“You have to be willing to sacrifice everything,” says Katie Wano, “Because once you’re in the air, you have nothing to protect you.” Wano played with Abby Wambach at the University of Florida in Gainesville, and as she speaks, Abby Head On, illustrates just how thrilling and challenging the move can be. Airing as part of ESPN’s Storied series starting 15 May, the documentary celebrates Wambach’s many achievements and narrates her life story, with the sorts of images you might expect: photos of her childhood, the youngest of seven children growing up in PIttsford, New York, apparently competitive from the moment she could be, admiring talking heads, and swelling music on the soundtrack, or, during moments of seeming reflection, an earnest piano plink. Following a basic chronology, from Wambach’s high school stardom through college and then her triumphs as a professional player, the film notes the 2008 friendly game, the 32-year-old Wambach’s 200th, termed by narrator Jack Youngblood a “testament to her durability.” The film includes as well a particular test of that durability, when Wambach collided with another player in 2008 and broke her leg. While she takes it as a lesson that “You can’t get too emotional,” US women’s national team head coach Pia Sundhage remembers thinking, “Gold medal, here we go, off.” At the London games in 2012, the US women’s team does win, with Wambach making a dramatic header.
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“I think conservatism’s all about being a individual,” announces Nick at the start of Follow the Leader. One of three high school class presidents followed by the film, he’s eager to attend the annual Boys State Leadership Week, where he and his fellows will be learning all about “politics.” As the film begins, Nick, Ben (a liberal, at first), and D.J. (an independent, more or less) take this word to mean a career, dedicated to public service, fulfilling their own ambitions, and making changes in people’s lives. Over three years, Jonathan Goodman Levitt’s beguiling documentary reveals, all three undergo changes, some more drastic than others.
This is a charming clip of two accomplished women who have been together almost as long as my wife and I have. Yet still they debate introducing one another as ‘life partner’ or ‘wife’.
I like ‘wife’. My (not federally or state-recognized—and thus we are forced to declare ‘single’ on our tax forms) wife likes ‘wife’, too.
“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.
See PopMatters’ review.
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.