Connect with us

Entertainment

Stream It Or Skip It: ‘30 for 30: The Life and Trials of Oscar Pistorius’ on ESPN, a Marathon Documentary About a Fallen Idol

Published

on

30 for 30: The Life and Trials of Oscar Pistorius finds ESPN’s highly acclaimed documentary series once again going the true-crime route. This four-part, 340-minute saga deep-dives into the story of Oscar Pistorius, the Paralympic sprinting champion who was a hero in his native South Africa until Valentine’s Day 2013, when he was arrested for allegedly murdering his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. It’s the second four-part doc on Pistorius, after Amazon’s nearly four-hour Pistorius series, which debuted in 2019. Why so many hours on one man and one alleged crime? Well, it’s very, very complicated — and it’s also a recent trend for documentary series to stretch out and indulge all the space that streaming services allow them. We watched the first 90-minute episode of Life and Trials to see how deep it sets its hook.

Opening Shot: An establishing shot of an outdoor fence in the wee hours of the morning. Title card: 14 FEBRUARY 2013. Pretoria, South Africa.

The Gist: Oscar Pistorius’ family members remember Valentine’s Day, 2013 vividly. His siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins were awakened by calls that someone had been shot at Oscar’s house — specifically, Reeva Steenkamp. And she was dead. Shot by Oscar. He fired through a toilet door. He said he mistook her for a burglar in the dark. We see a still photo of him from that night, shirtless and covered with blood.

Authorities, however, were piecing together another story. Neighbors said they heard sounds of an altercation prior to the gunshots. Police said they had been called to the residence previously for domestic incidents. And didn’t it seem odd that Oscar pulled the trigger before he attempted to identify the person in his bathroom? Nigh-countless media outlets quickly descended on the scene, scraping up tidbits and running with them — the discovery of supplements in the house quickly became headlines about a “roid rage” murder. Local journalists couldn’t believe the predatory frenzy. Oscar’s friends, family and fellow athletes were shocked, and still testify to the strength and quality of his character.

It was a long fall from glory for Oscar. The doc details his bio: Born with a congenital defect, he had both feet amputated before he was a year old. It didn’t faze him. He walked and ran on his stumps, keeping up with schoolmates and siblings. In high school, he played rugby on prosthetics, which would routinely fall off, prompting officials to pause the game so they could be refitted. A knee injury pushed him toward running, and by age 17, he competed in the Athens Paralympics, obliterating world records on a pair of prosthetic blades. He was nicknamed Blade Runner, “the fastest man on no legs.”

He was also a point of pride for a country that desperately needed one. During and after the Apartheid era, South Africa was notorious for its history of violence. One expert says residents have “collective PTSD” after its many Experts testify that domestic violence is an epidemic in the country — and that’s why Oscar’s apparent murder of his girlfriend inspired considerable public divisiveness. You either absolutely believed his story, or absolutely condemned him as a villain. There was no in-between. “GOLDEN BOY LOSES SHINE” reads one tabloid headline — it’s undoubtedly true, but at this point in the story, we’re not sure how much shine he’s lost. Meanwhile, in jail, Oscar was deemed a suicide risk. His family was distraught. He sobbed through court appearances. The defense team put together a justification for bail, and the judge agreed. He was free for the time being, but there was no way he was going back to his home.

Our Take: Eight minutes into this saga, I committed myself to watching the next 330 minutes. It triggered some serious true-crime-doc susceptibilities — the same ones that kept me glued to O.J.: Made in America, McMillions and I’ll Be Gone in the Dark. But director David Gordon didn’t quite sustain those vibes. The first 90 minutes of Life and Trials offered haphazard pacing, a cluttered constellation of talking heads and a final third that almost pointlessly draws out the drama of Pistorious’ bail hearing. A cursory internet search reveals further significant developments in the case, but I wondered if five-and-a-half hours — and then some — of this story would be revelatory for viewers, or just reveal Gordon’s need for further editing. And maybe Amazon’s Pistorius, which I haven’t seen, might be the better option?

And yet, 30 for 30 has so rarely failed us. The six hours of O.J. earned a theatrical release and Oscar win. Recent deep dives into Michael Vick, Dennis Rodman and Lance Armstrong were pretty fascinating. The brand carries weight. Sure, Life and Trials could use a fresh approach to the chronicling of a hero’s fall and the sensational media circus engulfing it. But part of me wanted to learn the details of Oscar’s trials and why, and if there will ever even be a why. Maybe Gordon will eventually justify the series’ protracted run time. Maybe it’ll draw the Pistorius family’s upper-class status, and the more arrogant side of Oscar’s personality, into greater focus. Maybe it’ll better clarify if public opinion of Oscar has changed since Reeva’s death seven years ago — it’s hard to discern if interviewees are discussing current or past feelings. Maybe we should give it another episode before we bail.

