Monday, August 29, 2016


HANDS OF STONE:  The Whitewashing of Roberto Duran
by Don Stradley

Hands of Stone Movie Review

Roberto Duran had a career that defied easy description– he was a jaguar in the guise of an alley cat, the fight fans’ fighter, a hero in Panama, a cult figure in America, putting opponents on the canvas while Ali was appearing on the Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour – and it’s a disservice to refer to him as merely a boxing champion. That’s like saying a 44. Magnum is merely a gun. He once quit in the middle of an important bout with Sugar Ray Leonard, an act that sent people into spasms of anger and self-righteousness, especially those who had never been in a fight. But Duran’s charisma was so great that he came back from his faux pas and continued to make money by hitting people in the face and balls. Edgar Ramirez doesn’t quite capture Duran's fierceness in Hands of Stone, but he’s watchable. In fact, he’s the best thing in a movie that seems designed to present Duran for the politically correct crowd, a Duran without rough edges. 

There’s a scene in Hands of Stone where Duran’s trainer, Ray Arcel (played with sensitivity by Robert De Niro), comments on the state of boxing. “All of the decisions are made in a back room,” he says. “Duran was just a circus animal we needed to sell tickets.”  In this glorious mess of a movie from writer/director Jonathan Jakubowicz, we get such bromides every five minutes or so. That is, when Arcel isn’t wheezing about boxing being an art, or Duran isn’t guzzling ice cream. His biggest vice, it seems, was the raspberry slushy.

We see a very young Duran stealing mangoes to feed his family; we see him become a boxing star; we seem him asleep in a pile of Las Vegas strippers. We see him courting his wife, too, and being a family man, because this movie was, after all, partly funded by Panamanian interests; there was probably some incentive to make Duran appear cuddly.  

In fact, there's so much white-washing of Duran that some fans may be put off by the whole thing. The most glaring example is the scene where Duran taunts Leonard prior to their first fight. We all know that Duran called Leonard a "maricon", the Spanish slang for homosexual. But that whole bit is cleaned up, made more palatable for the sensitive types who may buy a ticket for a boxing movie. There's no talk from Duran about sending opponents to the morgue, and we never get a sense of what a dirty bastard he could be. Remember, this guy was so crafty he could practically headbutt you in the nuts and get away with it.

Did the film producers feel the movie wouldn't play in America if it stuck to what really happened? The few times we see Duran show some of his fabled nastiness, he immediately apologizes to Arcel, saying something along the lines of "Ah gee, I dunno what comes over me." He sounds like Beaver Cleaver after getting caught stealing cookies. And since when did Duran speak English so well?
Not only does Jakubowicz want Duran to be nicer than we remember, he wants him to be more famous than we remember. Every crowd shot looks like a Super Bowl half-time show, even when Duran was fighting in dingy old Madison Square Garden, which wasn't exactly a football stadium. The director likes to cut from these big events to a scene of poor people in Panama gathered around a TV set, but the Panamanians in this movie are just faceless rabble, as perfunctory as the endless talk about the Panama Canal. (Some people watching Hands of Stone may come away thinking Duran fought Leonard for ownership of the canal. I’m serious.)

When Jakubowicz isn’t injecting his movie with Family Channel plot twists, he’s jamming it with arbitrary weird stuff. For instance, there was a highly unlikely scene where Duran is brought to a prison to take part in a bare-knuckle death match with a gigantic inmate. Then there's singer Usher Raymond in the role of Leonard. Usher isn’t so bad - he appears to take the role seriously -  but why are we treated to a scene of Leonard screwing his wife? Was that in case some of Usher’s fans came to the movie and wanted to see his naked ass?

Strangest of all, though, is John Turturro’s turn as Frankie Carbo, the old mobster who controlled boxing back in the 1950s. According to this movie, Carbo met with Arcel prior to Duran’s fight with Davey Moore. Granted, Carbo had a lot of influence, but I doubt he played a part in this 1983 bout. The son of a bitch had been dead since 1976.

Monday, August 22, 2016


Bill Lee wasn’t so strange.

He liked drugs. He listened to rock music. Classical, too. He dabbled in meditation and yoga. At heart, though, he was a baseball player, like any other baseball player. Last I heard, he was living in Maine, teaching the fundamentals of the game to kids.

