"Secretariat", the movie - discussion

I plan to see “Secretariat” on opening day tomorrow. I will review it here.

Is anyone else interested in this movie?

I saw it last night (sneak preview) and quite enjoyed it, as did my mother and son (adorable watching him sitting on the edge of his seat and cheering on the horse…).

It focused more on Penny Tweedy than on Big Red, what was happening on the farm and her dealings with the people around racing as well as keeping up with her family. Not a whole lot with the horse beyond birth and the races.

Still an enjoyable way to spend a couple hours.

I’m a little too versed in the real story (that this one is “based on”) to appreciate the Disneyfication. The commercials irritate the beejezus out of me. Whether it’s the case or not, it seems at least from the previews that Disney has taken a phenomenal equine superathlete and turned him into a Magikal Speshul horse, and taken an incredible story of overcoming obstacles and made it “Oh YEAH? Just watch me do it!”

Nitpicks I already have, just based on what I know about the film: Secretariat was never required to win the Triple Crown. That is sheer fiction. The “performance clause” in his syndication was about his fertility (unable to perform THAT way), not his winning or losing races.

There is no mention whatsoever of Riva Ridge, Meadowbrook Stud’s winner of the 1972 Kentucky Derby and Preakness and a helluva nice older horse the year Secretariat won the Triple Crown. He was a huge part of their success, too, but Disney apparently thinks it’s better if all the pressure was on one horse’s success.

The whole “Wanna see a colt being born?” “I’ve never seen a foal get up so fast!” “Let’s get 'em, Secretariat!” in the commercials makes me want to throw things at the screen.

Racing journalist Steven Crist expands on this in his article “Secretariat”'s a good movie, but it’s not history. I’m sure people who aren’t racing fans will enjoy this film; it’s just a shame that those of us who actually most celebrate the sport will most likely be the ones who like it the least.

No, but I guess films about horses are more interesting to people who aren’t slightly afraid of them. Since you probably aren’t, I hope you enjoy it :slight_smile:

Sounds pretty much like what Andrew Beyer had to say:

I’m interested. Do they give mad props to Sham? I hope so. Sham was a truly great horse. He had the misfortune to run against a legend.

I read they have Sham winning the Wood Memorial; in reality it was Angle Light, who was trained by the same trainer as Secretariat, but had a different owner. AWKward.

I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I can already tell I’m going to have the same problem with it that I had with “Remember the Titans”… namely, that they’re going to try to turn Goliath into David.

The real Titans were a powerhouse of a team that not only went undefeated but slaughtered virtually every team they played without working up a sweat. The movie tried way too hard to make them look like scrappy underdogs.

In the same way, Secretariat was a powerhouse of a horse. But you can bet they’re going to try to make him look like an underdog.

Well, it’s not true that Secretariat “slaughtered all competition” He was beaten by Angle Light just 2 weeks before the Derby. Despite the fact that Sham had an accident in the start gate, and ran the whole race bleeding from his mouth, Secretariat only beat him by 2 lengths in the Derby.

It retrospect Secretariat was in a different league. But at the time of the Derby, his success was by no means assured.

I want to see it (despite it looking pretty terrible, in the vein of Shitbiscuit) primarily because of Salon’s hilarious review (which has since fueled a shooting war with Ebert, who predictably loves the film):

And in rereading the thread, it looks like astorian brings up some of the same points. :cool:

The only horse race I ever went to was the 1973 Belmont stakes. The oddest thing was that Secretariet did not look like he was running that hard. He looked like a horse going out for a leisurely stroll.

I’ll never go see another horse race, as noting could top that.

I thought it was good enough, and it is certainly a good family movie in that everybody can see it with nothing to offend any sensibilities.

The problem is that there really were any great dramatic hurdles to overcome. The problems shown in the movie are mostly rich people problems (she can apparently afford to flit back and forth between Denver and Virginia at will) and while it is presented as a woman standing up in a man’s world, none of the men ever seem to really stand in her way and when they do (such as resisting investing in Secretariat’s syndication) they are actually presented with having good reason to resist. And her husband may be annoyed but he doesn’t stand in her way and I’d argue he actually has good reason to be annoyed based on what is shown in the movie.

That said, Secretariat’s domination at the Belmont Stakes is just such an amazing bit of athleticism it is hard to not get caught up on it. But you can get that just watching the race on YouTube.

I just don’t like horse movies. And that goes for everything from *Black Beauty * to Mr. Hands’ Wild Ride.

I’ve only ever seen the videos, but that’s the same impression I got.

