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Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Catching Hell

I watched an interesting documentary last night called "Catching Hell," part of ESPN's 30 for 30 series which you can see on Netflix right now.  It's about Steve Bartman and how he ruined the Cubs' chances to go to the World Series.  Now I have next to zero interest in baseball and am not a Cubs fan, but it was an interesting documentary.

The filmmaker, Alex Gibney, had an interesting take on it.  Why Bartman? he asks.  Why not blame Gonzalez's subsequent error?  Why not blame the players who couldn't stop an 8 run rally by the Marlins?  Why not blame them for choking in game 7? Why did everyone focus on Bartman?

It's one of those questions that can't be answered really, only explored and Gibney does a decent job of doing so.  I was quite moved when he started talking about Bill Buckner and his ordeal with hostile fans over a misplayed grounder.  You don't have to love baseball to get a little glossy eyed over Buckner's emotional return years later to Boston, the city that spurned him.

But, like a lot of documentaries these days, Gibney makes the fatal error of making himself --and his film-- part of the story.   It's the Morgan Spurlock approach.  "This is a documentary about me making a documentary."  And that's fine...but I would prefer a more straight-forward approach, less "This is me going to the Dominican Republic to talk to Moises Alou and this is me giving a radio interview about my documentary and this is me telling you about my childhood baseball memories."

I noticed during the Alou interview, it kept cutting back to Gibney's face, listening to Alou, nodding, smiling.  Reaction shots, basically.  Reaction shots you don't really need.  We get it, Alex.  You talked to Alou.  We don't need to get your reaction to what he said, because the film itself should be your reaction.

Just tell the story, man.  The story about how you're telling the story...leave that to the special features on the DVD.

1 comment:

KickinAssTakingNames said...

I definitely want to see this. Thanks for the heads up.

Why did they blame Bartman? Because they're Cubs fans. Because they're bitter and angry and eager to break the curse. Things like that happen in the game and therefore it is part of the game, although it sucks. Did Bartman interfere? Yes, whether or not officially. Should people have been pissed about it? Yes. Should he be blamed for losing the series? Absolutely not. It was easier to blame Bartman and that one incident than look at the overall picture and accept some of the leads they blew and mistakes they made in that series. They literally drove the man out of town, from what I recall. He was their scapegoat so they could avoid the pain of the truth. There is comfort in playing the victim and blaming that which one has no control over.