Author Topic: ESPN Films Presents: 30 for 30  (Read 41999 times)

Corndog

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Re: ESPN 30 for 30
« Reply #10 on: December 05, 2011, 04:03:32 PM »
Would it be possible to add a rating to see how they compare with my own/and fellow Filmspotter's ratings.

Ratings added, and a reminder that they are out of 4.
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jbissell

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Re: ESPN 30 for 30
« Reply #11 on: December 05, 2011, 04:35:54 PM »
I'd break them down like so

Great
Muhammad and Larry (Bradley Kaplan & Albert Maysles)
Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. The New York Knicks (Dan Klores)
No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson (Steve James)

Very Good
The Band that Wouldn't Die (Barry Levinson)
June 17th, 1994 (Brett Morgen)
Into the Wind (Ezra Holland & Steve Nash)
Once Brothers (Michael Tolajian)

Good
Kings Ransom (Peter Berg)
Small Potatoes: Who Killed the USFL? (Michael Tollin)
The U (Billy Corben & Alfred Spellman)
Guru of Go (Bill Couturie)
Straight Outta L.A. (Ice Cube)
The Birth of Big Air (Jeff Tremaine)
One Night in Vegas (Reggie "Rock" Bythewood)
The Fab Five (Jason Hehir)

Fair
Without Bias (Kirk Fraser)
The Legend of Jimmy the Greek (Fritz Mitchell)
Silly Little Game (Adam Kurland & Lucas Jansen)
Jordan Rides the Bus (Ron Shelton)
Tim Richmond: To the Limit (Rory Karpf)

Haven't Seen
Run Ricky Run (Sean Pamphilon & Royce Toni)
The 16th Man (Cliff Bestall)
The Two Escobars (Jeff & Michael Zimbalist)
Little Big Men (Al Szymanski)
Unmatched (Lisa Lax & Nancy Stern)
The House of Steinbrenner (Barbara Kopple)
Four Days in October (Gary Waksman)
Fernando Nation (Cruz Angeles)
Marion Jones: Press Pause (John Singleton)
The Best that Never Was (Jonathan Hock)
Pony Excess (Thaddeus Matula)
Catching Hell (Alex Gibney)
Renee (Eric Drath)
The Dotted Line (Morgan Spurlock)
Charismatic (Steven Michaels)
The Real Rocky (Jeff Frueurzeig)
Unguarded (Jonathan Hock)
Roll Tide/War Eagle (Martin Khodabakhshian)
Right to Play (Frank Marshall)

Corndog

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Re: ESPN 30 for 30
« Reply #12 on: December 05, 2011, 04:40:52 PM »
Small Potatoes: Who Killed the USFL? (Michael Tollin, 2009)

To a youngster like me the USFL, or United States Football League, was a gimmick league, sort of like the XFL was, a completely manufactured entertainment business which had no promise to ever sustain the league or compete in any market. They had second rate players and coaches and lasted only a few years because it was destined to fail. I cannot really say how I had come to that conclusion, having never really been informed on the league, but that was how I felt before sitting down to this installment of ESPN's 30 for 30. I probably thought the way I did because it did fail to compete with the NFL and it did fold after only a few years, but apparently not for the reasons I had in my mind.

In 1983, a small group of businessmen formed the United States Football League, a professional football league which would hold its season in the spring/summer to give fans of the sport something to cheer about outside the fall/winter schedule of the National Football League. To help their start-up, Heisman Trophy Winner Herschel Walker was signed out of college to the USFL instead of the NFL. They had their star player and even struck a television deal with ABC. The first few years were deemed successful, with the attendance and ratings goals being met. However, some of the owners were still somewhat broke. Enter Donald Trump as the owner of the New Jersey team. Trump convinced the poorer owners to file a monopoly suit against the NFL and attempt to move the USFL to the fall. They won their lawsuit and were set to open a fall season in 1986, but then the league folded.

This was an entirely enlightening documentary film and a perfect example of the joy of sports, film, and this series in general. But before I pile the praises upon the filmmaker Michael Tollin, let me just say that the story being told was most certainly romanticized. I was not around to experience the USFL, so I don't have anything to really go on but my gut, however I found it a bit biased that a former USFL employee, who admittedly had a wonderful time while working with the league, should be the one to construct the documentary and single out Trump as the one who brought the fun to an end. He interviews those who look back fondly and remember all the good, which really works in painting the picture of the positives of the organization, but not so much the negatives.

And I have to imagine there were plenty of negatives, otherwise some of the owners would not have followed Trump down the wrong road, and the league would not have had to fold the way it did. I was definitely impressed with how the league was presented, however. All the players and coaches they talked to seemed to think very highly of their experiences and their times there. I was surprised to find out who these people were, some big names to be sure. Steve Young, Jim Kelley and Herschel Walker played for these teams. Lee Corso, Jim Mora and Steve Spurrier coached these teams. Recognizable names and faces which, in my mind, definitely now give the league credence in my estimation.

It was a fun time when the NFL stood for the "No Fun League", which some would argue it still stands for. I now know, at least partially, what the USFL was all about and to bring the XFL up in the same conversation with the USFL is unwarranted, other than bringing up the XFL is fun to do anytime football is involved. Tollin certainly set out to vilify Trump from the get go, before he even sat down to talk to the man, but I also think the film is aptly named. The USFL and Tollin and his crews were "Small Potatoes" to the billionaire. He manipulated the league for greed and that is what brought them down. After seeing this, I think the USFL could have made it, and it was nicely presented, even if it was biased and romanticized.

