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by Bill Gibron

15 Jun 2008


There is a fine line between realism and the ridiculous. Put another way, when dealing with ethnic archetypes, it is easy to confuse truth with a tendency toward cultural insensitivity. Comedy is frequently guilty of such random racial profiling. Tyler Perry, for example, paints his portraits of African Americans in the broadest, most brazen strokes possible. On the one hand, his leads are usually troubled professionals plowing through personal problems direct from a soap opera’s story session. On the other, he relies on crass, sometimes crude social stereotypes to get that all important laugh - no matter how cheap or overbroad.

It’s the same tiring tightrope act that a movie like Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins (new to DVD from Universal) must maintain. Initially, audiences need to be engaged beyond a borderline black face burlesque, actors standing in for the senseless slander of the past. Yet there is no denying that, within said pigeonholes, some small amounts of truth exist. After all, fact is the reason that most farce works. It’s all about recognizeability. Luckily, writer/director Malcolm D. Lee understands this all too well. He takes his simple story about a family reunion (already a tired cinematic setup) and finds a way to work both truth and a BET comedy club mentality into a marginally successful, frequently funny outing.

When we first meet the title character, he’s a successful self-help guru, a media-made Dr. Phil type with a supermodel girlfriend and a lonely, disconnected son. Returning to the family home for the first time in years, Roscoe will have to face a few daunting demons from his past. His brother Otis and sister Betty still enjoy picking on him, and a long standing rivalry with adopted cousin Clyde remains bitter (if slightly unbelievable). Of course, once he steps onto the familiar Georgian soil, all the old issues reappear. His father remains aloof, his mother loving but unable to forge a lasting bond between the two. Similarly, Clyde’s conceited nature manages to transcend Roscoe’s La-La Land fame. And then there’s the high school sweetheart who still seems smitten with the man she once loved.

It has to be said that, for all its over the top tendencies, Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins remains grounded in a way that saves it from outright racial disparagement. White audiences may wonder why Lee is allowed to flaunt seeming insensitivity the way he does, and at least two of the characters here - Betty, and the casually criminal relative Reggie - apparently push the boundaries of African American truisms. But as a director, the man behind Undercover Brother recognizes two things: one, casting will save you from even the most questionable artistic approach, and; two, wit mixed with even the wildest premise, if handled properly, always succeeds. Though he occasionally loses his funny business focus, Lee remains right on both accounts.

Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins has one of the best casts in a recent comedy, everyone from name star Martin Lawrence to supporting players Mo’Nique and Cedric the Entertainer proving their movie star mantle, while reliable names such as Michael Clarke Duncan, James Earl Jones, and Margaret Avery smooth over the rougher, racially charged edges. The story does skate around some quasi-controversial questions, however. Betty is viewed as a horny prison whore, using the Bible as a means to get “busy” with the local jail population. Reggie regularly steals, swindles, and smokes his way to pseudo-shiftless Southern comfort. While Duncan’s Otis invests the movie with a solid sense of responsibility and honor, Cedric’s Clyde continues the corrupt closet con artist elements the narrative claims to avoid.

Yet Lee keeps things concrete and likeable - at least most of the time. There are physical comedy elements that go way overboard in both their shtick and sensibility, like the time when Roscoe and Clyde literally destroy the family home while fighting. There is also an extended foot race sequence where the concept of sportsmanship is tossed out the window for bigger and bigger slapstick set pieces. If it weren’t for the actors involved, this would all grow tiresome and trite. But since the director establishes character early on, and finds a way to avoid most of the clichés inherent in his otherwise clockwork plotting, we forgive these indulgences. In fact, Lee is so skilled behind the camera that he paints purveyors of such purposeless pratfalls - like Perry - as the pretenders they are.

As part of the DVD, we see how carefully Lee constructed his comedy. Many of the deleted and extended scenes show where editing was required, while the outtakes argue for the ample improvisation skills of the entire cast. In the Making-of material, everyone seems really proud of being involved in such a stellar company, and we get the distinct impression that no one involved feels their race is being marginalized or attacked. Indeed, one gets the feeling that a good way to judge the inherent insensitivity in a film is to gauge how intentional the portrait really is/was. In this case, Lee looked to his past and the people he knows as a means of managing what some might consider an otherwise quasi-offensive screed.

