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Five Sports Documentaries We Want To See

Five Sports Documentaries We Want To See (photo)

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In order to be entered into our contest last week for a trio of copies of ESPN Films’ “30 For 30” Volume 2 DVD box set, entrants were required to submit their answer to the following question:

“If ESPN made another batch of 30 documentaries, what subject from the last 30 years of sports would you want to see a film about and who should direct it?”

The ESPN programming executives better watch their backs because the answers we got from readers were uniformly outstanding. As promised, here are a few of the best. I picked five favorites and provided my own additional thoughts for each, and then at the bottom I threw in five more honorable mentions. And by the by, I’ve emailed the three random winners of the contest, so if you didn’t get an email yet from, I’m afraid you weren’t picked. But thank you for entering! And now without further ado… five sports documentaries we want to see in a “30 For 30” sequel.

1. “WWE performer Chris Benoit murders his wife and child, then kills himself. The doc would be directed by Barry W. Blaustein, who directed the 1997 documentary ‘Beyond the Mat.’ It would serve as an introduction for Blaustein into the darker side of the industry that he merely grazed, apologetically, in the original work. It would also serve as a great post-script and examination of what became of so many of those people profiled in his original film in the wake of the event. There are some that would argue, correctly, that professional wrestling isn’t a ‘sport’ per se, but the story was covered by ESPN extensively when it broke and for weeks after.” — Suggested by Kevin Marshall

True, wrestling isn’t a sport. But Benoit’s case speaks directly to one of the biggest sports stories from the last few years that wasn’t covered in the first “30 For 30” series: the impact of concussions on the brains of professional athletes. Though it’s only come into the mainstream recently (in part because of the Benoit tragedy), brain trauma is going to be a major issue in the future of the NFL, the NHL, and possibly even Major League Baseball.

In light of the recent death of Randy “Macho Man” Savage, Benoit could also serve as the entryway to a discussion of the horrific toll professional wrestling takes on so many of its athletes’ bodies and psyches. And if he’d be interested in returning to the subject of pro wrestling, Blaustein is a great choice to direct.

2. “‘Run, Rosie, Run.’ No one could believe it when a unknown woman named Rosie Ruiz finished the Boston Marathon with the best time ever without ever being seen. Turns out there were a reason no one saw her… Directed by Kimberly Peirce” — Suggested by Joshua Jenkins

A great topic for a documentary. If you don’t know Ruiz’s story the reason no one saw her is because she cheated, jumping out of the crowd near the finish line and pretending she ran the entire race. Her ruse was quickly discovered and her title was eventually stripped and given to the rightful winner. Recreating the incident, particularly with interviews from witnesses and participants in the Boston Marathon, and maybe even some insight from Ruiz herself (why in the world would someone do something that would be so easily debunked?), could make for a fascinating documentary. I would have never thought of Peirce — who hasn’t directed a documentary — but given her taste for protagonists with deceptive lives, she could be a very interesting pick.

3. “Personally, I’d love to see a documentary on Pete Rose (perhaps against the backdrop of other forms of cheating in baseball) as directed by Errol Morris.” — Suggested by Nicolas Hume

Pete Rose was the single-most mentioned potential subject for a “30 For 30” sequel and it’s easy to see why: he’s one of the greatest baseball players who ever lived and also one of the most infamous, banned for life in 1989 following his admission that he had bet on baseball, including games he had managed for the Cincinnati Reds. Given Rose’s outsized personality, his incredible accomplishments, and the impact his ban had and continues to have on the game, it’s kind of surprising he wasn’t the subject of one of the initial thirty films in ESPN’s series.

I also like Nicolas’ suggestion that Rose’s actions might be placed in a larger context about cheating in baseball. Is Rose really that much worse than some of the famous cheaters, racists, and jerks who are enshrined in the hallowed Baseball Hall of Fame? Maybe, maybe not.

Though a lot of people wrote in suggesting Rose, Nicolas was the only person who suggested Morris as the director to make the film, and he seems like the right choice to me. As our greatest living cinematic interviewer, Morris is the guy I would want locking horns with Rose, holding his feet to the fire and searching for the truth. Then again, since the man who banned Rose was Major League Baseball Commissioner Bart Giamatti, if his son Paul Giamatti was interested in making a film on the subject, he would be an insanely perfect fit for “30 For 30″‘s preferred method of pairing filmmakers with subjects they have a personal investment in.

4. “‘Exce$$ive BUSH at USC’ from director Thaddeus D. Matula. Reggie Bush, Pete Carroll, Mike Garrett and the whole USC “Pay for Play” scandal, with further discussions about all the Division One BCS Universities paying their players. The perfect sequel to the excellent ‘Pony Exce$$.'” — Suggested by Roy Rossi

Here’s another subject that came up a few times amongst contestants, but I give Roy the nod for his awesome title. If “30 For 30” had been “40 For 40,” this one might have made the cut (Bush voluntarily returned his Heisman Trophy a few months ago after the NCAA found he had received “illegal benefits” while in school). If you haven’t seen “Pony Exce$$,” which is part of “30 For 30 Volume 2,” that is Matula’s fascinating look at Southern Methodist University’s corrupt football program of the 1980s, the first and only school to ever receive the NCAA’s “death penalty.” So he’s got the right background for the material.

On the other hand, there are a lot of great filmmakers who also happen to be USC alumni — from George Lucas to James Gray to Doug Liman — so maybe they would be a better and more personal fit for the material (Matula is an SMU alum). As was the case with “Pony Exce$$,” you should only make the film if you can get the guys involved — in this case, Bush and Carroll, as well as the NCAA investigators — to talk on camera about the scandal.

5. “In light of the recent Sarah Silverman interview, I think that it is high time for a ’30 For 30′ on the Dock Ellis no-hitter on acid. This would be directed by Terry Gilliam. This would be fantastic.” — Suggested by Mike Isenberg

I agree and I agree. Technically, Ellis’ LSD-fueled no-hitter would be disqualified from “30 For 30” because it took place in 1970, outside the thirty-year history of ESPN that the series was designed to celebrate. But if you were ever going to expand “30 For 30” backwards, Dock Ellis is one guy worth covering.

Mike’s explanation basically says everything you need to know — the dude threw a no-hitter while he was tripping balls! — though you can hear more about it from Ellis himself in the great animated short “Dock Ellis and the LSD No-No.” And Terry Gilliam as the director of one man’s heroic triumph over impossible baseball odds while zonked out of his mind on LSD? Almost too perfect.

Honorable Mentions:
“Tiger Woods,” directed by Lars von Trier (Suggested by Eric Wheeler)
“Dan Heatley,” directed by Rian Johnson (Suggested by Anyaa Carter)
“Bill Walton,” directed by Judd Apatow (Suggested by Ray Burns)
“The History of ‘ABC’s Wide World of Sports,'” directed by the Zimbalist Brothers (Suggested by Brian Silverstein)
“The History of Tailgating,” directed by Werner Herzog (Suggested by Jarod Neece)

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.


IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.



IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on and the IFC app.

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