this example is ultra-tame, scrubbed clean of any genuine conflict or drama, and I pretty much think it's crap.
That's a pretty good review, and the contrast between his published review and this one is why I don't like O'Heher. Too much personality. Too much "brand."

However, without having come close to seeing the movie, I'll bet you ten bucks he's a hundred percent right about the happy negro.
posted by Trochanter at 9:31 AM on October 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


having slept on it and still not seen the movie, I nevertheless feel compelled to weigh in once more. The reason I'm imagining really NOT liking Secretariat even more now is wrapped up in these lines from O'Hehir's original review:

I'll say that again: The year Secretariat won the Triple Crown was the year the Vietnam War ended and the Watergate hearings began. You could hardly pick a period in post-Civil War American history more plagued by chaos and division and general insanity

This was not a triumphant point in the history of the great American dream. Far from it. Short of the Great Depression, this was about as dismal and weird as things had ever been (certainly in anyone's living memory). Yeah, America lost the Korean War twenty years previous but no one (from the President on down) had ever actually admitted it. Now, Vietnam had just gone down in full view (on the evening news) worse than any true believer could possibly have imagined, and the President was in the process of doing the same on a personal level, and there was world wide oil crisis brewing, and evil Alice Cooper was all the rage with the teeny-boppers, and The Exorcist was the top grossing movie, and and the leisure suit was in.

To tell a rousing, inspiring, infused-with-golden light tale of these moribund, deflated, gloom-infused times is yes, more than just a little misleading. Even if it's a very good movie. That just makes it worse, for the culture, for the notion of historical truth, which does actually matter.
posted by philip-random at 10:03 AM on October 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


This movie is folksy Tea Party pablum, whether Ebert likes to admit it or not. O'Hehir is right, even if he had to ultimately bow down before the master's criticism.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:05 AM on October 9, 2010


I will not go see this movie (not my type of movie), but I thought O'Heher's review was fun to read. I have a feeling I would experience the movie as he did.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 10:06 AM on October 9, 2010


Also, I don't read the response to Ebert in the same way rtha does (as, oh I was trolling). But I like over-the-top reviews.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 10:11 AM on October 9, 2010


Oh, come on, this
This long-suffering female Job overcomes such tremendous obstacles as having been born white and Southern and possessed of impressive wealth and property, and who then lucks into owning a genetic freak who turned out to be faster and stronger than any racehorse ever foaled. And guess what? She triumphs anyway!
is funny.
posted by enn at 11:10 AM on October 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


This long-suffering female Job overcomes such tremendous obstacles as having been born white and Southern and possessed of impressive wealth and property, and who then lucks into owning a genetic freak who turned out to be faster and stronger than any racehorse ever foaled. And guess what? She triumphs anyway!

born on third base, thinks she hit a triple. And then the pitcher walks three straight batters so she gets to walk across home plate.

The more I think of America then, the more I think the proper Secretariat story would best be told from the POV of some b-grade Hunter S Thompson style journalist, boozing and drugging and behaving badly at various receptions and galas, puking in fountains, frightening small children and yet, deep down inside, a sad and troubled soul, a true American believer seeing the great dream corrode and decay ... and meanwhile this absurd mythmaking is going on right in front of him and there's nothing he can do but bear slackjawed witness.

Make sure You're So Vain features prominently on the soundtrack.
posted by philip-random at 12:05 PM on October 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


God, I miss the fuck out of O'Rourkes.
posted by crush-onastick at 12:25 PM on October 9, 2010


Also, I don't read the response to Ebert in the same way rtha does (as, oh I was trolling).

Agreed. It was more along the lines of "I meant what I said but indulged myself in a good deal of fun saying it. And now I feel I have to clarify which bits of it were the having fun part."
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:22 PM on October 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I should say that my comment is more of a general one on O'Heher, and that this review is one of his better ones. Though I still find his prose not crisp and kind of hard to read.
posted by Trochanter at 1:51 PM on October 9, 2010


Call me late to the game on this but that "O'Hehir responds" link is currently bringing up a review of the new Zach Galifianakis movie. Has the backtracking somehow been... rescinded?
posted by squeakyfromme at 3:31 PM on October 9, 2010


Never mind, it just wasn't permalinked so now you have to scroll down the page
posted by squeakyfromme at 3:32 PM on October 9, 2010


Did I just read a review of a review what is going on
posted by tehloki at 4:13 PM on October 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


To tell a rousing, inspiring, infused-with-golden light tale of these moribund, deflated, gloom-infused times is yes, more than just a little misleading. Even if it's a very good movie. That just makes it worse, for the culture, for the notion of historical truth, which does actually matter.

