Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The speed of fame

Sony Pictures Classics
Fyodor Productions
Wild Bunch/Green Room Films
Defiance Entertainment
directed by James Toback
Now available on DVD

Who were the two biggest stars of the 1980's?

Mike Tyson and Michael Jackson.

The film opens with the roar of the crowd at the Las Vegas Hilton on the night of Nov. 22, 1986 when Mike Tyson TKO's Trevor Berbick to become WBC heavyweight champion of the world at age 20. (The short fight is here.)

Who would have known at that point the trajectory Tyson's life would take thereafter? This film examines that, with Tyson himself doing all of the talking. As we watch the fights and videos of him from the 80's and 90's, Tyson narrates with the perspective of time.

It's very sad. I was a fan of both Tyson and Jackson--the Heavyweight Champion of the World (he did unify all three belts) and the King of Pop. I think both men suffered because they had no true friends. Neither had someone to say, "No." As in, "No, Mike, you're not going to be heavyweight champion forever. Instead of having three ridiculous mansions, have one or two nice homes. One sports car instead of a fleet. Two bodyguards instead of a posse. Let me find someone besides Don King to manage your money because there really isn't a money printer in your basement."

Or, "No, Michael, you shouldn't continue to mutilate yourself with endless plastic surgery. Fine, you hate your father. So talk to a therapist about it instead of trying to look like Plastic-Man. And the kids can't stay overnight. It's not appropriate, and it makes you vulnerable to criminal charges. We'll send them home in limos if their parents don't pick them up."

No friends. Just hangers-on who try to suck as much of the fame and riches as they can. Tyson's monthly expenses, which became public in bankruptcy court, were a joke. Six figures for cellphones? I guess he hadn't heard about AT&T Unlimited for $99.99. Who are all these people?

Whoever they are, once the arc of fame and fortune descends, they disappear. I don't know what Tyson's current financial situation is. I hope he's all right. It appears that most of the film was shot at a beautiful home above Los Angeles; it's unclear whose home it is. Scenes of Tyson walking alone on the beach at dusk contrast with the home's bright interior.

I highly recommend this film.

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