A brief history of Hollywood brackets

Originally Published: March 21, 2012
By Art Garfamudis | Page 2

Page 2 Quick and Dead AASTriStar PicturesAnybody can create another lame movie bracket. Page 2 identifies the best movie about a bracket.

Editor's note: Art Garfamudis originally wrote for Page 2 in 2008, before he retired to dedicate himself to preparing his safe house for any number of civilization-threatening crises. The depletion of his potable water, dried food and ammunition have lured him out of retirement to again present his unique perspective on the sports world.

The Greatest Bracket Movie of All Time

The movies I normally watch can be broken into two categories: the ones in which the explosions are gratuitous and the ones in which they are demanded by the plot. I'm not exactly what you'd call a cineaste, if that word is even in your vocabulary. (It wasn't in mine; I had to look it up.) But I do know this much: I know what I like, and I can usually tell by a movie's poster if I'm going to enjoy it or not.

Now, I bring all this up because -- on account of March Madness -- everyone's gone bracket crazy, and it got me to thinking about bracket movies. I'm not talking about creating a bracket in which a bunch of movies go head to head until you've figured out which one is best. I'm talking about movies that have in them a bracket that is essential to the plot.

How many of these can you think of? Without going too far back in time, these are the ones I came up with:

• "The Karate Kid" (1984)

• "Hoosiers" (1986)

• "Over the Top" (1987)

• "The Karate Kid, Part III" (1989)

• "BASEketball" (1998)

• "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story" (2004)

• "Miracle" (2004)

• "Wimbledon" (2004)

• "Invictus" (2009)

My goal was to find the greatest bracket movie of all time, and I figured it had to be on this list.

Now, I'm not going to sit here and tell you the list is complete. To be honest, I stopped looking for more when I realized that I was wrong -- the movie I was looking for wasn't on this list at all. All of these movies, even the comedies, are basically sports movies. OK, "Over the Top" probably isn't really what you'd call a sports movie, but then again there are probably some who think arm wrestling is more of a sport than tennis. And yeah, I get it; they all have other "themes" and aren't really about sports, but about the human condition and overcoming adversity and so on and so forth -- but sports are a huge part of their makeup, so you see what I'm saying.

Instead, the movie I picked as the all-time best bracket film is a Western. So why didn't I choose a movie about sports as the best bracket movie of all time?

A couple reasons.

First of all, that would have been just too easy. Second of all, the bracket itself plays a huge role in this movie. In fact, it should probably be listed in the credits. Third of all, the movie shows every contest in the bracket! All 15 of them -- I can't think of another movie that's ever done that, can you? Sure, some of the matchups are shown in montage fashion, but still they made the effort.

Here's the bracket -- not filled out completely, because I'm not the kind of person who gives away the endings of movies:

The Quick-Draw Competition

Page Title







The Kid


Swede Gutzon

Sgt. Cantrell



Virgil Sparks

Ace Hanlon


John Herod

Eugene Dred





Dog Kelly


The Lady





Carlos Montoya


Spotted Horse

By now, some of you have figured out that the movie is "The Quick and the Dead" from 1995. The fast synopsis is this: In 1881, the town of Redemption is a nasty hole run by John Harod (Gene Hackman), and he rules with an iron fist that has made him lots of enemies. He sponsors the quick-draw competition that gives these enemies a chance at vengeance. The rules are explained like this by the bartender (Pat Hingle) who manages the contest:

"Each man who enters the contest will fight once a day. Anybody can challenge anybody. The time of the fight will be pulled from the hat ... The man who wins the contest gets this: one hundred and twenty-three thousand dollars compliments of Mr. Harod and Wells Fargo."

He forces former colleague Cort (Russell Crowe), a preacher and reformed criminal, to enter. Other contestants include The Kid (Leonardo DiCaprio), who says he's Harod's son although Harod denies it, and Sergeant Cantrell (Keith David), a hired gun paid by the townsfolk to rid them of Harod. Also involved are Ace Hanlon (Lance Henriksen), a trick-shot artist, and Spotted Horse (Jonothon Gill), who claims that no bullet can kill him while proudly displaying all of his gunshot wounds. The main character is The Lady (Sharon Stone), who has a big ax to grind with Harod. Some of the 16 contestants get no back story at all. Think of them as the small college that makes it to the NCAA tournament after going 11-21 then winning its conference tournament only to meet the No. 1 seed in the first round.

The bracket is kept on a chalkboard in the bar. The way it's shown above is not how it actually appears in the movie. I pieced that together based on what happens in the plot, since the way the contest progresses is more fluid than you're used to seeing in college basketball. The rules even change midway through. In the first round, all a shooter has to do is knock down his or her opponent. After that, Harod changes the gunfights to battles to the death.

As each showdown is completed, the loser's name is crossed off the bracket. It's probably that more than anything that makes me think this is the ultimate bracket movie. After all, the bracket itself is one of the stars.

Can any other movie really make that claim?

Artemis Arthur Garfamudis originally studied typing at the Miss DuPrix School of Business on Route 22 in North Plainfield, N.J. He has since taken several refresher typing courses. It is with great pride that he types all his own columns.

Follow Art Garfamudis on Twitter @artgarfamudis ... if you dare.

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