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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman
Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman
Kino // Unrated // November 10, 2015
List Price: $24.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ryan Keefer | posted November 11, 2015 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Like perhaps many of my age range, I casually knew of Paul Newman's love of auto racing, and that he balanced that with his superb acting abilities quite nicely. But I was not aware how resonant his love of the sport was, until I saw Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman. The title, borrowed from a 1969 Newman film sharing that name, and directed by Adam Carolla (The Hammer), features interviews with friends of Newman's, cinematically and from the race tracks and each share their remembrances of the man and the driver.

Newman learned about racting part of the research for the fictional Winning and apparently still had the bug when he met driver Bob Sharp. Sharp and Newman became fast friends and Newman eventually took to driving adeptly, winning four Sports Car Club of America titles, and finished second in the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans race. He later became a car owner, and his company won several championships in open wheel racing. That he started this passion when he was almost 50 is a wonder to see.

Carolla interviews Sharp, along with familiar racing names like Mario Andretti, and he interviews Robert Wagner, who co-starred with Newman in the 1969 film, along with Robert Redford (All Is Lost), Newman's decades-long friend, and auto racing enthusiast celebrities such as Jay Leno and Patrick Dempsey. Carolla's interest in the subject matter is personal, as he owns one of Newman's cars and restores it as we see in the supplements later. As a documentarian, he does an excellent job of showing not only how skilled Newman was as a driver, so much so that as you are swept into the film and video of Newman's time on the track, you forget he did this in the last near-century of his life. It shows Newman as a racer, his passion for it, and gives you an appreciation of the difficulties as several friends of Newman's died in on-track crashes.

Along with the facts of Newman's accomplishments, Carolla does an understated fine job of capturing Newman's emotional attraction to the sport, and addresses some more practical questions about it well, such as the balance between Newman's celebrity and Newman's enthusiasms. It appears to be a passion with connections and friendships that were hard to find in Hollywood, and as the interviewees hint at, it appears to be one where both sides (Newman and racers) may have been initially apprehensive or skeptical, but once that disappeared, it was a lifelong friendship. The film even shows us that the nmoe easily recognizable artwork from the Newman's Own brand of food products was developed by a spouse of one of the racers.

Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman, proves to be enjoyable as well as informative, and is a fond remembrance of the other life of one of Hollywood's legends that few had the chance to experience. Carolla shows us he was just as beloved by those on and around the tracks, and his achievements there are just as magnificent, perhaps moreso, than what he did in front of a camera.

The Disc:
The Video:

Presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, Winning has to handle various sources, be it old film or broadcast footage. The contemporary interviews look good, though the disc seems to have trouble transitioning from an artwork still to the interview subject. It's like the feature was streamed and lagged for the briefest of moments. Brighter lit moments tend to run a little on the hot side as well. There is room for improvement on the transfer but it's a decent looking disc.

The Sound:

The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track is fine, though it does not get a lot to do in the rear channels. Interviews are clean in the front of the theater, the score is adequate, even has hints of dynamic moments, and there is the slightest flirtation with the low-end when an engine roars to life onscreen. Source material is fine, sound is fine, with what they have to work with.

Extras:

The previously mentioned restoration Carolla did on Newman's car is shown (6:07), along with a vintage car race he took it out in. Interviews with Andretti (18:18), Sharp (14:55), Dempsey (12:25), Leno (9:58) and current driver Graham Rahal (12:37) are next, and the trailer (2:25) completes things.

Final Thoughts:

Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman is a nice look at Paul Newman the driver, and how he managed to keep Paul Newman the actor out of as much of it as possible. Paul Newman the driver was a warm, funny and affable ally to many, and the film shows us it was something he'd had interest in since he was a youth. That you can pursue a childhood interest and be so accomplished at it was a wonderful thing to see through Carolla's eyes. Technically, there is a slight hiccup with the transfer, but the sound is fine, as the extras are fun to see with their full context. Definitely seek this out if you are a Newman and/or racing fan.

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