Once in a Lifetime rating:
Once in a Lifetime
Pele -- the one-time international soccer superstar -- declined to be interviewed for Once in a Lifetime, a documentary about the New York Cosmos.
His omission is like a missed penalty kick. Also missing is Steve Ross, the master of Warner Communications, who became boss of the Cosmos and the Zeus of soccer in the United States. He died in 1994.
Those omissions leave a bothersome gap in this film. Pele and Ross appear in archival footage, but it's as though the headliners did not show up for the big game.
To fill in the gap, directors Paul Crowder and John Dower use a lot of other interviews -- the most lackluster of which are those from a slew of media, generally a mediocre group of analysts. Many of the interviews are shot before a bland screen and lack liveliness.
Fortunately one-time Cosmos star and Machiavellian member of the team, the incorrigible Giorgio Chinaglia, lights up his interview, filling in the dull space with his massive ego, hulking presence and matter-of-fact, strangely engaging, cockiness. He would be a worthy antagonist for Tony Soprano.
Another effective interview is with Jay Emmett, one-time VP of Warner Communications, and a partner with Ross in the Cosmos venture. He says the story of the Cosmos will be like the movie Rashomon: "Everybody has a different view of everything." Later evidence of this is when estimates of Pele's contract range from 4.5 million to 2.7 million.
The Cosmos were formed on a wing, a goalie and a prayer. Steve Ross, itching to buy a pro team, decided to make soccer his balm. In 1971 he took the plunge and bought a dismal semi-pro team; it and its playing field were in desperate disrepair.
The transforming moment came when Ross signed Pele, the Brazilian who had led his nation to three World Cups. For more than 10 years, the Cosmos went on a giddy ride. But then midnight struck.
In 1984, having lost their national TV contract, the team dissolved, and the league and the dream came to an end.
Once in a Lifetime is like a soccer team that plays good defense but lacks offense. It misses Pele.
Artie Lange's Beer League
This is a foul ball of a comedy -- a raunchy, raucous frat party.
For his loyal fans from The Howard Stern Show, Artie can do no wrong. Before the CineVegas screening, he lovingly brayed at them, and they lovingly brayed back. After the movie there was a Q&A session with Lange, but there wasn't a single question. Artie Lange's Beer League is the kind of film about which there are no questions.
Directed by Frank Sebastiano, it is the story of Artie -- a lovable slob who has a lifetime feud with a preening, wealthy rival. Artie's fate comes down to who will win a softball league, and a woman (the appealing Cara Buono) who just may change his dissolute life.
Artie Lange is like Flounder from Animal House trying to carry a whole movie. He can't quite do it, but he gives it a game effort. Anthony DeSando very broadly -- and somewhat badly -- plays the cartoonish antagonist.
Veteran actor Seymour Cassell can now rest easy; in the role of an old-time softball pitcher, he has completed his stellar career playing a character named "Dirt."
For a change of pace, you might want to listen to interviews that I conducted in the 70s and 80s, some of which were published in my book Voices from the Set: The Film Heritage Interviews (2000).
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