During his heyday he picked up a nickname – “Spaceman” – because jocks and sportswriters are a decidedly square lot, as sheltered and unhip as Sunday school teachers. A player who gets high, speaks his mind, and defies the front office, as Lee did periodically, must be somewhat shocking to those around him, something short of Charles Manson. I’m not an expert on Bill Lee, but he’s always appeared to be a decent chap. Sure, he was yoked to an anti-establishment stance that was as much a reflection of the times as a personality trait, but he could win 17 or 18 games throwing nothing but junk. Plus, he tried like hell to have integrity. There were other players in Lee’s day who spoke their minds and argued with management, but as we see in Brett Rapkin’s  Spaceman, Lee seemed to care more than the others. At his worst, he was like some college freshman who reads Siddhartha and feels determined to share its meaning with the world. At his best, he was Randall McMurphy in cleats.  

Throughout Spaceman, Lee comes up against various Nurse Ratcheds in the guise of coaches. All Lee has to do is quote Buckminster Fuller to send a Montreal Expos coach into a frothing rage. The powers that be don’t even like his style on the mound, what one coach derides as “a grab-bag of monkeyshit pitches.” The method here is pure 1970s misunderstood rebel-hero, sprinkled with touches of Slapshot, North Dallas Forty, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, and even Bound For Glory. When Lee rhapsodizes late in the movie that he plans to roam the country, discovering baseball in its purest form (“Baseball, softball, wiffle ball, cricket! Pay me in money, pay me in lager, or don’t pay me!”) he sounds suspiciously like Tom Joad telling his ma goodbye before he hits the highway. 

Early on we’re told in big bright letters, Most of This Really Happened…which is fair enough. The best baseball stories are a mix of truth and folklore, but was Lee really so unconcerned about hygiene? “Your farts are an improvement on the B.O.,” says a friend at one point. Not surprisingly, his marriage crumbled at the same time as his career, so we get the obligatory scenes of Lee dealing with a divorce lawyer - he strips down to his briefs in the middle of the guy's office - and pleading with his wife over the phone. These bits feel added on, in case a few females stumble onto the movie by accident. Much more stirring is the footage that plays over the final credits, clips of the real Bill Lee, now a bearish man in his late 60s, still participating in semi-pro games. Watching Lee lumber around the bases is all the proof we need that his love of marijuana was more than matched by his love of competition. 

As Lee, Josh Duhamel spends half the movie in a bathrobe, growling like Nick Nolte. He seems all wrong at first. He's too redneck, which wasn't Lee's vibe at all. By the movie’s middle, though, Duhamel settles into a nice mix of humor and anger. Duhamel also served as one of the movie’s producers, which makes sense. An  actor would certainly nurse a project like this one, because it gives him a chance to “sink his teeth” into the role. Indeed, there are moments when Duhamel overdoes it, but he’s also quite real at times, quite believable as a fading athlete raging against the dying of the light. I especially loved a scene where Lee is pulled over by Canadian Mounties and has to charm his way across the border. The look on his face is priceless when he realizes they’re letting him back into Canada. It tells us more about Lee than any number of scenes where he snorts cocaine or preaches about freedom, or acts as a magnet for period clutter, everything from red suspenders to his collection of jaunty caps, to the green Volkswagen bus that has dangling from its rearview mirror a Native American dream catcher. It's an odd image for a movie where dreams can’t be caught, but have to dance like a knuckleball just to avoid being crushed.


Tuesday, August 16, 2016


Into the Forest Movie Review

I’m having my doubts about Ellen Page. As she moves further away from her earlier roles, where an inner brightness shined through no matter what sort of character she played, she now wears bleakness like an accessory. Watching Page’s evolution has been like watching the Lucky Charms leprechaun turn into Eugene O’Neill.  I understand – Juno was a long time ago, and she’s pushing 30, and she’s taking on projects that seem appropriate for a forward-thinking young woman – but I entered a recent screening of Into The Forrest with growing unease. Would this be more of the “new” Ellen Page? Would it be just another 90 minutes of Page’s elfin face frozen in concern, except, of course, when she’s bawling her eyes out? Someone must tell her that to be a mature performer doesn’t require a sacrifice of her brash likeability. Strange, too, is how she occupies less space in her recent movies, as if she’s slow dancing alone in her own tiny shadow. Her dynamism is gone.

