Wednesday, November 13, 2013
The charm of the game of baseball is in its quirk. It is my favorite game for how unique, and how human it is. For the longest time the game resisted the addition of instant replay, until it finally caved. For the longest time it resisted the use of computer programs to generate its schedules, until it finally caved. Before 2005, the Stephenson's were the the team of two who formulated the schedule of over 2,000 games for Major League Baseball, and they did it all without a computer. Who knew!?
In the latest installment of the Shorts version of ESPN's 30 for 30 series, director Joseph Garner gives us a wonderful look into the lovely couple who made the schedules for baseball, despite it being the impossible combination. Having to adhere to multiple scheduling rules, they found the right way to break them, and generate schedules to appease all 30 teams. Every year there were impossible variables to deal with, and without the help of a computer the Stephenson's overcame and developed their own system to solve one of the most complex riddles is sports, How to schedule 162 games for each of the 30 teams.
But while the feat itself, which they did every year from 1982-2004, is impressive, its truly the charm and love of the couple that comes through in Garner's film. The relationship between the two makes sense given their task. Like the game of baseball, they have their charm, their passion, and they always seem to be there for each other, complimenting each others skills. Holly was the brainiac who developed their tried and true formula, whereas Henry helped out with the baseball side of things, assuring good matchups at the end of the year, making sure Cal Ripken was in Baltimore when he broke Lou Gehrig's record. Together, for over 20 years, they made baseball tick.
*** - Good
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
The world of championship boxing has taken a backseat these days to the wonderful world of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). MMA is a sport to which I have no interest in at all. There aren't any interesting stories, and I just don't take to the bludgeoning nature of the sport. Others, however, obviously do. But there was a time when boxing was the sweet science, where personalities like Muhammed Ali dominated the sporting world, where fight night captured audiences nationwide for a main event like none other. Sugar Ray Leonard was one such personality, but he eventually met his match with Panamanian fighter Roberto Duran.
Thursday, October 24, 2013
The ABA, or American Basketball Association, was a very different league than the NBA, the professional basketball league we know and love today in America. The ABA was more gimmicky. Features bigger, and bolder personalities. And often times these personalities were encouraged, unlike everything in current professional sports, which seems to take every effort to stop fun in sports (re: touchdown celebrations in football). The ABA eventually folded, or rather merged with the NBA. However, a handful of teams were left in the dust, not making the cut alongside teams like the Nets, Pacers, Spurs and Nuggets. One of those teams were the Spirits of St. Louis, a talented team that featured its own cast of characters, its own brand of basketball.
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
As Americans, we often have a unique sense of cultural identity. Heralded often as the melting pot, or the salad bowl in some cases, America is famous for welcoming its many world cultures and celebrating them. That's not to say there hasn't also been some discrimination of culture in our nation's history, there certainly has. Hawaii, the 50th state of the union is one such instance. When Hawaii was added as an American territory, it took a coup to overthrow the leadership of the small Pacific island chain to bring it into the fold. It was not a willing annexation. And when the islands became a part of the States, the native peoples were delegated to tourist entertainers. But Hawaiians have a proud history, and a proud culture. One that is celebrated, and seen in the legend of Eddie Aikau.
Thursday, October 10, 2013
Written by Billy Ray
A modern genius of the action movie, Paul Greengrass has a handful of classics under his belt already with Bourne Ultimatum and United 93 among them. In his latest effort, he tries his hand once again at another real life story that captured the attention of Americans for some time. The story of Captain Rich Phillips should be at the very least casually familiar to the typical American. I, for instance, did not go into the film knowing a whole lot of details, but I at least recalled the event, the Somali pirates. To the same token, Tom Hanks is a legendary actor already in his career, but has been a fair bit less active on the silver screen in recent years. It is great to see him back, and in full form no less, teaming up with a great director like Greengrass.
Sunday, September 29, 2013
Billy Corben is a familiar name in the 30 for 30 series, having already directed two full length installments in the series (The U and Broke). I've found his style to be a unique vision in the series. However, the style has not always suited the material. While The U was slick and self-assured, to match the players of the University of Miami football team, Broke seemed to revel in the defeat and stupidity of professional athletes who blow their seven figure salaries with the greatest of ease. With Collision Course Corben returns to the Miami area to examine the life, times and murder of powerboat king Don Aronow.