One of the things that stuck with me after reading an article about him when I was a kid was that in the Derby Secretariat actually ran each quarter mile faster than the previous one. Amazing.

thanks to this post I went looking on YouTube for the race. My god, YouTube is the greatest invention related to the Internet!

The race.

I’m one of those people who happens to think that horse racing and dog racing are cruel and heartless sports, but DAMN, I had tears in my eyes at that magnificent performance!

I’ll see the movie at some point, when it gets to the discount theaters. I love Diane Lane.

I saw it yesterday, opening day.

It was pretty good. They should have named it “Penny”, as she’s in 90% of the scenes. I fully expect Diane Lane to be nominated for an Oscar, and she might even win. John Malkovich played the type of quirky character he usually plays. Even Otto Thorwarth, the real jockey who plays Ron Turcotte, did a good job.

The funniest line was when Penny’s assistant prepares to say something deep and meaningful, with dramatic music and lighting, and intones:

“Good evening, K-Mart shoppers.”

Also pretty funny was when Andy Beyer is walking alongside Secretariat and disparages his chances to succeed at longer distances, and

Secretariat pees on Andy’s shoes.

2 things I didn’t like - the over-the-top portrayal of Frank “Pancho” Martin as a loudmouth villain type with an accent straight out of “The Sopranos”. I guess Disney felt there had to be an obvious antagonist; and the use of Keeneland as a stand-in for every track except Churchill. It was fine for the Aqueduct races, but most of the audience will have seen the actual footage of the 1973 Belmont, and Keeneland looks NOTHING like Belmont. Also, they made an effort to make Keeneland look like Aqueduct and Saratoga through colors and CGI, but for the Belmont scenes it looks like they just said “Screw it.” Bad decision, given the Belmont is the climactic scene in the movie.

On the other hand, a couple of the scenes that obviously cut costs actually benefitted the movie. They don’t show Secretariats first race (maybe too risky to the horses and actors) and they show the Preakness on TV - I doubt any restaging could have been better than the actual move Secretariat made on the first turn.

This movie is being marketed to churchgoers. I wonder how they will feel about the obvious women’s lib themes in the film.

All in all, the movie had far fewer racing bloopers than, say, “Dreamer”, which showed a horse prepping for the Breeders’ Cup Classic in a claiming race. Almost every movie character was an actual person from racing’s history - I don’t think they made anyone up out of whole cloth - and other than ignoring Riva Ridge and virtually ignoring Angle Light, they made an obvious effort to keep their facts straight. Three stars - four for Diane Lane fans.

I saw it last week when the local theatre had a one-night, one show “sneak preview.” The place was about two-thirds full and I swear about half were horsemen.

Despite the name, the movie’s focus is on Penny Chenery rather than Secretariat. It is your standard Disney feel-good movie so it is cast as woman-overcoming-adversity which is sort of true if you squint. When Chris Chenery’s health began to fail, she was the only one of the three children to have enough expertise and interest to take over The Meadow. Since even to a person knowing practically nothing about horseracing, Secretariat’s accomplisments would be about as surprising at the Titanic sinking, that’s what they hung the movie’s hat on.

The coin-toss was simplified, being shown as a choice between Hasty Matelda’s Bold Ruler colt from the year before and the foal Somethingroyal was carrying. No mention was made about the loser of the coin-toss (Chenery) also getting the Bold Ruler filly from the year before.

As Ruffian says, there was no mention of The Meadow’s Riva Ridge winning two of the three Triple Crown races the year before, losing the Preakness on a sloppy track. Despite those earnings though, the movie accurately showed the desperation of needing to raise $7-million fast after Chris Chenery’s death and the bold move to syndicate Secretariat rather than gut their broodmare program and sell off Riva Ridge, which is what it would have taken. The book I got, Secretariat by Timothy Capps, makes no mention of a performance clause, racing or fertility, but the shareholders had to be sweating bullets after the Wood Memorial loss. Even without such a clause, had Secretariat not done well in the Triple Crown campaign, The Meadow’s reputation would have been ruined and at that level, reputation is everything. The movie had a big mystery for a few minutes after the Wood Memorial loss, until the abcess was discovered. This was not true; the abcess was known before the race.

The closest thing to a villain in the movie was Pancho Martin, Sham’s trainer, who was shown as a big blowhard. In truth, he had an excellent colt in Sham who had the unfortunate luck to be running against Secretariat. The movie politely did not mention Sham came in dead last after being outrun in the Belmont, but most likely because Pincay had eased him. No mention was made of the timing gaffe for the Preakness.

