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Movies/TV

Crooked Arrows

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Ryan did the music for a movie!  It was about lacrosse and what it means to be haudenosaunee and how to interpret that in the scope of modern athletic competition.  The movie is not high-budget.  It has the type of storyline that feels like the script aimed to be picked up by Disney, but fell a bit short, but then another studio picked it up.  It's definitely not the kind of movie I'd usually watch, but I got a kick out of seeing Ryan's name in the credits.  Hey, despite the tried-and-true storyline of individuals overcoming adversity through hard work to become great team, it has a more nuanced view about being native than I expected.

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Beasts of the Southern Wild

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What a fantastic movie.  Magical realism is perfect when applied through the eyes of a child.  It was profoundly affecting, and just incredibly good depiction of what it means to be in extreme poverty.  Not a perfect movie, but a very powerful script, and one that I watched raptly, the entire time.  See this movie.

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Eastbound and Down

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Eastbound and Down is dumb, and it plays it up.  I finished two and a half seasons and may yet finish the last season and a half.  It's easy to watch and entertaining.   It lives and dies on its writing, which varies wildly from episode to episode.

Danny McBride as Kenny Powers is amazing.  The womanizing and fast living gets a little old at times, but I'm amazed at how they manage to keep it fresh, even though it's essentially a one-joke show.  The worst parts of the show are when McBride isn't driving the scene, such as when Will Ferrell's car infuriatingly boring recurring character comes back on.

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Bernie and Ernie

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I remember very little about this other than that it was a regurgitated tale of a white guy being friends with a black guy and them being great friends and teammates.

It wasn't even the best movie I saw this year with the word "Bernie" in the title.

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30 for 30: This is What They Want

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The 1980s sounds like a really bad time to be a men's tennis fan.  The country club sentiments of players like Rod Laver and Bjorn Borg was long gone, and the single-minded game focus of Pete Sampras and Roger Federer weren't around yet.  The two dominant American players of the decade, John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors were both me-first jerks who would do anything to get ahead -- perfect microcosms of everything that was wrong with the 1980s.  It would be as if your only choice was rooting for the Patriots in the NFL today.

As for the movie, it's about Jimmy Connors being a jerk.  And being a jerk in such a way that he made the fans like him anyway.  This is apparently a very important tennis match for tennis history, but as a person with only a passing interest in tennis, it was unfamiliar to me.  I think hardcore tennis fans will get more from this movie than I would.

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12 Years a Slave

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There's nothing subtle about 12 Years a Slave.  There doesn't need to be.  

There's a certain amount of "it couldn't possibly have been that bad" in our collective understanding of American slavery.  It persists in things like the Lost Cause point of view for the Civil War, and the fact that we conveniently share our Founding Fathers' bling spot with regards to slavery's original ensconcement in the Constitution.  There's a recognition of the inhumanity of slavery, but simultaneously an inability for us to really grasp just how awful, dehumanizing, and corruptive slavery was for our nation.

The best rebuttal for this kind of historical revisionism is the truth.  That's what 12 Years a slave brings us, pure, unvarnished, and lacking any kind of justification.  It lets the behavior of our forefathers carry the story.  As difficult as it is to watch, it's a necessary movie. 

It really was that bad.

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30 for 30: Big Shot

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This is the reason I watch the 30 for 30 series.  Some schmo whose worth is measured in thousands instead of millions maneuvered to purchase a hockey team?  And he almost got away with it?  What the hell?

There's a reason that we should be skeptical of the claims of the one percent, their justifications for inequality.  The truth is, not only did this guy almost manage to pull it off, he fooled banks, the old team owners, and even the vaunted New York media for months before it all started to unravel.  He actually owned and ran the team for a while, despite having no real financial capability to speak of.  And he did it all by pretending he belonged, and the good-old-boys club of the upper echelon of first Texas, then New York, welcomed him with open arms.  This is why it's so inexplicable to pretend that these people aren't made by circumstance.

It's a really neat film, and it even gets an interview from Spano himself, who comes across as unapologetic and arrogant, but not that much worse than the other members of sports ownership.

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30 for 30: No Mas

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The No Mas fight is more infamous than famous.  Why did Roberto Duran, a toe-to-toe slugger and the winner of the last fight, quit?  Was it really the fact that Sugar Ray Robinson was clowning and winning?  Was it really because Duran was out of shape?  Was there foulplay involved?

This documentary is pretty missable.  The big thing around it is getting Sugar Ray and Roberto Duran together to have a talk about the No Mas fight.  It's a cheesy constructed reality TV moment that, predictably, fails to generate anything out of the two boxers beyon what they have spoken about repeatedly every time they've been asked since the fight.  It is interesting to see the two as they are now, Duran in Panama and Sugar Ray in his mansion in some gated suburb, but it's not interesting enough to carry the whole film. 

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30 for 30: Free Spirits

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The ABA!  Dr. J! Blue, red, and white basketballs!

The Spirits of St. Louis were one ABA team, and one of only two that didn't get absorbed into the NBA when the ABA folded.  Why is kind of murky, possibly because the league didn't want to have a franchise in St. Louis where they had already tried a franchise and failed, possibly because the NBA didn't like the Spirits freewheeling style, built around the extremely talented and extremely unruly Marvin Barnes.  Whatever the reason, the owers of the team fought with the NBA, and secured an agreement where they get 1/7 of the money from the TV rights of each of the four teams that entered the NBA from the ABA.  This has proved extremely lucrative.

The film isn't a single great story, it just happens to have an intersection of a lot of interesting stories.  The crazy antics of Marvin Barnes, the early career of Bob Costas, the roughriding and innovative ABA, and the intricacies of sports executive management are all present.  It provides an interesting window into something that's fading from memory.

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The Artist

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Usually the Oscar voters and I agree, but I had no patience for this movie.  The choice to make a black and white silent movie about black and white silent moviemaking is as boring as it sounds.  I spent much of the time during this movie bored and uninvolved with the movie, kind of like if I had just spent two hours watching reruns of Degrassi, but without juicy Canadianness.

I can only presume that the Academy voters were swayed by the fact that the movie was bout their industry, and everything made in black and white deserves Serious Consideration.  They ended up giving the award for Best Movie to an interminable bore.

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