Documentary Review: The 24 Hour War (2016)

Release Date: 2016
Directed by: Nate Adams, Adam Carolla
Cast: various

Chassy Media, Netflix, 99 Minutes

Review:

Man, I really wanted to watch this as The 24 Hours of Le Mans is one of my favorite sporting events of the year and the biggest motorsports thing that I care about.

However, this was pretty underwhelming even though it told a great story, which was the Le Mans rivalry that developed between Ferrari and Ford. Since there’s a very well-received and beloved drama film on this very subject, it’s not a true story short on excitement.

I think that the biggest problem with this documentary, though, was the editing. It wasn’t very good and it made this play like a disjointed clusterfuck at times. I don’t want to be too hard on it but it shifted gears in strange ways that left my brain feeling like a speed bag.

It was hard to follow the narrative but I did enjoy the interviews within this. Although, that doesn’t save the film from its issues.

While this is probably more factually accurate than the dramatized motion picture, you’re probably better off just watching that. Plus, it boasts great performances from its A-list cast.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries on Le Mans and motorsports in general.

Retro Relapse: The Lack of Respect for Le Mans

RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.

*Written in 2014.

As I’ve stated previously (here), the 24 Hours of Le Mans is the greatest race in the history of the world. That is not just some careless opinion that I have, the rest of the world recognizes this as well. By rest of the world, I apparently can’t include America in that because this year it is glaringly obvious that the largest and greatest race in the world is a fucking afterthought.

As I was just watching the race with 75 minutes left on the 24 hour clock, Fox Sports 1 cut it off to show a Moto GP. Are they serious? The race is almost at the end and now in the most exciting and competitive leg of the race they cut it off for a pre-race show for one of a couple dozen Moto GP events this year? They cut of this race, the one and only Le Mans that only happens once a year and is the supreme platform for bragging rights between the best car manufacturers and engineers in the world?

Going back to yesterday afternoon, just as it was becoming really dark in France, Fox Sports 1 cut off Le Mans for some NASCAR truck racing. No, not even fucking NASCAR but NASCAR truck racing! Derp! Derp! Go Chevy!

That was the worst possible time to interrupt the 24 Hours of Le Mans, as the night racing is exciting and unlike anything you can get in any other race. Sure NASCAR and Formula 1 have some night racing but NASCAR and F1 have gigantic lights that make nighttime a moot point and neither of them drive in complete darkness on a winding country road for 12 or so hours. You wouldn’t know that though, watching America’s shitty coverage of this truly amazing race.

Sure, they redirected everyone watching from Fox Sports 1 to Fox Sports 2 but I, and I’m sure many people, don’t have Fox Sports 2. It’s not even a situation where I just don’t pay for the channel, it is a situation where Comcast in my area (and I’m sure many areas) doesn’t carry it.

So other than the start of the race, Fox Sports, America’s unfortunate owner of Le Mans’ broadcasting rights, has robbed us of the two most important parts of this race, the night racing and the finish. At least when Fox Sports 1 was still Speed TV, they’d show 75 percent of the race and they’d definitely show the ending. I mean, what’s the point of watching this race, if you can’t see the fucking ending?

So, as the race ends, I am watching it on an illegal stream because the Fox Sports website, the Le Mans website and the live stream on DailyMotion either aren’t working, they’re lagging or they have atrociously bad quality. The illegal feed? Well, it’s got awesome sound, is in HD and I can’t complain. Fox Sports and America needs to get their shit together because this race is deserving of far more respect than it is receiving.

I mean, for fuck’s sake, America, Patrick Dempsey has gone from fairly successful actor to following his dream and becoming an incredibly formidable Le Mans racer. That’s an amazing story and Americans should be embracing that shit because he’s gone from the grass-cutting nerd in Can’t Buy Me Love to a 250MPH American hero in the hardest and best race on Earth.

Maybe if Ford would start making prototypes again, America would care. Unfortunately, Ford is too busy making billboards on wheels that can’t turn right. At one time, Ford was a goddamned world champion after conquering the unconquerable Ferrari. The late 1960’s was the best time in the history of Le Mans, I wish the level of respect and glory it had back then still existed. I wish people would see the magic in the Steve McQueen film Le Mans and feel the spirit of this grand event.

