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oscar xiv: murderball

Murderball is a documentary that lies somewhere between Dogtown and Z-Boys and Hoop Dreams. The former is a preening piece on athletes who participate in a sport outside the mainstream; the latter is a classic film that extends its subject matter beyond basketball to an examination of life for two African-American boys. While Murderball's ambitions are Dogtown-sized, the quality of the film is much higher.

The film makers don't always seem to trust their material (wheelchair rugby played by macho quadriplegics) ... the movie gives off a feeling of manufactured drama at times. But the stories of the athletes, and the (infrequent for a sports film) action-packed scenes of what is best described as bumper cars played by Mad Max refugees, tip the scales towards excellence. It's also interesting that real-life events conspire to prevent some of the more predictable drama ... I'm trying to avoid spoilers here ... perhaps that's why the film makers try to hype up other dramatic aspects of the narrative. But it works ... when things don't always turn out "right," the film feels far more "real" than when the hype takes over.

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