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Harvard Beats Yale 29-29 

Wednesday, Apr 22 2009
Harvard Beats Yale 29-29 marks a particular 40th anniversary—not Richard Nixon’s election, but the scarcely less astonishing event that occurred a few weeks later in Cambridge, Massachusetts, when the undefeated Harvard football team met undefeated Yale and, trailing by 16 points with 42 seconds left in the game, scored twice to confound its arch rival with a tie. Filmmaker Kevin Rafferty, then a Harvard undergrad, was an eyewitness to The Game, as this miracle was dubbed, and his account is enjoyably steeped in ambience and ambivalence. As interviewed by Rafferty, the Crimson are definitely more salt of the earth—or at least less preppy—than the Bulldogs. One guy survived Khe Sanh; another, admitting to long-ago Progressive Labor Party tendencies, maintains that the Crimson essentially coached themselves—“In the spirit of ’68, we took over the team.” Harvard lineman Tommy Lee Jones is on hand to intone the requisite ’60s clichés with exquisite sanctimony, and a very young Meryl Streep makes an unexpected cameo, albeit in a photograph. The talking heads are intercut with The Game—an excellent way to watch it, especially as the first half consists of Yale crushing the vaunted Harvard defense. Yale draws a few penalties, calls a bizarre time-out, and fails to adjust for an onside kick, but it’s a disputed instance of pass interference that cues the movie’s Zapruder moment. This may or may not be the greatest instance of college football ever played but, Brian’s Song, Jerry Maguire, and The Longest Yard notwithstanding, Rafferty’s no-frills annotated replay is the best football movie I’ve ever seen: A particular day in history becomes a moment out of time.
Wed., April 29, 2, 7:15 & 9:30 p.m.; Thu., April 30, 7:15 & 9:30 p.m., 2009

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J. Hoberman


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