Magic & Bird: A Courtship Of Rivals

YEAR: 2010

DIRECTOR: Ezra Edelman


did you know that basketball was not a very popular sport back in the late 70s going into the 80s? the tv ratings weren't great and even the championship games were broadcast on a tape delay. do you know who saved basketball? if you said michael jordan, not only would you be wrong, but you would make bryant gumble very angry. no kids, the two guys who saved basketball were larry bird and magic johnson. learn all about that - and so much more - by watching the great hbo documentary Magic & Bird: A Courtship Of Rivals.

it began in 1979 with the ncaa college basketball championship game where magic took round one by leading his michigan state team to victory over bird and indiana state. the next year they both entered the nba as rookies and the rivalry continued throughout the decade..

okay, so i'm sure some of you are thinking, "i'm sure its a good film, but i am really not a big basketball fan so it doesn't interest me." but then i say to you, "you don't have to be a basketball fan to enjoy/appreciate this film." then you say... okay that's enough of that, but the point is correct.

sure, a basketball fan, someone that remembers watching the bird/magic rivalry play out during the 80s will find the film very interesting, but even if the only basketball you know is tossing a crumpled up piece of paper into your waste basket at work so you don't have to get out of your chair, Magic & Bird: A Courtship Of Rivals is worth seeing.

the film goes beyond the basketball court and shows us who these guys really were and are. it tracks their friendship (which took a very long time to happen) and it tracks them individually over the years. and it does it in their own words. while the comments from all the sports writers and other players are great, it is the words from the two men at the center of it all that are the heart and soul of this film.

we get inside their heads and find out what they were really thinking at the time and how they really felt about everything that was going on around them at the time. Then, watching their relationship develop over the years and seeing the respect the two had, and still have, for each other is great.

you don't have to be a basketball fan to be moved when magic talks about how much it meant to him that bird was one of the first people to call him after he was diagnosed with hiv. listening to the two of them take us through their careers and relationship on and off the court reveals such human drama and emotion.

the fact that these two greats came along at the same time (just when basketball needed them) with such opposite personalities, and ended up on the two most storied teams in nba history, fighting each other for championships multiple times is really just almost impossible to believe.

basketball fans and those that remember watching the sport during the 80s have to see this documentary. but, if you aren't one of those people, but you walk into the room and your friend/spouse/lover/roommate/random dude/grandparent/sibling/etc... are watching it, then just sit down and check it out. you might be surprised.


2010 Oscar Predictions

WILL WIN are in bold 

SHOULD WIN (where i have an opinion) is underlined 

 Did Win are BIG 




MY SCORE: 17/24

well, the oscars have come and gone and i had an average go with my predictions this year. it wasn't my most impressive performance, but it wasn't awful either. where i messed up this year was with the shorts (animation, live action, documentary). normally i get at least one of those right and this time nothing. and then, missing both screenplay winners is just awful. but, i went  17/19 for the rest of the awards and a perfect on the top 6 categories which isn't bad.... so, how did you all do?

