Monday, February 29, 2016

Ennio Morricone: The Ecstasy of Gold(en statues)

This year's Oscar nominees yielded my worst-ever predictions ballot, with only seven correct picks.

But one correct selection was for music from "The Hateful Eight," inspiring a wave of Olympic memories. 

I was so pleased to see Ennio Morricone win the Academy Award for best score. His walk to the stage instantly took me back to meeting and interviewing the Italian legend 10 years ago!

Morricone's from-the-heart acceptance speech translated as genuinely appreciative of the honor and of the company he keeps; it was classy he gave a shout-out to fellow nominee John Williams -- attending for his 50th Oscar nod -- who shared box seats for the ceremony.

Of course, Williams also had a cameo in that decade-ago conversation I shared with Morricone. Here's the story from that day that seems not so far in the past.

The date was February 13, 2006, and in Torino, Italy, working at the Olympics, I enjoyed the good fortune of a morning off to attend a five-ringed press conference featuring Morricone on stage. 

The composer of more than 500 soundtrack songs and scores -- including the legendary "Dollars Trilogy" westerns, "Cinema Paradiso" and the haunting "Gabriel's Oboe" from "The Mission" -- was giving Italian media a preview of his concert to take place at the Olimpiadi Invernali Medals Plaza that evening (the same stage where then-recent "American Idol" winner Kelly Clarkson also performed, and where Whitney Houston attempted but struggled to sing a few nights later).

Hosted by the Torino Departments of Culture, Tourism and Film, the press conference was mostly for domestic reporters in the Piemonte Media Center. This was my very first "blogger Nick" press conference where I talked my way in sans credentials and senza blog (you read that right, this blog was not yet launched but partially inspired by the day's memorable events -- from those Games, I relied on a patient co-worker to relay daily updates as the word blog was barely in my lexicon).

Most of the press conference was in Italian, but the hosts were kind enough to deploy a translator, and when the media Q&A began, I was not shy to raise my hand and get called on by the one and only Ennio.

My question was a two-parter paraphrased here: Many Olympic films now have famous soundtracks, and the Olympics enjoy several soundtracks written by a famous film composers. Have you ever met ["Chariots of Fire" composer] Vangelis or John Williams, and were you, Mr. Morricone, ever invited to compose Olympic music or Olympic movie music?

Morricone maintained eye contact during my entire question, then he answered with a sincere gaze, which I captured on camera during his response (see photo at left). 

To the surprise of many, including the translator beside me, Morricone responded in English, first thanking me for the question, then explaining that he did not meet Vangelis but he had met John Williams a few times. 

Morricone said he did not compose music for sports movies, nor had he received an Olympic composing invitation, but that he was honored to perform for athletes that evening. 

He said he vaguely recalled speaking with Williams not long after the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics (at which Williams' main Olympic themes debuted), but Morricone could not remember it being more than a brief conversation. They did not "compare notes" (I've wondered for the past 10 years whether Ennio knew this was a possible pun, and the extent to which it was expressed accidentally or on purpose). Next question!

I was stunned and could barely write his responses in my notebook fast enough.

He went on to take several more questions, at ease with a full room of microphones and cameras ... you know ... wait for it ... paparazzi

As the Q&A wrapped up, Morricone was surprised to learn the event hosts planned to present him with a certificate (or diploma?) for his Olympic performance. 

The composer graciously accepted the honor with sincere appreciation, just like his Oscar speech in Hollywood.

The press conference also yielded an etiquette lesson I've respected since 2006. 

After the formal event wrapped up, I made my way to the stage to express gratitude to Morricone. 

As we shook hands, and he thanked me for the question, I awkwardly held up my notebook to request his autograph. 

He signed the book, but Morricone was none too pleased to learn I was both an international (non-Italian) "journalist" and a poser at that (!!!). (Sidebar: The notebook is buried somewhere in the Nick archive, but when it's located I will post a photo of the autograph.)

To this day I have not asked for a single celebrity autograph (book signings notwithstanding) since Morricone's; rather, I've tried instead to enjoy the conversation or experience without the awkward-for-anyone approach with pen in hand. 

In case officials at the Rome 2024 Olympic bid committee are tuned in and reading this, I think it's a matter or national interest and pride for the team to invite hometown hero Morricone to compose a bid project soundtrack that could carry them to an Italy Olympic Opening Ceremony in eight years. 

