As readers can see, I’ve taken a very long break from regular blogging. I can’t promise when I’ll be back updating on a daily or even weekly basis yet for the simple reason that I still work a job as well as an internship that take up a lot of my energy and time. In my spare time I’ve done a lot of apartment work since I’ll be moving things between properties several times in the next month. Still, I’ve managed to find personal time to enjoy a few movies I adore!
Both my job and my internship take place at the Western PA Humane Society, where I spend most of my time with cats, dogs, and rabbits. However, one animal that we very rarely deal with (but do occasionally see) is the horse. I’m an avid horse lover, and have been from a very young age. There are photos of me at the age of five or six trail riding on the backs of gentle old Appaloosa’s. Eventually I even took riding lessons and had the luxury of riding a very gentle Thoroughbred – the breed of horse used and bred for racetracks.
Horses are iconic animals in our culture that often have a place in stories in books and film alike. Cowboys and their steeds galloping through the West are engrained into our culture. And it was the bestselling story of Black Beauty that really brought the idea of animal cruelty to readers in a time when horses were as common in cities as cars as today. (Wikipedia features a lengthy list of fictional horses! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fictional_horses)
When it comes to movies about horses, though, there are two about real race horses that still hold a special place in my heart: Secretariat and Seabiscuit. Both of these real horses absolutely stole the hearts of America when they lived.
Seabiscuit literally went from being an underdog, runty, and rumored ugly colt to a champion and a symbol of hope among the American people during the Great Depression, and is the subject of a book and two films (the 2003 release was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture and one of my top five favorite movies). Though Seabiscuit missed his chance to run in the Triple Crown, he did defeat Triple Crown winner War Admiral in an incredible one-on-one match that shut down the nation for a day and led to Seabiscuit’s crowning of “Horse of the Year” in 1938.
Years later, Secretariat came onto the scene. He did win the Triple Crown – he was the first horse in 25 years to do so and he set two track records in 1973 that still have not been broken today. In fact, his performance at the Belmont Stakes was so impressive many betters never turned in their tickets, keeping them as souvenirs. His own jockey admitted he was terrified during the ride – the distance Secretariat put between himself and the other race horses was massive and has never been seen again. He was awarded “Horse of the Year” multiple times.
Like I said, both of these stories became movies – Seabiscuit was produced by DreamWorks while Secretariat was produced by Disney. Both told the story of two race horses who loved to eat and sleep and that no one expected to do as well as they did when they went into racing. So: which one do I enjoy more?
Honestly, Seabiscuit stands out to me as the superior movie. There is nothing wrong with Secretariat. The story is inspiring, and the portrayal of owner Penny Chenery living in a man’s world during the chaos of the 1970s is extremely charming and endearing. It’s a very nice Disney movie with wonderful messages, humor, and stunning shots of the race horses.
The difference, however, is that while the movie Secretariat acts like a family friendly Disney movie, the movie Seabiscuit acts as a historical documentation about a horse from the Great Depression. It’s a more serious topic and it’s handled very carefully. Its story is told seamlessly and the movie is chock full with photos and facts from archives.
And truthfully, while the movie Secratariat is more or less about an owner’s struggle to save her father’s farm and keep her family together, Seabiscuit is about the tragedy an entire nation and how that horse’s owners and riders were brought together and healed by their racehorse (although history showed that their lives did not always stay so bright after the horse retired).
Seabiscuit has something that Secetariat does not, and it’s hard to describe what that something is.
The best way to describe the difference is that while Secretariat includes mentions of the culture and American society at the time Seabiscuit immerses itself in it – the time is as much a part of the story as the characters. It creates a very different tone, and I love Seabiscuit more for creating a movie that truly captures a moment in American history.