Friday, August 14, 2009

I Like Iron Mike

Hello small babies,

God bless us every one.

So last night I had the pleasure of enjoying the new Mike Tyson documentary, Tyson.

Tyson is directed by James Toback, one of the most eccentric, challenging directors working today.

This is Toback's first doc, but Tyson explores themes of sexuality, racism, madness and drug use that permeate his body of work. If you are interested in exploring his work I recommend watching all of his films, but Fingers (starring Harvey Keitel as a pianist/mob enforcer) and Black and White (a sprawling, Altmanesque exploration of race and class that features Mike Tyson as himself in a supporting role) are both particularly good.

Toback - who wrote a notorious biography of NFL great Jim Brown - befriended Tyson years ago and his film gives Iron Mike a chance to tell his side of his sad, maddening, bizarre story. In fact, Tyson is mostly just our eponymous anti-hero speaking on camera, telling his own story in his own words. Toback's masterful use of split-screen, audio editing and found footage creates a gripping setting for the loquacious ex-champ to express himself - sometimes laughing, sometimes crying - in his own unique way.

Tyson comes off as a troubled man who was driven to become Heavyweight Champion of the World not through a sense of mission or a striving for greatness, but by a terrible, gnawing insecurity for his own physical safety that resulted from experiences he had as a child, growing up in a particularly brutal section of Brooklyn, NY.

The Tyson we see in the film, is poetic, thoughtful, humbled, regretful, joyous when he speaks about his 6 children and generous when he speaks about his fellow fighters. He is also, clearly a complex, sensitive man who may always be haunted by his own peculiar demons, but Tyson makes no apologies. In much the same manner that Mike used to enter the ring with no robe save for a lather of sweat or a kind of improvised tunic fashioned from a gym towel, Tyson wastes little time with formalities. This film comes out swinging and its a knockout.

If you live in Nashville, you missed your last chance to see the film last night. However, I understand the movie has already been released to DVD and is available on Netflix. Check it out.

In the meantime, here are two Tyson docs I am hosting on my YouTube channel.

This first one from ESPN's excellent Beyond the Glory series of boxing career retrospectives.

This next doc is a film made for The Learning Channel entitled The Mike Tyson story.

If all that punching has you wanting to rock out. Check out my newest CD...


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Joe Nolan

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