Streaming: sports films for the sporting agnostic

first_imgIf you prefer a more international focus, Jeff and Michael Zimbalist’s The Two Escobars absorbingly intertwines the fates of drug lord Pablo and Colombian footballer Andrés, who was murdered shortly after scoring an own goal in the 1994 World Cup. More rousingly, the Morgan Freeman-produced The 16th Man examines Nelson Mandela’s role in South Africa’s memorable underdog victory in the 1995 Rugby World Cup final.All in all, it’s a rich, often revelatory range of stories, though if you thrill more to the narrative of sport itself, you may find yourself being sucked into its well-preserved mini-archive of classic boxing matches, featuring the likes of Ali, Joe Frazier and Sugar Ray Robinson. It’s another unexpected treat in a streaming service with more to it than meets the eye. Who knows, maybe I’ll get into lacrosse next.New to DVD and streaming this week Twitter Reuse this content Digging deeper into the 30 for 30 selection reveals a mixed bag. There’s the occasional bit of hero-athlete hagiography that you can imagine sporting networks using to fill rain breaks in play, but many of the films are artfully probing and gripping, even if you have no interest in the background sport at hand. The pick of the bunch is Maysles’s Muhammad and Larry, co-directed with Bradley Kaplan. One of the trailblazing documentarians behind such films as Grey Gardens and Gimme Shelter, Maysles brings a stunning wealth of self-shot archive footage to an electric study of the build-up of and fallout from Muhammad Ali’s penultimate fight in 1980, in which he was humiliatingly clobbered by Larry Holmes. Treating the event with frank, end-of-an-era gravity, the film sets the heart pounding before shattering it to bits.I was also taken with Barry Levinson’s The Band That Wouldn’t Die, which extends the Baltimore-based director’s run of screen valentines to his home city – from Diner to the TV series Homicide: Life on the Street – to the documentary form. It’s a gentle, poignant community portrait, centred on the devoted marching band left behind when Baltimore’s SuperBowl-winning Colts football team was relocated to another city. For a tougher social study, Hoop Dreams director Steve James’s No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson is a riveting, even-handed feat of cine-journalism that delves into the past of the eponymous basketball star – specifically, the racially charged assault conviction that landed him in prison as a teenager. Guy Lodge’s streaming and DVDs Sport TV Share on Facebook Twitter Since you’re here… Facebook Share on WhatsApp Electric… Larry Holmes v Muhammad Ali, 1980, as captured in Muhammad and Larry. Photograph: PR Company Handout Support The Guardian … we have a small favour to ask. More people are reading and supporting The Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. And unlike many new organisations, we have chosen an approach that allows us to keep our journalism accessible to all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford. But we need your ongoing support to keep working as we do.The Guardian will engage with the most critical issues of our time – from the escalating climate catastrophe to widespread inequality to the influence of big tech on our lives. 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Pinterest Twitter Share on Pinterest Share on Twitter Ash Is Purest White(Drakes Avenue, 15)Zhao Tao astonishes as a gangster’s moll on a revenge mission in Jia Zhangke’s absorbingly dense, chewy underworld epic, laden with political critique on 21st-century China.Birds of Passage(Curzon Artificial Eye, 15)In another bracing international genre twist, Colombian directors Ciro Guerra and Cristina Gallego bring a wealth of indigenous folklore to a humid crime-family saga, to ravishing effect.The Aftermath(Fox, 15)There isn’t much to this post-second world war romance, in which Keira Knightley and Alexander Skarsgård fall beautifully for each other in the ruins of Hamburg, but as cashmere-clad, rainy-afternoon viewing, it’s diverting enough.The Hole in the Ground(Universal, 15)An effectively nervy bit of Irish gothic, first-time director Lee Cronin’s haunted-child horror film generally plays by the genre rules, but does so with some flair.Swing Time(Sony, PG)The most readily swoon-worthy of Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers musicals – the one that gave the world The Way You Look Tonight – holds all its silvery lustre in this Criterion edition. Film From the increasingly vast buffet of specialist streaming services to choose from, I freely admit that ESPN Player was low on my list of ones to sample. I’m a selective, fairweather sports watcher to begin with; at first glance, the international on-demand arm of the leading American sports network, promising hour upon hour of catch-up coverage of college football, lacrosse and junior national volleyball, seemed to declare Not For Me in foot-high letters. (If you’re curious, however, or just a homesick American, it’s a £70-a-year banquet, with a free trial option.)Look closer, however, and ESPN Player has something to offer even a lacrosse agnostic like me: a bounty of sports-themed documentaries from such major non-fiction directors as Steve James, Barbara Kopple, Alex Gibney and Albert Maysles, alongside dabbling commercial film-makers like Ron Shelton and the late John Singleton.They all form part of the channel’s 30 for 30 series, which began in 2009, commissioning a broad range of talent to make films about selected moments of sports history. Much acclaimed in the US, garlanded with an Emmy and an International Documentary Association award, the films went generally unnoticed abroad – hardly surprising, given that most of them focus on the oddly insular American sporting world.The 30 for 30 entry that broke the pattern was Ezra Edelman’s mammoth, eight-hour OJ: Made in America – tangentially sports-related, of course, and first billed as a “miniseries event” before a 2016 cinema release brought greater mainstream exposure and an Oscar win. ESPN Player currently has it exclusively available to stream in all its grim glory, and if you’ve never seen it, it’s worth investigating. Engrossing as a thorough procedural analysis of the OJ Simpson trial, it bristles with wider concerns over the American justice system and enduring racial division. Pinterest Share on Messenger Facebook last_img read more