Author Topic: ESPN Films Presents: 30 for 30  (Read 43722 times)

íKeith!

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Re: ESPN Films Presents: 30 for 30
« Reply #460 on: February 06, 2018, 04:58:31 PM »
Nature Boy (Roy Karpf, 2017)

ESPN's 30 for 30 series of documentaries has, at once, been both groundbreaking while also settling into a familiar formula over the course of it's 83 installments. The series burst onto the scene in 2009, producing extremely interesting and well made sports documentaries about events which took place in the 30 years of the cable sports network's history. Progressing to Volume II and now Volume III of the series, that 30 year restriction no longer applies. However, with so many films included, it's hard not to notice a pattern and a formula for their work. There are always outliers, take last year's stunning O.J.: Made in America, which went on to win the Academy Award for Outstanding Documentary Feature. So when I heard they were branching out into the world of professional wrestling with a documentary about the life and career of the Nature Boy, Ric Flair, I was intrigued by the film's potential.

Professional wrestling could be debated between fans and naysayers until the cows come home. Is it a sport? Is it real? Does it really even matter? I was never one to make it appointment viewing, but there have been some real stars that have come out of wrestling (ever heard of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson?). So when Ric Flair, born Richard Fliehr and raised to adoptive parents, broke onto the scene with a whole new style, he changed the game forever. Flair, also known as the Nature Boy, brought a flair and a lifestyle of the ring which endeared him to fans who liked rooting for the villain. His trademark "Woo!" became a part of the wrestling and pop culture lexicon, while his struggles outside of the ring, promiscuity, alcoholism, among others, went largely unnoticed by casual fans throughout his career.

ESPN has a great opportunity with a project like this. Professional wrestling has not yet been explored by the 30 for 30 series, and I often find myself enjoying the installments about the more "outlying" sports than I do the mainstream ones (think Slaying the Badger about cycling). However, with Nature Boy, director Rory Karpf appears to be out of his league. Clearing a mega fan himself, Karpf forgets many documentary filmmaking fundamentals which cause the finished product to read more as a hagiography than a biography of the subject, while also playing more like a Sunday morning recap than a real, emotional, important piece of documentary filmmaking. Karpf's other films in the series have also felt lacking to me. He manages to ask all the right questions when interviewing Flair, for example, but he fails to frame them in any emotionally affecting sort of way, or to juxtapose the talking head moments with important clips from Flair's career.

What results is merely a film celebrating everything that Flair accomplished, while also failing to truly put his impact and success within the context of his career. Not being a mega fan, but knowing enough about the sport, I was able to see his impact on the industry, but was also forced to take much of what Kaprf was telling me at face value. Nature Boy, as a result, becomes a fan film, one which Flair enthusiasts will likely enjoy, and wrestling fans can appreciate. I, on the other hand, was left wanting so much more. Flair's story is endlessly fascinating and compelling, and in the hands of a more capable filmmaker, a biographical documentary on his life and career could be really moving and extremely entertaining. Karpf is merely scratching the surface with Nature Boy, which makes it all the more frustrating of a watch.

The world of professional wrestling is ripe for a stunning 30 for 30 documentary, unfortunately, this is not that film. Karpf spends too much time idolizing and drooling over Flair to feel like he cares about him as a person, merely celebrating his character instead of relating to the man. There is no more heartbreaking moment then when Ric Flair is smiling ear to ear remembering the great times he had with his son Reid, and then realizing that by being Reid's friend, he forgot to be his father, blaming himself for his untimely death. This moment should be the center of the film, the entire message covering his trouble past and celebrated career, but it isn't. Karpf has pumped Flair up so much by this point that the moment comes and goes and we miss it. It is nothing. While having everything necessary to make a strong, emotionally powerful and entertaining documentary, this film is nothing.

**1/2 - Average

Nature Boy airs Tuesday night at 10pm ET on ESPN.

Wow, yeah, no. ;)

Everything about the binary piles worked for me - the build up of the neglect and deceit (wives, first marriage children) from those left still living to where it peaks in the stunning sequence with his youngest son and then the surprising redemption with his daughter being the largest story line. But also the highlights of his early career juxtaposed with the sad reality of his current financial situation and even those in the industry being kind of embarrassed for him now who had praised him earlier in the doc. His athleticism and propensity for grandiosity vs his adopted parents disdain for ostentation and desire more for pursuits of the mind. Growing up I was (as mentioned in the doc) one of the WWF kids - Hogan, quick pacing, MTV generation. I occasionally would tune into WCW but never followed that so I loved the cultural contrast that was touched on in that section as well. Its not revolutionary story telling by any means but all of the contrasts built up to a great watch for me and I definitely don't see it as the hagiography you did. Its obviously not a wrestling doc, its a character doc so I can definitely see that without some additional context brought in on the viewers part, there is a lack of a real grounding in professional wrestling (touches, but honestly, they're in service to the juxtaposition of his graciousness within the ring to his neediness outside of it).