It would be lovely to hear an Ennio sports soundtrack on the heels of his big night in L.A., and an Olympic theme could just be the perfect Morricone magnum opus. 

Academy Award image via photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic.All other photos by Nicholas Wolaver copyright Nicholas Wolaver. Roma 2024 logo via 

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Reluctant Plug For The Barnes Foundation

As noted last month through posts about this and that, some January work travel provided sightseeing options in Philadelphia, "the city that loves you back."

The trip got me to thinking about one of Philly's top arts patrons, Albert C. Barnes (1872-1951), the physician/chemist and educator who left behind an art collection/school in suburban Merion, Pa.

Sadly for Barnes, his estate and school alumni/friends eventually learned Philadelphia is also "the city that f*cks you back."

The school in this case is The Barnes Foundation, which kindly provided me a review ticket to visit its astounding collection (amassed by Albert), an experience I enjoyed and appreciated at the organization's new Central Philly address.

Several highlights are listed below with a recommendation to visit this important art institution, now more a museum than its original school designation.

It's not easy to write about the visit without acknowledging the troubling way The Barnes came to my attention, adding a dash of reluctance to an otherwise positive review.

Like many (but perhaps too few) of the destination's guests, I learned about Barnes and his eye for early 1900's masterpieces through the 2009 documentary film "The Art of the Steal," which heavily favors the underdog "Friends of the Barnes Foundation" since most, if not all, of the key players that reshaped the institution declined to tell their side of the story on camera or at all.

The gist of the story is this: In his lifetime, liberal-minded Barnes collected and shared his art in a manner that flipped the bird to Philadelphia's more conservative society and art establishment, and in his will, Barnes left his collection with specific preferences on how his legacy was to be preserved (providing another middle finger pointed from the afterlife).

Decades after his death, an array of unscrupulous characters systematically circumvented Barnes' written wishes, returning the finger with one hand while "stealing" $25 billion in art with the other.

Biggest of the establishment "villains" (as portrayed in "The Art of the Steal") are folks named Richard H. Glanton, Bernard C. Watson, Ray Perelman, the leader of the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Annenbergs, not to mention several city and state elected officials and one dim bulb (or complicit?) judge.

Juxtaposed with the "bad guys" viewers may be impressed to see Julian Bond, whose father was friends with Barnes, speaking up for what he believed was unjust in the Barnes debacle.

I'll let the full film available here present its case -- the silence from "the establishment" is noisy:

Barnes was a guy who hung out with big thinkers including Salvador Dali and Albert Einstein.

Henri Matisse, who painted a special mural "The Dance" inside Barnes' home, stating "The Barnes Foundation is the only sane place to see art in America" as commentary not only on Barnes' against-the-grain presentation of art, but also (I think) out of disdain for the "business of art" dictating the norms of most museums (I personally agree with some criticism for the way art is presented in this day and age).

So my 2016 visit to The Barnes was informed by the prism of images and perspectives showcased through "The Art of the Steal" lens.

This is to say that each room at The Barnes provided me a jubilant response "this is amazing!" to the art and how it is mounted, quickly followed by the internal reminder "this is not how I, or any fellow guest, was supposed to experience this" because, according to the documentary film, "Barnes was not interested in mass experience -- he was interested in quality experience" and the facility, as originally envisioned, was "not a museum but an educational institution" set to teach art as Barnes wanted it taught.

I asked the P.R. representative the extent to which The Barnes still instructs guests as it did during its pre-relocation era and she did not seem to know what I was talking about [March 1, 2016: See footnote]. A quick search of The Barnes' website does yield some hints that classes are available featuring content/lessons written by Barnes and his contemporaries who knew his wishes.

I also looked for some sign the audioguides featured Barnes' personal POV on any one or hand-grouped section of works, and there were no signs this was ever discussed (but then, if audioguide technology existed in Barnes' day, he might have been opposed to this less personal and less interactive way to learn about art).

Moving on, here's what's to love about the collection: Views of hundreds of works, including dozens by Renoir (181), Cezanne (69), Matisse (59), Picasso (46), Rousseau (18), Modigliani (16) and many more by Degas (11), van Gogh (7), Seurat (6) and others.