Into The Forrest is the story of two sisters (Page and Evan Rachel Wood) fighting for survival after a mysterious power outage has left America in the dark. Stranded far from the nearest city in their father’s sparse woodland home, they rely on ingenuity not seen since last year when Matt Damon landed on Mars. Directed by Patricia Rozema from her own screenplay (adapted from a novel by Jean Hegland), the movie is watchable if a bit too pat, the sort where all of the men are either rapists or incompetent – the girls’ father dies after an accident with a chainsaw, which made me wonder if Rozema had a bad childhood experience while watching Home Improvement -  and where sisterhood conquers all. A fellow with a cool accent almost comes between them, but not even he can break up these touchy feely siblings. Page, looking healthier and prettier than she has in a while, cries throughout, save for when she’s involved in physical stuff like chopping wood, dancing around a campfire, or shooting a wild pig. Then again, she even cries when she kills the pig. This movie may be Page’s personal best as far as total tears shed, but so much emotional chaos begins to feel monotonous; at one point Rozema jams the camera right into Page’s knotted little face as the tears rush out. Wood does some crying, too, but not as much as Page. Wood is second billed, after all.

We may be in the middle of a golden age as far as “end of society” movies. Someday a movie buff with too much time on his or her hands will link Into The Forrest with How I Live Now and a half dozen others made this decade. They all play the same way (“Hey, what’s wrong with the radio?”) and offer similar messages about how we have only each other once our technology breaks down. To Rozema’s credit, there are no warring tribes to worry about, no zombies, no plagues, nothing that might snap the movie out of its blue mood. She’s determined to tell the tale with a soft touch. But it’s too soft. The score is syrupy, like the crap you’d hear in a yoga studio. Also, I’m not sold on the idea that sisterhood solves everything. It reeks of that Iron John hokum of the nineties, where middle-aged men ran through the woods in face paint, playing drums in the nude.

As for Page, sometimes I wonder if we’re too impressed by her willingness to test herself.  Kudos to her for sidestepping what could’ve been an easy career of teen comedies and comic book movies, but without the padding of flippant dialog and a cool soundtrack,  the thinness of her acting becomes apparent. This isn’t to say she’s not committed to these recent parts – her next project is one where she plays a marine in Afghanistan, which will require more tears, more looks of concern, more wrinkling of her forehead (the most formidable forehead since Isaac Asimov, who could actually flex his forehead like a bicep; she’s not there yet but I’m convinced it’s where Page stores the water for her crying scenes)  – but there’s a shrillness to her in these “serious” roles. Page can show affection or sadness like a champ, and her warm dark eyes still hold some mystery, but everything else comes out like a bird call. As Nell in Into The Forrest,  she throws herself into her work, but there’s more to acting than being a 90-pound woman with 80-pound tear ducts.