NASCAR’s success ruined all other racing in this country. Americans don’t have the attention span for real racing, which is why Le Mans and Formula 1 don’t have massive followings. It’s kind of like how Americans don’t have attention spans for anything other than American football and basketball, leaving great sports like soccer, baseball and hockey to suffer.

But fuck it, I’m in the minority here. I just wish my countrymen weren’t such philistines.

Retro Relapse: Le Mans: The Greatest Race in the World

RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.

*Written in 2014.

Since 1923, one race has stood above all others as the greatest race in the world: The 24 Hours of Le Mans.

It has now gone on for over 90 years and is inching towards that century mark. It is the most important event in motorsports history. It pits the best car manufacturers in the world, head-to-head, to see who is the best between them. It is a dangerous game of impossible odds, cutthroat competition and bragging rights yet it still exudes more class than any other sporting event in the history of the world.

The only thing that even comes close to the 24 Hours of Le Mans is Formula 1. However, Formula 1 doesn’t race for 24 hours straight, through the elements and into the dark of night on poorly lit and often times wet roads. I can’t think of a sport or a single event with such a level of danger, risk and reward. The 24 Hours of Le Mans is a showcase of the immortals behind the wheel. Only the best can hack it and only the best of the best can cross the finish line.

I could spend all day pumping this thing up because it is the most amazing thing that I get to witness year in and year out. This race is great for all the reasons I stated above but it doesn’t seem to click with American audiences. I guess watching ugly billboards go round and round in a circle for four hours is more exciting than seeing Ferraris, Porches, Aston Martins, BMWs, Audis, Mercedes and other beautiful cars weaving in and out of other luxury cars, s-curves and sharp turns for 24 hours. Sorry America, I have to side with the rest of the world on this one.

Additionally, Le Mans brings out the prototypes. The best manufacturers and engineers in the world use all their resources and knowledge to create the absolute best machine they can build in order to compete against one another. For more than a decade, Audi has dominated the sport because they have made cars that make supercars looks like ’82 Datsuns. In the past, manufacturers like Porsche and Ferrari dominated the sport. I’d rather see these majestic beasts of the road zipping by than some Chevrolet eyesore trying to sell me penis pills and Pop Tarts. If you don’t feel the same way, you need to really look at yourself in the mirror. To succeed in Le Mans, you have to be able to do a lot more than turn left at high speeds and talk with a twang.

This weekend, the 24 Hours of Le Mans returns. I will be glued to my television set for 24 hours, actually more than that due to all the pre-race and post-race coverage. Yes, I know that Audi will most assuredly win once again but that’s not the point. I didn’t stop watching Formula 1 when Michael Schumacher won five seasons in a row.

The point is, this is a sport for men. The most dangerous and life-threatening sport in the world. It gives us the best drivers in the best machines on the best race track ever created. It gives one more excitement and awe than some Mike’s Hard Lemonade 900 or whatever the next NASCAR race is called.

Steve McQueen, one of the greatest manly men to ever live, made a racing movie about one event, it was the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Hell, the film itself was simply called Le Mans.

Any argument one could have against Le Mans being the most badass sporting event of the year is completely and utterly invalid.

NASCAR can keep Tom Cruise.

Documentary Review: Steve McQueen: The Man & Le Mans (2015)

Release Date: May 16th, 2015 (Cannes)
Directed by: Gabriel Clarke, John McKenna
Written by: Gabriel Clarke
Music by: Jim Copperthwaite
Cast: Steve McQueen (archive footage), Chad McQueen, Neile Adams, Louise Edlind

Content Media, McQueen Racing, Pit Lane Productions, 102 Minutes

Review:

Le Mans is my favorite movie about auto racing. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a classic with fantastic action and a true sense of realism unlike anything ever filmed on the subject before it. It feels like a documentary accented by the presence of Steve McQueen.

The story behind the film is more intriguing, however.