Personal favorites included:

-- Numerous religious icons painted on wood, attributed to self-taught artist Jose Aragon of early 1800's Spanish New Mexico (biggest surprise and coolest new-to-me artist in the collection)

-- The colors in Picasso's 1906 canvas "Nude In Profile"

-- Seurat's 78"x98" "Models" inclusive of the artist's work showcased in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off"

-- Modigliani's "Reclining Nude from the Back" (a showstopper in the room where it's displayed)

-- A creepy-cool mid-1500's copy of "Temptation of Saint Anthony" attributed to Hieronymus Bosch

-- "The Departure of the Six-Meter Boats," a brightly-painted 1936 nautical scene by Raoul Dufy (the closest-to-Olympic work I could find)

-- Gustave Courbet's naughty "Woman With White Stockings" (the canvas most likely to make the conservative establishment blush)

-- Astounding Rousseau canvases including "Woman Walking in an Exotic Forest," "Scouts Attacked by a Tiger" and "Unpleasant Surprise" (with its title that sort of drove home the whole Barnes Foundation back story of 1990 to 2005).

I spent nearly four hours exploring The Barnes and wished there had been more time -- it was a relief to find that in most, if not every, gallery, great pains were taken to recreate as authentic-to-the-original location experience to the extent modern architecture and lighting will allow.

Will I return? Probably. Is a visit recommended? Absolutely!

Two artist cousins -- both painters -- resided in Philadelphia and visited The Barnes more than 20 years prior to "the unpleasantness" that started in the 1990's. On a recent call, they said it was really special to get a guided tour of the art and learn about it in Barnes' or his disciples' words. I'm glad The Barnes is accessible now, but wish there had not been such a bumpy road with so much questionable maneuvering to make it possible.

Images of artwork and Albert C. Barnes via The Barnes Foundation; Matisse "The Dance" image via; exterior image via JoLee Magazine; museum interior via The New York Times; movie poster via IMDB.

March 1, 2016 Footnote/Update: As a follow up to clarify her response, the P.R. manager emailed the following information which may be helpful for those interested in The Barnes' education initiatives:

"... the classes do indeed follow the Barnes historical teaching approach. Barnes classes remain focused on experiential education, 'learning by doing' - directly experiencing works of art, participating in class discussions, reading key works of philosophy and the traditions of art by looking objectively at the use of light, line, color and space. Barnes felt that through this educational method, students would improve their critical thinking skills, as well as their ability to learn and succeed in general, and become more productive participants in a democratic society. This method remains central to the Barnes education method."

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Olympic Film 'Eddie The Eagle' Minces Facts But Sticks The Landing With Ski Jumping Laughs

If there's a new drinking game created for every fictional detail in the new Olympic film "Eddie The Eagle," audiences may be passed out under their seats by the time the first ski jump appears.

But if five-ringed fact checkers (and anyone with common sense) are willing to leave the nonfiction elements of Olympian Michael "The Eagle" Edwards' real story at home, viewers may find a lot to enjoy during this feelgood spectacle.

Edwards, of course, was a Team GB athlete who competed in ski jumping at the Calgary 1988 Winter Olympic Games the same year Finland's ski jumping phenom Matti Nykรคnen defended his gold and silver medal jumps of Sarajevo.

Similar to the debut of the Jamaican Bobsled team, Edwards' jumping feats played more like comic relief for sports reporters and fans who tensely awaited that Olympiad's on-ice "Battle of the Brians" (Boitano/USA v. Orser/Canada) and the "Battle of the Carmens" (Witt/East Germany and Thomas/USA).

I won't attempt to write the "real" version of events from Edwards' trip to Calgary -- which, fictionalized, form the satisfying, warm and fuzzy conclusion of the new film -- but the following truthless elements (and spoilers) are what "Eddie The Eagle" screenwriters want audiences to believe (my snarky retorts appear in italics):

