The Fourth of July is nearly upon us, and those who have escaped retail/food service are probably reveling in the promise of a three day weekend full of mosquitoes, loud noises, and obligatory family gatherings! Many of you, I’m sure, have perfected the art of bingeing The West Wing in an attempt to stir up enough patriotism to forestall your racist aunt’s cries of “Damn Commie.” But, if you’d like to take a break from Sorkin’s quick-witted condescension, I am here to offer a fine alternative.
These are both “Based-on-a-True-Story”s about American underdogs triumphing in fields that America as a whole does not care about even a little bit. They are movies where The World said “America, what are you doing here?? We didn’t even know you liked this thing! I mean, you have literally no experience with it. What, wha–Why? You can’t possibly expect to just show up and win??” To which we responded by dunking our head in Gatorade® and yelling, “Fuck You, that’s what” before kicking over a chair and devolving into driving grunts of “USA! USA!”
We will start with Bottle Shock (2008) because it’s the one you can actually appreciate sober (hint: you’ll want to crack open a nice bottle of California Chardonnay right around the time Freddy Rodriguez is Too Pure and Doesn’t Deserve This).
Bottle Shock is the story of “The Judgement of Paris” (the 1976 Wine Competition, obvs), wherein America looked at France and thought “I will take away what little you hold dear; I will do this because I can.” Alan Rickman, an Englishman who owns a wine store in Paris, gets it into his head to hold a blind taste-test (because, historically, the English love to see the French humiliated).
So, he travels to California, where he falls in love with jaded cuckold Bill Pullman, who thinks Alan Rickman just wants to see Non-French winemakers undermined and thus refuses to take part in this competition. Enter, then, Chris Pine’s Wig, who is Young and Believes in His Grapes and convinces his father (Bill Pullman) to put himself back out there.
Oh God — it’s So Bad — Drumpfian Hair Care
Highlights: Bradley Whitford shows up for like two minutes as a Wine Professor (my shriveled crone’s heart can hardly bear it); Eliza Dushku is the hot bartender who deserves so much more screentime; Freddy Rodriguez is perfect and I would 100% drink his wine.
This movie is honestly a pretty accurate portrait of America — lazy and entitled white men (and their wigs) luck into renown while women’s forethought and preparation provide that luck and brown people work hard and are good but ultimately do not advance their station; also the French are fancy pants jerks and we’re better than them.
But, since the idea is to douse all those “the system is inherently broken” ramblings that always seem to end up with your family members pointing out that you haven’t been on a date for these past two hundred years, it’s time to finish off that bottle of wine and switch right over to some good old Russian vodka because it’s hockey time.
Miracle is just the same as every other SportsTeam!™ field trip movie you had to sit through in middle school; it has just the same familiar and predictable rise and fall of male egos reconciled by patriotism and victory that we have come to expect from this genre; but, it’s ON ICE.
If you’ve been drinking right, this movie should pass in a blur of swelling music and cheers, overturned tables, and men wanting to cry but not letting themselves.
But, here’s the gist: America doesn’t care about Hockey. But Minnesota cares! Minnesota cares a lot! Minnesota thinks haackey is really cool and fun and they will Prove It.
However, Proving It is hard and they lose sometimes — but only sometimes, and not when it matters (because this is America and if you’re a whole bunch of white dudes led by Kurt Russell, there’s really nothing you can’t accomplish by just wanting it real bad).
These guys think Haackey is really Cool and Fun
Hopefully, you’ll be drunk enough now that this movie will have its intended effect: to get people excited about America and how much the Soviet Union sucks and also Hockey!
Miracle is the most deluded of all the SportsTeam!™ genre because it doesn’t even try to make you think about America’s flaws (a la Coach Carter or Remember the Titans or Glory Road or Hurricane Season or literally any other American SportsTeam!™ movie — a genre with strong traditions of racial commentary that Miracle just straight up ignores).
This movie is just here to harken back to a simpler time — that time of cowardly denial and absolute refusal to examine one’s self and one’s beliefs (that time your racist Aunt is still living in); when White America was the only America with any real media representation and the country’s energy was so focused on hating communists that we could pretend like we didn’t hate ourselves (like we weren’t — aren’t — actively killing our own).
And so enters this grand tool of propaganda — Disney’s Miracle (2004) — where Americans are so desperate for an outside enemy, so frantic to escape our own self-loathing that we are actually willing to pretend to care about hockey.
Anything we can take away from the damn commies, we will. And like a playground bully who steals your juicebox because he can — who honestly thinks that self-respect is relative and so he must stand on the backs of others in order to be raised up — we’ll pretend to care about wine, too (if only briefly). Because that’s the thing about America: we take and we take and we take.
So go ahead! Eat the last piece of pie! Steal a sparkler from a child! Pretend you don’t hate yourself, and let this holiday weekend pass by in a blur of drunkenly-ignored fire safety and American-flag chino shorts.