Author Topic: ESPN Films Presents: 30 for 30  (Read 41571 times)

colonel_mexico

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Re: ESPN Films Presents: 30 for 30
« Reply #450 on: July 17, 2017, 09:33:13 AM »
I feel like you are contradicting yourself and fail to make any kind of argument that the show was not regional.  If I can't listen to them 'first' then how are they not regional? Just because you write the first song or book, doesn't mean you are the greatest, you chronologically step forward to do something first, but it wasn't like they became the nationally syndicated powerhouse that Rome did. They were not Howard Stern is what I'm saying, sure they were first, but they did not become the phenomenon in sports radio you are positing. And I did not grow up in Texas, I grew up in California, Germany, and Florida and had to negotiate a variety of sports radio guys growing up.  The ones I proffered have found success outside of a populous region, becoming nationally syndicated in ways that Mike and the Mad Dog never achieved. I've never seen like a ranking of radio hosts, but I imagine in sports lore guys like Rome are the heavier hitters.  I admit not having been around that scene I have a blind spot with their show, but I just do not see how they were anything more than the first regional hot takers who did something interesting, but were a regional phenomenon. They were 'New Yorkers who talked like New Yorkers', that is not representative of anything national.
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Corndog

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Re: ESPN Films Presents: 30 for 30
« Reply #451 on: July 17, 2017, 09:41:48 AM »
I never said they were best, just pioneering. Yes, Jim Rome and others found national syndication because their product was more national. All I am trying to argue is that Mike Francesa and Christopher Russo were able to prove to radio stations across the country that their format and style worked, and could work for any market. There is a subtle difference between saying that and saying that Mike and the Mad Dog specifically could work for any market. I don't think they would have worked in Texas, Ohio, Florida, Germany or anywhere else other than New York. But it was the format that mattered. Bring in two argumentative, intelligent local guys who are plugged into the market and it works. Credit the formula/format.
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colonel_mexico

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Re: ESPN Films Presents: 30 for 30
« Reply #452 on: July 17, 2017, 10:12:15 AM »
Got it, I can agree with that allowing the premise they were the first to do that format. Still makes them regional though
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Corndog

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Re: ESPN Films Presents: 30 for 30
« Reply #453 on: August 22, 2017, 09:50:56 AM »
What Carter Lost (Adam Hootnick, 2017)

School is starting up again, and while we are still amid the hot and humid day of August, the cooler autumn chill is just around the corner, which in the great state of Texas means one thing: high school football. High school football across the country is a big deal. I live in Ohio, where football in the fall is life. The same can be said about Texas. Friday Night Lights (both the film and TV show) depict what Friday nights in small Texas towns in the fall are like. It's intense competition and some of the best football played nationwide. But of course, with great accomplish and fame, there may also come a price. The best of the best go on to play in college at big time programs like Texas and Oklahoma, while some recess into the unknown of small town America. What Carter Lost tells a slightly different story.

In 1988, in the big Texas town of Dallas, one high school team was setting the state on fire with its play: David W. Carter High. Carter was a powerhouse program that year, with some calling it the best high school team ever assembled. It featured future NFL player Jessie Armstead, and numerous talented players with Division I scholarship offers. But their anointed path to a State Championship hit a bit of a road bump, and then it hit a brick wall. Entering the playoffs, one of Carter's star players was deemed ineligible in a controversial case which was eventually overturned. But what really rocked the Dallas Carter team and community was when numerous star football players were charged with multiple robberies in the area after the team made history by being the first Dallas team to win the State title in a number of years.

Hootnick made his 30 for 30 debut with the short film Judging Jewell, which was a gem of a short about the hero of the Atlanta Olympic bombing in 1996, whose name was dragged through the mud after being accused of planting the bomb. His name was cleared but he will forever be connected to the incident in a poor light. With Carter High, Hootnick has found another troubling story, but this time those accused really did it. Instead, this film focuses more on the why of it, and the racial and cultural consequences of such a controversy. The Dallas neighborhood where Carter is located  is a predominantly black neighborhood, but a middle class one. That didn't make a difference in the court of public opinion.

Even in the film Friday Night Lights which features Carter being vilified as a dirty inner city school full of black thugs beating the featured team Permian gets it wrong. Hootnick attempts to delve into the motives of such senseless crimes as small time robbery from a group of people who seemingly had it all. Middle class life, state championship and all the perks within the community that come with it, bright future playing football in college to earn a degree. So why did they give away everything for nothing? The conclusion is honestly murky and not necessarily the strength of the film, but the argument goes that the players wanted to keep up with the Jones's. High dollar sneakers, gold chains, etc. While they weren't poor, they also couldn't afford these status indicators they so dearly coveted.