  • Near-penniless Edwards (Taron Egerton, perfectly cast) drove himself from the U.K. to Germany after discovering a washed-out Team USA ski jump champion reluctantly willing to train him (anyone who checks a map of Europe or an Olympic history book should find both ridiculous, even if a ferry was crossing the English Channel in 1987)
  • The "former Olympic-level ski jumping champion" was kicked off the 1970's Olympic teams for bad behavior, prompting ski jumping's version of "Coach K" to write a best-selling "how to coach ski jumping" book about it! (The only U.S. medal in ski jumping ever is a single bronze earned in 1924, which might provide insight as to why Americans don't celebrate ski jumping's answer to Herb Brooks every four years)
  • The washed-out former champ (Hugh Jackman, slightly trying too hard) -- who maintains a super hero physique while drinking whisky for breakfast and chain smoking -- works as a coatless mechanic and snow groomer in Garmisch, Germany, and the 1936 Winter Olympic site dropped the difficult-to-spell-and-pronounce second half of the city's full name, Garmisch-Partenkirchen (I suspect these were deliberate choices of the European filmmakers to poke fun at American anti-smoking warning labels and insult Western Hemisphere reading skills as 'Partenkirchen' may be too many syllables for tiny U.S. minds to process; they also needed an actor with abs to juxtapose with Edwards' British pudginess)
  • In his spare time (and the nine unemployed months without snow), the same former champ works on an expensive old (and gold) Pontiac Firebird Trans Am in his garage apartment ... in the German Alps ... and he drinks heavily before soaring off the 90 meter ski ramp sans helmet/coat for a flawless landing! (I chuckled as this heavy-CGI scene includes the jumper flicking his smoke like 'The Fonz' during a windy descent -- in some ways this scene was the film's "jumping the shark" moment).

I honestly don't know what path the real Edwards officially took to qualify for Calgary, but I doubt the real-life British Olympic Association leadership, or their sportsmanlike Olympian team members, dished out as much baloney for Edwards to clear like hurdles on a track.

It was laughable that working media and the Team GB publicist donned no Olympic credentials, and both seemed to enjoy unfettered access to Edwards in the Olympic Village and ski jumping field of play.

In spite of these glaring flaws, I laughed out loud and found myself smiling through much of "Eddie The Eagle." It was easy to cheer for underdog Edwards in 1988, and even easier with doses of humour akin to favourite scripts appearing on the BBC.

Scenes featuring a young Eddie studying Olympic history books brought back childhood memories, as did mother:son moments of encouragement featuring a keepsake biscuit tin.

It was also fun to see actual ABC and I.O.C. footage from the '88 Opening and Closing Ceremonies, and a true Edwards cameo during the organizing committee's closing remarks.

Another plus for "Eddie The Eagle" is its excellent score, which I understand was composed by Matthew Margeson -- the music really makes the movie at many critical moments, and a few perfectly-timed bars of a specific Van Halen hit had the audiences loudly cheering in the theatre and on screen (turns out most of the soundtrack is original music created to accompany the film). Holly Johnson's "Ascension" (Fly) is good as well.

Comparing notes with several Olympic-minded friends, it was unanimous "Eddie The Eagle" is a crowd pleasing film, and probably its strongest asset is the seamless special effects, POV shots and Go-Pro camera angles that seem to take the audience off of several of Europe's top jumping centers (the film crew did not visit Canada, but they did turn a modern European jump site into a fully-dressed Calgary Olympic venue).

Perhaps only the famous "Thrill of victory and the agony of defeat" video gives a more breathtaking look at ski jumping, and it surprised me this "Wide World of Sports" intro did not make the cut (then again, "Eddie The Eagle" was -- perhaps deliberately -- not a Disney/ABC production).

Olympic pin collectors may find themselves pining for one of the Team GB costume pins (a fictional design almost two inches in diameter). And Christopher Walken fans may find themselves wishing to read his coaching manual after a locker room reunion with his bad boy protege.

British character actor Jim Broadbent also logs a fun cameo as sportscaster, a turn from his appearances in "Iris," "Moulin Rouge!" and the Harry Potter franchise.

I scratched my head at the PG-13 rating for "Eddie The Eagle" as there is zero profanity and less smoking or 4:20 references than viewers may recall from "Cool Runnings."

The only available photo online 
featuring Bo Derek and skis. 
Credit unavailable via Pinterest
Granted, John Candy was more of a teddy bear coach in the 1993 film, and friends reminded me of Jackman's unconventional coaching scene during which Edwards is instructed to fantasize about Bo Derek.

This part of the script earned a three not a "10" in my book, but somehow that must add up to PG-13. Maybe some unsportsmanlike conduct, or a scene involving Norway's jumpers in a sauna, also gave the MPAA cause for pause.

No matter the rating, if you want to enjoy a few winter Olympic laughs, take the plunge and go see "Eddie The Eagle." Even the trailer (below) may make you jump for joy.

Images via Lionsgate and 20th Century Fox

Monday, February 15, 2016

Kind Words For 'Race'

Movie buffs and Olympic fans are getting treated to several new five-ringed films this year, and next to hit the big screen is the Jesse Owens biopic "Race."