Of course, this is all a matter of perspective. To the audience to whom this movie speaks loudest, claims of racism would be rejected outright. Similarly, anyone familiar with the burgeoning genre of urban comedy realizes that exaggeration and caricature are occasionally needed to help foster a sense of shared experience that many in America’s minority class openly embrace. In fact, while Judd Apatow walks away with all the cinematic humor saving accolades, Lee clearly deserves a place with the category’s rebirth. While no one is claiming that Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins is a masterpiece, it does prove that humor doesn’t have to de-evolve into hate to be witty and pointed. Indeed, as long as you have clear characters, and actors who can handle the necessary nuances, you should have something solid on your hands - and that’s exactly what this winning effort is.

by Bill Gibron

14 Jun 2008


We often forget how much actual art there is in the art of animation. Not so much skill or filmmaking acumen, but genuine, painstaking personal craft. After all, the genre is built on the drawing, the pen and ink providence that, through motion, constructs an aesthetically pleasing perception of the world. It’s what the Great Masters strived for when they put oil to canvas, or chisel to stone. It’s also what directors and illustrators focus on when they put cells to celluloid for that all important imitation of life. Yet sometimes, concept transcends creativity, leading to something both revolutionary and retrograde.

Such is the case with Lawrence Jordan. Having been involved in making his “cartoon collages” since the ‘50s, the bay area maverick has seen both his Victorian styled stop motion cut outs and meditative live action tone poems celebrated as intense, inspired, and most importantly, artistic. Now, Facets Video has compiled a four disc DVD box set celebrating the man’s career. Entitled The Lawrence Jordan Album, we get two sets of animation, and two additional collections of standard cinematic statements. Yet once viewed, it is clear that there is nothing “typical” about what this inventive, sometimes irritating auteur has to offer.

Disc one takes us through the most typical of Jordan’s work, with pieces ranging from 1961 (“Duo Concertantes”) to 2004 (“Enid’s Idyll”). Following themes typically built around particular classical compositions, the 10 presentations illustrate the main muse that the filmmaker follows. The second DVD delves into the other side of Jordan’s passion. Known as “The H.D. Trilogy” (based on the poet Hilda Doolittle and her long form elegy “Hermetic Definitions”) this trip through Italy, Greece and Britain serves as a statement about aging gracefully, and vitally, through a world seemingly ignorant of its history. Disc three returns to the careful collage style, the trio of films following similar pattern. The final DVD delivers seven more live action efforts, including the stellar “Sacred Art of Tibet”.

Together, these films tell a compelling story, the implied narrative centering on an idealist locked in a battle between the suggested and the sensible. The first few films argue for a man exploring the very limits of a certain set agenda. As the gorgeous tones of the “Gymnopedies” or “Moonlight Sonata” play, Jordan juxtaposes images from ancient tapestries and etchings, old world wonders manipulated in such a way as to suggest Monty Python’s Terry Gilliam without a sense of humor. Certain constants resonate throughout - the crying, all seeing eyes; the escape implied in the hot air balloon; the grace of the human body; the undeniable beauty in nature. When combined with Jordan’s seemingly random approach (objects fly in and out of frame with minimal reference to anything storied or purposefully plotted), one gets the impression of an effervescent vision inspired by too many dreams and not enough drama.

Yet Lawrence Jordan’s scattershot stratagem can be very effective. “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, Samuel Taylor’s lyrical ballad about the seemingly supernatural events that occur to a sailor as he heads home, benefits from this wide open imagination approach. It’s a masterstroke to take the arc poetics the material provides and provide some manner of visual association. The other animations of Disc three follow a similar pattern. “Sophie’s Place” does try to intimate a centeral location and person, but the boundaries of such an idea are pushed, and then broken, time and again. Similarly, “Blue Skies Beyond the Looking Glass” gives us man (in the form of old Hollywood stars) vs. nature, the ephemeral and the exacting in close quarters combat.

Yet it’s his live action work which resonates deeper. The “HD Trilogy”, for example, explores elements that, even today, many filmmakers fail to bother with. Acting as a stand-in for both Doolittle and the poem’s complex protagonist, actress Joanna McClure depicts aging sensuality with frank openness and abject honesty. There are times when she appears frail and fragile. In other sepia toned lights, she sizzles beyond what her beauty pageant betters could ever accomplish. As the material turns contemplative and more insular, Jordan investigates the intimate. McClure bravely responds with nude scenes, self-reflection, and a last act sequence where all we see is her philosophical face, mind lost in deep thought. Some may see this trip through Italy and Greece (with a side trek through the cemeteries of London) as an extended travelogue. Sadly, they are missing the major point of this material.