What Carter Lost goes further than just simply telling the story of the 1988 Dallas Carter High football team that won a state championship and then a small group of players handed it away. It also speaks to the cultural impact of the scandal, the lasing legacy of the team. Perhaps the greatest high school team ever will be remembered for the scandal, not their accomplishments on the field. Even today, Carter High in Dallas is connected only with this scandal which happened nearly 30 years ago now. The players involved have since served time, seen their formidable years spent in prison, and have mostly rehabilitated to return to productive citizens, remorseful for what they have done. None of them are repeat offenders. What Carter Lost is a history lesson. It tells a the whole story, not what history remembers. It has an ending, not just the explosive beginning.

*** - Very Good

What Carter Lost airs Thursday, August 24th on ESPN at 9:30 PM ET.
"Time is the speed at which the past decays."

Corndog

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Re: ESPN Films Presents: 30 for 30
« Reply #454 on: August 30, 2017, 02:22:28 PM »
Year of the Scab (John Dorsey, 2017)

In 1987, the Washington Redskins won the Super Bowl, their second of three under legendary head coach Joe Gibbs. And yet, most of the players that won a ring that day didn't play in three of the teams regular season games. Meanwhile, the players that did plays those games, ended up without a ring at all. The Replacements is an admittedly forgettable, but fun, movie about a ragtag bunch of replacement football players, led by Keanu Reeves washed up QB Shane Falco and coached by legendary actor Gene Hackman, playing in place of professional players who are on strike. They say truth is stranger than fiction, and while that may not be the case here, replacement players, or "scabs" as they were called as a slur, really did take the field in the NFL in 1987. And those that suited up for the Redskins proceeded to go 3-0 in their higher paid counterparts stead.

While I am an avid lover of the game of football, I am not an expert in its past and history, such as I am in baseball (in large part thanks to Ken Burns' incomparable Baseball documentary - football lacking its own comprehensive history documentary). I knew of strikes and work stoppages in the leagues past. I knew of the Redskins prowess in the 1980s. I did not, however, know the full story of the replacement players which helped the team win three regular season games on their way to winning a championship. In its latest 30 for 30, ESPN has commissioned this story to be told, the forgotten replacements who can claim three beautiful NFL games, three victories for the Redskins, but no championship ring. Football is a business, and when the business side rears its head, it's not always pretty.

In retrospect, it may be easy to say, "Wow, what an incredible thing the replacements did winning three games, including one over the Dallas Cowboys after most of Dallas' star players had crossed the picket line! It makes no sense that they wouldn't have been recognized and loved by the organization, rewarded with Super Bowl rings." But what John Dorsey's documentary manages to accomplish is perspective. We see this story in perspective, but in reality it took place in the heat of a work stoppage, in the heat of a playoff run, in the heat of a multi-million dollar business decision. Sure, the owners appreciated what the replacement players did for the organization, they did sign the players for three games after all (and subsequently released them), but they also know the NFL is a business, one which fuels itself on its top of the line product, which includes popular, exciting, and highly paid, high profile players. Not replacements.

Theirs was a thankless job. Literally. And yet as the film progresses, taking its time interviewing each former replacement player, each one looks back on their brief time as an NFL player fondly. They were given a chance to live out their dream, which they may have otherwise never had the chance to pursue. Tony Robinson was literally let out of jail to pursue his dream. He was forced to turn himself in after his release to finish his jail sentence. What they did on the football field was special though, and timeless. They were a ragtag team of replacement players, led by rejects and jailbirds under a legendary head coach in Joe Gibbs. As a result of them living their dream just long enough, the dream of the multi-million dollar athletes became a reachable dream when they returned to a divisional lead in the standings.

Director John Dorsey sidesteps the issues which largely caused the strike in the first place, namely free agency, focusing instead on the story of the "scabs". As he should, since this is a film about them, not the full-time players, but a separate film could be made about professional sports relationships between owners and players. That business side may seem boring to some, but I think could make for a fascinating study. Year of the Scab is not a film which inspires much. It's not revolutionary documentary filmmaker, or even one of the better 30 for 30 installments, but it remains solidly entertaining and interesting. If nothing else, ESPN continues to find good stories to tell within this medium, which is half the battle. When they find a filmmaker as ambitious as Ezra Edelman when he made O.J.: Made in America, that is where the series will make a name for itself.