What a narrow view of the world. To imagine that at any point in history--any point--you could pick a mood ("moribund, gloom-infested") and imagine that it applied to everyone in an entire country is ridiculous.

Were there people in the 70's who went about their lives paying little or no attention to Watergate & Vietnam? People who had the temerity to enjoy their lives and be happy even though there was a war happening on the other side of the planet and some political scandal going on in Washington? Absolutely.
posted by straight at 11:19 PM on October 9, 2010


What a narrow view of the world. To imagine that at any point in history--any point--you could pick a mood ("moribund, gloom-infested") and imagine that it applied to everyone in an entire country is ridiculous.

Yes. Because nothing is less inherently moribund and gloom-infested than a fricken horse race. So inspiring! Honey, let's take the kids! We can bet our life savings on "Elmer Purina" and watch as he breaks his leg and they have to shoot him in the head, just like what'll happen to me if I don't pay the bookie! Hooray!
posted by Sys Rq at 11:28 PM on October 9, 2010


The problem with talking about subtext is that sometimes, other people don't see it.

I pretty much came in here to say this. Ebert cops to writing "insane" reviews himself, and we probably all have watched a move/read a book where we "saw" something in it that very few other people did.

I'll pony up my own example. I though The Watchmen was pretty straightforwardly right-wing allegory. I expected the reviews to be a choir backing me up on that. They were not.

Anyway, these are both good guys and good writers, so this was a fun tête-à-tête.
posted by mreleganza at 12:57 AM on October 10, 2010


The more I think of America then, the more I think the proper Secretariat story would best be told from the POV of some b-grade Hunter S Thompson style journalist, boozing and drugging and behaving badly at various receptions and galas, puking in fountains, frightening small children and yet, deep down inside, a sad and troubled soul, a true American believer seeing the great dream corrode and decay ... and meanwhile this absurd mythmaking is going on right in front of him and there's nothing he can do but bear slackjawed witness.

phillip-random, it's funny that you mention that
posted by timsteil at 10:47 AM on October 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


O'Hehir: You can't celebrate winning. Winning is "acting white."

Yeah, that misstates pretty much everything in his review for the sake of what point?
posted by Mental Wimp at 6:15 PM on October 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Isn't it about time for everybody to calm down a little and stop hyperventilating so much? O'Hehir says he was only fooling with the hyperbole, but how can you tell these days? It reads like a rant and it feels like a rant, so I'm taking it as a rant. As a rant, it's a lousy review. It's not funny and there's a difference between subtext and projection. This reads like projection.

I'm getting a little sick and tired of ranters acting like their rant increases the import of what they are ranting about. This synthetic emotionalism, more than anything else, is the really annoying part of the Tea Party clown show.

Now it's contaminating movie reviews. Another black mark against the Insane Palin Posse, the Juggalos of American politics. The nice thing about having insane religious and political beliefs is that it absolves you of the need to live rationally. Too bad the emotional plague is contagious.

(As an aside, Ridley Scott - more about him below - said, "The difference between movies and films is that films make you think." The problem with Disney is they've never made a film, only movies.)

In a nutshell, every sugary sentimental movie is bad fiction because it glosses over rather than highlights. If you like everything washed out and lacking in contrast, then Disney studios is turning out some great movies. Me, I find this stuff banal. "Lassie, Come Home" with a horse instead of a dog.

In the commentary on "American Gangster," Ridley Scott says that sentimentality is "unearned emotion." That puts the finger on feel-good sentimentality. It comes across as fake because it is intentionally faked (probably to please some marketing-demographic-addled producer.)

Bill Nack's comment is interesting because he's got O'hehir faking it.

John Tweedy's comment puts its finger on the movie's sentimentality as faked emotion.

