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#015. Race!

One of the purest forms of storytelling is the race. There is a clear and defined goal in a race. The conflict easily comes from multiple parties wanting to reach that goal first. While the goal can be almost anything, from a literal finish line, to a buried treasure, to time itself, it always propels the protagonist to hurtle speedily toward that goal. In this society filled with instant gratification, everything happens so fast that it seems like we’re always racing toward something, even if it’s unimportant. I guess that’s just based on some psychological conditioning. Those who are faster, stronger, and smarter tend to win the race, but even those without the aforementioned qualities will do their best, hoping that they can rely on luck to bring them to the finish line. This week’s two movies center around races, and what it takes to reach that goal.

Speed Racer
Year: 2008
Rating: PG
Length: 135 minutes / 2.25 hours

It is blatantly obvious that this movie is about a race. Heck, the main character’s last name is “Racer”, which gives a sense of the family’s priorities in life. Of course, just traversing a course from start to finish would be boring, so to spice things up, the cars are all outfitted in such a way that would make James Bond drool. What’s even better is that there’s not just one race in this movie, but several. All exploring exotic settings and the racetracks that inhabit them. But the real question remains: what drives Speed Racer to race? The film starts with the explanation that he was born to go fast, but is there more to his motivation to win than merely a hereditary characteristic?

Speed Racer starts with the aforementioned explanation of the main character’s ambition and quickly moves to the goal of being the best and fastest driver in the world. But soon, the audience starts to wonder if this goal is to prove something. After turning down a sponsorship from a large corporation in order to stay loyal to the family racing team, it starts to look like he wants to show the quality of a home-grown support system. However, Speed’s older brother Rex died many years ago in a race. Is his desire to be the best racer something to avenge his brother? Is it to show that he can succeed where his brother once failed? Could it be both? As Speed races to the finish lines standing in his way, his opponents don’t make reaching his goal very easy. Despite crippling odds, can Speed Racer be the best driver ever?

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
Year: 1963
Rating: G
Length: 154 minutes / 2.57 hours

“Greed . . . for lack of a better word . . . is good.” While these words from the 1987 film Wall Street refer to insider trading and the lack of scruples in stock brokering, they could be reapplied to this classic film by adding “for comedy!” It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World is a must see for anyone who wants a good laugh and is one of the foundations of good comedic films. In fact, not only did The Simpsons heavily reference this movie in the season 5 episode, “Homer the Vigilante”, but it was remade in 2001 as Rat Race. Of course, with an all star cast of comedic legends, it’s no wonder why some consider it to be the funniest film of all time.

Even by today’s standards, $350,000 is a sizable amount of money that I’m certain people would gladly fight over. As it would just so happen, that exact amount of money is up for grabs to four different groups of people who try to help at a car accident. The accident was caused when a thief, freshly released from jail, hurriedly drives his car too fast and happens to drive off a cliff. This thief is trying to get to where his horde is stashed from before he was caught. As more and more people learn of the prize, the race becomes more and more ridiculous. What could have been a simple act of sharing spirals out of control as everyone tries to be the first to make it to the “X” that marks the spot.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 photo finishes

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One response to “#015. Race!

  1. Pingback: End of Act One | Cinema Connections

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