Thursday, August 11, 2016


Image result for Frank Sinatra Suddenly MovieWhen Frank Sinatra’s performance in From Here to Eternity earned him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, he found himself in the plum position of being able to choose his own projects. His plan was to alternate between glitzy musicals and dramatic pieces, just as he would switch up in the recording studio between albums of ballads and collections of upbeat tunes. When a scheduled production with Marilyn Monroe collapsed, he reached for a potboiler about a crazed gunman out to assassinate the president. Sinatra wanted to play the killer. When asked why he’d chosen such a “heavy” role, Sinatra told UP columnist  Aline Mosby “there’s no reason a singer can’t be dramatic. A singer is essentially a performer.”
Suddenly (1954) is loosely in the noir tradition, using the claustrophobic atmosphere of a house in a small California town, where a contract killer named Johnny Baron holds a family hostage so he can fire from their front window. The sightline lines up perfectly with a nearby railroad station where the president of the United States will arrive that afternoon. Baron isn’t onscreen for more than a few minutes when he shoots and kills a secret service man. That this mayhem takes place in a setting that might have been Grover's Corners gives the movie its distinct tone. Sinatra, with a wide brimmed hat and sadistic grin,  seems like a distant cousin of Tommy Udo from Kiss of Death slithering into a Norman Rockwell painting.
     Johnny Baron was already a familiar type in films. He’s an unhinged ex-soldier, one who brags constantly about the Silver Star he won for killing 27 Germans. “I did a lot of choppin’ over there,” he says dreamily. Though WW2 was already nine years in the past, Hollywood was still working the disenfranchised veteran’s angle (a recognizable staple of noir). Baron found his calling in the military. “Before the war I drifted and ran,” Baron says. “I was always lost in a great big crowd. I hated that crowd!” As a soldier, Baron learned how to kill. Now, after struggling to find his place in civilian life,  he kills for money. An unnamed source has offered him a half-million dollars to kill the president. Baron says more than once that he has no political affiliations; killing is just a job.
     The people taken hostage include Ellen Benson (Nancy Gates), a young widow whose husband was killed in the Korean war; her son Pidge (Kim Charney); elderly ‘Pop’ Benson (James Gleason); a TV repairman who happened to visit the house (James O’Hara); and the town’s sheriff, Tod Shaw (Sterling Hayden). During Baron’s takeover of the house, Shaw takes a bullet in the arm. Baron abuses the injured limb throughout the movie, kicking it at one point, and then grinning maniacally as he sets the broken bone.
     Shaw plans to get Baron talking about himself (“That’s his weakness!”) and distract him into making a mistake. Shaw was in the war, too. He knows Baron’s type: egomaniacal, sometimes careless. He cajoles Baron, until Baron almost admits he was drummed out of the army as a mental case. Meanwhile, Baron’s henchmen mount an automatic rifle at the window, letting it sit like a silent executioner.
     Sinatra is occasionally charming in the movie, but he appears to deliberately make himself ugly. In a rare move, he allows director Lewis Allen and cinematographer Charles G. Clarke to shoot him in close-up from the left side. Sinatra, and most directors, usually kept his left side in the dark because of scars left over from childhood operations. Sinatra also seems impossibly tiny, especially next to the strapping Hayden. His Johnny Baron is a mean little troll.
     Sinatra wasn’t a great actor, but he was a very good one. Consider this: There were times during the1950s when he and Marlon Brando, the top actor of the time, would be up for the same roles. (Sinatra was considered for the lead in On The Waterfront, Brando for The Man With The Golden Arm.) The role of Johnny Baron had originally been offered to Montgomery Clift, another heavyweight. It’s hard to imagine another singer turned actor, Elvis Presley for instance, or Bing Crosby, in the company of Brando and Clift. Suddenly also recalls, at least superficially, a couple of Humphrey Bogart films – The Petrified Forest and The Desperate Hours – and one can almost see Bogart as Baron. “Tonight at five o’clock I kill the president,” Baron says. “One second after five, there’s a new president. What changes? Nothing.” Bogart might say it with a weary laugh. Brando with a shrug. Sinatra, 38 at the time of Suddenly but still the scrappy kid from Hoboken, sneers.
     Yet, he never quite descends into full-blown madness. He seems less like a psycho-killer than an embittered criminal with a giant chip on his shoulder. It’s only when he’s near his rifle, reveling in its power to end life, that Baron seems crazed. The scene where his plan falls apart  is spellbinding, but rather than reveal the depth of his psychosis, he sinks into despair, as if to say, You mean I don’t get to kill the president?
     The story, originally called ‘Active Duty’ and appearing in Blue Book magazine, was by Richard Sale, a writer who started in the pulps and worked his way into directing movies. Produced independently by Robert Bassler - known for such features as The Snake Pit (1948) Hangover Square (1945) and The Lodger (1944) - Suddenly was well-received by critics, but wasn’t a big success with ticket buyers. The most likely reason is that customers may have not wanted to see Sinatra playing a villain. Perhaps the American audience, after a decade, was tired of characters like Baron.
     Suddenly isn’t a particularly strong example of noir – the characters are not as complex as they are in the best noir films, and many of the early scenes feel dated (and probably felt dated in 1954) - but once Sinatra arrives the movie never stops to take a breath. There are some other good performances: Sterling Hayden is excellent as a small town sheriff who knows there’s more to the world than apple pie and baseball, and uses all of his manly bravado to keep pace with Sinatra, while James O’Hara is a scene stealer as Jud, the flustered repairman who can’t believe a genuine assassin has come to his little town. The television itself becomes a character – a big, honking piece of modern technology that never quite works, in the middle of a settlement once known for cowboys and gamblers.
     Shot in just a few weeks in Newhall, CA, a dusty railroad town 40 miles north of Los Angeles, Suddenly is a tightly coiled thriller, at times explosive. It can also seem like a right-wing fairy tale. There are arguments throughout the movie about the use of violence.  Ellen, a card-carrying pacifist, is angry when Shaw buys her son a toy gun. Later, after both Ellen and Shaw have used a real gun to dispatch Baron, they kiss warmly. Shedding blood helps Ellen to see the light; she’ll now share her life with the manly sheriff.
     There’s plenty of folklore around Suddenly, including the  myth  that Sinatra had it pulled from circulation after President Kennedy was assassinated. Rumors, just rumors. The movie was never locked away in a vault or banned – it played fairly often on television during the 1960s -  though some may confuse Suddenly with The Manchurian Candidate, another Sinatra movie with an assassination story. Sinatra purchased the rights to The Manchurian Candidate and kept it from being seen for more than 20 years. Depending on who tells the story, it was either because of Sinatra’s sorrow over Kennedy’s murder, or because of a money dispute with United Artists. The latter is more likely.
     The one true thing about Suddenly is that Sinatra never again played such a heel. How strange it must’ve been for a man who spent many years playing a tough guy on and off the screen to whimper at the movie’s end and plead for his life. Once this obnoxious character was out of his system, there was no need to return.

