Thursday, October 29, 2009

Loose Ends: ESPN, Ebert on indies, and new trailers

- You'd have to search far and wide to find a bigger sports-hater than me; I grew up in the Midwest, where the viewing of and participation in sports is pretty much required, and I grew to loathe both. And yet I love sports movies, particularly sports documentaries--the brilliant When We Were Kings, for example, is probably one of my favorite docs (if not favorite films) of all time. So, improbably enough, I've found myself watching ESPN lately. In celebration of their 30 years on the air, they've started 30 for 30, a weekly series of one-hour documentaries by acclaimed filmmakers, one for each of the years they've been on the air. All of them so far have been worth watching--Mike Tollin's Small Potatoes: Who Killed the USFC? and Peter Berg's King's Ransom were both very good (the former more than the latter), while Barry Levinson's The Band That Wouldn't Die was just excellent. But the best of the bunch so far has been Muhammad and Larry by the great Al Maysles and Bradley Kaplan. Ali remains the most compelling sports doc subject of them all (aside from When We Were Kings, we also had the recent Thrilla in Manilla and Muhammad Ali: Made in Miami), and this film is just extraordinary, combining extensive footage Maysles shot at the time of that 1980 bout--a brutal, unfortunate showcase of the fall of a legend which certainly contributed to his Parkinson's--with modern reflections by those involved. It's fantastic. Here's a schedule of its remaining airings and the upcoming shows (including repeats of the ones they've already aired). These are well worth watching, and (as I can attest) they're not just for sports fans.

- Roger Ebert's blog has become a must-read, not only for his film essays but his personal revelations (his tale of his thirty years of sobriety, and what led him to that point, is a terrific read) and political tracts. But his most intriguing (and terrifying) entry of late was this one, from a little over a month ago, about the dire state of American independent film distribution.

- New trailers, kids! The collaboration of Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon on the last two Bourne films led to a rare intermingling of skillful, intelligent filmmaking and box-office action movie success. They're reteaming for next spring's Green Zone, and it looks fantastic:

- Sure, Invictus looks like potentially formulaic Oscar bait. But it's Damon and Morgan Freeman and it's directed by Clint Eastwood, so I'm sure as hell seeing it:

- And finally, here's something awesome: Somebody cut a trailer for The Wrestler to make it look like a grindhouse movie:

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