Sex and Skin: None.

Parting Shot: Earnestly addressing the camera, Oscar’s uncle, Arnold Pistorius, says Oscar never returned to his home once he was out on bail, because it’s impossible to get the horrible imagery of such an occurrence out of one’s mind.

Sleeper Star: Brian Frasure, an American Paralympic athlete and prosthetist, helped fit Oscar with state-of-the-art running prosthetics — then watches Oscar dash by him during competition.

Most Pilot-y Line: “In this case, it wasn’t whodunit. We know who did it. It was really about whydunit.” — forensic psychologist Gerard Labuschagne

Our Call: STREAM IT. The first episode of The Life and Trials of Oscar Pistorius is bumpy, inconsistent and a little bit frustrating. But maybe subsequent segments will straighten out the narrative — 30 for 30 deserves the benefit of the doubt.

John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Read more of his work at johnserbaatlarge.com or follow him on Twitter: @johnserba.

Watch The Life and Trials of Oscar Pistorius on ESPN+

Entertainment

The Wingraves theory that has The Haunting of Bly Manor fans buzzing

Published

on

By

After the series debuted on Netflix in October, the cause of the Wingraves’ deaths was a matter of principal concern among the fans. Theories ranged from murder-suicide to the almost-too-on-the-nose “horrific train crash.” After Thomas confirmed that a tragic plane crash was, in fact, to blame, fans turned their speculative attention to what crash it might have been.

As the theory goes, the Wingraves were likely passengers on Air India Flight 182, a 1985 flight that went down after a bombing attack perpetrated by a terrorist group. If that’s the case, it certainly makes sense that the Wingraves bodies couldn’t be recovered — an important plot point from the series. The timing and geography certainly works, and the facts line up a little bit too perfectly …

Quick, somebody slide into Henry Thomas’ DMs demanding answers!

Read More

Continue Reading

Entertainment

‘The Spanish Princess’ Just Secretly Set the Stage for the Rise of Anne Boleyn

Published

on

By

The Spanish Princess Season 2 has the painful task of showing us where a happy marriage goes wrong. Catherine of Aragon (Charlotte Hope) and Henry VIII’s (Ruairi O’Connor) union started off as love match, but politics and grief over the deaths of their infant children drove them apart. As we see in The Spanish Princess, the two royals may love each other, but there are vultures in their court. These schemers are happy to drive wedges between the King and Queen if only to push ahead their own agendas. While Catherine is focused on the rising clergyman Wolsey (Philip Cumbus), she might want to keep an eye on the tweens accompanying Princess Mary (Sai Bennett) to France…

Yep, young Anne Boleyn appeared as an Easter egg in tonight’s episode of The Spanish Princess. Which means we might yet see the rise of one of the most scandalous queens in British history…

The Spanish Princess has always been Catherine of Aragon’s story, but in Season 2, we’re starting to see the unflappable royal’s grip on power slip away. After losing her firstborn son in the cradle and miscarrying her second, Catherine’s not only juggling her own mental health issues, but dealing with Henry’s disappointment in her. As Queen of England, her primary duty is producing an heir.

Frost teased she wouldn’t confirm, but Matthew Graham said, “I think it’s better to say: for those who know their history and know the family that those girls come from, that family is named and referenced quite a bit.”

Frost pointed out that the Boleyns had already been referenced in Season 1 — and they had been. “You’re not wrong to look out for those things,” Graham said.

In tonight’s episode, tween Mary Boleyn is played by Bessie Coates, while raven-haired Anne is played by Alice Noakes. The two girls are obviously still in their early teens, but as the show continues to trudge forward in time, we can probably expect older versions of both Boleyn girls to factor into the drama of The Spanish Princess. Historically, Mary Boleyn was one of Henry’s many famous mistresses. Anne, on the other hand, infamously forced Henry’s ultimate divorce from Catherine and the nation’s break from the Catholic Church.

It looks like The Spanish Princess Season 2 is only going to get more dramatic in the weeks to come…

Where to stream The Spanish Princess

Read More

Continue Reading

Entertainment

HBO Max’s Green Lantern TV Show: Everything You Need To Know About The Main Emerald Knights

Published

on

By

Within the grand tapestry of DC Comics history, Simon Baz is still a relatively new addition to the Green Lantern mythos, having debuted in 2012. While Simon always had a good heart, he was on the wrong side of the law when he became a Green Lantern. Weirdly enough, the ring that chose him was a weird melding of Hal Jordan and Sinestro’s rings, although he would later be given his own unique ring. Like Hal and Kyle Rayner, Simon wears a mask to protect his identity, and early into his Green Lantern career, he carried a gun with him for protection in case his ring ran out of power in the midst of battle.

Read More

Continue Reading

Hot Stories