Monday, August 8, 2016


Wiener-Dog Movie Review

When did Todd Solondz become a parody of himself? I’ve lost track of him in  recent years, and I’ve missed him. The other day I had a chance to catch up because my local arthouse booked Wiener-Dog, his new one, into their 18-seat screening room, a spot usually reserved for festival favorites, and documentaries about foot fetishists. There it was, an actual Solondz movie, filled with the usual oddball characters and uncomfortable situations…jokes about rape and diarrhea and the world’s cold cruelty…the younger characters were hostile and pretentious, the older ones bitter, flabbergasted by the lives they’d made for themselves; the cinematography was pristine, airtight, sterile; the humor, what there was of it, was found in the occasionally blunt dialog. The whole thing reminded me of other Solondz movies, if performed by department store mannequins. 

I used to adore Todd Solondz. He came along when independent movies were drowning in a quagmire of quirkiness – there was only so much Parker Posey I could take, only so many episodes of Friends filmed in black and white and passed off as movies, as well as monthly knockoffs of Reservoir Dogs or The Big Lebowski  - and with his two masterpieces, Welcome to the Dollhouse and Happiness, which I’ll rate up there with any other movies you can name from the 1990s, he shattered the prevailing tone. His work felt brutal, as threatening and challenging as a new language. Solondz was a like a little prizefighter, wading into bigger opponents and keeping them off balance with haymakers of weirdness. Yet, no matter how disturbing his movies were, his characters were recognizably human. Then Solondz fell in love with weirdness, until it became shtick; the rest of his movies since then have felt like random ideas picked from a hat and hitched together. There was always hope, though, even if he appeared to be scrambling and lost. At least he wasn’t hurting anybody, and I was happy in the knowledge that he’d never make something like Ant-man

Now, Wiener-Dog is the equivalent of standing in line at the DMV surrounded by meth heads. Sure, there may be something amusing going on, but on the whole you’d be better off outdoors. The movie is made up of four short segments – fragments, really – held together by a fat little dachshund who waddles into each setting like the donkey from Au Hasard Balthazar. The second of the four scenes resurrects two characters from Dollhouse, Dawn and Brandon (played reasonably well by Greta Gerwig and Kieran Culkin), but even if Solondz’ cult of fans get a brief charge out of seeing Dawn and Brandon again, the scene isn’t particularly memorable. The other bits include Danny DeVito as a film school professor disrespected by staff and students alike, and Ellen Burstyn as an elderly woman enduring a visit from her ditzy granddaughter (Zosia Mamet). The dachshund comes into the lives of these characters, but doesn’t have any particular effect. The poor thing may as well have been a handbag. At one point she’s given to a sickly young boy (Keaton Nigel Cooke) and the two have a good time messing up some furniture. The boy is a stock Solondz character, the innocent gradually learning the world is a disgusting, heartless place, but Solondz ducks and runs without going too deep. He has the gimmick of the dachshund, and is happy to skirt the surface of scenes. Now and then someone ponders death or aging, or the vapidity of film school students, but it’s trite stuff.

Perhaps Solondz should’ve taken one of the bits and ballooned it out to 90 minutes. Instead, we get snippets, vague reveries about America being a lonely place, and bland musings on the futility of life. These are the themes of a precocious kid, not a seasoned moviemaker who once dared us to sympathize with perverts and murderers. 

