Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Will Smith: Ali

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee His hands can't hit what his eyes can't see. 

Ali Synopsis
Ali is a 2001 biographical film that tells the story of sports legend, Muhammad Ali, from his early days to his days in the ring. Directed by Michael Mann, this movie shows the life of Ali from many different angles, giving up many perspectives and not only the view from the sports pages. We see his life from 1964 to 1974, starting fresh from his Olympic gold medal victory as he explodes into heavyweight boxing. The film features his capture of the heavyweight title from Sonny Liston (Michael Bentt), his conversion to Islam, his refusal to be drafted during the Vietnam War, his banishment from boxing, his return to fight Joe Frazier (James Toney) in 1971, and finally his reclaiming of the title from George Foreman in 1974. There are also many social and political topics explored throughout the movie, including the assassination of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. It was a very loaded time in our history, and Michael Mann attempted to give the audience a rounded view of everything that was happening around him, as he gave us the story of Muhammad Ali.

Will Smith played Cassius Clay/Cassius X/Muhammad Ali
Jamie Foxx played Drew 'Bundini' Brown
Jon Voight played Howard Cosell
Mario Van Peebles played Malcolm X
Ron Silver played Angelo Dundee
Jeffrey Wright played Howard Bingham
Mykelti Williamson played Don King
Jada Pinkett Smith played Sonji Roi
Nona Gave played Belinda Ali
Michael Michele played Veronica Porche
Joe Morton played Chauncey Eskridge
Barry Shabaka Henley played Jabir Herbert Muhammad
Giancarlo Esposito played Cassius Marcellus Clay, Sr.

I'm gonna give 1000 dollars to the man who brings me Howard Cosell's toupee, dead or alive.

My Thoughts
Starting with the 'boxer hoodie run' seemed a little cliche to me, but it fit in with the training/fight montage. I wonder how long it took to teach Will Smith how to do the quick bag...I have a love/hate relationship with it, myself, but he seems to feel pretty comfortable with it. I've always wondered how much time they spend actually teaching actors how to box or fight or whatever their movie is about, and how much of it is just choreography to them.

It seems like the music is attempting to transport us to the time frame, but I could really have used a more inspirational soundtrack. Might have been a little more cheesy, but I think it would've been better for the movie.

I was never a huge boxing fan, so I don't know how well the actors portray their real-life counterparts, but it seems fairly realistic to me. I saw a couple of slip ups time frame-wise (cameras and cars that haven't been made yet), but I don't think any of them detracted too much from the overall film. They do a fairly great job of transporting us to the 60s and 70s.

There wasn't much buildup for the World Championship fight. I know they don't have much time to cover ten years of history, but I think they could have put a little more into the pre-fight buildup there. I also would've liked to see how he met Malcolm X and became Cassius X. It just seems like the film does a lot of jumping around, and things just seem to happen out of nowhere. At least there was a lot more ceremony to his gaining the name Muhammad Ali. The fight between Ali and his father was a great scene to portray how his choices have begun to impact his family life. This movie took on the great challenge of showing various aspects of a very complicated man's life. It's a tough job, but I think Michael Mann does a pretty good job of it. There are some choppy transitions occasionally between scenes and topics, but it's a great job, I think.

I feel like it's more of a high light reel for Ali's life than anything else. I think we missed some key parts to make it really flow. He was in Africa for all of 2 minutes. He was on a date, and then he was married, and then he was divorced. It seemed to slow down a little around the time he got his license revoked, but then the high lights reel started again. He can't box anymore, he's married again and has a baby, he's facing jail time and bankruptcy. He gets more fights, gets cleared, gets to fight George Foreman, then he's divorced again (but at least we get to see some of the good-bye here). We just don't have enough time to get enough detail to make a movie flow. I'm not saying it's a horrible movie. I still think it's a great movie. I just think it could've used some more detail and some better transitions and a better soundtrack.

The fight with George Foreman was the longest running scene of the movie! Finally some meat to a scene! If the whole movie was supposed to be building up to this, then there were a few scenes that could've been left out to add some of that transitional scenery that was lacking. Taken as more of a documentary-style film, this was great. Not a 10 on an entertainment scale, but I think it was a great biography about Ali. I do understand, though, that not all films are made for pure entertainment. Some are supposed to tell you the real story, and I think this film does a great job (even if we might have missed out on some key points for time's sake). I have heard that the fights are almost perfect reproductions of the original fights, but not having seen any of them for myself, I can't guarantee that. Props to Mann for going for realism and succeeding there, though.

I loved Jamie Foxx's character. He's another actor that I'm always impressed with. This is probably the first movie I've watched, that I haven't been completely sold by Will Smith's performance, though. I think he did a wonderful job portraying an amazing individual, but it was too obvious that he was portraying. He usually falls right into a part and you can't see Will Smith in there anywhere, but here it looked too much like Will Smith playing Ali, and not enough like Ali. Still, I think, a great movie, even though I've been kind of jabbing at it.

Ali! Bumaye!

A fair resemblance? What do you think?

Random Facts about Ali
Will Smith gained 35 pounds to match Ali's 220. 

Charles Shufford, a real-life 235 pounds heavyweight boxer with a 17-2 record who plays George Foreman, was given license to make his punches as real as possible, short of incapacitating the film's star.

Both Will Smith and Michael Mann offered to put up their salaries in case the film went over-budget.

The poem Ali recites to Howard Cosell about an imaginary fight between himself and Joe Frazier is actually from a spoken-word album he recorded before his first Sonny Liston fight. The recording included the line, "The crowd never knew when they put down their money/That they'd see a total eclipse of the Sonny."

In the last fight of the film, Ali always sits down between each round. In reality, he never sat down in this fight.

In the film, during the Ali-Quarry fight, Angelo Dundee is seen in Ali's corner. In reality, this was the only fight in Ali's career in which Dundee was not with him.

Random Facts about Muhammad Ali
Went 19-3 against fighters listed on Ring Magazine's Top 50 Greatest Heavyweights list.

Was born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. on January 17, 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky. Hence, his early nickname, the 'Louisville Lip'.

In September, 1976, after winning a unanimous decision against Ken Norton, admitted to sportswriters that he should've lost.

Recorded an album for Epic Records in 1964 titled "I Am The Greatest." The track, "The Gang's All Here' was produced by Sam Cooke.

Ali was the first man to knock down Sonny Liston, George Foreman, and Chuck Wepner.

Ali's maternal great-grandfather was Abe Grady, a native of Ireland. Through this lineage, Ali is a distant relative of Generals Robert E. Lee and George Smith Patton, Jr.; actors Lee Marvin, Glenn Close, Laura Dern, and Hilary Duff; journalist, Katie Couric; cyclist, Lance Armstrong; and U.S. Presidents, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, Zachary Taylor and Benjamin Harrison.

Has portrayed himself in four different motion pictures.

Has appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated on 37 different occasions, second only to Michael Jordan.

Has been married four times and has seven daughters and two sons.

In a 1993 research study to determine the most recognizable athlete of all time, the Associated Press reported that Ali was tied with Babe Ruth as the most recognized athlete in America. More than 97% of Americans over 12 years of age knew and could recognize Ali.

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