Hannah Yasharoff, USA TODAY
Published 5:22 p.m. ET June 7, 2020 | Updated 5:38 p.m. ET June 7, 2020
Hollywood actor Bruce Lee’s famous yellow nunchucks sold for $69,000 on Thursday at an auction in Hong Kong commemorating the 40th anniversary of the martial arts legend’s death. (Dec. 5)
Critics call ESPN’s new Bruce Lee documentary a “must-watch” for fans and soon-to-be fans of the late actor and martial arts great.
“Be Water,” which premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. EDT on ESPN, is directed by Bao Nguyen and named after a saying Lee used to share: “Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless – like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”
Jack Hamilton of Slate dubbed the documentary “nimble, nuanced, and at times even poetic” and ranked ESPN’s newest “30 for 30” installment ahead of the buzz-worthy Michael Jordan docuseries “The Last Dance.”
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Some critics said the film kept the lens too far back at times: “There’s so much Nguyen and his many interviewees want to talk about here, and many of them feel covered in too cursory a fashion to truly do them justice,” wrote Alan Sepinwall of Rolling Stone.
The documentary explores the racism that Lee, who died at age 32 in 1973, endured in trying to land lead roles in the entertainment industry. NBC News’ Nadra Nittle wrote that it “leaves no doubt that Lee’s talent and charisma should have earned him lead roles in Hollywood – or how the industry’s history of marginalizing people of color relegated him to playing sidekicks.”
Some may wonder why a documentary about a man largely known for his endeavors in entertainment found a home on a sports network, but several critics argued that the physicality and athleticism of Lee’s martial arts skills transcended his work in film.
“Bruce Lee isn’t an obvious fit for ESPN, beyond the fact lots of people enjoyed his action movies,” CNN’s Brian Lowry wrote. “Yet ‘Be Water’ proves an excellent addition to the network’s lineup of documentaries to fill the sports void, examining the martial-arts star’s legacy and the circuitous, discrimination-marred path he followed to his too-short stardom.”
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Early reviews dubbed the documentary a timely look at a talent gone too soon, who spent his truncated career sharing his unparalleled talents while fighting for greater representation in Hollywood.
The documentary “succeeds in going deeper where previous Lee profiles have trod only lightly: The context of his struggle against racism in America, and his emergence as a superstar in Hong Kong,” wrote Michael Ordoña for the Los Angeles Times. “For Lee fans, that makes ‘Be Water’ a must-watch. For the curious, it’s a fair introduction to the man who became a legend.”
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