Column: 35 years later, can ‘Breaking Away’ still compete?


At what point does a modern classic become a relic of the past?

“Breaking Away,” the classic sports film based on IU’s famous Little 500 bike races, hit cinemas nationwide 35 years ago this summer. The July 1979 sports classic was a sleeper at the box office, but it was newspaper articles and a strong word-of-mouth reputation, reportedly — then a trusted American institution before Twitter, Facebook, and 24-hour cable news took our attention and never quite gave it back — that brought filmgoers to the movies in spades.

Director Peter Yates’ earnest film, written by IU graduate Steve Tesich, about four working-class Bloomington locals and their struggles in a college town even won the 1979 Academy Award for Best Screenplay.

…But does it hold the same weight in 2014?

Has it been replaced by modern, sexier, sleeker sports films with high-definition cameras? Does this old-timey, earnest film about a humble, self-contained Indiana community keep its wholesome nature intact — or does it banish “Breaking Away” to a select quadrant of the film community reserved only for the kitschy and left-behind as the film canon chugs along into 2014 and beyond?

Continue reading

Column: Thank you, Howdy Wilcox

BY JEFF LAFAVE | @presslafave

It’s the classic rags-to-riches story: But he was the rags, and then worked tirelessly to find IU students the riches.

The birth of the Little 500 race is perhaps as charming as its own storybook legacy: Howdy Wilcox Jr., the race’s founder, “happened upon an informal bicycle race,” per the IU Student Foundation website, on a fall day in 1950 somewhere near Hickory Hall — a historic 10th Street dorm facility now included with the modern, sparkling Union Street Center group.

There are no photographs from Howdy’s fateful stroll through campus that day, but any graduate of IU might be apt to tell you of its majesty: A crisp afternoon amid colorful foliage, crunching under the steel wheels of students’ Schwinn cruiser bikes, perhaps on their way to Kirkwood Avenue, or to read by the Jordan River.

It was the sublime chance encounter necessary to stoke IU’s signature student event.

Howdy, then president of the general IU Foundation, had been urging legendary IU President Herman B Wells to take action on behalf the students to assist their financial situations.

“The IU Foundation simply had no identity on campus, neither with the students nor the faculty,” Howdy said, according to the IU Student Foundation website. “I wrote a letter to President (Herman B) Wells recommending that we form a Student Foundation Committee and charge that committee with spreading the word.”

But how?

Continue reading