–Arts and letters for the modern age–

Cathode Ray Zone

–Arts and Letters for the Modern Age–

Docs Put Viewers in the Catbird Seat

by | May 26, 2023

Albert Einstein: People like us who believe in physics know that the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.

Yogi Berra: It’s deja vu all over again.

It Ain’t Over presents more than a mere baseball documentary.

A fastball documentary that chronicles the life of Yogi Berra, It Ain’t Over also encapsulates life in America from after the Second World War to the present.

To wit, last year there was a sports themed documentary titled Facing Nolan. All I can recall is that Nolan Ryan was a badass pitcher who threw a lot of strikes and got in a fight on the mound.

In contrast, It Ain’t Over takes in the changes that society experienced in the last half century. Both of these films are obvious hagiographies, yet the Berra doc takes a glance at the world in a sideways manner while still celebrating the game.

Berra accumulated ten World Series rings, which in itself is an incredible feat if not an unrealized selfie.

You’d have to be at least an octogenarian to have been a fan of Berra in his heyday from the late 40’s and throughout the 1950’s. His Yankee teammates included Joe DiMaggio and Joe Garagiola. Berra’s emergence as an acclaimed big league catcher coincided with the integration of America’s Game.

Berra’s accomplishments both as a player and then as a manager provide lots of cultural references. At one point, Berra and Yankees owner George Steinbrenner were on the outs after Berra was fired as manager mid-season. It would be nearly two decades until they reconciled.

Then there are the aphorisms, such as: “It ain’t over ‘till it’s over.” Yogi’s words of wisdom became such a recognition factor that a PR team was coming up with Yogi slogans. The film finds and interviews some of these wordsmiths. 

I had no idea Berra was a spokesperson for Yoo-hoo. (I thought that the chocolate flavored drink was something that was introduced in the 1980s.) Yoo-hoo has been around for eight generations, and MVP Berra was the face in 1950’s ads swigging it down. He also was a D-Day veteran and a faithful provider to his wife and kids, all illustrated with judicious use of photos and news clips. 

In a moment meant to make the doc something more than a rote profile, we have a family sit-down to discuss an intervention when Dale, the youngest of Yogi’s three sons, was in the midst of his cocaine involvement. It’s as candid as director Sean Mullin gets. Mullin inserts a brief mention that the Pittsburgh Pirate’s mascot was one of the cocaine distributors. That’s inside baseball, baby.

It Ain’t Over, released by Sony Pictures Classics, is currently in theaters.

Film: The Living Record of Our Memory

The phrase “Living Record of (y)our memory” is taken from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 55 and incorporated into a fascinating reflection on lost movies and the archives in which they are found.

Film: The Living Record of Our Memory reveals the depth of film conservation on every populated continent. By the end of the movie, you realize that practically every country that ever existed had some sort of film history that’s likely stored in an unknown canister in an archive in a distant country.

Most silent films are long gone, destroyed in fires, thrown in trash dumps, or disintegrated into dust. The film emulsion from an earlier era is highly flammable and should be kept in cold storage in a humid free building. If so, the reels can survive hundreds of years.

A complete print of the classic silent Metropolis was found in South America as recently as a decade ago.

Kino Lorber, who is streaming this doc across the usual platforms, also distributes a healthy library of classic silent films on disc by directors like Murnau and Lang.

A more modern director like Ken Loach laments how he needed a type of film leader used for synching sound on analog editing machines for his latest film. It was not manufactured anymore. A film archive in California donated some from their collection. 

Modern digital film storage containers become obsolete faster than they evolve. Film remains the best way to store images for hundreds of years.