The filmmakers of Up for Grabs ask journalists covering the film “to avoid revealing the outcome of the trial and the ultimate fate of Barry Bond’s ‘million-dollar ball,’” as if anyone with a remote interest in ball #73’s journey from Pac Bell Park to a San Francisco courtroom didn’t already know this outcome. Then again, because the 9/11 tragedy and Dubya’s attack on Afghanistan did overshadow Bonds’s record-breaking home run and the legal fiasco that consumed the record-hitting ball for several years, maybe there are baseball fans out there that don’t know how it all panned out. Rewinding a bit, then, to the part I can talk about: Exactly one month after 9/11, Bonds hits a home-run ball out of Pac Bell Park and two men, Alex Popov and Patrick Hayashi, call dibs on it. Popov caught it but dropped it; Hayashi picks it up and is told he can keep it by ballpark officials. As caught on tape, the incident is a compelling spectacle of scrambling bodies: like watching hundreds of big, surly men diving for a million-dollar lottery ticket that fell from the sky. Employing an even mix of archive footage and taking-head interviews, Michael Wranovics compellingly documents what amounts to a schoolyard dispute: Popov’s argument is predicated on the claim that he caught the ball first and Hayashi’s defense is straight-up finders keepers, and it’s up to a fair, Clinton-esque San Francisco judge to give age-old pre-possessory laws a work-out and play the part of Solomon. Though people initially side with Popov against Hayashi, whose detractors are cruelly fixated on his physical appearance, Popov himself emerges as the story’s villain, a schmuck with the personality of a TV anchorman and the common sense of Troy Duffy. Wranovics’s idea, according to his director’s statement, that Hayashi and Popov’s struggle reflects “the last drop coming down from the Dot-Com Boom, one last opportunity to get rich quick in San Francisco” is credible but not exactly conveyed anywhere in Up for Grabs. It’s a pity the director doesn’t spend more time getting inside Popov’s head, but the film is effective in the sense that it’s always comforting to see not-so-nice people not getting what they don’t deserve.
- Laemmle/Zeller Films
- 94 min
- Michael Wranovics
- Michael Wranovics
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