The last disc is not so deceptive. Here, Jordan provides what some might consider straight forward documentaries. Of course, his clash of images style remains real and intact. Some of his subjects are fairly obvious. “Views of a City” looks at a burgeoning metropolis through the various reflective surfaces within, while “In a Summer Garden” and “Winter Light” are vistas captured in a self explanatory form. Perhaps the best example of what Jordan can accomplish with both his fact and fiction conceit is the vibrant “Sacred Art of Tibet”. Using a voice over that explains the various deities in the country’s religion, the filmmaker manipulates the material, double exposures and camera tricks creating an epiphany like look at the psychedelic dimension of faith. It stands as a fascinating piece.

In fact, all ‘facets’ of The Lawrence Jordan Album stand the test of time and post-modern temperament. As with any overview, the sudden sandwiching of movies that were never meant to ‘play’ together can be off putting. One sees patterns purposely avoided thanks to the displacement of years, and it causes a kind of fault the artist is far from guilty of. In fact, if one takes this box set as a gallery exhibit, a chance to view Jordan as a whole and not just a singular selection of one or two works, a prescience evolves. There is humor of the grotesque here, anatomical models dancing like chorus girls in a cheap vaudeville revue. Similar, Jordan applies a dream logic even more specious than David Lynch’s psyche scarred scenarios. Yet there is no denying that what he forges is, as Ed Blank of the Pittsburgh Press referred to it as “pure film”.

Indeed, The Lawrence Jordan Album could be subtitled “A Primer on the Language of the Artform”. Like a grammar guide required of school children to understand the fundamentals, and the tenet bending nuances, of writing and the resulting literature, this complicated creator reveres the rules, only to then break them with radical regularity. It’s the perfect amalgamation of what many in creativity already know - you’ve got to perfect the basics before venturing out into the unknown. With their spinning orbs, buried pagan symbols, understated purpose, and overdone calculations, Jordan’s work joins the ranks of other fringe finery. He may not deserve a place among the mainstream, but to understand the normative, one needs to know his formidable flights of fancy. They help put animation, and its internal element of art, into proper perspective.

by Bill Gibron

12 Jun 2008


Feel that heat? Summer is really starting to fire up. For 13 June, here are the films in focus:

The Incredible Hulk [rating: 7]

It has to be said that one of the most “incredible” things about this so-called reinvention of the Hulk is how close it is to Ang Lee’s vision.

When Marvel made the decision to take over the “creative direction” of the big screen adaptations of their characters, geek nation remained skeptical. After all, just because the company knows comic books doesn’t mean it understands the cinematic translations of same. Luckily, Iron Man has quelled a great many of those fears. It stands as Summer 2008’s greatest surprise. Now, hot on the heels of that success comes the reboot of the Incredible Hulk. Yes, Ang Lee already made this movie five years ago, but none except a few clued in critics enjoyed its psychologically-oriented narrative. No, what devotees wanted was a big green giant (and accompanying action “smashing”) they could comprehend and champion. This time around, they more or less got their wish. read full review…

Bigger, Stronger, Faster* [rating: 9]

...if anyone wants to have a serious discussion about the entire supplement situation, this excellent film is a good place to start.

Steroids - the word alone strikes fear in the hearts of sports fans and athletes alike. Thirty years ago, the anabolic hormone replacement therapy was a common, under the counter practice. Everyone from bodybuilders to professional football players hit the ‘juice’ as a means of getting bigger, training harder, and repairing physical damage faster. Such notable superstars as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Hulk Hogan admitted to using the substance to gain that all important competitive advantage over others. But somewhere along the last three decades, steroids stopped being subterranean cool. They went from an accepted unspoken supplement to international pariah. In his masterful, sly documentary Bigger, Stronger, Faster, former power lifter Chris Bell discusses when he thinks the perception changed, and how little change such renewed awareness has actually brought about. read full review…

Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired [rating: 9]

Roman Polanski deserves his badge of dishonor, no question about it. This amazing documentary argues that others need to start sporting one as well.

