After the great success of ESPN’s 30 for 30 series, the producers, including Bill Simmons, decided to go forward with a second volume of sports documentaries. In conjunction with those feature length films, they also have been releasing shorts on Simmons’ site, Grantland.com, which features other great content from other great writers as well. This post serves as my thoughts on the first few shorts that have been released to this point. There are more set to be posted onto Grantland too, so stay tuned for those.
Directed by Eric Drath
In the first in a series of documentary shorts produced by the ESPN 30 for 30 team, director Eric Drath tackles the subject of life after banishment for baseball legend Pete Rose, who now works in a Las Vegas memorobilia store, making money signing autographs. It actually turns into quite a nice commentary on societies inability to forgive, and inparticular those who deal with gambling addiction. Rose presents his case as never having been a hardcore addict, always gambling within his needs, and I tend to agree. And it is a matter of opinion, I know, but to keep Rose out of the Hall of Fame (and Shoeless Joe Jackson too, I’m not forgetting him), is a bit childish. He is the all time hit king, and we have relegated him to signing autographs in a cheesy shop in Las Vegas. He may not be the best guy in the world, but I think we should be able to forgive him his sins.
**1/2 – Average
Directed by Jeff & Michael Zimbalist
The Brothers Zimbalist delivered what was one of the best and more critically acclaimed on the original series with the film The Two Escobars about Pablo Escobar and the rise of soccer in Colombia. With their next film in the series, focused on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s rise to fame out of the almost non-existent stage of body building in Austria. Centered around an important event when Schwarzenegger snuck away from an Austrian army base to compete in a junior competetion in Germany, the film plays out like a great caper with great suspense packed into the short run time. The film is an exciting, and even comical, romp through the young years that led to his rise to fame. But more than that, the Zimbalist brothers are able to capture the spirit of Schwarzenegger with brief interviews with the man, instilling the sense of dreaming big, and stopping at nothing to reach those goals. And stay tuned after the credits for a treat.
**** – Masterpiece
Directed by Jonathan Hock
I do not recall the greatest of Alfred Slote, a children’s author who specialized in sports books, including his 1980 book Jake, but that is not to say that he was/is not a great writer. However, this film tells me that it is not a great film. Consisting of many pats on the back by both the filmmaker and the author himself, Jake is a film which has the author reading his own text, one of the worst and most annoying of all film devices. And it persists by including the many nods by Slote himself, whom I am sure is a great guy, quite humble in private life, but this film captures him as one big self promoter, doting on the magic of his words, even if, in the same sentence, he is found remarking how your best is only ever truly captured once in a lifetime. I would have rather read the book, I am sure it would be much more fascinating.
** – Fair
The Arnold Palmer
Directed by Barry Gordon
Arnold Palmer is such a wonderful character in pop culture. Not only is he one of the best golfers in the history of the game, but many people know his name without even knowing who he is thanks to a drink consisting of half iced tea and half lemonade (proportions subject to change based on the drinker; in fact a true Arnold Palmer is predominately iced tea). This short does its best to chronicle the origins of the drink with interviews with Palmer himself. However, the film is grasping at straws to fill out the content, which is a shame because I’m sure there really is plenty there to fill just 10 minutes. But instead we get treated to a dull roundtable discussion with othere professional golfers (not even those of Palmer’s generation) and a bizarre side story (again, in a 10 minute short we have a side story?) dealing with actor Will Arnett and his supposed attempt to create a mixed drink and name it after himself. It doesn’t work and turns out being a waste of my time. What a shame. Arnold Palmer is a class act, and the drink is delicious. It deserves better than this subpar treatment.