Best motion picture of the year
  • Avatar
  • The Blind Side
  • District 9
  • An Education
  • The Hurt Locker
  • Inglourious Basterds
  • Precious
  • A Serious Man
  • Up
  • Up In the Air
Performance by an actress in a leading role
  • Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side)
  • Helen Mirren (The Last Station)
  • Carey Mulligan (An Education)
  • Gabourey Sidibe (Precious)
  • Meryl Streep (Julie and Julia)
Performance by an actor in a leading role
  • Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart)
  • George Clooney (Up In the Air)
  • Colin Firth (A Single Man)
  • Morgan Freeman (Invictus)
  • Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker)
Performance by an actor in a supporting role
  • Matt Damon (Invictus)
  • Woody Harrellson (The Messenger)
  • Christopher Plummer (The Last Station)
  • Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones)
  • Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds)
Performance by an actress in a supporting role
  • Penelope Cruz (Nine)
  • Vera Farmiga (Up In the Air)
  • Maggie Gyllenhaal (Crazy Heart)
  • Anna Kendrick (Up In the Air)
  • Mo'Nique (Precious)
Best animated feature film of the year
  • Coraline
  • Fantastic Mr. Fox
  • The Princess and the Frog
  • The Secret of Kells
  • Up
Best Documentary Short Subject
  • China's Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province
  • The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner
  • The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant”
  • Music by Prudence
  • Rabbit à la Berlin
Best Short Film (Animated)
  • French Roast
  • Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty
  • The Lady and the Reaper (La Dama y la Muerte)
  • Logorama
  • A Matter of Loaf and Death
Best Short Film (Live Action)
  • The Door
  • Instead of Abracadabra
  • Kavi
  • Miracle Fish
  • The New Tenants
Achievement in art direction
  • Avatar
  • The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
  • Nine
  • Sherlock Holmes
  • The Young Victoria
Achievement in cinematography
  • Avatar, Mauro Fiore
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Bruno Delbonnel
  • The Hurt Locker, Barry Ackroyd
  • Inglourious Basterds, Robert Richardson
  • The White Ribbon, Christian Berger
Achievement in costume design
  • Bright Star, Janet Patterson
  • Coco before Chanel, Catherine Leterrier
  • The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Monique Prudhomme
  • Nine, Colleen Atwood
  • The Young Victoria, Sandy Powell
Achievement in directing
  • James Cameron (Avatar)
  • Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker)
  • Quentin Tarantino (Inglourious Basterds)
  • Lee Daniels (Precious)
  • Jason Reitman (Up In the Air)
Best documentary feature
  • Burma VJ
  • The Cove
  • Food, Inc.
  • The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers
  • Which Way Home
  • Il Divo, Aldo Signoretti and Vittorio Sodano
  • Star Trek, Barney Burman, Mindy Hall and Joel Harlow
  • The Young Victoria, Jon Henry Gordon and Jenny Shircore
Achievement in film editing
  • Avatar, Stephen Rivkin, John Refoua and James Cameron
  • District 9, Julian Clarke
  • The Hurt Locker, Bob Murawski and Chris Innis
  • Inglourious Basterds, Sally Menke
  • Precious, Joe Klotz
Best foreign language film of the year
  • Ajami
  • El Secreto De Sus Ojos
  • The Milk of Sorrow
  • A Prophet
  • The White Ribbon
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)
  • Avatar, James Horner
  • Fantastic Mr. Fox, Alexandre Desplat
  • The Hurt Locker, Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders
  • Sherlock Holmes, Hans Zimmer
  • Up, Michael Giacchino
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
  • "Almost There" from The Princess and the Frog Music and Lyric by Randy Newman
  • "Down in New Orleans" from The Princess and the Frog Music and Lyric by Randy Newman
  • "Loin de Paname" from Paris 36 Music by Reinhardt Wagner Lyric by Frank Thomas
  • "Take It All" from Nine Music and Lyric by Maury Yeston
  • "The Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart)" from Crazy Heart Music and Lyric by Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett
Achievement in sound editing
  • Avatar, Christopher Boyes and Gwendolyn Yates Whittle
  • The Hurt Locker, Paul N.J. Ottosson
  • Inglourious Basterds, Wylie Stateman
  • Star Trek, Mark Stoeckinger and Alan Rankin
  • Up, Michael Silvers and Tom Myers
Achievement in sound mixing
  • Avatar, Christopher Boyes, Gary Summers, Andy Nelson and Tony Johnson
  • The Hurt Locker, Paul N.J. Ottosson and Ray Beckett
  • Inglourious Basterds, Michael Minkler, Tony Lamberti and Mark Ulano
  • Star Trek, Anna Behlmer, Andy Nelson and Peter J. Devlin
  • Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers and Geoffrey Patterson
Achievement in visual effects
  • Avatar, Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham and Andrew R. Jones
  • District 9, Dan Kaufman, Peter Muyzers, Robert Habros and Matt Aitken
  • Star Trek, Roger Guyett, Russell Earl, Paul Kavanagh and Burt Dalton
Adapted screenplay
  • Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell (District 9)
  • Nick Hornby (An Education)
  • Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche (In the Loop)
  • Geoffrey Fletcher (Precious)
  • Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner (Up In the Air)
Original screenplay
  • Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker)
  • Quentin Tarantino (Inglourious Basterds)
  • Alessandro Camon and Oren Moverman (The Messenger)
  • Joel and Ethan Coen (A Serious Man)
  • Screenplay by Bob Peterson, Pete Docter, Story by Pete Docter, Bob Peterson, Tom McCarthy (Up)


Year: 2008

Writer & Director: James Toback

Budget: ?

Gross: $543 124 (as of May 21st, 2009)


kind of like Roman Polanski: Wanted And Desired, i went into Tyson with the expectation that the film had, as its goal, to change my perception of its subject - in this case mike tyson. however, as with the polanski documentary, it expanded, rather than changed my opinion by presenting all the facts beyond the headlines and the late-night jokes.

at its core, the film is an interview with mike tyson. i like to call it "tyson on tyson", and because we never hear the questions asked, the film plays like an hour and a half monologue by tyson about his life and himself.

