As baseball season gets underway, 'Knuckleball' considers the poetry, the puzzle, and the many appeals of this most elusive pitch.
“It has a mind of its own,” says Tim Wakefield, once of the Red Sox. “You let it go and see where it takes you.” It is the knuckleball, and Wakefield was one of the few major league pitchers to make it his. As Wakefield does his best to explain the pitch - the idea of it, the mechanics, the effects—the scene cuts from his interview to a shot of his silhouette walking away, framed by a narrow doorway and dissolving into the bright yellow sunlight of the ball field beyond. The image—blurred and intriguing—sets up the story of the knuckleball, in Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg’s terrific documentary, in Knuckleball!, a story that’s both utterly specific and enticingly elusive. Now available on VOD and DVD, the film considers the quirky history and ongoing mythology of the pitch, as well as the men who accept its challenges it. These men comprise a club with precious few members, and seeing them together is one of this documentary’s great pleasures. Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey won last year’s Cy Young Award, but still, the pitch remains a puzzle to most observers, a slow pitch that doesn’t spin, that tricks batters and sometimes, pitchers too. Knuckleballers might strike out multiple opponents in a game, stunning rival teams and drawing the media’s hot spotlight. And they might not.
Scott Thurman's documentary charts the work of the Texas State Board of Education, as it insists that science classes in Texas teach intelligent design, given that evolution is just a "theory."
Don McLeroy is a believer. He believes in God, in the Bible, and in the need to ensure that all children come to believe what he does. In The Revisionaries, airing 28 January on PBS, he makes his case again and again, in the office where he works as a dentist, in the church where he serves as a pastor, before assorted cameras, and as a member of the Texas State Board of Education. Scott Thurman’s documentary charts the inspiration SBOE Chairman McLeroy provides for other board members, like Cynthia Dunbar (who served from 2007-2011), as they insist that science classes in Texas teach intelligent design, given that evolution is just a “theory.” The “power” here has to do with Texas’ influence on textbook selections around the nation: it has to do with numbers, as textbook publishers endeavor to serve (profit from) those schools ordering the most books. Well aware of this power, the Texas School Board creationists in the 1980s made a case for teaching the “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution: this language is challenged in 2008, and The Revisionaries follows the battle between McLeroy’s Republicans and a set of opponents, including Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education and Steve Schafersman, of Texas Citizens for Science.
Walk Away Renée reimagines place -- as a material location, a brief point in a story, and a subjective state. While there may be no doubt that this new and ever-shifting place exists, the film also leaves open how it has come to be.
“Listen to me, don’t talk,” Jonathan Caouette tells his mother, Renée. “You need to get off the Risperdal. You need to be back on Lithium.” It’s 2010, at the start of Walk Away Renée: he’s home in New York, she’s in Houston, at the group home where he hoped she might find a mix of independence and close-to-round-the-clock care. But the more Jonathan listens to her, the more he realizes she can’t be there, that their living arrangements will need to shift—again. And in this realization, the new film picks up where the old one left off. The son must sort out what to do with his mother.