Up for Grabs

"Excellent"

Up for Grabs Review


San Francisco isn't exactly known for mild-mannered politics and an understated social scene. I know, I live here. I lived here when Barry Bonds hit his famous 73rd home run on October 7, 2001, which sent the ball into the stands... and into a legal quagmire that stretched out over a year.

Here's what happened: Vegetarian restaurant owner Alex Popov caught the ball -- sort of. The ball, as seen in a Zapruder-like video, landed in the tip top of Popov's glove, then the crush of the crowd took Popov down. Then, depending on who you believe, the ball fell out of the glove or was stolen from it, or Popov was bitten on the leg in order to be robbed of potentially millions of dollars, locked up in a single baseball.

Those few seconds would land Popov and marketing manager Patrick Hayashi, who ended up with the ball, in the legal fight of their lives. Michael Wranovics' well-made documentary gives us interviews with everyone involved with the case -- including a dozen witnesses, the cameraman who shot the video, the judge, Hayashi, Popov, and Popov's girlfriend, whose face is redacted from the film -- plus commentary from sportscasters and observers, all of whom agree on one thing: This whole affair was really, really, really stupid.

This isn't a sports drama and it's not quite a legal drama, either. Up for Grabs is a surprisingly telling film about human behavior much like Lord of the Flies. An hour earlier, neither of these guys probably would have dreamed of this fight -- one which would consume Popov's life entirely for at least a year. But greed, pride, and human nature all conspire to bring out the absolute worst in these characters -- and yet, neither of them realizes what amazing asses they look like to the rest of the world.

The outcome of the trial was a huge surprise (which I won't reveal here in case you don't already know it), but an even bigger one was the ultimate price realized for the ball at auction: Only $450,000, a far cry from the $3 million earned for Mark McGuire's 70th home run ball in 1999. No one seems to know what happened, but the trial surrounding the ball's ownership seems to have tainted its value in some way.

Wranovics actually made a version of this film a year earlier, but this is really his first stab at filmmaking. It's quite an amazing one, and even if you don't care about baseball (I don't), or you don't care to hear all the legal arguments, you can't help but get sucked into this powerful story, made all the more dramatic by Wranovics' excellent handle on digital filmmaking, editing, and an amazing ability to get interview subjects to talk.



Up for Grabs

Facts and Figures

Run time: 90 mins

In Theaters: Saturday 30th June 2007

Distributed by: Laemmle/Zeller Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Fresh: 44 Rotten: 4

IMDB: 7.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Michael Wranovics

Producer: Michael Wranovics

Starring: Marty Appel as Himself, Barry Bonds as Himself, Patrick Hayashi as Himself, Alex Popov as Himself, Ted Rowlands as Himself - TV News Reporter

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