UFC: human cockfighting or utterly captivating?

UFC: human cockfighting or utterly captivating? (photo)

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Ultimate fighting, it seems, has finally come of age. UFC’s recently announced seven year, one hundred million dollar deal with Fox TV imparts a legitimacy to the bloodsport. And now we as a culture are going to have to have an adult conversation about whether or not ultimate fighting should or should not be a “mainstream” sport. Then again, the people may have already spoken on that, as the television deal and the hardcore following the sport has suggests.

UFC is not the anarchic gladiatorial fundament depicted in the movie “Fight Club.” I am somewhat of a divided mind about ultimate fighting. On the one hand, there is quite a bit of “art” that goes into these mixed martial arts — but a manly, very physical kind of art, to be sure. On the other hand, a strong though somewhat prudish argument could be made that it is indeed human cockfighting, as former prisoner of war and U.S. Senator John McCain has described the mixed martial arts. UFC’s earliest incarnation was indeed pretty gory. As David Plotz wrote in Slate in 1999:

UFC began in 1993 as a locker-room fantasy. What would happen if a kickboxer fought a wrestler? A karate champion fought a sumo champion? Promoters built an octagonal chain-link cage, invited eight top martial artists, and set them loose in no-holds-barred, bare-knuckles fights. “There are no rules!” bragged an early press release. Contestants would fight till “knockout, submission, doctor’s intervention, or death.” UFC allowed, even promoted, all notions of bad sportsmanship: kicking a man when he’s down, hitting him in the groin, choking. Four-hundred-pound men were sent into the Octagon to maul guys half their size. Only biting and eye-gouging were forbidden.

But that was then and this is now. The UFC, which has been grappling for a greater legitimacy — and a greater profitability — for several years now, is getting even more aggressive. Aggression is, quite frankly, hard-wired into this sport. But for the past few months their PR push has been on steriods. On November 12th, for example, UFC is going directly up against the Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez PPV fight. In other words, mixed martial arts is being offered on basic cable directly against a major pay-per-view boxing event. The results should be quite interesting.

Further, on August 27th the UFC will air live undercard mixed martial arts matches in Times Square above the Doubletree Hotel. That’s a pretty ballsy move, on the real. It should again be interesting to see how tourist-heavy Midtown Manhattan reacts on a Saturday to the spectacle of two beefy dudes trying, essentially, to choke each into unconsciousness with ancient and modern fighting techniques. These super-aggro pushes could definitely backfire, highlighting the “human cockfighting” charge attached to the sport by its critics. Or these bold moves could have the effect of proving just how undeniably popular the sport has become. And by Christmas we could have a new mainstream sport in our midst.

In the past the organization and its champions have stressed the “art” of the fight. In 2006, Scott Pelley of the venerable 60 minutes spoke to Renzo Gracie of the famous Brazillian Gracie family about the “art” of mixed martial arts. Gracie, whose family utilizes a jiu jitsu heavy form of fighting that has won them titles and acclaim as the first family of the mixed martial arts, defended the sport:

“It goes far beyond that. The first impression is, hit him, knock him out, hurt him, but believe it, it goes far beyond that,” Gracie explains. “There’s so much technique involved, that I, to be honest, I think when I see a good fight, I think it makes a Russian ballet look like a uncoordinated body movements.” He admits that it can sometimes be a bloody ballet. “But the blood is the source of the whole thing. Believe – it’s not blood that’s coming out, it’s a little bit of pride that you’re putting out.”

A very masculine aesthetic; a very “bloody ballet.” Is this an idea whose time has come?

Let us know your own thoughts on UFC in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.

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Documentary Now! Robert Evans Mansion

The Reel Deal

Everything You Need To Know About “Mr. Runner Up” Inspiration Robert Evans

Watch the two-part finale of Documentary Now! this Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

In its upcoming two-part finale, Documentary Now! spoofs the crown jewel of docs: The Kid Stays In The Picture. It’s the autobiographical documentary about Robert Evans, the unlikely Hollywood mogul whose mix of self-aggrandizing bravado, classic good looks and extremely circumstantial good luck took him from being a salesman to an actor to the head of Paramount Pictures.

If you’ve never seen the film, it’s totally worth it. Rotten Tomatoes agrees, with a staggeringly-high approval rating. Watch it before, or watch it after — doesn’t matter. You’ll appreciate it whenever.