Corndog

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Re: ESPN Films Presents: 30 for 30
« Reply #461 on: April 03, 2018, 03:01:16 PM »
ESPN is planning to launch their new streaming service, ESPN+ to coincide with the premier of their latest 30 for 30, The Last Days of Knight, which will be exclusive to the service.

I don't like the sound of this, as it likely means the near end to my marathon of their films. I have been losing interest slowing anyway, but if their films are to be exclusive now to a streaming service, which would be mighty disappointing after the success of OJ: Made in America, then I will likely bow out. So it remains to be seen whether The Last Days of Knight is also the Last Days of Corndog's 30 for 30 Marathon.

Stay Tuned.
"Time is the speed at which the past decays."

Corndog

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Re: ESPN Films Presents: 30 for 30
« Reply #462 on: April 09, 2018, 01:48:38 PM »
The Last Days of Knight (Robert Abbott, 2018)

The 30 for 30 brand has done a lot for ESPN, expanding their reach into the world of documentary filmmaking. In nearly a decade, and almost 100 films later, the series is still as strong as ever in terms of the product delivered on screen. Heck, they just won an Oscar recently for O.J.: Made in America. And yet, ESPN has decided that with the release of this film, they will run their 30 for 30 content exclusively through their new ESPN+ streaming service. It both makes a ton of sense and is excruciatingly frustrating. The 30 for 30 brand is a great way to help sell the new service, while marooning it behind what amounts to a paywall will likely seriously hinder the ability for a lot of people to get their eyes on these usually stellar documentary films about the sports world. I will certainly be interested in how this plays out.

As the content wars continue in the realm television, ESPN's latest sports documentary covers the wars of one man's legend within a state of diehard basketball fans. Bob Knight was a living legend in Indiana. After successful stints as a role player on an Ohio State national championship team and a winning run at West Point as a very young head coach, Knight landed in Indiana where he built a monster program, winning multiple national titles and countless conference championships and games. He cemented his status well before the time came to reckon with his coaching style, which made his scandal and exit all the more impossible for the Hoosier fan base and loyal administrators at the university. But as investigative journalist Robert Abbot goes back to explore the sensational story he broke while working for CNN, he begins to see that Knight choking a player was less about the coach, and perhaps more about the player.

Often what ESPN does best in these films is retell the story of some significant event or sports milestone. And while they certainly cover all their bases when it comes to chronicling the success of Bobby Knight and the Indiana program, as well as his eventual downfall, what separates The Last Days of Knight from many in the pack of 30 for 30 films is in its human story, which is told beautifully by Robert Abbott, the director of this film, and the man who originally broke the Bobby Knight scandal. What makes this film such a rewarding experience is in Abbott's ability to do his job, simply tell the truth. Certainly there is some amount of personal bias and emotional manipulation as a result of having someone as close to the story as Abbott retell it, but that personal, emotional touch is honestly what makes this documentary stand apart.

Abbott clearly has a handle on the facts and timeline of events of the Bobby Knight downfall, and that part of the film is flawlessly produced. The interviews he gets, then and now, are what tell the personal side of things, the moments where we get to peel back the layers and find out who Bobby Knight really was, what he meant both to the state of Indiana and its fans as well as to his players, ones that stuck around and those that departed the program for now obvious reasons. Seeing all this put together in on place is a bit like it was seeing O.J.: Made in America, wherein the evidence against is so egregiously horrendous that it's hard to watch archival footage of people defending Knight, and attacking his accuser Neil Reed. It all becomes so obvious in hindsight. But that's not even the most heartbreaking aspect of the story.

When all focus is placed on Knight and both his accolades and shortcomings (and he is an asshole, this film does nothing to dispell that opinion, but rather reinforces it), we forget about the human story of Neil Reed, and the courage it took to come forward, and also the scars that likely remained after being shunned as the man who got the beloved Bob Knight fired. When Abbott begins down the road of telling Reed's side of the story, the film really delivers an emotional gut punch. Why do we, as a society, put so much stake in winning? So much that we're willing to sacrifice morals, turn a blind eye to abuse and let horrible humans continue to "craft" our young people? A story like this is sick in many ways, but the fact that Knight was given all the chances he was, that his story was swept under the rug by Indiana in favor of continued winning, is such a shameful act. We need to be better.

★★★★ - Loved It
"Time is the speed at which the past decays."

Antares

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Re: ESPN Films Presents: 30 for 30
« Reply #463 on: April 09, 2018, 07:15:04 PM »
A story like this is sick in many ways, but the fact that Knight was given all the chances he was, that his story was swept under the rug by Indiana in favor of continued winning, is such a shameful act. We need to be better.

From the film Patton:
Quote
"Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser. Americans play to win all the time. I wouldn't give a hoot in hell for a man who lost and laughed. That's why Americans have never lost, and will never lose a war... because the very thought of losing is hateful to Americans."

It's sad, but true. It's in our societal DNA.

Corndog

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Re: ESPN Films Presents: 30 for 30
« Reply #464 on: April 10, 2018, 08:32:16 AM »
It's sad, but true. It's in our societal DNA.

QFT
"Time is the speed at which the past decays."