Is Best Pic Nominee "Silver Linings Playbook" the Best Sports Movie Ever?

4 years ago

The 85th Academy Award nominations are in and one of my fave movies of the year, "Silver Linings Playbook," received eight nods on Thursday. 

The David O. Russell written/directed film, about a group of neurotic but ultimately lovable characters, defies easy categorization but at it's heart, I think it's a sports movie.  

Headlined by the mesmerizing Bradley Cooper and the immensely talented Jennifer Lawrence - both nominated for their star turns - along with Robert DeNiro and Jacki Weaver,  who were nominated for their supporting roles, the films' relationship with sports is the glue that holds it together.

We never actually see a game, but the film shows how we live with sports in the context of our daily lives and the Philadelphia Eagles actually play a major character throughout the film. 

Cooper plays Pat Solitano, a bi-polar man who has just been released from an eight-month stint in a mental hospital. He works hard to rehabilitate himself so that he can reconnect with his estranged wife, who has issued a restraining order against him.

Solitano, along with his father Pat, Sr. (played by De Niro) are die-hard Eagles fans. Cooper proudly wears DeSean Jackson's #10  jersey throughout the film and De Niro's character is defined by his relationship to the team. He's a gambler who bets everything on football games and is so superstitious, he needs everything to go a certain way so his Eagles can win.

There was a bit of controversy when the NFL decided to not to air an interview with the film's stars after objecting to a storyline involving betting on a game between the Eagles and the Cowboys that had playoff implications. 

Pat Sr. may have been banned from Lincoln Financial Field for life but Cooper's character attends a Cowboys-Eagles game at the stadium in a crucial third act scene, providing a glimpse into the relationship Philadelphians have with their team. 

While I'm not from Philly, I do have a lot of friends who grew up there and I've seen them weave their sports obsession into their philosophical outlook on life.

My favorite scene in the film comes near the end, when Pat Sr. blames a string of bad betting luck on his son's lousy karma. Jennifer Lawrence's character responds by rattling off winning Philadelphia sports scores and their corresponding dates, which happen to match up to time she and Cooper spent together. See? Sports is the glue that holds the movie together.

Over the years, sports films have had a love-hate relationship with the Academy (much like Philly fans and their teams).  "Chariots of Fire" was a Best Picture winner in 1981 and "Rocky" which shares a city connection with "Silver Linings," took home the statue in 1976. "Raging Bull" (also starring DeNiro) lost out on Bet Picture in 1980 but has gone on to be considered a modern classic. 

Thanks in part to the expanded number of nominations in the category, a sports film has received a Best Picture nomination each of the past four years ( "Moneyball" "The Blind Side," and "The Fighter" -- also by David O. Russell ). Stretching back to 2003, six sports films have received Best Picture nominations ("Seabiscuit" that year and "Million Dollar Baby" in '04).

Ultimately, "Silver Linings" is a story that makes you laugh, cry, and realize there are silver linings all around, if you just open our eyes and hearts to them. But yes - it's also a sports movie.  

Unfortunately for Philadelphia fans, there were no silver linings this year. The Eagles were downright lousy, Jackson was injured. and head coach Andy Reid (referenced in the film) was fired after the season wrapped. Oh, well. 

The 85th Academy Awards Ceremony will take place on Sunday, February 24 and will be hosted by Seth MacFarlane.

What films are you rooting for? Do you think "Silver Linings" will bring home an Oscar?

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