Focus Features hosted a star-studded Atlanta premiere earlier this month, and there are plenty of good reasons to experience this portrayal of an American and worldwide Olympic hero, and those forming his inner and outer circles of influence, on the road and boat to the Berlin 1936 Olympiad.

Ambassador Andrew Young, Chris Bridges (a.k.a. Ludacris), Regina Belle, Anthony David and Kim Fields were among the honored guests on site.

Rising track star and Rio Olympic hopeful Candace Hill also attended to enjoy what she called her first real red carpet experience. I was hoping to spot other Georgia Olympians, or the team from the upcoming documentary "Olympic Pride, American Prejudice" (a work in progress also featuring Owens) during the festivities.

Addressing the audience before the special screening, the actor in the title role, Stephan James, explained how he drew inspiration from the Olympic champion.

"Jesse Owens was a humanitarian," said James. "Of all things I learned about him, nothing [compared] to that aspect of his life."

James described Owens' courage to travel to Berlin as one of the first black Team USA Olympians also running against strong headwinds of Nazism in Germany and racism at home in the USA.

"I took it as a responsibility to bring a level of humanity to him and bring that to the screen," said James. "I hope [audiences] enjoy the film and they learn something from it, but most importantly I hope [they're] inspired the same way I was."

Through a red carpet interview informed by an Atlanta Journal-Constitution report, I asked James about his training for the film on the tracks at Georgia Tech during his time away from filming "Selma" (in which he portrayed a young Congressman John Lewis).

While responding, James also described how his study of "Olympia" -- the original Olympic film and award winning documentary by Leni Riefenstahl -- factored into his Owens performance. James seemed humbled by the opportunity to portray the gold medalist, and the actor's responses may be viewed here:

I liked "Race" not only for its attention to small Olympic details but also its script directly addressing race relations, leaving no doubt about the title's double entendre while subtly proving the premise of the "Avenue Q" song "Everyone's A Little Bit Racist Sometimes." Just about all of key characters in "Race" had strong though inappropriate words about their fellow man. 

Prepare to wriggle in your seat if you're uncomfortable with epithets like coon, cracker, darkie, eight ball, Kraut, the n-word or peckerwood. They're all in there, though not in succession as in the dugout confrontation of "42."

Some of the most honest conversations in "Race" are between Owens and his coach Larry Snyder (Jason Sudeikis). As the arc of their relationship evolves from coach:athlete to mentor:mentee then close friendship, their "tell it like it is" comfort levels increase, eventually shining as they defend each other to narrow-minded peers. This crescendos with the film's most direct statement on race (for a spoiler, see 1:35 to 1:45 of the trailer).

I think both characters grew from their open and direct conversations, and perhaps moviegoers may also. And, by the way, the second nod to a previous sports film comes through a few Sudeikis coaching scenes akin to Ian Holm in "Chariots of Fire."

If a goal of "Race" is to get audiences talking frankly about the topic race, the filmmakers succeeded -- the diverse premiere audience definitely shared conversations upon exiting the theatre. This writer sort of anticipated mention of Richard Pryor's response to Chevy Chase on "SNL" to creep into the post-screening banter.

I spoke with Ambassador Young, Fields and Belle about their observations.

Young described "Race" as "probably his favorite" Olympic movie because it took him back to his first lessons in race relations at age four. Conversing with me as the credits rolled, Young said his boyhood home street included some pre-WWII German neighbors who publicly saluted Hitler, and early newsreels of Jesse Owens' victory provided fodder for some father-son conversations.

"It taught me 'don't get mad, get smart!" said Young, who added that he never met Owens or his family members, but he did serve in Congress with Owens' teammate/Olympic gold medalist Ralph Metcalfe.

Fields, who was emcee for a brief in-theatre presentation for James, said she enjoyed the film. The "Facts of Life" star who now resides in Atlanta thought it would be an inspiration for many, as did Belle, who answered a few questions on camera, specifically citing one of the film's best lines about freedom and sport relevant to anyone's chosen passion.

Returning to attention to detail in "Race," a few other finer points are notable.

For the second or third time in recent film history (following "Unbroken" and "Berlin 36"), the German Olympiastadion is vividly brought to life through rich, modern animation.

An over-the-shoulder lens follows Owens through the vomitory and onto the field with 100,000 seated fans. This long take seamlessly presents an on-screen Owens transformation from national track star to international icon. This I liked, and many in the audience gasped at the stadium views inclusive of the 1936 Olympic cauldron.