Ask any casual film fan about Roman Polanski, the brilliant Polish moviemaker responsible for ‘70s classics like Rosemary’s Baby and Chinatown, and you’re likely to get the following response: “Wasn’t he the guy who raped that girl and then ran off to Europe to avoid prosecution?” Indeed, eight years to the day that his beautiful wife, Sharon Tate, was murdered in the Helter Skelter rampage of Charlie Manson and his family, the director was to be placed on trial for the seduction, drugging, and ‘he said/she said’ sexual encounter with a 13 year old girl. At the time, it was a true tabloid sensation, a circus wrapped inside the most sizzling of scandals. Today, it’s a story relegated to the above-mentioned gross overgeneralization. Thanks to Marina Zenovich’s brilliant new documentary, Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, the closest thing to the truth finally gets a much needed airing. read full review…

Other Releases—In Brief

The Happening [rating: 2]

Newsweek Magazine must still be smarting. Back in 2002, as Signs was gearing up for its box office assault, the publication called M. Night Shyamalan “The Next Spielberg”. Aside from the bald audacity of such a claim, the Indian born filmmaker had only made three films previous. Sure, The Sixth Sense was very good, and Unbreakable perhaps even better, but even the writer/director dismissed his first feature film, Wide Awake, as a failure. Still, many found the periodical’s claim to have some minor merit. With what he had accomplished in such a short time, Shyamalan looked like the real deal. Now he looks like garbage.The Happeningis destined to go down as either the kitschiest camp trick ever played on an audience by a former A-list filmmaker, or the last gasp in a career downward spiral so massive that Trent Reznor would be jealous. It takes a bad b-movie ideal, dresses it up in fancy framing and composition, and asks us to believe in its Bert I. Gordon goofiness. Even worse, it doesn’t appear that Shyamalan is simply having a laugh. Pre-publicity has commented on how the director is excited to give fans his first “R-rated” horror film. In interviews, he seems to genuinely believe that this will be a solid scarefest. Clearly, Lady in the Water wasn’t the only delusion this non-autuer suffered from.

by Bill Gibron

12 Jun 2008


Ask any casual film fan about Roman Polanski, the brilliant Polish moviemaker responsible for ‘70s classics like Rosemary’s Baby and Chinatown, and you’re likely to get the following response: “Wasn’t he the guy who raped that girl and then ran off to Europe to avoid prosecution?” Indeed, eight years to the day that his beautiful wife, Sharon Tate, was murdered in the Helter Skelter rampage of Charlie Manson and his family, the director was to be placed on trial for the seduction, drugging, and ‘he said/she said’ sexual encounter with a 13 year old girl. At the time, it was a true tabloid sensation, a circus wrapped inside the most sizzling of scandals. Today, it’s a story relegated to the above-mentioned gross overgeneralization. Thanks to Marina Zenovich’s brilliant new documentary, Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, the closest thing to the truth finally gets a much needed airing.

What’s clear is that Polanski and Samantha (Gailey) Geimer did indeed engage in physical contact, forced or otherwise. While the director pled innocent during his initial arrangements, the discovery of a pair of panties led to a backroom plea agreement. What’s also clear is that, through her lawyer, Geimer and her stage door mother wanted this case concluded in the most calm and clandestine manner possible. The early ‘70s was still a time when “accusing the victim” could be used in courtrooms, and while Geimer’s name (and reputation) was not public knowledge in the US, she was already labeled a pariah throughout Europe. In addition, while prosecutor Roger Gunson and defense attorney Douglas Dalton were on differing sides of the situation, both acknowledged that Polanski would not be in self-imposed exile today if it weren’t for the fame whoring judge at the center of the case.

The late Laurence J. Rittenband is painted as a series of concerning contradictions, a man obsessed with high profile celebrity crimes who himself aspired to similar notoriety as the arbiter of same. He purposely asked to be on the Polanski case, and used it as the basis for his own surreal courtroom drama. Zenovich does a brilliant job of deconstructing the truth. As part of his plea, Polanski was promised probation. The judge felt such a stance would get him in hot water with the media. As a compromise, all decided on a 90 day stay at the State Prison at Chino. While it would technically be for further discretionary review, it was farcical formality. Once released, Polanski would be more or less free. And the director actually did go to jail. He served 42 days in isolation, administrators afraid of what the prison population would do to a convicted child molester.

