Football As Films: Bowl Season's Opening Weekend Reviewed

Since they don't really count but you watch them anyway, let's look at the games of bowl season they way they should be viewed: as long, unscripted movies of varying quality. Today we review the three films from Saturday.

Reviews follow of each short film presented in the Bowl Season Film Festival. All opinions are the reviewer's, and do not reflect the views of SB Nation as a whole.

The New Mexico Bowl: Temple 37, Wyoming 15. Rated R for violence, language. The story of nature crushing man's vanity is an old trope, and has been done better elsewhere. Films like Grizzly Man linked the cold, carnivorous indifference of nature and her red teeth and claws to man's search for meaning, and did it better than this uneventful snuff film masquerading as art. 

Left alone on the high plane and pitted against marauding owls (Owls? Really?), the viewer is left to watch as the Cowboys forge further and further into the jaws of doom. They fight, certainly, but a crushing ground attack (these are burrow owls, evidently) drive them into a slow oblivion. At a running time of over three hours, the film challenged the patience and stomach. Did we need to see Bernard Pierce (played expertly by Bernard Pierce, to his credit), Matt Brown, and Chris Coyer kill their victims in repetitive, brutal fashion? Did we even need the flailing finale of the fourth quarter, with Wyoming prolonging the film in a desperate attempt to regain some decency? The answer is no.

After running for 152 yards in the first quarter, the plot became evident and the pacing pedestrian. To watch someone attacked devoured by birds properly, check out Hitchcock's The Birds. To watch cowboys facing doom, Unforgiven or the underrated Open Range beckon.  Either is more entertaining in part than this misbegotten act was in whole.

Grade: One star. Darwin would shy away from a second viewing. 

 

The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Ohio 24, Utah State 23. Rated PG-13 for disturbing imagery.  Surrealists make great theater, but as for great film? Their masterpieces are few and far between: aside from the films of Bunuel, a few Coen brothers films (really a kind of Surrealism lite), and the 2011 Michigan/Notre Dame game, surrealism has left few lasting cinematic monuments.

To this short list, however, new room must be cleared. The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, starring the Ohio Bobcats and relative unknowns the Utah State Aggies, was a truly surreal film disguised as a typical comeback story. Just when Ohio appeared to complete the trite, obvious narrative of a comeback against an obviously overextended Utah State defense, the script abruptly changes into a narrative about trusting authority at any costs--even that of sanity.

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Penn Wagers may not be a household name. But after his turn as a deranged, rambling judge in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, I have a feeling his days of obscurity are over. Ron Cherry, move over, because Wagers is not just strangely compelling as he fights his way through a garbled thicket of meaningless language and incorrect logical turns. 

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Put simply: he is terror incarnate.

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Wagers allegedly suffered a nervous breakdown during the filming of the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. His pain is the viewer's gain. (And Ohio wins, but you barely remember that after Wagers' bizarre, arresting monologue.)

Grade: Three stars. Would watch again, if only for Penn Wagers' star turn.

 

The R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: UL-Lafayette 32, San Diego State 30. Rated PG for some mild but entertaining violence. Action films don't come any dumber, more predictable, or more satisfying. Do both offenses carelessly fire off ammunition without hitting anything? Of course, as the University of Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns and the San Diego State Aztecs combined for over 1,000 yards of offense but only put 62 points total on the board. Of course the underdog does the Oklahoma drill before the game, and of course their strength coach is "Rusty Whitt," who looks like this: 

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Equally predictable is the late game drama and last minute salvation by a kicker who is "the worst practice kicker [the coach] has ever seen," but by the time you get there all concern for reality has departed. A rollicking tribute to machismo and football Americana done on a budget, The New Orleans Bowl offers no surprises you don't already want, and gives you no unfed underdogs. In a season for comfort food, this is your most compelling dish from the weekend's buffet. 

Grade: Three and a half stars. Highly recommended for the whole family.

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