There was a sub-plot about one of Penny’s daughters being radicalized in college and her mother supporting her for following her beliefs, even though she disagreed with her politics. I have no idea how true this is and I wonder how well that will go over with the church crowd.

All in all, I’d say it was more accurate than Seabiscuit and thirty-one lengths ahead of Dreamer.

Equipoise, Secretariat’s Belmont was a jaw-dropping display but after six-furlongs it wasn’t a race any more. My favorite race has to be Affirmed and Alydar’s duel in the 1978 Belmont.

The day after we saw the movie, we went to the track to watch Zenyatta win her 19th consecutive race in this year’s Lady’s Secret Stakes. after the race, we were wondering who the old lady in the winners circle was. “Looks like Penny Chenery.” “She has a connection with Zee?” Some page flipping after we got home determined Lady’s Secret was a Secretariat filly.

Yes, Chenery was there, although I don’t think the Secretariat-Lady’s Secret connection was the reason (could be, though I’ve seen no mention of it in racing press). From what I read in The Thoroughbred Times, she wanted to come see all things Zenyatta–her prerace dance, her heart stopping late move (I swore she was going to lose by about a half, and somehow she defied the physics and won by a half), and the overall phenomenon she has become. I’m sure that the movie Secretariat opening soon played a part; if nothing else, the movie and its opening date were mentioned every time she was on screen during the televised portion.

I can’t believe I mixed up my Riva Ridge facts, but thank you Desert Dog for the correction–I knew he won two legs of the Crown, but had it in my head it was Derby and Preakness. Der.

I know I am the exception and most will enjoy this film. I’m put off by how it’s being marketed, and what I’ve heard from the horse community. (Hello Again, there’s a thread about it in the Racing forum of COTH–among other complaints is the depiction of Sham.) I’m sure I’ll watch it on cable, or heck, since it’s more about Penny I’d probably enjoy it more than if it were about the horse.

Oh, and Dreamer was unwatchable for me, to the point it was both laughable and painful. It and Racing Stripes are about the same to me, but at least the latter is obviously fantasy fiction so I give it more leeway. Dreamer was, like Secretariat, based on a true story–well, more like inspired by one. It was about as accurate to the real events as MIB is to the landing on the moon.

Ah, that was probably it, then. The racebook we were at had no post race audio at all, just a long, long wait for the prices to be put up which gave us time to speculate.

I can’t speak to the degree of accuracy the film has. All I can comment on is the craftsmanship as a film. And I found it unbelievably bad. No hoary cliche goes unexploited; no opportunity for absurd dialogue and fumblebum exposition is ignored; no sticky-sweet music cue or picturesque sun-dappled camera shot can be resisted for maximum deifying effect; no restraint is taken in making every character as broad and tediously one-dimensional and predictable as possible. And because everybody knows Secretariat won the Triple Crown, no amount of audience manipulation is effective in making the races anything but boooooring.

I couldn’t abide Seabiscuit, but that film is a model of originality and innovation compared to this piece of crap. This is undeniably an extraordinary story, but the filmmakers don’t trust the inherent power of the tale, so they layer on as much pandering, phony-baloney bullshit as humanly possible. It’s got the subtlety of an anvil, and while there are few images in the animal kingdom as naturally poetic as a horse in full gait, this was a singularly unbearable experience (though I’m immeasurably grateful that I saw it for free).

Like in Seabiscuit, the best thing about the film is the acting of the (real-life) jockey, who is so effortless and feels so lived-in, that everyone else feels that much more fake and contrived by comparison. And don’t even get me started on the use of soul music (for a laughable dance sequence) and gospel music (for trumped up emotional effect that actually ruins the drama of a critical race) when the only black person in the whole movie is of the worst type of African-American stereotype. Ugh ugh ugh.

Saw it, didn’t care for it, surprised it’s gotten such good reviews. I didn’t hate it like ArchiveGuy; I just thought it was totally forgettable and paint-by-the-numbers. It felt like a Hallmark original movie - it really was about that level of simple, bland, inspirational fluff. And heck, I don’t have anything against inspirational movies - as long as they’re good, and interesting. This just kind of plodded along.

Maybe I don’t “get” horse racing, but frankly, I’m not sure there was an “extraordinary story” here to begin with. It might have been a great race that Secretariat ran, but where’s the great story behind it? :frowning:

And while I didn’t care for the movie, the negative Salon review was just eye-rollingly stupid.