Clicking and Streaming: 'The Battered Bastards of Baseball' and 'Locke'

City Paper

“The Battered Bastards Of Baseball”

Directed by Chapman Way and Maclain Way

Streaming exclusively on Netflix

The Netflix original documentary “The Battered Bastards of Baseball” details the brief history of the Portland Mavericks, a baseball team founded by actor Bing Russell (deputy on “Bonanza,” father of Kurt) after Major League Baseball moved Portland’s minor league team, the Beavers, to Spokane. Bing’s Mavericks were truly independent with no MLB affiliation (an affront to the “farm team” system and the MLB’s quasi-monopoly over pro ball) and their roster included a mononymous lefthanded catcher named “Swannie,” disgraced punk-as-fuck major leaguer Jim Bouton, a possible FBI informant, and about two dozen more stoners, beardos, and weirdos. Also they had the first female assistant general manager in baseball history and their bat boy was future Academy Award-winner Todd Field (“In the Bedroom”)? This team makes no sense.

Directors Chapman Way and Maclain Way bounce between conversational talking-head interviews and an impressive amount of archival footage, while a playful score from Brocker Way (particularly, a Big Star-ish closing credits song and a Dan Deacon-like leitmotif throughout) affords the Mavericks some shabby nobility. The Mavs existed from 1973-1977, and during that time they were a mini-phenomenon, so much so that the MLB saw it fit to bring the Beavers back to Portland in 1978, putting an end to Bing’s pet project. Wisely, “Battered Bastards” refuses to contrive the team’s moment into the typical “little guy versus the big guy” sports story. Something more nuanced and troubling and actually much more common these days happens here: Little guy beats big guy because big guy didn’t give little guy much thought—that is, until little guy turned nothing into something and so, big guy wants a piece of the action and squashes the little guy. (Brandon Soderberg) 

“Locke”

Directed by Steven Knight

Available on Blu-Ray/DVD and via Amazon and iTunes

One of the many things killing movies is the small-cast, single-set stricture adopted by many low-budget indies. Keeping the expenses down helps the films get made, it’s true, but far too few are able to muster material and vision that transcends those limitations. British import “Locke” nearly doesn’t escape them. But fortunately for writer/director Steven Knight, he’s got a sharper-than-usual conceit and script, not to mention beefcake thespian Tom Hardy to fill up every single frame. One evening Hardy’s Ivan Locke walks off the job site where he’s overseeing construction of a massive skyscraper, gets in his car, and starts driving. And as he drives, he starts making a series of calls on his hands-free phone setup. It wouldn’t do to spoil the details of who he talks to and why—one of the pleasures of the story is how what is said, and isn’t, unfolds—but it soon becomes clear that he’s not heading home to his family. In fact, he is, as he drives and talks, ruining his life. Knight only has a handful of camera angles to work with, and all but one of his small cast never appear on camera, and yet Hardy holds your attention, even through a few moments that seem stage-ier than perhaps need be (e.g. a couple of soliloquies delivered to characters who aren’t on the line). With his lilting Welsh accent and coiled volatility, Hardy sells the whole package and adds another indelible character to his CV: a man so bloody-mindedly narcissistic that he will risk wrecking everything he’s touched just to “do the right thing.” (Lee Gardner) 

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