Sunday, October 17, 2010

Secretariat: A review

Yep, I went to see Secretariat. Everyone I talked to loved it, and it truly is a feel-good movie -- you know, like Hollywood used to make? Any more it seems like gratuitous, gross-out violence has become the movie industry norm.  Thanks Disney for your 'new' radical approach to movie-making, and simply telling a good story.

Anyway, I did like the movie, but here are a few random observations...
  • John Malkovich, whom I love, is badly miscast as Secretariat's trainer. He would have been great in the role, but he just ain't convincing as a French Canadian. I knew people in my high school French class who could have spewed out more convincing French dialogue.
  • Diane Lane appeared to be channeling Laura Petrie from the Dick Van Dyke show. Being a huge Mary Tyler Moore/Laura Petrie fan, I was delighted.
  • The horse that played Secretariat (not running) was also badly miscast. Short-necked, unmuscled, oh-so-manageable, blah. No look of eagles, energy, or what track people describe as "class." Honestly, Harv on a windy day could have done better. The original Secretariat was one of a kind. Short of making him a cartoon, or claymation, not sure what can be done about that.
  • A few too many "I shall overcome" speeches from Penny. 
The best moment...
Which makes up for any nit-picky comments I can make... Penny is beset by tax issues, and her scheme for syndicating Secretariat fails. She walks out of the barn, sees the grooms batheing the horses. What she does next is something that all of us who love horses will instantly understand. It was the best moment of the movie, and that scene alone was worth my $10 ticket.


  1. It was Disney-fied, and me and my barn buddies were going "That has got to be the CALMEST TB I have ever seen" throughout. But it was still super cute and a feel good movie, even if it wasn't another "Seabiscuit". And yes that scene was so sweet.

  2. Sneaky woman for not telling what! I am still waiting until it comes out for rental :o) Being horse poor (povertized??), we test drive on the rental and if it's good enough we wait until it hits the $9.96 section at Walmart before we buy it (we don't have cable either, so some sort of video library is a must).
    In all honesty though, we have nine horses to play with so who needs television? *laugh*

  3. I have not been to the movie theatre for years. Not sure I should try again, not even for Secretariat. Does it stick to facts or go to movie La La land like in Seabiscuit? (Which I have not seen because so many horse people said it was Hollywood claptrap.)
    I guess the real test is how do people involved in the horse racing industry like "Secretariat"?

  4. Interesting -- I thought Seabiscuit was the better movie, and not just b/c of Toby Mcguire! Yes, there was poetic license, but a lot of the movie was based on the true story and if you read the book Seabiscuit you could pick it out.

    I love an underdog story. The little sequence that I alluded to was actually a small moment, but wonderful to me b/c it is exactly how I look to my horses when I'm going through a bad time.

  5. I did appreciate the fact that they used real jockeys for the races. None of the Tobey Maguire on the fake horse. I was pleasantly surprised by the movie. I thought it would be even more Disny-fied.

    And in the films I've seen of Secretariat he was the CALMEST TB when not on the track. There's plenty of footage showing him ambling around with a lead rope over his neck.

  6. Haven't seen the film yet, but interesting observations about the horses they chose. Were I making that film, I would have combed the country to find the most magnificent chestnuts on the planet to play Sec.

    Somewhere, I read that Secretariat had the most perfect conformation in every detail to the extreme. I can't even imagine how long it would take me to cast his look alikes. *G*

  7. Jean, I think I read the same thing, maybe an interview with Penny years ago, where she said his conformation was perfect, then she said, "well, he may be just a little goose-rumped." I think I would be looking for a chestnut stallion. What bothered me the most about the horse they used was his rather plain head. Sec't had a beautiful wedgy head and a totally amazing neck...

  8. I went with several of my horse-crazy friends. We loved it and had a great night out.

  9. I was raised on stories of Seabiscuit and the Howards. My mother grew up around lots of the people involved. The book is a straightforward history and a cracking good read. The movie takes too much license. I guess my problem is that what they call a "feel good" movie these days is just mawkish BS to me. Too much soaring music and slow motion in place of acting.
    Movie tickets cost more than a sack of grain. I'll wait for the rental.

  10. Two cool links of Sec--here he is playing with a stick! Scroll down.

    And here's a short clip of the casting process for the film:

  11. I thought it was too much about Penny and not enough about Secretariat. If one were to watch that movie not knowing why Secretariat was so great, they would walk away less than enlightened. I was also disspointed with the racing scenes. Interesting fact though: I read somewhere that in the movie they used a handful of slow TB's and one really fast QH to try and recreate the race where Secretariat won by 31 lengths, but the QH could only get 16 lengths ahead of the slow TB's. Secretariat was a very special horse indeed.

  12. That's interesting about the fast QH and slow TB's. I can understand how difficult it would be. So how did they manage to recreate the 31 length gap?
    Speaking of horse movies, The Black Stallion is on Turner Classic Movies Tonight and other nights, all times Eastern:
    Oct 18, 10:45PM
    Oct 24, 04:00PM
    Dec 23, 06:00PM
    I've never seen it or read the books, though I read lots of Farley books as a kid, no Black Stallion books for some reason. Thanks, Anon, for the Bloodhorse links.
    My favorite horse racing movie is "Champions", about Bob Champion and Aldaniti winning the 1981 Grand National. Aldaniti plays himself. Much of the movie involves Bob Champion's cancer.
    Some people complain that there are so many shots of exercise gallops. Sorry, but that's how they are trained - stamina stamina stamina!

  13. It was an AMAZING movie...and that one scene you speak of brought tears to my eyes:)

    I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the cinematography of this movie. When Seabiscuit was done - they used "dummy" horse heads to get the close ups. In can see that those jockeys had helmet cams on...and that was absolutely AMAZING! With Ocala, FL being about an hour away...this movie made me want to drive down there just to see all of the farms lined along the "corridor" as they call it:)

  14. I attended the Secretariat Festival in Paris, KY, last year, and had the privilege of meeting the horse chosen to play Big Red in the running sequences. He'd won the Look-Alike contest in 2008. "Trolley Boy" was handsome and did resemble a lean, racing fit Sec well enough. But the real star of the show that day was the horse who won the second Look-Alike contest as I was watching: a big, hunky, beautifully-conformed chestnut show hunter gelding with PRESENCE and almost identical markings. There were a number of gorgeous horses there that day but let me tell you - when that fella set foot in the ring, Sec's exercise rider Charlie Davis went WILD and so did the crowd! It was a no-brainer. I have lots of photos...Unfortunately, I happened to be hanging around when the movie people asked his mom how much she would want for him. When she said 40K, they said no thanks. *sigh* Yep, folks, even Disney has a budget, apparently. It's a shame because believe me, you would have noticed that one.
    As far as the movie goes, this die-hard Secretariat fan did some eye-rolling, but it was entertaining. For the average person, it's a feel-good movie that all ages can enjoy. I hope it generates interest in racing!

  15. I loved it. It was good fun. That moment got me too, knowing no matter what I was wearing, I'd join right in and start scrubbing. Total horse lover capture.

    I also loved the reality of mud all over the jockey, since he was always coming from behind. What cracked me up: jockey is filthy, "Secretariat" is spotless at the end of all races.

    I didn't mind this. Disney studios understood who the 'real' star was.

    For what it's worth, I catch rode a Secretariat grandson for years. Totally calm dude, unless you flipped the racing switch. (he was off the track)


Hi Guys, Your comments are valued and appreciated -- until recently I never rejected a post. Please note that I reserve the right to reject an anonymous post.