*** - Good

Year of the Scab airs Tuesday, September 12th at 8 PM ET on ESPN.
"Time is the speed at which the past decays."

Corndog

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Re: ESPN Films Presents: 30 for 30
« Reply #455 on: August 31, 2017, 12:15:37 PM »
30 for 30 Shorts
Strike Team (Willie Ebersol, 2017)

The 30 for 30 shorts series is one of the best ways for ESPN to get some of the more peculiar and interesting sports stories out there to the viewing public, those stories which are big enough to be noteworthy, but small enough they don't need the full length 30 for 30 treatment. Certainly there have been some shorts that left me wanting more, and some feature installments that left me wondering why they didn't just keep it a short. With their latest, Strike Team, ESPN has allowed director Willie Ebersol to explore something very minimally sports related, which is often the case with the best of the series. There isn't a single athlete highlighted in the film, rather it is the law enforcement, U.S. Marshals, who take center stage in one of the stranger, more awesome stories told within the format.

Back in the 1980s, the Washington Redskins were a hot ticket in the nation's capital. The crime on the streets were just as hot. So when U.S. Marshals cooked up an elaborate sting to take down over 100 wanted fugitives in the area, of course the draw of free Redskins tickets was the perfect con. Yes, you read that right, U.S. Marshals conned numerous fugitives into thinking they were winning free tickets when instead they were winning a pair of handcuffs and a cell in jail. Ebersol goes full on 80s crime show to tell this zany story which seems too good to be true. Featuring stylistic graphics from the era and even theme music, Strike Team has fun with a story of a silly sports draw.

At 25 minutes long, Strike Team is one of the longer shorts in the series, but it never feels it, a signature sign of a well made film. The concept, the setup, the players, and the execution are all covered with enough style and care to make the film entertaining, informative, and not too much of a joke to downplay just how important the work of these Marshals was to getting fugitives off the street and into custody. Even if it was fun to watch it all unfold. Fun as it may have looked, I can't imagine how stressful and dangerous such a large operation was to both plan and execute. All the more props to these Marshals, many of whom went on to long, distinguished careers in bureau. ESPN has slowed their release of these shorts. I say keep them coming so long as they are as focused and entertaining as Strike Team.

*** - Very Good
"Time is the speed at which the past decays."

Corndog

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Re: ESPN Films Presents: 30 for 30
« Reply #456 on: September 12, 2017, 02:53:40 PM »
George Best: All By Himself (Daniel Gordon, 2017)

Soccer is a blindspot for me, as well as a great number of Americans. The sport has grown in popularity in recent years, but I wonder even how many current American soccer fans know who George Best is, at the very least whether they knew about him when he played? I bet the number is small, but that is what is so great about the ESPN 30 for 30 series: the ability to uncover and expose these stories that many may have never realized happened. With their sister series, Soccer Stories, ESPN did a great job around the World Cup in provided some really good documentaries, including one from Daniel Gordon who directs here. His film Hillsborough is the best of the Soccer Stories bunch, and easily one of the best documentary films ESPN has ever released. So when I saw his name attached to another installment, especially about a soccer player I had never heard of, I was very intrigued.

Everybody in this day and age who is a sports fan has heard of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Most sports fans have heard of Pele. But I wonder how many have heard of George Best, a phenomenal player who comes from a country not necessarily known for its soccer prowess in Northern Ireland. Certainly the British Isles are soccer crazy, but Northern Ireland, along with countries like Scotland and Wales, are just too small to garner the type of global attention as such soccer powers as England, Brazil, Germany, etc. Best was aptly named, the best player in the world. He helped rebuild a broken Manuchester Untied squad, decimated after the tragic Munich air disaster. But like many sports stars before him and especially since, the temptation of women, alcohol and drugs ultimately proved too great, derailing his career.

George Best has a fascinating story, one which Daniel Gordon thankfully took the time to explore over 77 minutes. I think Best's story can be read in many different ways. The obvious entry is as a cautionary tale for those about to enter the world of fame. Best loved his fame, but he loved it too much, lavishing in its excess. As with anything, excess is destructive, and Best's excess was destructive to those around him as well as his career. But at the same time, fame can bring a level of isolation few know: the isolation of being someone everybody knows. This condition is unfathomable to me, unable to escape, or find time to just be yourself. Ironically, being known by everybody leaves you in a company of one, thus the title of the film, George Best: All By Himself.

