Monday, June 23, 2008

"Dear Hollywood..."

Why do film makers keep missing the boat-- or the feed truck-- when it comes to creating movies with horses at or near the center of the action?

It seems that either they're tainted with calamity (horses being mortally maimed during filming on the sets of "3:10 to Yuma" and "Flicka") or filled with silliness that goes beyond the realm of What We Really Know Would Really Happen. Like, come on. In real life could Dakota Fanning really gallop bareback across an open field on a runaway race horse? Not that I couldn't forgive some of the faults found in Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story because of the 3 minutes or so of screen time inhabited by the hunky Oded Fehr, but then, that's the topic for another sort of blog.

But it seems that films featuring horses rarely try to stick with the truth about horses and horse people. It's as if the script writers and producers don't think we'll notice when something's done wrong. Such is the case with Moondance Alexander, a film I recently watched and reviewed for Horse Channel. Here's a link to my commentary:

How Many Horse Handling and Horse Show Mistakes Can You Find in this Movie?

In Moondance Alexander I began taking mental notes the minute the pinto, Checkers, made his appearance. And then we have Don Johnson, as the horse trainer, tying Checkers up to the barn's fencing by the reins. Wasn't there someone on the set who could say, "Uhm, no, Mr. Johnson. Don't do that. Instead, while you're uttering your lines, just grab that halter that's hanging over there and casually buckle it over Checkers' head. Then use the lead rope to tie up the horse."

And Don Johnson should know better, because the man owned ranch property and has ridden recreationally for years. But then, who knows. Maybe he doesn't tack up his own horse.

Then we get to the horse show scene. Now, being a longtime huntseat competitor and also a lower-level hunter judge, I began to cringe at the entire horse show scenario set up in the film. While huntseat medal finals and hunter classics often have a pair of judges officiating, great pains are taken to ensure that they aren't collaborating in their score keeping. Horse shows aren't judged by committee. And when was there ever a tie for first place in a hunter classic? It doesn't happen as it does in this movie, especially with more than one judge. In real life the senior judge is deemed "the call judge" because he or she gets to make the final determination in the RARE event of a numerical tie in the scoring.

Then there was the "hunter" shown competing on course tacked up in a flash noseband. And yet not one of the judges in the movie managed to utter, "Tsk-tsk. Too bad that rider didn't read the rules. Flash nosebands are illegal equipment in hunter classes."

And look closely at the braids in Checkers' mane: first they're in, then they're unraveling like they were put in place by a groom wearing mittens, then they're miraculously tidied up. Perhaps others might not notice the lack of continuity, but any savvy horse person would.

The only reason I rant about movies like Moondance Alexander is because I truly believe that there is a market for movies for people who enjoy seeing beautiful horses up there on the big screen. I won't feel guilty for being upset when I'm horribly disappointed by what could've been a wonderful movie. What can be done to make me-- and other horse lovers-- happy? The film makers simply have to respect the audience; they cannot take too many liberties with horse handling or horse care or horse sports and think we won't notice. Look at The Horse Whisperer and Seabiscuit. Both were major theatrical films and were (mostly) true to the realities of the horse world. It can be done.

Have any comments about your favorite horse movie? Just click on "comment" below or email me at:


Anonymous said...

I hate it when horse movies are like that, i can see my favorite movie will remain "The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit" Even if i have to rent it from the library a couple towns over.

Cindy Hale said...

My sister and I still think "The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit" is our favorite/best horse movies ever! So what if Kurt Russell pulls a horse trailer with a little convertible roadster? THAT I can overlook. The rest of the film-- maybe because it's a comedy-- was delightful. And the horse show setting was quite realistic.

Anonymous said...

Oh I loved that movie! My parents showed it to me a few years ago cause they both love the old Disney movies much more than the new ones.

Seabiscuit it one of my favorites too, maybe since I've read the book three times and know the story so well. (It's actually one of my goals to read the book once every year. I catch something new every time, or a fact finally cements itself in my head so I don't keep forgetting.)

Anonymous said...

I completely agree, Cindy. My family gets so agitated when I complain about an inaccuracy in a horse movie, but I just get so worked up! Especially in movies featuring Mustangs, as those particular horses are my specialty, so to speak. Hildago was portrayed by Quarter Horses, and Flicka as a two year old Mustang would not be that big! There are more examples, but you get my drift.

Anonymous said...

Its kind of sad how horse movies are becoming so un-believable to us riders. The derby stallion was pathetic in my opinion. It takes zac efron a week to learn how to ride a horse and jump courses. How believable is that?

Anonymous said...

I know what you mean.There so un real.the real horse movie that I can think of is seabiscit(sp).Derby Stallion was really bad but since zav efron is SO hot you don't really see all the horsie no no's.

Anonymous said...

I know what you mean.There so un real.the real horse movie that I can think of is seabiscit(sp).Derby Stallion was really bad but since zav efron is SO hot you don't really see all the horsie no no's.

Jessica said...

The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit is my ALL time favorite horse movie!! :-) It's so FUN and happy. Even when she the horse :-)

My other is Something to Talk About - although definitely isn't kid rated. I still liked the horses and thought the ongoing commentary during the horse show by the announcer was quite humorous.

Cindy Hale said...

So I'm guessing that perhaps I should watch The Derby Stallion when I want to really have a hoot about an inaccurate horse movie????

The movie Something to Talk About was quite good, too, but perhaps that's because Robert Duvall (the dad) was involved, and he's quite the horseman in real life. I wrote about him in my latest blog entry.

It's too bad someone can't come up with a believable movie storyline about the plight of the BLM mustangs. It might be a tough sell in today's Hollywood, but maybe if a writer added drug selling, alien invaders and a car chase scene, it might work! LOL!

Anonymous said...

Well, Cindy, it may be a decent story to add those elements to a border patrol story line. Some patrols along the Mexican border use Mustangs, and several along the Canadian border as well.

Anonymous said...

One of the reasons I watched Something to Talk About was because of Robert Duvall and his riding ability. I watched maybe the first 15 minutes of 3:10 to Yuma and had to stop because it made me ill with the scene at the beginning where they blow up a horse. The whole way it was set up made no sense whatsoever. Seabiscuit is one of my all time favorites.

Anonymous said...

I have watched SO many thigns where they have the horse prospect all wrong. I sit there silently complaining about it, then when the movie's over, everyone gets an earful about what all was wrong. I am probably really annoying, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

I also don't like how they portray some books in movies. When our aunt and uncle took us to the theater to see Prince Caspian, my cousin and I completely missed the enjoyment of just watching a movie because we spent the whole time whispering to each other about everything they were doing wrong and how much they strayed from the book.

By the way, my grandparents got me Derby Stallion for something- might have been Christmas- yep, it's bad, but definatly entertaining to the person looking to criticize it.