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Chasing October: A Fan's Crusade
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by Peter Sobczynski

"The "United 93" Of Sports Documentaries"
3 stars

At the risk of sounding glib, “Chasing October” could easily be described as the “United 93" of sports documentaries. After all it offers up a look at a well-known calamity–in this case, the 2003 season of the Chicago Cubs that saw the perennial runners-up come within five outs of their first World Series appearance before suffering a spectacular meltdown–by charting the events leading up to that moment through the eyes of one ordinary person. As a lifelong fan of the Cubs, I can attest to the fact that it does bring all the memories of that season back in a rush–so much so, in fact, that some die-hard fans may not want to pay good money for the experience of reliving them once again.

Of course, when ordinary joe Matt Liston began making this season-long chronicle, he couldn’t have possibly known that this would be the season that would see the team flirt with success to such a degree. However, as he informs us early on, a vision of late Cubs announcer Harry Caray convinced him that this was indeed their year and it inspired him to quit his job and dedicate 2003 to willing his favorite team to victory and making a documentary that would chronicle those efforts. (This isn’t quite as radical a decision as the film makes it out to Liston–he previously worked behind-the-scenes on shows like “Seinfeld” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and has also produced things for the Discovery Channel and Fox Sports.) At first, his efforts seem to be futile as the team starts off on a decidedly uneven foot but after a while, they miraculously begin to come together and it appears as if Liston’s dream may come true after all. On the personal side, however, things aren’t quite as rosy–his girlfriend starts off with plenty of enthusiasm for the project but even the most loyal girlfriend is likely to have second thoughts when she comes home to find her couch being sold off. In other words, the Cubs may make it to the World Series but will he have anyone to share that victory with.

For those who don’t bleed Cubbie blue, their reaction to “Chasing October” may well depend on their feelings regarding their host and in this particular case, this may wind up being a problem. For much of the film, Liston comes off as a slightly obnoxious guy who might be fun to sit next to in the bleachers of Wrigley Field for an inning or two but who begins to grate on one’s nerves when you are forced to deal with him for 90 minutes. His faux-Letterman interview style isn’t as amusing as he thinks it is and his stunts (including hectoring people outside the Tribune Tower and sending pizzas to the Pittsburgh Pirates in an effort to help broker a key trade) come off as self-aggrandizing instead of inspired. Another problem is that there are many elements–chiefly the devolving relationship with his girlfriend–that frankly feel somewhat staged and that does detract from the overall experience. (In the press notes, Liston takes pains to describe the film as a “docu-comedy,” which would seem to suggest that some parts were indeed staged after all.)

That said, I guess that for hard-core Cubs fans–who are presumably the film’s target audience–is a reasonably entertaining look at a season that few will ever forget, no matter how much time and money they spend on therapy designed to do just that. If you can ignore Liston’s abrasiveness and the suspect nature of some of the proceedings, the first-person point-of-view lends it an immediacy that is too often lacking in sports documentaries and the interviews with famous Cub fans (including such usual suspects as Joe Mantegna, Dennis Franz, Jeff Garlin and Billy Corgan) are also amusing. Of course, if some of you wind up watching the last few minutes with your hands over your eyes, I’ll understand. (If you are such a fanatic, feel free to add an extra star to this review.)

Amusing Anecdote: When “Chasing October” had its local press screening a couple of weeks ago, it was shown to us on DVD. At one point, the film cross-cuts footage of the Cubs clinching the division with an important wedding that happened to be going on that very same afternoon and in true Cubs fashion, the DVD froze up just before the moment when the Cubs won the game. Yeah, it was an accident and a fluky coincidence but it is such a good representation of the eternal plight of the Cubs fan–even savoring a past victory can be a chore–that I would like to suggest to Liston that he ask projectionists to arrange for such a thing to happen at the regular public screenings as well.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15974&reviewer=389
originally posted: 03/23/07 05:11:59
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User Comments

7/25/11 Cindy Blart Loved it!!! 4 stars
5/08/07 David Pollastrini Go Cubbies! (I love you Dad) 4 stars
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  23-Mar-2007 (NR)



Directed by
  Matt Liston

Written by
  Matt Liston
  Gary Cohen

  Matt Liston
  Chris Karnak
  Fatine England
  Jeff Garlin
  Joe Mantegna
  Gary Sinise

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