It is an unenviable position, yet everybody envied him. All his talent, all his fame, all his money, all his women, etc. Most people would have happily flipped lives with Best, and yet, as Daniel Gordon so skillfully reveals to us, Best's life was not one to be desired. There is no flair or original account taken by Gordon here. Rather, the film succeeds in Gordon's ability to capture the humanity of the story. It'd be very easy for outsiders to see Best's story and simply say "what a pity", or to wonder how he could have possibly thrown all his talent and fame away in the manner he did. But those uttering those things haven't experienced Best's whole story, they don't understand the broken nature of his psyche.

Most of these 30 for 30 films are good enough, which sounds harsh, but truthfully they uncover some fascinating stories in the most uninspired ways. It's often good enough to simply witness them. However, there are some installments, like this one, which seem to get to the core of a story, its humanity, as opposed to just being a superficial scratching of the surface.I didn't know who George Best was before this film, and perhaps I still don't, but at some level I connected with both his brilliance and his struggle. That's good filmmaking. That's the effect of Daniel Gordon. That's the result of Best having an interesting enough life to engage in these types of emotions and intrigue. Best should be appreciated for his talent, and sympathized with for his struggles.

*** - Very Good
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Corndog

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Re: ESPN Films Presents: 30 for 30
« Reply #457 on: September 13, 2017, 12:01:53 PM »
Tommy (Gentry Kirby & Erin Leyden, 2017)

Boxing seems to be a great canvas on which compelling stories tend to unfold, in real life and the movies. Rocky is one of the most successful and longest running franchises in movies with the recent release of Creed. Sylvester Stallone was able to tap into something basic in the human experience with the underdog story of Rocky Balboa, and the sport of boxing made for the perfect backdrop to tell his story. Today, Mixed Martial Arts, or MMA, seems to be the popular blood sport, but in times past, boxing was the big attraction. It was as close to a mainstream sport as soccer feels today in America. Tommy Morrison is a unique player in the sports history. He had the opportunity to play a part in Stallone's Rocky V, while also getting a shot at a real life heavyweight title.

Morrison grew up in a family of fighters. His uncles, his father, his grandfather, all were fighters. But growing up in the small town of Jay, Oklahoma, Tommy experienced life a little different than most people. He started his career off hot, winning tons of fights, working his way up in the heavyweight division. But it seemed every time he got a prime opportunity after a big fight, he would fall right back down a peg. Much of this can be credited to Morrison's lifestyle, one that was fast and loose. He would train extremely hard during the day, and go drink and party and womanize all night. His life was a roller coaster which included two marriages (at the same time), and ultimately his banishment from the sport after testing positive for HIV. But his story didn't end there, denying the positive test, declaring it a hoax, and attempting to come back to boxing and live the lifestyle which he had grown accustomed.

Tommy Morrison's story is bizarre and extremely sad. That much is immediately obvious. However, the manner in which directors Gentry Kirby and Erin Leyden, who also collaborated on the 30 for 30 This Magic Moment, are contented to deliver the story in a paint by numbers style. It feels stale with no deep felt emotion or attempt to necessarily empathize with its subject. The film flows from start to finish as though it is simply sleepwalking through the editing room, going through the motions during the interview process. Morrison's story is dynamite, no doubt about that, but then why did the film about his exciting and tragic life feel, well, lifeless? The filmmaking in the 30 for 30 series is often suspect, with stories carrying most installments throughout, but it doesn't make it any less disappointing to see it yet again.

I am generally a huge fan of the series, and there are a number of episodes I would enthusiastically endorse and recommend, so I don't want it to feel like I am dumping on the series, or even this film specifically. There is plenty to be compelled by here, but it is also disappointing that Morrison is no longer alive to give his side of the story. But we get plenty of good interviews from his ex-wives (there are three of them), his mother, his trainer and his promoter. Tommy's story is essentially another demise story, but with a medical twist. The HIV narrative has been told before with both The Announcement (about Magic Johnson), and Tim Richmond: To the Limit. I would wager to say that both those films are slightly better than this pedestrian effort, but that doesn't make the story less impactful.

To understand the life and psyche of someone like Tommy Morrison may be an impossible task. Was his womanizing rooted in his upbringing by his equally womanizing father, or his enabling friends? Was his penchant for partying the result of a high stress life in the limelight? Was his later life fall from grace and incomprehensible denial of his disease the result of brain trauma from his fighting career? All these questions are important to piecing together the life and story of Tommy Morrison, but I'm not sure their sum reveals a coherent answer. Brain trauma is not even addressed here, but it perhaps plays one of the biggest roles in who Morrison was, especially later in his life. All in all, Tommy is an interesting enough story to engage for its relatively short runtime, but it is not a film I could endorse.

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

 

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