What makes a good skating movie? From the vast catalogue of titles out there: just about anything.
And you would think with the vast catalogue of titles to research, a screenwriter might say, “Hmm, maybe this should be accurate.”
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy an unbelievable and unrealistic skating movie, because unless it’s a true story, that’s what you’re in store for.
The “true” bio-pic about the 1979 World Pairs Champion Tai Babilonia from the United States was technically accurate. I reviewed their program from 1979 Worlds, and it’s actual quite similar. In On Thin Ice:The Tai Babilonia Story, the inaccuracies were few. The movie shows that such as mere seconds after the marks came up, parents rushed into the kiss and cry. This did not happen. The character of Tai is recast three times to reflect her age, however, her friend, Jamie, played by Christianne Hirt, is same age the entire way through. This, despite Tai’s second recast at 11 or 12, and Jamie clearly being in her late-teens.
In The Cutting Edge, we saw a figure skater, Kate Moseley, pair up with Doug Dorsey, a hockey player with a blind-side. Many hockey players have successfully made the jump to figure skating, so this part is believable. However, what drags this movie back to fantasy are the skating details. It’s the year of the 1992 Olympics and the pair advances to nationals with a throw double Salchow. Not to worry though. Their coach has a move called the “Pamchenko twist” in his back pocket. Dorsey is to hurl Moseley by the ankles as in a circle and release her. She, of course being catlike, will land on her feet.
Let’s just say the entire Cutting Edge franchise was a little out there.
And speaking of out there: Blades of Glory. Let’s move on, shall we?
Tonight I watched possibly the worst skating movie ever made, in my opinion: Ice Dreams. Determined to sit though the entire movie because it was about skating, I’m not sure I could reiterate the plot. As for realism, the lead girl, Nicole, was competing as a junior at regionals and didn’t have a triple. In fact, nobody had a triple. The sad part was, this movie was set in 2009.
The movie Ice Castles is a favourite of mine, and fairly accurate concerning technical content. The issue: the lead character, Alexis, losses her sight and continues to skate just as well as when she could see. This could be possible, who am I to say. According to Dorothy Hamill’s book, A Skating Life, she used to help run a program that aided children with vision issues. The 2010 Vancouver Olympics signalled a remake of Ice Castles. I lost track of how many double Axels she completed in her first competition – and slashed the Zayak rule in the process.
Ironically, my favourite skating movie is probably the least accurate: Skate! It debuted in 1987 on CBC, and the movie is known internationally as Blades of Courage, starring Christiane Hirt as figure skater Lori LaRoche. I’ve watched this over 100 times, and I have a VHS tape from its original aired date. Last summer, I bought a back up.
Skate! begins at the 1985 Canadians, the Senior Women’s event. First inaccuracy, the skaters perform in the dark. And the judges really, really, really liked doubles at the senior level. When Lori makes her debut, the commentators are astounded when she lands a double Axel. Inaccuracies continued from there, for example: land one triple at the Worlds and a skater could win. The best part has to be when Lori lands a single Axel at the Canadians and the crowd goes nuts.
My theory for these inaccuracies is to make the movie relatable.
It’s exciting to watch someone land a double, and child saying “I want to do that,” and a teenager saying “I can do that” and some of us saying, “I used to be able to do that.”
Those screenwriters, they kind of know what they’re doing after all.
[Originally posted in the Edmonton Journal’s sports blog section]