Viewing Snapshot

I was off work sick yesterday, and so watched a few things.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

A mostly enjoyable watch, but one that lasts too long. It’s not a Western of slow, lingering shots, but still rounds out (in my version) at two and-a-half hours. By the end, as the camera darted between gun holsters in preparation for a shootout, I couldn’t have cared less. I’d lost my enthusiasm.

Eli Wallach’s character, Tuco, is by far the best thing about this film.  Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name is iconic, but Tuco is the human and comedic heart of the film.

Almost Answered

Almost Answered is a basketball documentary, about the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and their surprising run to the 2001 Finals.  The main character, understandably, is star player Allan Iverson (the title derives from his nickname, The Answer). Iverson was the subject of so much coverage throughout his career that there’s little fresh to say about him. But this film also gives time to then-coach Larry Brown, former team president and enthusiasm-machine, Pat Croce, and Iverson’s support acts Eric Snow, Aaron McKie, and Dikembe Mutumbo*.

One bit that I found odd was when the Sixers make the Finals, where they’ll face the heavily-favoured LA Lakers and their two stars, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. The film goes for the old-underdog angle. Cue former Philly players saying variations on ‘No one was giving us a chance’, and David/Goliath comparisons. The Sixers lost 4-1 in the Finals. Whoever wasn’t giving them a chance was pretty accurate with their prediction.

Almost Answered is an interesting watch. I would’ve liked a little more focus on the non-Iverson players but, given the 45 minute running time, what we get is perfectly acceptable.

*I watched this on my phone, which really struggled with the bass of Mutumbo’s voice. He should do voice work. All of it.

Watchmen

Watchmen is good enough that I saw it twice at the cinema, a rare occurrence. A few weeks ago I started to watch it for a third time (this time on DVD). I wasn’t particularly enjoying it, and when I had to stop it early, I felt no great rush to return to the film. Last night I decided to see it through to the end.

No wonder it works so well in the cinema: it’s visually impressive, stylish, and the action scenes work well. Particularly on the big screen, it appeals to the eyes.

But, just as regularly, it fails to appeal intellectually.

Much like his latest film, Man of Steel, there’s no subtlety to director Zach Snyder’s work. The Watchmen comic gives you things to contemplate, but they’ve been sheared off in the film. Snyder spells out so much for the audience, perhaps concerned that if they’re busy thinking they won’t enjoy the big fights. A plot point can’t be revealed unless a character explains what’s already obvious. Laurie can’t realise who her father is without Dr Manhattan spelling it out in case we missed it.

Survive and Advance

I might still be too close to Survive to do it any justice. Maybe I was in an emotional state yesterday, having been sick and feeling run down. Let’s just say, the room was dusty at certain points yesterday, causing my eyes to water while watching this.

Survive and Advance tells the story of the a college basketball team, North Carolina Sate, and their Cinderella story of making the NCAA Final 1983 and beating a massively-favoured Houston team.

The documentary’s alternates between a recent team reunion and flashing back to the events being discussed. This works strongly on an emotional level, as anyone with a passing knowledge of this team knows that team’s coach, Jim Valvano, died of cancer years ago, and his absence hangs over the reunion,

I first learned of Valvano through Gary Smith of Sports Illustrated and his heartbreaking article on ‘Jimmy V’, As Time Runs Out*. It’s been a few years since I read it, so I’d forgotten about Smith mentioning how charismatic and enthusiastic the coach was. Survive shows clips from a speech Valvano gave. You wouldn’t think he was a coach. A comedian or entertainer?, perhaps. He’s a man clearly having fun, a man clearly loving being alive. Even when he’s not  being discussed, there’s a big Jimmy V-shaped gap in the reunion. It’s easy to imagine that, if he was there, he’d be the focus of attention, his former players barely managing to get a word in.

The sadness is poured on hard towards the end: Valvano giving an honest ESPY speech which is tough to watch, one of his players and an assistant being reduced to tears. The last ten minutes are a particular struggle.

Watch Survive and Advance. Just be prepared for it to tug hard at your heart-strings.

*I moved Gary Smith’s book, Beyond the Game, into my bedside unit, so I could re-read that article once I’d watched the documentary. Last night I looked at the book, thought I can’t face that yet, and read something else instead.

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