In the meantime, here’s a bit of background that will come in handy…

Robert Loves Robert

Robert Evans desk

USA Films/Everett Collection

Robert Evans is the ultimate Robert Evans fan. The movie was written, produced, directed and narrated by Robert Evans. It is totally unbiased.

He’s Kind Of A Big Deal

Robert Evans, Chinatown
Paramount Pictures

Evans produced some of Hollywood’s true classics: Chinatown, Rosemary’s Baby, The Godfather, Love Story…the list goes on. Totally legit and amazing movies.

He’s Also Kind Of A Joke

Wag The Dog
New Line Cinema

Evans has been parodied in TV shows and movies like Entourage and Wag The Dog. He is the quintessential “producer” you already have in your head.

So Wrong He’s Right

Robert Evans Slap
20th Century Film Corp

Robert Evans is a notorious narcissist whose love of self is so blind and sincere that it’s actually adorable.

There’s Something Missing

via Giphy

Entire sections of Robert Evans’ life are left out of the documentary. Maybe it’s because of timing. Maybe it’s because real life isn’t a tidy narrative. Who knows.

He Blew It

Spider coke

Evans had a pretty spectacular fall from grace. He was convicted of cocaine trafficking in the early 80’s, and was connected to a contract killing during the production of The Cotton Club. Oops.

Losing Is For Losers

Everett Collection
Everett Collection

In the Robert Evans mythology, all tragedies are just triumphs in disguise, and every story has a happy ending…for Robert Evans.

Bill Hader Jerry Wallach

With these simple facts in hand you are now prepared to thoroughly enjoy the two-part finale of Documentary Now! starting this Wednesday at 10/9c on IFC.

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Weird Roles

Anthony Michael Hall’s Most Rotten Movies

Catch Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science on Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

Anthony Michael Hall was the quintessential ’80s nerd. We love him in classics like The Breakfast Club and National Lampoon’s Vacation. But even the brainiest among us has his weak spots. In honor of Weird Science airing this Rotten Friday, we analyze Hall’s worst movies.

Weird Science (1985) 56%

A low point for John Hughes, Weird Science is way too wacky for its own good. Anthony Michael Hall’s Gary and his pal Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) create the “perfect woman.” Supernatural chaos ensues. The film costars a young Bill Paxton, floppy disks, and a general disconnect from all reality.

The Caveman’s Valentine (2001) 46%

This ambitious drama starring Samuel L. Jackson couldn’t live up to its rich premise. Jackson plays Romulus, a Juilliard-educated, paranoid schizophrenic who lives in a cave. Hall co-stars as Bob, a rich man, who wants to see Romulus play the piano. The plot centers around Romulus investigating a murder, but with so much going on, the movie never quite finds its rhythm.

All About the Benjamins (2002) 30%

Ice Cube plays a bounty hunter who teams up with Mike Epps’ con man to catch diamond thieves. Hall plays Lil J, a small-time drug dealer. It’s definitely a role we’ve never seen Hall in, but overall the movie isn’t funny or original enough to justify its violence.

Freddy Got Fingered (2001) 11%

This showcase for Tom Green’s goofy gross-out comedy is often hailed as one of the worst films of all time. Green plays Gord, a 20-something slacker, who dreams of having his own animated series. Hall is Dave Davidson, a CEO of an animation studio who eventually helps Gord find success. Too bad Tom Green wasn’t so lucky.

Johnny Be Good (1988) 0%

Hall plays against type as Johnny Walker, a star quarterback. Robert Downey Jr. is his best friend and Uma Thurman plays his devoted girlfriend. Despite the support of a future A-list cast, the movie lacks central conflict and charm. Or, as TV Guide put it, “Johnny be worthless.” Ouch.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” Weird Science this Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Season 6: Episode 1: Pickathon

Binge Fest

Portlandia Season 6 Now Available On DVD

The perfect addition to your locally-sourced, artisanal DVD collection.

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End of summer got you feeling like:

Portlandia Toni Screaming GIF

Ease into fall with Portlandia‘s sixth season. Relive the latest exploits of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s cast of characters, including Doug and Claire’s poignant breakup, Lance’s foray into intellectual society, and the terrifying rampage of a tsukemen Noodle Monster! Plus, guest stars The Flaming Lips, Glenn Danzig, Louis C.K., Kevin Corrigan, Zoë Kravitz, and more stop by to experience what Portlandia is all about.

Pick up a copy of the DVD today, or watch full episodes and series extras now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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