O'hehir may want to be a film reviewer, but he's going to the movies. So he threw a tantrum to get attention and got it.
posted by warbaby at 9:32 PM on October 10, 2010


phillip-random, it's funny that you mention that

Yeah, that was more or less my point. The movie I'd pay good money to see is "The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent And Depraved", starring NOT Johnny Depp (too old), directed by David Fincher.
posted by philip-random at 10:24 PM on October 10, 2010


... sorry ...

the movie I'd pay good money to see is "The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent And Depraved" adapted to incorporate the Secratariat phenomenon, and the public meltdown of Richard Nixon, and the immediate aftermath of the Vietnam War, and the ascendancy of leisure suits ... with Alice Cooper's Generation Landslide hot and heavy on the soundtrack.
posted by philip-random at 10:33 PM on October 10, 2010


Long-time race fan here, who remembers watching Secretariat win (and occasionally lose) his races on TV.

O'Hehir makes some interesting and even valid points, but he loses much of his credibility when he Godwins himself in the first paragraph (cross-burning? Leni Riefenstahl? Jeebus...). He loses most of the rest with his various errors of fact.

Trainer Pancho Martin, as Bill Nack explained, really was that obnoxious prior to the Derby. Admittedly, he calmed down afterwards, and he and Penny Chenery actually reached a truce a few weeks later. However, the implication from O'Hehir that he was typecast as a villain mainly because he was non-white is totally off-base.

Lawrence Scanlan's book "The Horse God Built" -- about the relationship between horses and grooms in general, and between Secretariat and Eddie Sweat in particular -- confirms that Sweat was in real life more or less as he is in the movie: deferential to a fault to his employers, and totally dedicated to the horses he cared for. He was a horseman, first and always, with apparently no time for the political radicalism of the day. According to Nack, the closest he came to a radical gesture was when he raised his fist in a black-power salute after the Derby. If O'Hehir had done a bit of fact-checking, he might have known this.

Secretariat finished third in the Wood Memorial, not fourth. Even the movie gets that right -- wasn't O'Hehir paying attention?

The media really did fawn over Penny Chenery-Tweedy in 1973 -- she isn't an invention of the film-makers. She really was photogenic as hell and gave good sound-bite. And, as a good middle-American housewife who rang doorbells for Eisenhower back in the day, she was her father's daughter -- from all accounts, Christopher Chenery's favourite curse-word was "Bolshevik".

All that being said, there are numerous errors of fact in the movie itself -- outlined in great detail here and here. Again, that O'Hehir doesn't even touch on these shows that he failed (again) in his fact-checking, and suggests that he wasn't really interested in reviewing the film -- rather, the movie was merely a convenient vehicle for an outrageous article that was bound to get him noticed.

PS. to warbaby -- thanks for the link to John Tweedy's comment -- probably the sanest writing during this debate from someone who was actually there.
posted by e-man at 10:45 PM on October 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


for the sake of what point?

White people are victims.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 10:47 PM on October 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


"The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent And Depraved", starring NOT Johnny Depp (too old),

Sorry, Im just having a very hard time taking anyone seriously, who invokes Hunter Thompson, saying they would like to see some "b-grade Hunter Thompson" go write the story, who had no idea that Thompson's first big story was about the Derby. Yeah, no offense, I just cant roll like that.

I don't know Johnny Depp. Fox show in the 80's, Captain somebody now, that's all I got. I never watched any of it.

However, I did see somewhere that in preparing to play HST, he moved in with the guy, shaved his head to look like him, there was some deep commitment to the role, and some mutual love there. While I never saw the movie, I also heard Depp paid to build the cannon that Hunter's ashes were shot out of, and he is much loved by HST's family, and still has a key to the gate at Woody Creek. That's something.

As far as him being too old...actually seems like he is just about the right age, and like I said I never saw the first movie, but if I had to pick a name out of the hat, he doesnt seem like a bad choice out of the gate. He might be bad at it I suppose, but there are a shitload of people who might be worse.

Just FWIW, if you are gonna throw Hunter's name around in a loud voice, it might pay to do your homework first. Otherwise, you sort of stain his reputation, and kinda make yourself look silly all at the same time.
posted by timsteil at 4:41 PM on October 11, 2010


Sorry, Im just having a very hard time taking anyone seriously, who invokes Hunter Thompson, saying they would like to see some "b-grade Hunter Thompson" go write the story, who had no idea that Thompson's first big story was about the Derby. Yeah, no offense, I just cant roll like that.

timsteil, my original wording was admittedly vague but I never intended to indicate that I was not aware of "The Kentucky Derby is Decadent + Depraved". Indeed, I read it for the first time better part of thirty years ago and, in its way, it changed my life.
posted by philip-random at 5:05 PM on October 11, 2010


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