Reviews by Chris MacKenzie

Winnebago man16. Winnebago Man – 3 Shaky Camera Lenses (Out of 5)
Documentarians track down the star of a profanity-­laden, pre-­internet viral video about RVs.

Thoughts: I remember seeing the video that serves as the centerpiece of this documentary several times and it is hysterical. It’s star, who is trying to shoot an industrial video for Winnebago, has the blustery machismo of Dabney Coleman, but with the humiliating luck of a Will Ferrell. It is classic. In this documentary, the filmmakers track down several members of the crew, and finally, the star himself.

Meeting, and getting to know Jack Rebney himself, is the best part of this film. To that end, there is a little too much fluff before we get there, and it feels like we could’ve spent more time with him. Aside from the crew, the other people just aren’t that interesting. “Experts” in various fields are interviewed, and their only collective, one­ dimensional insight is: “That guy is so dumb. People like to watch buffoons.”

There was no effort to look deeper into why it’s so funny, and I imagine the filmmakers were trying to set us up for what I was already miles ahead on: “I bet this guy is pretty nice.” Indeed, getting to know Jack is great. He is still as lively and verbally­explosive as ever, but in seeing all the dimensions of him we grow to love his cantankerous charms. As this is the best part of the film, I won’t go into too much detail, but the filmmakers wrap this documentary up perfectly.

The Marinovich Project17. The Marinovich Project – 4 Shaky Camera Lenses (Out of 5)
An “ESPN: 30 for 30” documentary about Todd Marinovich, the grid­iron Wunderkind whose father had raised him from birth to be the greatest quarterback of all time.

Thoughts: For quick TV documentaries, these 30 for 30s are great. While I love sports, I think non-­sports fans would like a lot of these as they do a great job of telling the story, while also giving you a solid context for why this was an important moment/subject. I didn’t know many of the specifics of Marinovich’s life, just that his overbearing father had driven him so hard that this perfect physical specimen of quarterback completely unraveled. This documentary does an amazing job of filling in the holes, and assigning the blame in a way I did not expect.

Along with Todd Marinovich and several former colleagues, Todd’s father is interviewed. I was aghast that he would agree to an interview, given that Todd’s upbringing led to him become one of the greatest train­wreck stories of professional sports. But as they reveal every aspect of the story, they reveal the starkly honest truth. There are great segments where Todd is giving what is basically a play-­by-­play of his emotions during some of his greatest, and most disappointing games.

In the end, I got a totally new perspective on what happened, as well as great insight into conflict between where your talents can take you, and where you’d like to go.

King's Ransom18. King’s Ransom – 3.5 Shaky Camera Lenses (Out of 5)
A nearly line-­item retelling of how Wayne Gretzky, the greatest hockey player of all time, got traded from puck­-crazy Edmonton, Canada to the unspeakably blase city of Los Angeles.

Thoughts: Another great “30 for 30,” but this one might be more for sports fans. What is so great about this story, is that these days, there’s nothing great about this story. A star leaving for a richer contract is now commonplace, but this documentary is about a time when that was not the case. The player, and more importantly, the era, are what make this story riveting. Gretzky, who doesn’t need to be called the “Michael Jordan of Hockey,” because he is the Gretzky of hockey, was as close as Canada had to royalty. Beyond what he did on the ice, Canadians saw him as their greatest son. But Gretzky’s contract came due for re-negotiations, and beyond team loyalty or owner loyalty, there was money. We see the math that created this trade, and with fantastic interviews from everyone involved in the dealings, understand that there was no way this trade couldn’t have happened. You understand every side of the deal, but also understand why the fans were so crushed.

Where this documentary really interested me was when I realized that this horrible, fan-­shattering equation is now
status quo. Every player and every owner in every sport now does exactly what these people did. Except now, it’s just understood it was going to happen,­ then it was unthinkable. Without going too crazy about it, the filmmaker’s show this as a watershed moment, from a financial, as well as fan, perspective. It’s hard to argue that any fan base has been blind-­sided worse since “The Great One” left for La­La Land, but this was also the inevitable death of innocence. Lebron James‘ “Decision” certainly raised equal ire, but everyone knew it was a possibility, if not out­-and­-out inevitable.

I may be reading more into the moment than a sports fanatic would, but if nothing else, this is an excellent example of how professional sports has changed in the last 30 years.

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