Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Cinema Tuesdays {Semi-Tough}

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Semi-Tough from 1977 is one of the great semi-forgotten gems of the Seventies. It is not a movie about American football. It's a romantic comedy, but more importantly, a brilliant satire of the Self-Help movement and "finding" one's self. It was after all the Me Decade. If more people had watched this movie, the Self-Help movement might have just been another fad instead of the multi-million dollar business that it is today.
Plus, there are a lot of great Seventies fashions in this movie, especially Burt Raynolds' bell bottoms.
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Burt Reynolds plays Billy Clyde, the captain of the football team. Kris Kristofferson plays his ol' buddy Shake. Shake has recently "found himself" after attending the BEAT seminar and got IT. Billy Clyde doesn't believe in IT since all of the philosophy he needs in life, he gets from listening to Gene Autry.
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Jill Clayburgh plays Barbara Jane, who's just got back from a long trip to Africa. They've all been best friends since childhood and they live together, but not "together" in her penthouse.
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Now, BJ's been looking at Shake differently ever since she got back because he's "found himself" and seems to be interested in thing other than football.
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Robert Preston plays Big Ed, the owner of the football team and BJ's father.
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BJ and Shake quickly get together and that leaves Billy Clyde as the third wheel, which he doesn't like.
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Yes, he's wearing a fur coat.
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Take a closer look at those bell bottoms. They have red dolphins on them. Awesome!
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This was back when they played football outside, in the grass and mud.
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Billy Clyde realizes that he's been in love with BJ all these years, so he tries to get her to notice that he's interested in more than just football by writing his memoirs and smoking a pipe. But she doesn't take the bait.
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This is Friedrich, the man behind BEAT, the most important thing in Shake's life. He wants BJ to take BEAT and get IT before they get married.
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Billy Clyde becomes very depressed over the announcement.
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Big Ed has also "found himself" by crawling around his office in order the realign himself with gravity.
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He sends Billy Clyde to Lotte Lenya to get Pelfed, which is hilarious.
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Meanwhile, the wedding and the Super Bowl are approaching.
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Robert Preston is totally awesome as Big Ed.
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Billy Clyde notices cracks in the new relationship but knows that neither of them will back out.
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So, he comes up with a plan.
The most difficult thing that a Lifeman (that is a follower of Stephen Potter's theory of One-upmanship) can do is to one-up his or hers best friend without them noticing. This is what Burt Reynolds demonstrates for us in this movie.
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A few days before the wedding, Shake sends BJ to the BEAT seminar, which is actually two days long and Friedrich wont let you go to the bathroom for the first 12 hours, because it's a rule.
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The BEAT training will show you where IT's at and being is where IT's at. How do you know when you've got IT? You'll know. What if you haven't got IT? Then you've got IT.
IT is actually the selfish belief that you are perfect just by being yourself and that everyone else is perfect just by being themselves and allowing everyone their own space.
Friedrich's IT bullshit wont actually solve any of your problems nor offer a solution to fix your life, but this seminar did just buy him a new pool.
After watching this scene a few times, you'll see the Self-Help movement for what it actually is.
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Part of Billy Clyde's plan is to take BEAT with BJ and to support her, which is something that Shake never offered to do, since BJ needs her own space.
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Unfortunately, BJ didn't get IT after two horrible days. But Billy Clyde got IT. Or did he?
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Ever since he got IT, BJ's been looking at Billy Clyde differently and she begins to doubt her upcoming marriage.
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But before Billy Clyde can move onto the next stage of his plan, they have to win the Super Bowl first.
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Shake begins to seriously question whether he should get married or not since it doesn't look like BJ will ever get IT and how can they share a life together when they can't even share the experience of having got IT?
Billy Clyde then offers Shake a way out of being one-uped by reminding him that BJ is still the same old Barbara Jane, whether she gets IT or not. But Shake is too selfish to see this.
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So, how exactly does Billy Clyde hope to pull off his plan to get together with BJ and does he succeed?

This is the original trailer, which promotes Semi-Tough as a goofy sports comedy and not as a brilliant satire.

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