DID YOU READ

Review: “The Two Escobars,” the drug kingpin and the soccer team.

Review: “The Two Escobars,” the drug kingpin and the soccer team. (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival.

In 1998, Associated Press reporter Steve Wilstein noticed a bottle in Mark McGwire’s locker. It was filled with androstenedione, an over-the-counter muscle enhancer that boosted the body’s production of testosterone. In short, andro is a steroid, banned at that time by pro football, the NCAA, and the Olympics, though not Major League Baseball. McGwire was in the midst of a season in which he would hit more home runs than any other player in history and the interest in his chase was fueling a resurgence in the game. When Wilstein wrote about McGwire and andro, the press didn’t rush to investigate McGwire’s drug use; they chastised Wilstein for making it public. In other words, what McGwire was doing on the field was so good for baseball that nobody wanted to know what McGwire was doing off of it to make it possible. Give the public big enough results, they’ll turn a blind eye to everything else.

For further proof, consider the story portrayed in the devastating documentary “The Two Escobars” from directors Jeff and Michael Zimbalist. Colombians were so excited to field their first truly great soccer team, led by captain Andrés Escobar, that they didn’t care that the team was backed by brutal drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. Though Pablo’s backing fueled Colombia’s meteoric rise to the top of the class of international soccer, it also sparked the team’s precipitous and fatal decline.

04282010_twoescobars5.jpgIt all came down to money. Just as small market baseball teams lose their best players to teams like the Yankees or the Red Sox who can afford to sign expensive free agents, Colombia had never been able to afford the salaries necessary to keep their best players from leaving for more lucrative work in Europe. Pablo Escobar changed that by using his near limitless resources to fund an all-star team. His motivation was three-fold: he was a genuine soccer fan; his generosity to his players and their community helped buy him enough good publicity to keep his critics and the government at bay, and, most importantly, soccer provided a very convenient way to launder money by falsifying attendance records or player salaries. Soon other Colombian dealers got into the act, sparking a period that one talking head in the film calls the era of “narco-soccer.”

“The Two Escobars” is part of ESPN’s ongoing documentary series “30 for 30,” which celebrates the network’s 30 years on the air with a slate of 30 documentaries. Though each film covers a different topic, some themes have popped up repeatedly throughout the series; many, for instance, focus on the symbiotic relationship between a sports team and its community. “The Band That Wouldn’t Die” by Barry Levinson examined how Baltimore struggled to maintain its identity after the football team it had invested so much of itself in before the Colts abandoned them for Indianapolis; “Kings Ransom” explored how Wayne Gretzky’s departure for the Los Angeles Kings affected Edmonton, who lived and died by Gretzky’s former team, the Oilers. The Zimbalists paint a similarly sad portrait of a very troubled country. Sick of its association with the drug trade, Colombians desperately hoped the team they sent to the 1994 World Cup, populated by many of Pablo Escobar’s players (including Andrés), could help to rehabilitate their national image. Instead, the team’s poor play and the violent reaction it set off back in Colombia that included kidnappings, death threats, and eventually murder, only wound up reinforcing it.

04282010_escobar6.jpgThe Zimbalists cut back and forth between the lives of Pablo and Andrés, a technique that yields more coincidences than comparisons. Other than one very costly mistake in Colombia’s final World Cup match in 1994, Andrés does not play a significant role in any of the national team’s games, and as the directors focus more and more on Pablo Escobar and his increasingly absurd battles with the law, the film’s balance begins to tip more and more heavily in his favor. Linked through soccer and a shared last name, the two were otherwise very different individuals. The churchgoing Andrés was known as “The Gentleman of the Field,” and used his status as a soccer star to try to curb violence in Colombia. The remorseless Pablo, referred to by the former president of Colombia as “the bin Laden of those times” bought Colombians’ love by paying for health clinics and houses for the homeless while ordering the assassinations of anyone who dared to speak out against him.

But even if the connections between the two men aren’t as strong as the movie would like, there’s no denying that their fates are intertwined, or that their stories serve as an effective clothesline upon which the filmmakers hang a chilling cautionary tale about what can happen when success becomes a drug. As with any addiction, once you’re hooked, the only thing that matters is maintaining the high at any cost.

“The Two Escobars” will air on ESPN on June 22nd.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.