Tyson is a film about potential. tyson had the potential to be the greatest boxer of all time and every time he got close he fell back into his lifestyle of self-destruction. it was so frustrating to watch as he, twice, became the champion of the world and both times lost it, as if he hadn't learned the first time. i'm sure we all know people like this - if we ourselves aren't one - who have so much potential and opportunity and keep fucking up just when you think they have everything.

tyson is a much smarter man than he gets credit for and he is also quite self-reflective and insightful about who he is and why he has done the things he has done. i don't know if he has always been that way, or if that is something that he has discovered as he has gotten older, looking back on his life and how, and why, things went the way they did. he is also completely genuine and honest and it is that openness and candor that make this film so interesting.

all the juicy items are covered: his marriage to robin givens, the rape conviction, don king, the ear biting, etc... however, this film isn't about going through all of those items step by step and re-evaluating them, like Wanted And Desired was about doing so for the polanski case. in Tyson, some of those items get a lot more time then others and they are all part of the grander point of the film which is tyson himself in his own words.

like i said at the beginning of this discussion, my opinion of mike tyson has been expanded rather then changed.  i didn't come away from the film thinking that mike tyson was the greatest guy ever or that he has been completely misunderstood in every way and now i want to be his bff. rather, the film has put things into a greater perspective, creating, for my part, a more rounded view of the man. the film is mike tyson saying "this is who i am. this is where i come from. this is why i have done the things i have done. this is me. not the me from the headlines or from the funny one-liners. this is a complete view of myself as i see it."



Murderball get Murderball

Year: 2005

Director: Henry Alex Rubin & Dana Adam Shapiro

Budget: ?

Domestic Gross: $1 523 883

anyone who watches the tv show Friday Night Lights (and you all should, because it is a great show) knows that one of the characters on the show is in a wheelchair.  he was the #1 quarterback for the high school football team until he tried to make a tackle and ended up a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the waist down.  i mention this because on the show his character has taken up the sport of wheelchair rugby which reminded me of a movie i had sitting on my shelf that i had never watched called Murderball.  i recently decided to finally watch it, and am very glad i did.

put simply, Murderball is a documentary about wheelchair rugby (the sport was invented in canada and was initially called muderball), but in actuality, like any good documentary, it is about so much more.

the film begins at the wheelchair rugby world championships and then takes us through to the paralympic games in athens, greece a couple years later.  in between we get to know some of the key players, look into their lives, watch them train, learn about how they were injured and see some of the people around them.

there are a few key characters in the film and they include a few of the american athletes and the coach of the canadian team. why him you ask?  well, that is because his name is joe soares and for 15 years he was on the american team and one of the best wheelchair rugby players in the world.  however, when he didn't make the team at the last tryouts and his appeals to the courts were unsuccessful, he headed up to canada to coach and seek revenge on his former team.  i know it sounds like a bad hollywood script, but it is all true, and very engaging. while joe is, i guess, made out to be the 'villain' in the movie, he isn't portrayed as completely one dimensional.  he even seems to come to a personal revelation about his relationship with his son and how it has been effected by the relationship he had with his father (who was a very strict disciplinarian) - there is a nice follow-up interview with joe on the DVD 'special features' that answers many of the questions brought up about him by the film.

speaking of questions, one of the reasons i really enjoyed Murderball was that it did a good job of answering my questions.  watching the movie i had a lot of questions running through my head about the sport of wheelchair rugby, about the players, their injuries, their abilities, girlfriends, sex, etc... and the film really answered most of them.

The film was produced in participation with mtv films and you can see it in the way it was made.  the use of music and the camera work, especially during the scenes at the world championships, is very 'cool', and i mean that in a good way - something about it reminded me of Lock, Stock and Two smoking barrells in its stylization.

another one of the relationships looked at in the film is the one between star american player marc zupan and christopher igoe. igoe was zupan's best friend and had been driving the car when it had gone off the road and sent zupan flying into the river where he had hung on for over 13 hours before being rescued, but as a result ended up in a wheelchair. 

Murderball made a big splash on the festival circuit when it was released, and was even nominated for best documentary at the academy awards.  however, as with most documentaries, it didn't gross as much, or get seen by as many people, as it deserved.  if you are looking for a sad, feel-sorry-for-me film Murderball isn't for you.  if you want a well-made interesting film that exposes without exploiting these great wheelchair athletes then don't forget about Murderball.