Just how hot a ticket was James Toback's "Tyson" at the recently concluded Atlanta Film Festival 365? Well, though I can't confirm it, I hear tell that Tyler Perry himself was there, but my own travails simply to get in really set the stage right.
As I was told would be the case, the "press" folk had to line up in a show of just how marginalized we have become, waiting to be seated until everyone who actually bought a ticket or all-access pass had already gone in. There were at least 25 people in front of me in the B-line, so things weren't looking good, and it didn't help matters much at all that the guy directly behind me took it upon himself to - every couple of minutes or so - call a friend who had already gotten in and ask how many seats were left. Believe me, I can't make up anything quite that ludicrous, and it made me rather happy that I have yet to buy a cellular phone of any kind - and as admittedly petty as this is, even happier that I was the very last person given admittance, leaving him to talk on his phone as much as he wanted to.
It was only after getting in that I realized I wouldn't have a seat. Count this as the first time I've encountered the literal definition of "standing room only," but luckily for my feet, Toback's flick is as compelling as it is mercifully short at only about 80 minutes or so.
But of course I digress from the matter at hand. How was the movie itself? Well, considering that it delivers pretty much exactly what the title implies - a whole lot of Mike Tyson talking about Mike Tyson - it's a heck of a lot better than it sounds on paper.
Luckily for viewers, Tyson is a fascinating figure, never stupid by any means but clearly full of contradictions. He veers from surprisingly insightful self analysis to an even more shocking lack of repentance for his most heinous acts (like, say, that little matter of rape.)
The first contradiction, and the one that drives the movie, is that Tyson says early on that he doesn't trust anyone. Well, he clearly does at least trust Toback, and the openness this creates leads to rather amazing moments like Tyson - understandably - tearing up as he describes his mentor and father figure Constantine D'Amato, while at the same time saying that what D'Amato essentially taught him was to live like a savage, about as close as a civilized human being can come to becoming a wild animal.
Even more of a gut punch comes when he describes in very harsh terms and without an ounce of remorse what he still thinks of Desiree Washington, the beauty queen he was convicted of raping (a moment so shocking that it prompted many in the audience to laugh before they caught themselves and realized just how inappropriate it was.)
This is all unveiled with seemingly very little prompting from Toback (and, appropriately enough, often while Tyson is seated on his couch), and the footage that Toback uses to supplement the Tyson interviews will be enlightening both for boxing fans (of which I'm certainly one) and those who find the sport to be a brutal atrocity.
I guarantee you won't be able to take your eyes off of Tyson as his ex-wife Robin Givens, seated right beside him, reveals to Barbara Walters (falsely, the champ insists) that her husband is a manic depressive and much more. And in the footage of Tyson's boxing career, it's fascinating to see, whether you remember this or not, just how much Tyson's first knockout of a heavyweight champ - Trevor Berbick - was a direct passing of the torch from Muhammad Ali.
The only real spot where Toback's approach falls short more than a bit comes near the end, as Tyson tries to describe his simply bizarre actions in and out of the ring after being released from prison (a side of ear, anyone?). An outside voice to offer perspective certainly would have been welcome here.
But overall, what gives Toback's compelling documentary all of its punch is that he never apologizes for the troubled champ, and Tyson never really does either. It's just a fascinating psychological portrait of a clearly troubled soul, and I urge you to see it as soon as you get the chance.
Inside all of us is a Wild Thing!
Being a certified movie addict, I of course went to another flick as soon as I got home from the Atlanta fest on Sunday. And, rather than seeing one of the two movies that champion my dying industry, "State of Play" or "The Soloist," I instead opted for the Disney documentary "Earth," and I'm very happy I did. It's just beautifully shot from start to finish, and there's also just something extremely therapeutic about watching a baby mallard duck trying to fly for the first time. Though it got creamed by Stringer Bell and Sasha Fierce at the Box Office, I was happy to see it still took in an impressive nearly $9 million.
But the most fascinating thing actually happened before the main feature unspooled. A new trailer for Spike Jonze's upcoming "Where the Wild Things Are" (which I've included below because, well, it just rules) hit the screen, and the kids themselves just went wild.
Just the glimpse of one of the creature's horns was enough to prompt at least three of the kids seated around me to blurt out "Wild Thing!", and by the end they were howling along with the beautiful creatures (and believe me, I desperately wanted to join in, but somehow managed to restrain myself.)
I realize this is seriously far from a scientific experiment, but judging from that little sample, I'd have to guess that Warner Brothers will have little to worry about when it finally gets around to releasing this in October (and you can count it, along with "The Brothers Bloom," as one of the two movies I'm most looking forward to this year.) Enjoy the new trailer, and have a perfectly passable Monday. Peace out.