Mockumentary ‘Unflinching Triumph’ raises the bar for Web-only comedy

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The proliferation of documentaries about competitions of niche, eccentric sports has long been due for parody.

Spelling bees, competitive eating contests and Scrabble championships are just a few of the events that have been lifted from the back-end of the local news to become subjects of feature-length documentaries. In March, a doc about the passion of air guitarists will be presented in “Air Guitar Nation,” adding further to the trend.

“Unflinching Triumph: The Philip Rockhammer Story” is a mockumentary of those films. Available for free downloading or streaming in full at http://www.unflinchingtriumph.com, the movie follows the fictional pursuits of Rockhammer through the underground world of “Professional Staredown” – in short, the grandest of starring contests.

All of the right notes are hit: the defense of the sport’s legitimacy (“Oh, definitely it’s a sport”), the peculiar governing body (National Association of Staredown Professionals or NASP), the cocky champion (Tony Patterson) and the elaborately named techniques (“Jamming the Crankshaft,” “Wrestling the Woodpecker”).

“Unflinching Triumph,” directed by J.R. McCord, is unusually well-crafted and impressively funny for Web-only entertainment. With a bigger budget and Will Ferrell or Ben Stiller, “Unflinching Triumph” could easily rival 2004’s “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story.”

The movie’s pseudo reality doesn’t blink; there’s a Web page built for the NASP at http://www.prostaredown.com, which includes strict rules for competition and a calendar of tournaments. The national championship is slated for Jan. 13 in Flagstaff, Ariz., and isn’t to be confused with tournament play for the (real) USA Rock Paper Scissors League.

Video of the week:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nAV0sxwx9rY

Parody often involves making fun of the famous, but in the democratic realm of YouTube, even no-names are targets. In this clip, actor Michael Cera (who brilliantly played the awkward George Michael in the canceled sitcom “Arrested Development”) spoofs Aleksey Vayner, a nobody who last year became famous for his boastful video resume “Impossible is Nothing”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J7pok0TKDU8. Unfortunately, Vayner’s video is still funnier.

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A Song a Day

Every day, Seattle radio station KEXP releases a “KEXP Song of the Day,” available for free on iTunes. KEXP is considered by many rock fans to be one of the best, most influential radio stations in the country (you can stream it at www.kexp.org). Their “song of the day” selections generally include hip tunes from new albums or live recordings from bands like Phoenix, Band of Horses, Cold War Kids and Cat Power. Similarly, Santa Monica, Calif.’s tastemaking KCRW presents its “Top Tune” each day, also for free. KCRW, an NPR member station renowned for its “Morning Becomes Eclectic” broadcasts hosted by Nic Harcourt and streamable at www.kcrw.com, picks from a more diverse musical spectrum. Both stations provide daily drops of current music.

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