Oh course, what many in the mythology don’t acknowledge - and in turn, avoid today as being far outside the current social stigma - is that Polanski’s case was always going to be probation. He was a foreigner, easily deportable, and rich enough to fight any attempt at long term incarceration. The victim’s reluctance to testify also factored in to the supposed resolution. The reason Polanski served any time whatsoever is that Rittenband wanted to look tough on crimes of this nature. He wasn’t going to let stardom alter his perceived course of punishment. It is at this moment when Zenovich’s story goes from fascinating to sensational, and then shocking. It is clear that the judge wanted nothing more than to maintain a certain reputation with the press. He felt pressure to make sure Polanksi merely didn’t “walk”. Of course, this meant violating every code of judicial ethics that there were by manipulating lawyers into doing what he wanted and reneging on deals that were sealed behind closed courthouse doors.

That both sides now acknowledge that this happened turns the story at the center of Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired into one of the biggest miscarriages of justice ever. No one is denying that the director deserved punishment. Even when she intercuts information about Polanski’s past - his family destruction by the Nazis, the death of his wife at the hands of Manson - Zenovich never apologizes for what her subject did. For the filmmaker, his penchant for underage girls was clearly a carryover from a life on his own and a swinging ‘60s sense of invincibility. He never really denied the affair, just that it was rape. We even learn of the long term relationship he carried on with a teenage Natasha Kinski. Surprisingly, few in his homeland were up in arms over their May-December dalliances.

No, this documentary also indicts America, viewing it in the craven, prurient Puritanical light the country continues to be filtered through. Rittenband’s reactions are seen as the slightly insane ravings of a man perfectly in tune with how La-La land treats the truth. He overreacts when Polanski, on business for an upcoming movie, is photographed seated between two women during Munich’s Oktoberfect. When his very own Department of Corrections releases the director after less than half of his “sentence”, Rittenband takes it personally. Such invested irresponsibility is the real reason Polanski left. It wasn’t because he wanted to avoid further prosecution or his possible punishment. It’s because he could no longer count on getting a fair shake in a system that seemed to be making up the rules as it - or its representative, Rittenband - went along.

Sadly, it seems that no one really pays attention to the truth. Current reviews from Variety on down still tow a simplistic party line - Roman Polanski ran to France to avoid his guilt. In some ways, that’s the Cliff’s Notes version of what happened, substituting liability with legal logistics. Clearly, Zenovich made this movie to clear up the misconceptions, and with the myriad of talking heads she has at her disposal, her point is plainly and efficiently made. What remains is the ancillary belief that, no matter the amount of penance or perceived penance he paid, a severe lack of judgment forever altered the fate of one of film’s most important and influential auteurs. Roman Polanski deserves his badge of dishonor, no question about it. This amazing documentary argues that others need to start sporting one as well.

by Bill Gibron

12 Jun 2008


Steroids - the word alone strikes fear in the hearts of sports fans and athletes alike. Thirty years ago, the anabolic hormone replacement therapy was a common, under the counter practice. Everyone from bodybuilders to professional football players hit the ‘juice’ as a means of getting bigger, training harder, and repairing physical damage faster. Such notable superstars as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Hulk Hogan admitted to using the substance to gain that all important competitive advantage over others. But somewhere along the last three decades, steroids stopped being subterranean cool. They went from an accepted unspoken supplement to international pariah. In his masterful, sly documentary Bigger, Stronger, Faster, former power lifter Chris Bell discusses when he thinks the perception changed, and how little change such renewed awareness has actually brought about.

Bell believes, rightfully or wrongfully, that steroids are immoral. It’s a lesson he learned from his mother, in conjunction with a clear ‘80s kid connection to Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No”. When he learns that his brothers “Mad Dog” Mike and “Smelly” Mark both now use the drugs (as part of a desire to be professional athletes) he goes on a performance enhancement spiritual quest, debunking the myths surrounding the subject while uncovering the causes for its continued demonization. One fact that Bigger, Stronger, Faster (wonderfully subtitled “The Side Effects of Being American”) uncovers is that many of the claims about deaths from steroid use are wildly overstated. While the main medical opponent of the substance continues his rallying cry, two other physicians challenge the lack of actual empirical evidence.

