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Telling stories about real people is a complicated business. Transitioning reality to the silver screen involves all manner of delicacy (assuming the filmmakers are interested in maintaining a clear and truthful relationship to that reality). And as the people portrayed become more complicated, the overall levels of complexity grow exponentially.

Harry Haft was a light heavyweight boxer who had a brief run as a pro in the late 1940s; his overall record was 13-8 and his most notable bout was his last, a fight with none other than Rocky Marciano himself. Looking at that snippet of a life, one might wonder why anyone would give this guy the biopic treatment.

But Harry Haft was a survivor of Auschwitz. A Polish Jew, Harry survived because he was willing to fight. Specifically, he fought against his fellow prisoners for the amusement of the Nazi officers … and for the right to live another day. It was that experience that landed him in the boxing ring after the war.

“The Survivor” – currently available on HBO Max – is Harry Haft’s story. Or rather, stories. Indeed, the film offers us a glimpse at Haft’s journey from all sides. We’re given an up-close look at the brutal calculus of self-preservation in the face of a relentlessly cruel and callous adversary. We’re also allowed to get a sense of the aftermath of those horrible calculations, of what it means to live after others have died. And we’re presented with the aftermath’s aftermath, a look at how difficult and even impossible it may be to move forward when bearing the weight of those choices.

Directed by Barry Levinson from a script by Justine Juell Gillmer (based on the work of Alan Scott Haft, Harry’s son), “The Survivor” is a powerful and surprisingly dense film, one that manages to pack a lot of punches (literal and figurative) into its 129 minutes. It is a well-crafted and powerful film, one anchored by an utterly transformative lead performance by Ben Foster; its large budget and high production values in many ways belie its challenging nature. It is an incredibly compelling viewing experience, even as many parts of it prove rather difficult to watch.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 28 November 2018 14:07

‘Creed II’ an exceptional rematch

The success of 2015’s “Creed” was surprising in a lot of ways. The notion of creating a torch-passing sequel to the “Rocky” franchise seemed like a reach. And yet, thanks to the talents of writer/director Ryan Coogler and great performances from Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson and a shockingly nuanced turn courtesy of Sylvester Stallone, it turned out to be an outstanding film.

After that film’s success, of course we were going to get a sequel to the sequel, which brings us to “Creed II.”

It’s not the same behind-the-camera team – Coogler is gone, replaced by Steven Caple Jr., while the screenplay was co-written by Juel Taylor and Stallone from a story by Cheo Coker and Sacha Penn – but the on-screen talent remains, with Jordan, Thompson and Stallone all returning. And while this new movie doesn’t quite ascend to the same level as the first film, “Creed II” is an excellent movie in its own right, finding ways to ground its titular character in life’s realities while also presenting him with a terrifying new foe.

Published in Movies

Montville book explores a turbulent half-decade for boxing champ Ali

Published in Sports
Wednesday, 08 June 2016 11:23

The G.O.A.T.

It has been several days since the man known as 'The Greatest of All Time' shuffled off this mortal coil, when his broken body finally gave out in an Arizona hospital. As we've seen in the worldwide reaction, that physical end did nothing to kill the spirit of the larger-than-life phenomenon that was Muhammad Ali.

Published in The Sports Edge

MANILA, Philippines - World boxing star Manny Pacquiao's April 9 bout with Timothy Bradley came under a cloud Monday when the Philippine elections commission was asked to stop the Las Vegas match because it would give the Filipino slugger and senatorial candidate massive publicity.

Former Rep. Walden Bello, also a senatorial candidate in the May 9 elections, said in his petition to the Commission on Elections that allowing the welterweight fight to proceed during the campaign period would violate a law giving candidates equal access to media publicity and a ban on TV and radio programs favoring a candidate.

Published in Sports
Wednesday, 05 June 2013 11:07

Celebrity Slam - June 5, 2013

Boy band brawl?

There's no doubt that there are a lot of people out there who would love to see a boy band brawl. As it turns out, you can count Max George, frontman of The Wanted, among them.

George and bandmate Jay McGuiness made some interesting comments to the NY Daily News recently. According to the duo, the band is totally on board with the idea of setting up some sort of 5-on-5 battle royale between themselves and fellow Brit-pop boybanders One Direction.

Published in Celebrity Slam

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico Describing himself as 'a proud gay man,' Puerto Rican featherweight Orlando Cruz on Thursday became what is believed to be the first pro boxer to come out as openly homosexual while still competing.

Cruz told The Associated Press in an interview that he is relieved about his decision but had initial reservations.

Published in Sports
Wednesday, 13 June 2012 15:17

Bradley scores decision win over Pacquiao

LAS VEGAS - Timothy Bradley promised to shock, though the biggest shock in his fight with Manny Pacquiao came from the judges' scorecards.

In a fight Pacquiao seemed to have in hand, two judges decided otherwise, giving Bradley a split decision Saturday night and ending the Filipino fighter's remarkable seven-year unbeaten run.

Promoter Bob Arum fumed, the crowd at the MGM Grand arena booed, and Pacquiao seemed stunned when the decision was announced. Arum said there would be a November rematch, though he blasted the way the decision went down.

"I've never been as ashamed of the sport of boxing as I am tonight," said Arum, who handles both fighters.

Published in Sports
Wednesday, 22 February 2012 16:54

Klitschko unanimously outpoints Chisora

MUNICH - Vitali Klitschko's 10th successful defense of his WBC heavyweight title ended in chaos Saturday night when challenger Dereck Chisora brawled with former WBA champion David Haye during the post-match news conference.

Chisora taunted Haye about losing the WBA belt to Klitschko's younger brother, Wladimir, last July, leading to a heated exchange before Chisora knocked a bottle out of Haye's hand and they came to blows.

Haye also fought with members of Chisora's entourage, and his coach, Adam Booth, was left bleeding from a cut on his head.

Published in Sports

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