Monday, February 1, 2016

Instant Gratificaton Theater: Documentaries Part 1

Over the next few...uh, whatevers, Instant Gratification Theater will  cover some documentaries I streamed in recent weeks.

Kareem: Minority of One (HBO Now): Remember when HBO Sports was the standard bearer in quality sports documentaries? It's sad the network basically ceded the position to ESPN (and now even Showtime and Epix are cranking them out more often), but maybe this incisive piece is a sign that HBO is still in the game.

This profile of basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar uses extensive archival footage and new interviews with Jabbar himself (and many others) to create a surprisingly emotional portrait of a man who had a reputation as being detached if not aloof during his career. The Hall of Famer really comes off as a complex individual but certainly human and likable, and by the end you are gratified to get the feeling he has come to terms with basketball and with himself and is in a good place in life.

The main flaw is that the movie pretty much skips over his entire post-NBA career, which is a compelling portion of the man's life. He has become a prominent author, social commentator, and historian. "Minority of One" focuses on his basketball life, for sure, but even some more talk about his unsuccessful attempts to get head coaching gigs would have been interesting.

Fortunately the documentary does touch on his acting career, including his all-time great performance as Roger Murdock in "Airplane." And I think the movie explains how the hell he wound up fighting Bruce Lee in "Game of Death," but to be honest, I still don't quite understand how that came together.

"Kareem: Minority of One" is a strong comeback effort from HBO and a valuable chronicle of the most underappreciated greats in sports history. Plus it gives Pat O'Brien another chance to remind everyone that he partied with all the cool kids in 1980s Los Angeles.

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