Tag Archives: Documentaries

Art Shay: The Sporting Life and Times

A video introduction to an exhibition of his work, at Hanson Dodge Creative, Milwaukee


Skinhead and Rudeboy Culture, by Don Letts

Take 12 minutes and watch this brilliant, fascinating Don Letts documentary on music, fashion, politics and style in Skinhead and Rudeboy culture.

Fargo Documentary

Minnesota Nice is a fascinating, 30-odd minute documentary about one of the finest, strangest and funniest films to come out of America of the last couple of decades, Fargo


George Plimpton is one of my heroes. Journalist, writer, sometime actor and the first editor-in-chief of The Paris Review, he had a seemingly insatiable desire for new experiences. Ones that often seemed completely at odds with his literary demeanour. Even half of his life would have been a life twice lived.

Plimpton was the father of modern participatory sports journalism, having pitched in the National League, sparred with Archie Moore and Sugar Ray Robinson, trained with the Baltimore Colts and Detroit Lions, played in preseason goal for the Boston Bruins ice hockey team, attempted to get on the PGA tour, performed as a high-wire circus act and been soundly beaten at tennis by Pancho Gonzales. He recorded each of these experiences with great wit and honesty for Sports Illustrated and in a number of best-selling books. He also played in the New York Philharmonic, under Leonard Bernstein, and acted alongside John Wayne, Warren Beatty and Matt Damon.

He is responsible, too, for one of my favourite lines in all of sports journalism when, covering the Rumble in the Jungle for Sports Illustrated (Kinshasa, Zaire, 1974) and attempting to convey Muhammad Ali’s rope-a-dope tactics, he described the great heavyweight as leaning far back over the ropes “at the angle of someone looking out of his window to see if there’s a cat on the roof.”

He was a remarkable man.

Plimpton! a documentary of his life premiered at the AFI-Discovery Channel Silverdocs Festival in Washington last week. The film’s website is here, and the trailer here.

Dark Side of the Lens

The breathtaking, award winning video from artist and waverider, Mickey Smith


The Imposter (2012)

In 2008 David Grann wrote this article for the New Yorker, exploring the extraordinary 1994 Nicholas Barclay/Frédéric Bourdin missing child case.

The same case has now inspired a documentary, due out this year.

(Source: Longreads)

Pumping Iron (1977)

Pumping Iron is a cult classic. A perfect piece of kitsch pop culture. Watching it again recently reminded me why.  It is brash, theatrical, surreal, horribly over-the-top, sometimes tender, (un)intentionally comic…in other words, an absolute treat.

Bodybuilding has always been an unusual sport. A bizarre marriage of unfettered testosterone and peculiar, obscured femininity. But it is also one that requires superhuman dedication, sacrifice and ambition. Pumping Iron captures this alternative world at is vainglorious, preening peak, as its “star”, the incomparable Arnold Schwarzenegger, lifts, boasts, bullies, taunts and struts his way to the 1975 Mr. Olympia title.

You either love or loathe Arnie, but on whichever side of the fence you fall (and there is much to dislike) he is a remarkable character. Watching him here is an enormous guilty pleasure as he crushes his friends and foes alike, exploiting physical and psychological weaknesses wherever he finds them, imposing his extraordinary, relentless will on everyone and everything.  He is cruel, charismatic, intelligent, and desperate for attention…for all the attention. He is an enormous, pompous, muscular slab of peacock. The king. And this is his court. It is absolutely captivating.

Others come into his orbit – Franco Columbo, the hugely likeable but slightly tragic Lou Ferrigno (and his overbearing Brooklynite father who pushes and parades his son like demented ringmaster), the quiet family-man Mike Katz, Ken Waller, Serge Nubret – but however close they may have been to Arnold (Columbo was a longstanding friend) if they are not useful, they are ultimately useless. The ego drives everything and nothing else matters except victory. His mental dismantling of Ferrigno is equal parts heart-breaking and thrilling.

Pumping Iron launched Arnold’s career, and watching him here you are aware that his star is in its ascendancy – as, you feel, is he as his swaggers his way to triumph. But without his arrogance and absurdity, Pumping Iron goes from being a fantastic study of human nature to a merely interesting exploration of a weird and wonderful underworld that few of us would ever glimpse.

It is one of those rare documentaries that by both luck and design captured perfectly a place and time. It is completely bonkers and utterly brilliant.

The full documentary is on YouTube. Here is part 1 of 12: