On October 25, 2023

The Movie Diary: One in a million

 

By Dom Cioffi

Quite often (especially in sports), situations arise where the odds are heavily stacked against a particular outcome. These ‘long-shot’ scenarios and wonderful to hype up in the hope that something unexpected will happen, but generally the majority of them fizzle out against the weight of the imbalance. 

However, some long-shots do succeed, and their stories often capture people’s imaginations due to the extraordinary nature of their achievements.

For instance, during World War II, Winston Churchill, then the prime minister of the United Kingdom, faced seemingly insurmountable odds when Nazi Germany was on the brink of conquering Europe. In 1940, when much of Europe had already fallen to the Nazis, Churchill rallied the British people with his inspiring speeches and determined leadership. Against all odds, he managed to keep Britain in the war and played a pivotal role in forming the Allied coalition that eventually defeated the Axis powers.

And then there’s Nelson Mandela, the iconic anti-apartheid activist and former president of South Africa, who spent 27 years in prison for his efforts to end racial segregation and discrimination. The odds were stacked against him, but through his unwavering commitment to justice and reconciliation, he emerged from prison and went on to become the first black president of South Africa. He then played a crucial role in ending apartheid and establishing a multi-racial democracy in the once-segregated country.

And who could forget Louis Zamperini, a U.S. Olympic runner who became a bombardier during World War II. When his plane crashed in the Pacific Ocean in 1943, he and two crewmates survived on a life raft for 47 days, enduring shark attacks, starvation, and dehydration. They were eventually captured by the Japanese and held as prisoners of war. Zamperini’s story of survival, resilience, and forgiveness (as told in the book “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand), is a remarkable example of overcoming incredible odds.

But the greatest long shot scenario that I’ve personally witnessed was the United States men’s ice hockey team winning the gold medal in the 1980 Winter Olympics.

I was 14 years old in 1980 and enamored with all sports. And while hockey was far from my favorite activity, I appreciated the skill and athleticism that it involved.

That winter, the Olympics were being held in Lake Placid, New York, which was as close as a global event had ever come to my tiny Vermont town. And even though we were a couple hours away, everyone was abuzz that the greatest athletes on the planet were so close by. 

The United States ice hockey team, composed primarily of amateur and collegiate players, faced off against the heavily favored Soviet Union during the first medal round. The Soviets had won the previous four Olympic gold medals in ice hockey and were heavily favored to win, especially since they were regarded as one of the best hockey teams in the world and had a roster of experienced professional players.

Despite the significant odds against them, the young and relatively inexperienced U.S. team, led by coach Herb Brooks, managed to defeat the Soviet team 4-3 in a stunning upset. The U.S. team then went on to beat Finland in the final medal round to take home the gold.

Known as the “Miracle on Ice” (the moniker having been attached after commentator Al Michaels’ exclamation “Do you believe in miracles?!”) is celebrated as one of the most iconic moments in the history of sports and exemplifies the idea of a long shot overcoming extraordinary odds.

In this week’s feature, titled “Long Shot,” we meet a middle-aged journalist who has just left his job at a major newspaper. In a chance encounter and at an industry party, he runs into his former childhood babysitter—who just happens to be running for president of the United States and who just happens to need a speech writer. 

Do you see where this is going?

Starring Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron, “Long Shot” doesn’t fare too badly on the romantic comedy front. The two main characters have some genuine chemistry, which lends to the overall appeal of the film. Throw in a bevy of humorous scenes and you’ve got a solid comedy to enjoy. 

Check this one out if you’re looking for a few laughs wrapped in an obvious political agenda. 

An unlikely “B-” for “Long Shot,” now available to stream on Netflix. 

Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at moviediary@att.net.

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