The 2014 Channing Tatum Initiative Remembered, or, The Pony Tricks Bump: A Myth?

Two of the top five most popular posts on this website revolve around the 2013 Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson Initiative. The most popular post on this website today, January 7, 2015, is a discussion of Pain and Gain that was part of the 2013 Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson Initiative. My decision to see every theatrical film Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson released in 2013 is paying dividends to this very minute for he and I both – lest we forget the coveted “Pony Tricks Bump” the Rock received in 2013, being named the highest grossing entertainer of 2013 by Forbes doubtlessly in no small part due to my examinations of his work.

I think we can all agree the 2013 Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson Initiative was a rousing success.

But what of the 2014 Channing Tatum Initiative?

What of it?

Unforgettable.

Unforgettable.

Where the 2013D“TR”JI was a mutually beneficial partnership between Dwayne Johnson and myself in which he became entertainer of the year and I learned several valuable life lessons from Fast and Furious 6, the 2014CTI has proven to be anything but, as not only have the lessons I learned from Tatum’s films this year fallen woefully short of life-affirming, Channing himself didn’t even crack the list of Forbes Top 10 Entertainers of the Year.

That being said, the Pony Tricks Bump still tentatively takes credit for his being cast as Gambit.

I went to the theater four times this year for the 2014CTI and I learned four very different, pretty lackluster lessons.

The LEGO Movie, in which Tatum made a brief appearance as Superman, taught me to keep my cynicism alive in the face of the first largely entertaining feature-length commercial I’d ever seen. Sure, sure, a fine lesson for a four-year-old girl, but I’m a twenty-something-year-old man. I don’t exactly need a refresher on cynicism.

Luckily, 22 Jump Street, which wound up being one of my favorite movies of the year, was there to pick up the slack. Sort of. 22 Jump Street is a masterclass in understanding that repetition, when blended with self-awareness, can be a beautiful thing. There’s no harm in doing something twice when it worked the first time, so long as you remain aware of the pitfalls of returning to the same well over and over again.

A great lesson.

And a total lie. As evidenced by the maligned sequel to the 2013 Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson Initiative.

My good friend Channing.

My good friend Channing.

From there it was all downhill. The Book of Life taught me to never, ever, ever have kids lest I be dragged into films like The Book of Life every weekend for ten years. And Foxcatcher revealed new depths to my twenty-something pretension.

What of the 2014 Channing Tatum Initiative?

The 2014 Channing Tatum Initiative was a disaster. Tatum was charming and fantastic in all of his roles this year, but somewhere between “Channing” and “Tatum” a certain “The Rock” was missing from my 2014.

2015 Initiative TBD I guess.

P.S. I love you, Channing.

Foxcatcher Problems, or, The 2014 Channing Tatum Initiative Complete

This is my third attempt to discuss Foxcatcher, the recent true crime film that also happens to be my final stop on the 2014 Channing Tatum Initiative. My feelings on Foxcatcher are conflicted enough so as to make it nearly impossible for me to convey them without falling into a rambling pit. But hey, third time’s the charm, yeah?

foxcatcher

Foxcatcher is based on a true story. It recounts the events leading up to a murder. The film is well written, the cinematography is gripping and the performances, particularly those by Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo, are engaging. Foxcatcher is by no means a bad movie. I’m just not sure I understand why it’s a movie.

In my mind there’s something of an unspoken understanding between an audience and a filmmaker when it comes to films “based on a true story,” particularly when that true story is tragic in nature. The understanding being that the filmmaker is given permission to utilize or exploit (depending on just how cynical we want to get) a real life tragedy in order to put forward for consideration some potential truth. 12 Years a Slave used the story of Solomon Northrup’s enslavement to highlight a sickness in American history that is more and more often overlooked or downplayed. Captain Phillips used the hostage situation on the Maersk Alabama to highlight a glaring juxtaposition between the might and affluence of the Western World and the sheer desperation of the Third World. The recently released Imitation Game uses the life of Alan Turing to recount the life of Alan Turing, a scientist whose achievements and prosecution are both perhaps not as well-known as they should be.

With these examples in mind I again posit that I’m not sure I understand why the tragedy at the murder of Foxcatcher has been adapted into a film.

I’ve come up with a few answers on my own but they all feel like I’m reaching, assigning a reason for a works existence after it already exists, rather than discovering the reason why the work was brought into existence in the first place. Perhaps Foxcatcher is meant to highlight the disparity between rich and poor and how easily we overlook the former using the latter as playthings. Maybe it’s something of a cautionary tale regarding undiagnosed mental illness. One of the parties involved has stated that the story highlights the lengths to which American Olympians had to go to match the training regiments of Olympians in other countries. But the film doesn’t seem to lean in to any of those thesis statements.

As near as I can figure the events depicted in Foxcatcher were adapted to film because someone thought it’d make a good movie. And they’re not wrong. If I didn’t know Foxcatcher was based on a true story I’d more than likely be singing an entirely different tune. But Foxcatcher is based on a true story. It’s based on a murder. And while I’m not saying it specifically sets out to exploit a murder for entertainment or ruling out the distinct possibility that I’m just being difficult and don’t get it, I ultimately found the film conflicted and problematic at best.