I also enjoyed how everything from Riefenstahl's camera angles and lipstick to the long jump judges' correct Olympic pin and ribbon colors really popped. Earlier, during the opening scenes, there's an homage to "Rocky" with Owens taking a training run through depression era Cleveland. Everyone's got the right pinstripe suit, hat and rumble seat sedan, proving the costume and set decoration teams did their homework.

They even put an Olympic oak seedling in Jesse's hands during his medal ceremony, accurately depicting the special takeaway gift presented to each winner of gold, silver and bronze (the fate of many Olympic oaks was documented by an International Association of Olympic Historians member, with at least one Owens oak still possibly alive at his his high school or college alma mater, Ohio State University).

The hand-held seedlings got a lot of surprised responses from the audience: "A tree?!?" and "What's Jesse going to do with a tree?"

Where I took issue with "Race" is through the broad and purely fictional liberties taken by the writers to showcase the politicking of Team USA and Third Reich. If the filmmakers went out of their way to get the right lapel pins on the actors, why create such preposterous scenes on other Olympic fronts?

The most outlandish set up features multiple conversations during which Riefenstahl, the documentary filmmaker, personally translates conversations between Joseph Goebbels and Avery Brundage, the German propaganda minister and the U.S. Olympic Committee delegate, respectively. Ridiculous!

These scenes seemed false on a level akin to another purely fictional Olympic film character, the so-called "Olympic shooter from Syria" written into "American Sniper" for distracting-to-this-blogger dramatic effect (more on that fiction here). More forgivable but perhaps just as fictional are post-race scenes during which Hitler snubbed Owens (facts still debated my many historians).

Two casting choices -- specifically regarding Jeremy Irons and William Hurt -- struck me funny as well.

While Irons' CV is chock-full of douche bag villain roles (his love to hate them characters in "Lolita," "Reversal of Fortune," "Damage" and "Margin Call" among my favorites), and I get it that Irons as Brundage is a new addition to the list, it seemed to me the balding William Hurt, who also played some jerks (see "Broadcast News," "Mr. Brooks" and "A History of Violence") had a better hair line match to Brundage.

Instead, Irons dons the spectacles and Hurt carries his tail between his legs as Jeremiah Mahoney, the U.S. athletics official who -- at least in the script for "Race" -- failed to sway votes for a 1936 Olympic boycott (more creative writing liberties, I suspect -- though the boycott vote did take place it's doubtful such speeches were uttered by those in attendance).

Two German performers shine as Riefenstahl and Goebbels, who share some verbal fencing just as directy as Owens and Snyder.

Barnaby Metschurat filled his S.S. costume with stern angst, and Carise van Houten dished out some clever schadenfreude for Hitler's closest minion.

"This is my Olympics," said Goebbels, to which Riefenstahl aptly retorted, "This is my film; without it, your Olympics will be forgotten in one year!"

Other brief notes: Though the exact duration of the film is not yet published, audiences may wish to pace themselves for a marathon not a sprint to the finish.

Also, the soundtrack to "Race" leaves a bit to be desired -- seemed like a missed opportunity for the filmmakers to engage Vangelis, John Williams or one of several talented African American composers for a stronger score (the team at Back Lot Music just didn't come through on this one).

I was very impressed by Stefan James filling some big Olympian shoes** in "Race." This was his second five-ringed film (he previously appeared in the made for television movie "The Gabby Douglas Story") and it hopefully will be the first of many major roles for James' career.

One key scene in the rain, during which Owens stares with optimism at the woman he hopes to marry, resembled the Pulitzer Prize winning photo of President Obama gazing into a challenging future, and down the road I think James could fill the shoes of our commander-in-chief on film.

Might also be fun to see James again in the eventual "Carl Lewis Story" or "Bolt -- Usain's Journey" down the road. Until then, my suggestion is to run, don't walk, to see "Race."

Premiere event photos and videos by Nicholas Wolaver. Hurt-Brundage-Irons images via IMDB. Stills and posters from "Race" via Focus Features.

**A pair of Jesse Owens' shoes may be on view in the upcoming High Museum of Art exhibition "Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture" opening June 11; the exhibition catalog features images of a pair of Owens' spikes. "Race" includes a curious reference to these shoes via Coach Snyder clumsily trying to locate Adidas founder one night in Berlin -- another fictionalized, albeit interesting, Olympic trivia element in the film.

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