Oregon has a track record with horse movies.
Thunderhead, Son of Flicka (1944) contains scenes shot on a Gresham race track. Tonka, or A Horse Named Commanche (1958) was shot in Central Oregon, plus it featured a score by Oregonian George Bruns. The Black Stallion galloped along the Oregon Coast in 1979. Now Secretariat, written by Oregonian Mike Rich, joins this illustrious group.
Roger Ebert gives both thumbs up to Secretariat, and explains why:
This whole movie feels authentic. Diane Lane, who is so good in so many kinds of roles, makes Penny a smart woman with great faith in her own judgment and the courage to bet the farm on it. Every hair in place, always smartly turned out, she labors in the trenches with Lucien and Eddie, negotiates unflinchingly with the Old Boys, eats the stomach-churning meals at the diners where the track crowd hangs out. She looked at the greatest racehorse in the world and knew she was right, when all about her were losing their heads and blaming it on her.
Of the actors, I especially enjoyed John Malkovich. He has a way of conveying his reasoning by shorthand and implication. He creates a portrait of horse trainer who’s slow to tip his hand, which is correct. No role in Mike Rich’s screenplay is overwritten, or tries to explains too much. Like “The Social Network,” another contender for year-end awards, it has supreme confidence in its story and faith that we will find it fascinating. This is one of the year’s best films.
Aaron Mesh gives it two thumbs down, and explains why:
Rich’s last screenplay was 2006’s The Nativity Story, and I do not mean to be blasphemous when I note that, in Secretariat, the role of Jesus is played by a large red horse. The equine is born in a stable, with visitors gazing in awe, then its coat is washed (again to the strains of “Oh Happy Day”) in a scene that symbolizes an anointing. But why all this Christological imagery? The movie doesn’t require it: It’s a perfectly serviceable if unusually sugar-dipped racetrack victory tale, in the tradition of Disney’s 1960s animal pictures.
Up or down, Secretariat is Mike Rich’s fifth produced screenplay, and his second outing as executive producer.
I have not seen Secretariat, which does nothing to deter me from claiming it as an Oregon film.