This was Steve McQueen’s dream project, as it focused on his biggest love: motorsports. More specifically, it focused on the 24 Hours of Le Mans race, which is the biggest annual motorsports event in the world, which pits all the top auto manufacturers against each other with the best drivers in the world, gunning for bragging rights and world supremacy, at least until the following year.

McQueen was at the point in his career where he could be attached to anything and any studio would just write a check. However, due to creative problems, production issues, falling behind and the immense undertaking that this film became, the project turned into a nightmare for all involved. McQueen’s vision was his vision, whether or not the people brought on to help him realize it, understood what they were doing or not.

This documentary also analyzes McQueen’s personal life, its ups and downs and how all that played into his attitude and his handling of creating this dream. Le Mans was an arduous task that had to be finished but McQueen’s personal demons didn’t make it any easier.

In the end, the film got made, it didn’t do so well upon release but has grown to cult status among car and racing aficionados. It’s an amazing film for a lot of reasons and this documentary shows you why.

Plus, it’s always a treat to watch McQueen’s Le Mans footage. This also has a lot of behind the scenes stuff mixed in.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: The film Le Mans, as well as other documentaries about the Le Mans race, most notably the Audi produced ones Truth In 24 I and II.

Film Review: Le Mans (1971)

Release Date: June 23rd, 1971
Directed by: Lee H. Katzin
Written by: Harry Kleiner
Music by: Michel Legrand
Cast: Steve McQueen, Siegfried Rauch, Elga Andersen, Louise Edlind

Cinema Center Films, National General Pictures, 106 Minutes

Review:

Upon its release in 1971, Le Mans was pretty much a big box office failure. Regardless of that, it was a big passion project for Steve McQueen and it was a film that had exceptional challenges in trying to make. In the almost fifty years since it came out, however, it has grown to be a beloved and well-respected movie.

The film is really a time capsule, especially for racing aficionados, as it truly gives an insider’s perspective of the 24 Hours of Le Mans from a bygone era. Today, the endurance race still exists but it has changed drastically. This shows the sporting event when it was more pure. It also displays iconic historical supercars in all their high speed glory.

While this is a fictional motion picture, it really plays like a documentary with small breaks in it where some acting takes place. The film might not resonate with many, as it sacrifices dialogue and story to showcase this amazing annual event in all its intensity.

When it comes to the story though, it is still pretty good and it is more emotional and introspective than something that needs a complex narrative or a lot of dialogue to keep things moving. McQueen’s character arrives to Le Mans, France in his Porsche and sees a woman buying flowers. Through flashbacks, we come to know that she is the widow of a driver that died in a crash in the previous Le Mans event. McQueen’s character feels responsible for his death and the public generally blame him, as does the widow. As the film goes on, he and the widow keep running into each other. There is an attraction there but still an awkwardness. McQueen crashes in the race and the widow’s concern for him becomes more apparent as her feelings grow. McQueen goes back into the race and he finishes it, unscathed and as he walks towards the widow, we are left wondering what will happen between them. It is actually a pretty poetic story and the way that it was executed, with minimal dialogue is pretty profound and really shows the acting talent of both Steve McQueen and Elga Andersen.

Ultimately, this is a very unorthodox film in how it presents itself. The story on the track is what takes center stage but the emotional bond between the two main characters and the film’s minimalist approach to that portion of the story is somewhat beguiling. There is a lot to be explored with these two characters but most of that is left to the viewer’s speculation and interpretation.

I love the 24 Hours of Le Mans event. In fact, it is my favorite annual sporting event. I also love old school supercars, especially Ferrari, which are the cars driven by our hero’s rival team. Therefore, I have a soft spot for this motion picture. Its documentary feel and its authentic grittiness is something that isn’t easily created in the CGI heavy films of today. Were this picture made in 2017, the vast majority of it would be shot in front of a green screen. McQueen went out to the real race, got in a car, took to the track and let the crew film him and the real racers. The action you see, for the most part, is all real.

I love Le Mans. I get why a lot of people might not have the same affinity for it as I do but it is still an incredibly unique picture and something that just wouldn’t be replicated today, in the same way.

Rating: 8.25/10