Magic And Bird: A Courtship of Rivals

Dir: Ezra Edelman, 2010. Starring: Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Larry Bird. Narrated by Liev Schreiber.

From Leni Riefenstahl‘s controversial Olympia to Pumping Iron to Hoop Dreams, great sports documentaries often tell us more about society and the times than the actual sport. Ken Burns' epic Baseball is equally important as a history of 20th century America as it is for its bats and balls. In recent years ESPN and HBO have been at the forefront of excellent sports documentaries, ESPN with their outstanding 30 For 30 series and HBO has continually produced great feature length docs, Magic And Bird: A Courtship of Rivals is no exception.

Fascinating as both a study of two athletes, complete opposites who went from mortal enemies to friends, it also establishes how their rivalry helped to transform the NBA and save it from financial disaster. It also sharply touches on hot button issues that the two men represented or found themselves thrust into the middle of, race and race relations and later, tragically, AIDS.

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Posted by:
Sean Sweeney
Mar 28, 2011 5:23pm

Party Girl

Dir. Daisy von Scherler Mayer, 1995. Starring: Parker Posey, Liev Schreiber. English. Comedy.

A few years ago a film premiered at Sundance starring several major blockbuster stars, shot by a couple of music video directors, and produced by a small, but successful Hollywood production company. Because of an aggressive marketing campaign and a highly publicized distribution deal, the film won several Academy Awards and made more than $100 million. Regardless of its high star wattage, its directors’ wealth of commercial experience, and Hollywood development credentials, it was still termed an “independent film.” 11 years previous, for 1/50th of its modern counterpart’s budget, Party Girl was made in New York by a first time filmmaker, starring an actress who, except for a notable supporting turn in a Richard Linklater comedy, had had only small character parts in independent films. Party Girl was accepted into Sundance that year and garnered only a limited theatrical run. But over the years through word of mouth, it has become a beloved cult hit, quoted ad nauseam by its devotees, whose ranks multiply yearly.

The plot seems at first utterly conventional, straying between nominally feminist chick flick to slacker comedy. Downtown It girl Mary (Parker Posey) is unemployed, on the verge of eviction, and “fabulous,” which in movie parlance means she wears quirky outfits and uses her acerbic wit against her friends. When she gets arrested for turning her apartment into a makeshift nightclub, Mary is bailed out by her godmother, Judy, a librarian. In order to pay Judy back and to prove herself to as capable and trustworthy, Mary becomes a clerk at Judy’s library. Gaining her good opinion is complicated by Judy’s constant panting that she can’t trust Mary because she reminds her so much of her mother, an irrational grousing that is the movie’s only major flaw. Mary’s mother may have been quite the party-goer, but many young women are, and one can’t hold young people accountable for doing the same things that their parents did when they were the same age. I would be extremely frustrated if my grandparents always said, “Gillian, you’re such a bleeding heart liberal, just like your mother was when she was your age. I won’t be surprised if you end up getting divorced, too.”

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Posted by:
Gillian Horvat
Jan 20, 2009 1:03pm

The Manchurian Candidate

Dir: Jonathan Demme, 2004. Starring: Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep, Liev Schreiber. Mystery/Thriller.

Based on the 1962 John Frankenheimer Cold-War classic, The Manchurian Candidate is the story of a group of soldiers who, upon returning home from war, suffer painful flashbacks of torture and brainwashing. “Major Ben Marco” (Washington) grips to reality trying to get at the truth before a possible corporate-designed “sleeper” (Schreiber) is elected to the White House.

Oscar winner Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs), helms one of the better remakes of classic cinema. The director is really able to illustrate the paranoia, warped sense of memory and the spiraling down into madness -- using the main character (Washington) as a mental road map.

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Posted by:
Seamus Smith
Feb 17, 2009 1:46pm
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