Day 26 & Day 27 – The Polka King & The Battered Bastards of Baseball

So, yesterday I came home and watched The Polka King. Then I went out to see the phenomenal J. Roddy Walston and the Business in Boston where I got accidentally drunk and stayed out most of the night. So, two reviews today.

Resized_20180203_100438

Review #1

Movie Title: The Polka King

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. and 35 min.

Rated: TV-14

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

The movie opens with Jan Lewan (Jack Black) playing a local hall full of the elderly with his particular brand of polka. We also meet his wife Marla Lewan (Jenny Slate) who comes off as a huckster. Jan comes off as a sweet guy, but also a charlatan. Jan is incredibly optimistic and charismatic, but his band is underpaid and about to fall apart. In order to spice things up he hires a person to wear a dancing bear and dancing chicken costume. He also starts taking investments from his fans in order to build a polka empire. Promising a 12% return he accepts his first check for $10,000 dollars.

As far as ponzi schemes go Jan Lewan’s story seems preposterous until you realize it is largely true. Once the investigations start, it is clear where Lewan is going to end up, but the ride is still interesting. Jan Lewan is a strangely compelling character performed well by Jack Black. The mixture of all the characters results in a fascinating black comedy. Jason Schwartzman is great as Micky Pizzazz and Jacki Weaver has a great turn as Barb Jan’s disbelieving mother-in-law.

With that said, I dislike how they turned Lewan into a sentimental figure. He defrauded the elderly out of their retirements and has promised to try and pay them back. He may have been charismatic and funny, which is how he got people’s money, but I would have liked a little more villainy in his character.

Verdict:

The Polka King is not laugh out loud funny, but it is a spectacle to behold. The fact that large swaths of the story is true makes it that much more incredible. See it.

Resized_20180203_100706

Review #2

Movie Title: The Battered Bastards of Baseball

First Watch / Repeat Viewing

Running Time: 1 hr. and 20 min.

Rated: Not Rated

Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo

Where did I watch it?: Home

Review:

The Battered Bastards of Baseball is a documentary about one of the last great independent baseball teams, the Portland Mavericks. It also serves as a biography for the team’s founder Bing Russell. Both parts of the story were fascinating. Bing Russell is perhaps best well known today for being the father of acting legend Kurt Russell. Bing grew up on New York Yankees baseball forging personal relationships with hall of fame players Lefty Gomez, Joe DiMaggio, and Lou Gehrig as a child. The shots he took from Yankees spring training were a reminder that the pomp and pageantry surrounding baseball today has not always been the case. Some of the greatest players of all time practiced in front of practically no one.

Bing grew up to have a successful acting career where he worked alongside John Wayne, Ronald Reagan, Steve McQueen, and Yul Brynner among others. He was one of the stars of Bonanza and was said to have been killed on screen 126 times. But, one of his passions remained baseball. He went as far as producing instructional baseball videos that were adopted by some major league teams.

After Bonanza was cancelled Bing was bored until he saw an opportunity. The AAA Portland Beavers were leaving Portland because the market had dried up. In Portland, Bing created professional baseball’s only independent team. Bing built the team from the ground up by hiring characters from all over the world to play for his team. He revitalized baseball in Portland in a classic David and Goliath story. Not surprisingly major league baseball’s organizations quashed Russell’s experiment, but the ride was wildly entertaining, and several fascinating figures emerged from the Portland Mavericks experiment.

Verdict:

If you are a fan of baseball this is a must see documentary. If you aren’t a fan of baseball maybe you’ll become one. See it.

Tomorrow’s Movie: The Open House (2018)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s