20 posts categorized "Sports"

August 13, 2013


The Good SonNoted ‘80s era lightweight boxer Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini is the subject of a passionate and stylishly composed documentary that allows the charismatic champion from Youngstown, Ohio to tell his story of tremendous victories and terrible losses. This narrative admirably transcends the 20th century immigrant narrative template, which is all but forgotten now that voyeurism is valued higher than historic relevance.

Let's get the obvious first question out of the way: Ray Mancini adopted his dad’s boxing name “Boom Boom” with a dream of living up to family tradition.

Anyone who has heard Warren Zevon’s haunting song “Boom Boom Mancini” (from his “Sentimental Hygiene” album) knows that Mancini “was responsible for the death of Du Koo Kim.” But few listeners know about the circumstances of the 1982 fight that changed the rules of boxing forever — fights were reduced from 15 to 12 rounds as a result of the Mancini/Kim bout that left Du Koo Kim with a blood clot in his brain, which eventually killed him.

Director Jesse James Miller compiles interviews with Mancini's neighbors, friends, priests, family members, cops, and boxing luminaries to explain how a kid from a Sicilian working-class family worked diligently to follow in his father’s footsteps as a pro boxer, struggling in the shadow of his older boxer brother Lenny. Mancini biographer Mark Kriegel adds profound insights with a healthy dose of editorial veracity.

Youngstown, Ohio-born actor Ed O’Neill (“Modern Family”) recounts following his friend Raymond’s career as a hometown boxing phenomenon. O’Neill explicates the mob-ruled cultural landscape of Youngstown, where a steel-mill worker could raise a family and have a secure working-class lifestyle. But if a guy wanted to move up and “swim with the sharks,” then he'd “better be a shark.”

Boom boom mancini

Such are the social circumstances that put the 21-year-old Boom Boom Mancini in the respectful orbit of such celebrities as Frank Sinatra, Mickey Rourke, and Sylvester Stalone — Mancini’s star burned bright and the future seemed to hold all that fortune favors. Was Stalone’s “Rocky” based on Raymond Mancini? I think you know the answer.

However undone by a hypocritical media and a corrupt boxing system, Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini is revealed as more than merely a survivor. It would spoil the impact of the documentary’s perfect arc to describe the essential aspect of the Mancini/Kim narrative that brings it all home. Suffice it to say that “The Good Son” is one of those documentaries that could easily slip under the public radar. With so few “stand-up” guys left in the world, it’s refreshing to meet up with Boom Boom after all these years and discover an admirable man with all of the hard-earned self-respect that anyone could hope to achieve. Don’t miss “The Good Son.”  

Not Rated. 90 mins. (B+) (Four Stars - out of five/no halves)

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May 06, 2013


Venus and SerenaWatching this engaging sports documentary about two of the most daunting players in women’s tennis won’t necessarily help your ability to tell Venus and Serena Williams apart. It does, however, provide an intimate window into the background, lives, and challenges of two of tennis’s fiercest players.

Though they were born more than a year apart, Venus and Serena proved equally talented players from a young age, under the perceptive tutelage of their womanizing father Richard and supportive mother Oracene. Archival footage of Richard training his well-behaved daughters on courts in Compton, California speaks volumes about the heightened level of sportsmanship the girls achieved at a young age and the family’s determination to rise above their surroundings.


This efficient documentary gains emotional weight from specific sequences of tournament play during 2011. In the face of vocal and symbolic racism — from crowds and tennis officials alike — both women display a tenacity of sprit that is all composed energy and skill. Physical ailments take a toll on both women. Venus battles against an autoimmune disease. Serena suffers from a pulmonary embolism. Seeing the women work through their individual illnesses demonstrates their inner character in personal terms. Talking-head interview segments with such luminaries as John McEnroe, Anna Wintour, and President Bill Clinton provide social context.


“Venus and Serena” keeps a safe distance from its furtive subjects. Audiences hoping for a warts-and-all exposé will be disappointed. However, those hoping to gain insight into the physical and mental struggles that Serena and Venus Williams have gone through will be richly rewarded. It’s one thing to watch Venus or Serena play tennis in competition and wonder about their personalities. It’s gratifying in a different way to see how they express themselves and live their lives. Everything adds up: you start to understand their humanity and their mutual need for one another.


Rated PG-13. 99 mins.

5 Stars

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

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November 26, 2012


Waiting for LightningPutting a face to the name of gifted skateboarder Danny Way who jumped over the Great Wall of China in 2005, documentarian Jacob Rosenberg gets inside his subject's ambitious personality.

As a child the charismatic Way suffered a hardscrabble home life. Way’s response was to decide to become one of the best skateboarders in the world. You don’t have to be a sports fan or care about skateboarding to revel in Way's unfathomable sense of balance and technical skill on a skateboard. Concise interview clips with family members, friends, and peers like Tony Hawk and Laird Hamilton fill out Way’s absorbing journey to performing one of the most mind-bending stunts you could ever imagine.

Image result for WAITING FOR LIGHTNING danny way

Not many Americans have their names engraved on China’s Great Wall. Daredevil Danny Way certainly deserves the honor. Get stoked.

Rated PG-13. 80 mins.

3 Stars

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon.

Cole Smithey on Patreon

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