Aronow was a pioneer not only in powerboat design, but also the sport of off shore powerboat racing, a high dollar, elite sport among millionaire playboys, Hollywood stars, and drug smugglers. Aronow himself was not a smuggler, but he did profit greatly from those that bought his boats to get away from authorities during their smuggling runs. Aronow also came into business with the United Stats government and Vice President George Bush's drug war task force, supplying them with the "Blue Thunder" boats that were supposed to make a difference in the war on drugs during the 1980s. Aronow was murdered in the midst of great suspicion as to who done it, and why they would want Aronow dead.
Corben's film explores a few possibilities, but zeros in on Ben Kramer, a drug smuggler whose innocence has been proclaimed and supported time and again. Corben seems more obsessed with pointing to Kramer as a suspect, or some kind of scapegoat for the case, than he does truly want to explore the mystery of Aronow's murder. The case remains open, even after the man who confessed to the murder was convicted and has since died in prison. The man was surely a hired gun, but who hired him? The film does little more than bring the mystery to light, choosing not to delve deeper, but rather stay on the surface of this intriguing murder/mystery. It was just hard for me to exactly understand what Corben may have been going for with this film. What was his objective?
**1/2 - Average
Thursday, September 19, 2013
"If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that's a full day. That's a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you're going to have something special."
- Jim ValvanoThe above is a quote from one of my favorite speeches; Jim Valvano riddled with cancer, delivered an inspiring and completely moving speech at the 1993 ESPY Awards, capturing some of the most essential emotions all wrapped into one. Short Term 12, in many ways, captures the spirit and courage of Valvano's sentiment. He calls a full day one in which you laugh, you think, and you cry. What Destin Daniel Cretton accomplishes with his film is just that, a full day, a full experience. There are moments of light humor which made me laugh; moments of such depth, that I found myself lost in thought; and moments of heartbreaking pain, joyous wonder, both of which had my emotions moved to tears.
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Expectations and influences are funny things. When I first saw heard of the forthcoming film from filmmaker David Lowery, it was immediately placed on my watchlist for a few different reasons. The first was the fine actors attached to the project. I am quite fond of both Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck, the latter of which had a phenomenal coming out party in 2007 with wonderful performances in both The Assassination of Jesse James and Gone Baby Gone. The second reason was the trailer, which gave off a distinct Terrence Malick vibe, Malick being my favorite director. This suggestion of influence was enough to get me excited. And I certainly feel the film was influenced by Malick's work. But what left me with the funny feeling was how Lowery, also a disciple of Shane Carruth (Upstream Color, Primer), delivered his film, and the style he seemed to aspire to.
Monday, September 9, 2013
How many unknown legends are there across the world I wonder? How many great warriors, whose compassion and valor on the battlefield are remembered only by those there to witness it, or not as all, as time has passed their legend by? What great pioneers, and great defenders of justice have been written out of the history books by the victors, social or military? Certainly such an American sport as basketball would not have forgotten any of its own legends, right? Well, what about Reece "Goose" Tatum, whose basketball skills may have only been surpassed by his charisma as an entertainer? Believe it or not, it took basketball a while to remember one of its greatest pioneers, greatest ambassadors, and hands-down one of its greatest players of all time.
Sunday, September 8, 2013
The previous Nine for IX film, The 99ers, creates a near perfect segue into the final installment of the series of films "about women, by women, for us all". Brandi Chastain won the US the Women's World Cup in 1999, yet gained headlines and attention more for ripping her shirt off than for scoring the winning goal. That is branding. So what does this mean in the sports world, and what does it mean specifically to women athletes? Directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady look to find the answer to this question in examining some of the larger personalities in women's sports marketing, such as Mary Lou Retton, Anna Kournikova, Danica Patrick, as well as sports agents and people in the marketing business. This isn't just about sex, though it can be argued that the majority of it is. Sex sells.