Up for Grabs (2005) *** 1/2
Written, directed, produced by Michael Wranovics. 90 minutes Rated G (nothing objectionable)
So far as I know, this is the first movie by Mr. Wranovics, and it’s a lulu. Its maker, an MBA from Stanford, devoted eight Silicon Valley years to Big Money, then quit in favor of movie-making. We should all thank him for that mega-switch.
We should also celebrate what seems to be a rebirth of Cds. No, not the little round things but what I think of as Creative Documentaries. Mind you, I am not 100 percent sure that this film category is something new, but from my provincial point of view it feels that way. In an age that has Hollywood (in the widest sense) increasingly churning out no-think, zillion-bucks, action and more action flicks, no-brain special effects behemoths, think-films are a treasure, and really seem to pop up regularly.
Part (something like 99 %) of this welcome trend is found in independent theaters. In my case – mind you, this is fact and not a plug—the local showroom, i.e. Boardman’s Art Theatre, has shown, in recent times, a slew of admirable, non-mainstream movies which included (off the top of my head), “Fahrenheit 9/11,” “The Corporation,” “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill.” “The Yes Men,” “Watermarks,” “My Architect,” “ Control Room,” “The Education of Shelby Knox,” “ Baadasssss!” “Enron, the smartest guys in the room,” and many more.
The U.S.A is a country of an immesne number of religions. “Up for Grabs” deals with one of them, baseball. Specifically the game where, in 2001, the San Francisco slugger hit his record-breaking homer. The rush for the ball by tons of aficionados came to the peak of restaurateur Alex Popov grabbing said ball but losing it to Patrick Hayashi.
From the competition of the two men hangs a tale that’s comical, silly, controversial, etc.—a tale that reaches huge proportions in time, arguments, silliness, twists, coverage by the press, by TV (especially one cameraman), claims and disclaims, the potential value of the ball ranging from one million dollars to twice that much, to the involvement of the LAW (via a very good judge), to Mr. Popov’s girlfriend being masked (we will never, never see her face,) to repeated proofs of infantilism, to a surprising auction ---- and more Americana.
It is a howl, a scream – and more. You wonder what nations that are bereft of baseball –those poor people, including those of rich countries—will make of this strange game, this situation, and this documentary.
I cannot let this cat (i.e. movie) get out of the bag and spoil the guaranteed fun of the film audiences. Alfred Hitchcock was so right when he begged the audiences of “Psycho” to keep mum about the film. I can only give you my word that you absolutely don’t have to be a baseball fan to enjoy this totally original work. Note too that 90 minutes, not one less and not one more, are the perfect length for this particular documentary.