Monday, April 16, 2007

Schwarzenegger Sunday: Pumping Iron

For an overview of Schwarzenegger Sunday, check out the Marching Orders above. Note – there will always be spoilers.

I had never seen Pumping Iron, and though I had certain expectations, I wasn’t sure how this bodybuilding documentary would be presented. This is technically not an “Arnold” movie, but it is the one that put him on the map. Arnold is clearly the star of the show, and not just because the film documents his sixth consecutive Mr. Olympia. He comes off as cocky, gregarious, and just charming enough. Again, this is not your typical Schwarzenegger flick, so please permit me some liberties with the categories…

Quality of “Ahnold” lines: Arnold is on fire for much of the movie. The difference here is that he isn’t playing a character. Well, he kind of is, but the character is still called Arnold Schwarzenegger. Check out of these beauties:
“The most satisfying feeling you can get in a gym is ‘the pump.’ It’s as satisfying to me as coming is.”
“This girl maybe didn’t have a kiss for years, I have to give her a break…”
“I drink no milk. Milk is for babies. When you grow up you have to drink beer.”
“Franco’s pretty smart, but Franco’s a child. When it comes to the contest, I’m his father.” 7
Plethora of “Ahnold” lines: Since this movie is not strictly about Arnold, there are plenty of less cheeky bodybuilders who have little to say that is very interesting. Arnold’s amusing comments are somewhat limited (most appear above). 3

“I’ll be back.”: Obviously, this predates The Terminator, but he does avow “I’ll see you when I get back!!” n/a

Smarmy Villain: Here’s where we’re going to start reaching a bit. This is a sporting competition and there are clearly no villains. The film does intend to portray Arnold’s young competitor, Lou Ferigno, as the bad guy. But he is clearly such a nice kid who would never mean any ill towards his fellow competitors. He is managed and trained by his father, Matty. One could argue that Matty is the smarmy villain, in control of everything behind the scenes while Lou would then be the Rough and Tumble Henchman, and that’s clearly what they had in mind. It was foolish of them to try to do that with this family because it’s not anywhere in their makeup. n/a

Rough and Tumble Henchman: Lou would later go on to play the extremely rough and supremely tumble Incredible Hulk. n/a
Diminutive Sidekick: At the time of filming, Arnold was living with his best friend, the 5’5” Franco Columbu. More on him later. 8
Rejected hot love interest: Arnold discusses how he will not allow himself to become emotionally involved before a competition. Now, this could clearly could still allow for physical involvement, but he did say he was willing to pass up on love in order to properly prepare for his pose-offs. n/a

Not nearly hot enough love interest: Arnold tells us, “I like all kinds of women, brown hair, blonde hair, big breasts, small breasts, big butt, small butt.” I assume this also means “hot, not nearly hot enough…” n/a
Arnold yelling: I figured there would be at least some grunting when lifting heavier weights, but that’s not Arnold’s style. However, at one point during training, Fergino is doing some very intense reps and shouting, “Arnold! Arnold! Arnold! ArNOLD! ARNOLD!” n/a

Arnold cursing: He drops several F and S-bombs, but none of them are the least bit poignant. n/a

Arnold crazyface: I expected a lot more out of this film on the crazyface front. Who doesn’t make crazy faces when they lift weights? Well, there wasn’t a whole lot to choose from, but here you go: 5
Superfluous Explosions: I was hoping for a busted bicep at some point because it would have been amazing. But it did not occur. Another wish left ungranted… n/a

Director: Robert Fiore and George Butler teamed to direct Pumping Iron. Fiore has not directed a movie since then. Butler had a long hiatus, but recently did two docs on the Shackleton Antarctic Expedition as well as the John Kerry biopic, “Going Upriver.” This is the one where Kerry was treated fairly, not where he was slandered.

Franco Columbu: Franco is in the first shot of the movie as well as one of its final ones. They even go back with him to his native Sardinia where he picks up and moves a car that can’t get out of its parking spot. His friendship with Arnold is discussed in detail, and the two of them are the last men standing at the Mr. Olympia competition with Arnold beating him out. Plus, he wears some really fly stuff: 10
Sven Ole-Thorsen: He wasn’t hooked in with Arnold yet. n/a

Shirtless Arnold: This aspect is applied liberally like so much baby oil. I mean, it’s his job to be shirtless, so he’s going to damn well do it. It doesn’t matter if he’s on stage, working out, or visiting a prison. 10

Severely brutal killing of rough and tumble henchman: No killing takes place onscreen. The steroid-induced heart attacks will come many years down the line. n/a

Even more severely brutal killing of villain: n/a

Plausibly implausible plot: Well, there isn’t much of a plot to begin with. Arnold wins because he’s the greatest bodybuilder of all time. We learn about the sport to a degree, but there’s very little conflict and even less controversy. If anything, we go in expecting Arnold to win again and are almost let down by the lack of drama. n/a

Ambiguous ending: One could argue that we’re not finished yet. Will they change the constitution so Arnold can run for president? OK, that’s obviously unlikely. We know what happens to Arnold after this (huge movie star, governor of the fifth largest economy in the world or whatever). Franco becomes a doctor. Lou becomes the Hulk and appears on C-list reality television. All is right in the world… n/a

In one of the bonus features on the DVD, Arnold coyly goes into the fact that a lot of what we see in the movie was completely fabricated. Most notably, he claims the scene where he says that he refused to come home for his father’s funeral because he had a competition coming up in two months was made up. According to Arnold, “that’s why we never called it a documentary – we called it a docu-drama.” I don’t know why he is choosing to clear the air at this point. I have to figure it has something to do with his political career. But he also claims that all the gamesmanship he displays was drummed up and done solely for the cameras. This I find hard to believe. First of all, even if he was only doing these things because the camera was on, he was still doing them – most of the time in the moments directly before the competition. Secondly, looking at Arnold’s other behavior at the time indicates that what we see onscreen here is consistent for him. You might be curious what the deal is with bodybuilding and why it's important. Here is a video summary that is extremely worth watching:

See more funny videos at CollegeHumor

It’s a movie worth seeing once. I can’t say that I’m looking forward to another showing. The setting and subject matter provides a plethora of unintentional comedy, with the top highlight being the display of HILARIOUS haircuts. And because this is looking like Schwarzy Sunday “Lite,” I give you the gallery of hilarious haircuts. Enjoy!

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