** 1/2
"Time is the speed at which the past decays."

Bondo

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Re: ESPN 30 for 30
« Reply #13 on: December 05, 2011, 04:49:37 PM »
Well, obviously trying to be a co-legitimate football league, scheduled against the NFL no less, was probably madness. But not knowing anything about it, there's no reason it couldn't hold a similar function to Arena Football (not sure if that is still doing alright, but it had a few years of success, producing players like Kurt Warner), Canadian Football or NFL Europe. There's much less in the way of minor leagues/international feeder leagues in football like there are in baseball, basketball and hockey to develop talent beyond the college system.

Corndog

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Re: ESPN 30 for 30
« Reply #14 on: December 05, 2011, 07:36:28 PM »
I think Arena did have to finally fold and NFL Europe too. CFL still going strong, and speaking of, The Band That Wouldn't Die taught me that Baltimore of all places had a CFL team, and even won the Grey Cup one year. How is that even possible?

And based on what was presented to me I believe it could have succeeded in the function as a supplement like you say, but Trump felt the need to bring a lawsuit to the NFL and try to go up against them head to head when some of the other owners and players felt like it was a stupid idea. Keith Jackson sums it up pretty well at the end: greed.
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Corndog

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Re: ESPN 30 for 30
« Reply #15 on: December 08, 2011, 06:22:09 PM »
Muhammad and Larry (Albert Maysles & Bradley Kaplan, 2009)

Muhammad Ali is the self proclaimed GOAT, the greatest of all time, and boy would I have liked to be alive during his prime to witness not only his antics, but also his athletic prowess. I don't really like violent sports, but for some reason boxing has always been attractive to me, something in the aura it puts off as a "sweet science" and a chess game. I really can't explain it because it is brutally violent and has affected so many of its athletes, most notably Muhammad Ali himself, who now is a shell of himself, a strong, intimidating man limited by his disabilities as a result of his career in the ring. However, I never knew about the limelight of his career.

In this documentary, famed director Albert Maysles follows Muhammad Ali and Larry Holmes before their 1980 Heavyweight Championship bout which ultimately ended Ali's career. Using this footage, Maysles, and partner Bradley Kaplan return to those closest to the fight and create a sort of retrospective on the events that led up to and included the fight itself. Unfortunately Ali does not make an appearance other than in the old footage, but his persona lives up to his legend and it actually becomes a heartbreaking elegy to his career. The story of Larry Holmes and his relationship to Ali is also explored and the difference in styles makes for a compelling documentary.

When I had heard that Albert Maysles was part of the ESPN 30 for 30 series, I was excited and impressed, even without having seen any of his legendary documentary work. Bradley Kaplan, however, I am unfamiliar with, but their collaboration works wonderfully here. The greatest strength of the film, not surprisingly, is the footage from 1980. The previous episodes in this series have not quite utilized that archive footage but here Maysles and Kaplan use it as the mainstay. They are able to tell the story with that footage and supplement with the new stuff. Everything else to this point has been the other way around.

So after discussing the wonderful filmmaking, let me speak to the actual story which was awesome. My interest in boxing certainly factors in to the equation, but Ali was also a cultural icon. I wish lived during his reign as king because I am sure it was a sight to see, even if he was an arrogant annoyance to some. His career was amazing, a four time champion, but for his career to end basically in this tragic fight was in fact tragic to witness. The footage of the fight was brutal to watch, and the comments of everybody now and then are right on. It was a shame that the fight went as far as it did. It is hard to point directly to this fight to blame for a lot of what happened to Ali afterward, but it is also hard not to say it was a major player in his decline as a boxer and as a functioning person.

And on the other side of the coin is Larry Holmes, who got criminally overlooked during his career simply because he was not as outlandish as someone like Ali when he was a strong champion in his own right. The spirit of Ali and the relationship of the two makes the circumstances of their bout very sad indeed. Watching the footage of Ali train was difficult to see as he was clearly slower and more overweight than before, and it was clear he was not going to compete. So to learn that he was taking pills that actually made him weaker just adds to the horror of the situation. If I had one gripe about the film it's that I wish it had been longer than an hour because I wanted to spend more time with and learn more about these two. Easily the best of the series so far.

***1/2
"Time is the speed at which the past decays."

smirnoff

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Re: ESPN 30 for 30
« Reply #16 on: December 08, 2011, 07:54:12 PM »
Sounds interesting. That's one aspect of Ali's career I know nothing about.

AAAutin

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Re: ESPN 30 for 30
« Reply #17 on: December 08, 2011, 10:35:51 PM »
By the way, for those who want to follow along at home, Amazon has the Blu-ray set for $70.

Corndog

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Re: ESPN 30 for 30
« Reply #18 on: December 08, 2011, 10:38:43 PM »
Yea, I was lucky enough to grab the full DVD set back in June for $50.
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smirnoff

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Re: ESPN 30 for 30
« Reply #19 on: December 08, 2011, 10:39:26 PM »
When it's 30 for 30 for 30, I'll be first in line. :)