Wiener-Dog is lifeless. Instead of tension and climaxes, we get tableaus of hopelessness. It doesn’t even make good existentialism, because existentialism usually has some kind of unseen horror behind it. Here, characters stare vacantly, and don’t speak their lines so much as drool them. It could only be entertaining or moving to people who are so bored with Hollywood’s current fare that they’ll mistake this for being deep and darkly comic. Sure, the performers all have their moments, and the pooch has charisma, and there were a few mildly funny parts, but I can’t get excited about a movie where the camera pans over massive piles of dog diarrhea, and then ends on a very cheap joke. Solondz may find his way out of the wilderness someday, but he’s still working over a patch of terrain he wore out years ago.


Tuesday, August 2, 2016


New book relives Ali's final fight
by Don Stradley

Image result for ali-berbick

Muhammad Ali’s last fight was a disaster, epitomized by the infamous cowbell, borrowed at the last minute from a local farm because the half-wits running the show had forgotten that  boxing matches needed a bell to start and end rounds. There was the rickety stadium, erected just before the bout, as if it were 1915 and Tex Rickard was setting up shop for Jack Johnson to inflame America; and Ali, flabby and listless, struggling with Trevor Berbick, an opponent Ali would’ve thrashed in better days. I watched it at the home of a high school friend, one of the few in our grassy suburb wired for cable-television. His mother watched with us, occasionally looking up from her knitting to cackle at Ali’s pitiful effort. She was rude, but as we’re reminded in Dave Hannigan’s Drama in the Bahamas: Muhammad Ali’s Last Fight, Ali’d become a joke figure, with rumors of brain damage already a recurring topic where he was concerned – when he visited England to promote the event, his BBC radio appearances were axed because no one could understand him – yet, he was allowed to fight. Like Elvis Presley or Veronica Lake, Ali’s final professional moments were embarrassing. He was a burnt out bulb.

We’re told more than once in Drama in the Bahamas that Ali was “jealous” of younger fighters like Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, and Marvelous Marvin Hagler. He needn’t have worried, for all three lacked personality. Hearns never said much. Hagler? A generic tough guy. Leonard? Plastic as a beauty pageant winner. But even Ali’s persona seemed to be shutting down by the time he faced Berbick. “The genie is gone from the bottle,” wrote Hugh McIlvanney at the time, “and Ali is ready to be dumped along with the rest of boxing’s empties.” Hannigan uses McIlvanney and other journalists of the day like a cut-rate Greek chorus, each trying to outdo the other with his prophecies of Ali’s doom. Even Eddie Murphy weighed in on Saturday Night Live, portraying Ali, not yet 40, as senile.

You could call the bummer in the Bahamas a cautionary tale, but boxing people tend to ignore cautionary tales. The shopworn Ali’s battle to secure a boxing license after Nevada refused him, a promotion run by ex-cons, in a location not known for hosting boxing events, were old stories that harkened back to boxing’s earlier days. They’ve since been repeated ad nauseam by dozens of fighters. That the iconic Ali went through the paces of an ordinary broken down pug made it all seem a little weird. Still, having watched the bout recently on YouTube, Ali did better than I’d remembered. Even in his sorry condition, he won some rounds. What was bizarre was the way he’d slump on his stool between frames, his corner men praising him like a child who’d cleaned his plate. 

Berbick’s part in the Bahama drama, which was almost played by Renaldo Snipes, is well covered. In fact, Hannigan concludes with a long chapter on how Berbick became a paranoid religious zealot, eventually meeting his end thanks to a lead pipe swung by an angry nephew. But finishing on such a note gives the book an uneven texture. Harrigan teaches history at a Long Island community college, and his book feels like a history lesson: informative, but plain. One could’ve aimed machine guns at the memories of Queen Elizabeth’s Sports Centre in Nassau and fired upon those involved, especially Ali’s entourage, smiling stupidly as he sputtered through half-hearted gym sessions. Shame, too, on Ali’s parents, his wife, his cook, all as bad as the relatives of a dotty royal who indulge the old fool’s whims for  fear they’ll be cut from the will. And was Ali so divorced from reality that he didn’t realize how far he’d fallen? Even his ring walk looked odd, like the unsteady gait of a mental patient out for a stroll. Hannigan quotes Phil Berger about there being “no empiric science of analyzing the mind of a fighter,” and that’s true. But Hannigan might’ve tried, instead of harping on the damned cowbell.