That’s the key to understanding Bell’s position. There is lots of anecdotal ‘proof’ that steroids cause numerous, near fatal side effects, and when combined with other elements in an athlete’s strenuous course of preparation, they may (key word - MAY) hasten death. But it’s compelling to watch the film deconstruct Lyle Alzado’s claims that he died as a result of his 16 years of use (there was never an established link between his brain cancer and the drug) or question Donald Hooton on his conviction that steroids led to his son’s suicide. When confronted with other possibilities, the still grieving father reverts right back to rhetoric, restating a non-scientific link over and over. Bell makes it clear that changing one’s natural body chemistry is dangerous at the very least, but by the end of the film, he’s done a decent job of taking the skull off of steroids mass murderer crossbones. 

Sadly, most people will focus on the seemingly pro-steroid message presented here and avoid the more personal problems. It is clear, at least from a contextually lax cinematic standpoint, that Chris’ brother Mike is a mess. After his brief stint as a semi-recognizable wrestling toadie (never a star, but the go to guy when the main event needed a patsy), he seems a broken man. Unable to settle down and longing for a limelight he never really got, he becomes Bigger, Stronger, Faster‘s most fascinating ‘character’. When questioned about his dissatisfaction, he has no real reason for being so unsettled. Later, when it seems his desire to be ‘better than average’ may never work out, Chris again asks about why he can’t be happy just being who he is. The look on Mike’s confused face says it all.

Mark, at least, seems more levelheaded in his pursuit. Recognizing the need to use steroids to compete with others in the pumped up world of power lifting, he makes a fragile agreement with his wife. After one more competition, he will quit. The reason is simply - they want to try and have a second child. Of course, a casual question from Chris reveals that, as of now, the pact is merely temporary. There is a clear undercurrent of addiction at the center of Bigger, Stronger, Faster - both a physical need for users to continue gaining mass, and a psychological edge that’s hard to shake. When the conversation swings around to sports, the concept of fairness is tossed around quite a bit. It seems to circumvent any discussion about the eventual mental and physiological longing involved with prolonged use.

In fact, as the subtitle suggests, Americans are equally part of the performance enhancement junkie culture. Ben Johnson, the Canadian Olympic athlete who was stripped of his gold medal when it was discovered he tested positive for doping, continues to be denounced. But the second place finisher, Carl Lewis, was also found to be cheating…BEFORE the games had started. Yet his results were covered up by the United States so he could compete in Seoul for the Red, White, and Blue. Jose Canseco, the crackpot ‘roid head with a penchant for backing into the truth, is seen as a smarmy savior to a sport that had a future president backing its “chicks dig the long ball” belief system. From Congressmen who are unsure of the laws they supported to high minded pundits proclaiming a knowledge of a substance that few truly understand, Bell argues that, as long as dingers are heading out of ball parks and favored teams are taking home championships, there are not real victims - only victors.

Of course, all of this leads to the crux of Bell’s position - if steroids are so unproven, so contentious in what they can and cannot be linked to, why are they so stigmatized. Again, sportsmanship is brought up, as is that ever popular politicians’ lament of “for the sake of the children”. The filmmaker may not help his case with his Michael Moore meets Morgan Spurlock intrusive irony. When he asks a male model about steroid use, or a porn star about liquid Viagra shot straight into “the source”, we see the point he’s making in obvious, slightly overbearing obviousness. Similarly, the heart-to-hearts with his distraught mother (very religious, she thought she “raised” her boys to be better than this) have no real payoff, the pain shuttled aside for more shots of Arnold and Sly.

In the end, Bigger, Stronger, Faster is not out to compliment or condemn its subjects. All jocks and jocularity aside, there is a strong core element of cultural brainwashing at work within the revelations. It’s now men who suffer from body image issues, the notion that machismo (and resulting sexual attraction) comes only from six-pack abs and bulging pecs permeating the skivvy social structure. Bell himself admits that as the short, fat middle child, bodybuilding was a way of gaining a certain style of acceptance. Now, years later, when none of that really matters, the fascination with physicality remains. Whether it’s for looks or to be the last man standing, it’s clear that somewhere along its trip from tonic to toxin, steroids have been misunderstood. Bell’s documentary may not change that status, but if anyone wants to have a serious discussion about the entire supplement situation, this excellent film is a good place to start.

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