Amazon's Studios, Air, May Be Movie Of Year
On April 5th , the highly anticipated film Air directed by Ben Affleck was released and it has already caused quite a bit of chatter on social media. Affleck, who also portrays Nike founder Phil Knight, costars with fellow Massachusetts native Matt Damon, who plays the role of executive Sonny Vaccaro which documents the signing of NBA rookie Michael Jordan and ultimately creating a partnership that revolutionizes the world of sports and contemporary culture. The star-studded cast also features Jason Bateman, Chris Tucker and Viola Davis all playing prominent roles for Amazon’s first ever film to be released in theaters without simultaneously premiering on Prime Video.
A week after the world premiere took place in Austin Texas, I tuned in to the virtual press conference moderated by Rotten Tomatoes very own, Jacqueline Coley. The first press conference consisted of Ben Affleck (Phil Knight), Chris Tucker (Howard White), Jason Bateman (Rob Strausser), Chris Messina (David Falk) and Matthew Maher(Peter Moore). One of the first questions addressed was directed towards Bateman asking what specifically attracted him to this role after just wrapping up the Emmy-award winning Netflix series Ozark. He responded saying “The draw was really Ben and Matt to be honest… when you work with them it’s easy you just read your lines.” Chris Messina chimed in “When Ben calls you up, you don’t even need to read the script since you're surrounded by great artists… I always say the hardest part of this job is leaving for the next one.” Following, the moderator asks Affleck about his own vision for the film. “This movie would be a massive failure if it was just my voice. It really was a collaborative effort” said the academy award winner. He even went in depth about the importance of receiving Michael Jordans blessing when producing the movie. “The stupidest thing in the world would be creating a film that invokes his name…if he said don’t do it, I wouldn’t do it. It would be the last of the conversation…I had no reason to think he would welcome it but what I found was he was very gracious. When I asked him what needed to take part in order for the film to be created, he only discussed other people that were meaningful in the story which is actually very rare in this industry. He talked about George Raveling, Howard White, his dad, and his mother. When I asked him who should play his mother he said it has to be Viola Davis. I was excited but getting Viola Davis is like telling someone to start a basketball team and Michael Jordan has to be on it” he said humorously. Viola Davis who was in the second conference alongside Matt Damon, Julius Tennon, Marlon Wayans and screenwriter Alex Convery said “It was both flattering, yet challenging but overall just a joy to work with Matt and all these great actors”. Matt Damon, who plays Sonny Vaccaro reiterated what Affleck said previously. “Michael Jordan is a very intimidating guy. So when Ben went to talk to him he said he had a look that he had never seen before when he talked about his mother. That's when we knew what the movie was going to be about. And that's when we knew we HAD to get Viola.'' As I exited the Zoom conference, I was anxious to see Viola Davis’s performance as it continued to be the topic of conversation.
I was truly counting down the days to see this film and had the great privilege of attending the early screening taking place at the Regal Cinema located in DTLA. Upon my arrival, traffic was heavy with the LA Kings hosting a popular game against a league favorite in the Edmonton Oilers. I figured the movie theater less than a quarter mile away from crypto.com arena wouldn’t be in such high demand during this evening. However, that was far from the case as the line to watch the Amazon Studios film was wrapped around the block and fans waited hours to purchase their ticket. Attendees dressed for the occasion as well wearing their favorite pair of Jordans, Chicago Bulls gear and more. All I could hear is the row behind me whispering about their enthusiasm in watching Viola portraying Deloris Jordan prior to the lights dimming and cutting straight into the intro. It has been awhile since I have been to a fully packed theater of hundreds of people sharing the same passion for a film and this movie certainly brought that energy.
During the movie, I couldn't help but think of the similarities it shared with the 2011 baseball classic Moneyball. Both films focus on the executives and individuals working behind-the-scenes to achieve accomplishments that will eventually disrupt the industry. Rather than focusing on Michael Jordan, Air keys in on the so-called “unsung heroes”, which is what I loved the most in this masterpiece. As far as the actors, Viola Davis is a shoe-in to add another academy award to her resume. She was absolutely incredible per usual. However the most underrated performance has to be Chris Messina playing the assertive and agitated agent, David Falk. When watching I couldn’t help but watch his facial expressions and focus on his tone of voice. That being said, his body language alone showed what kind of character he was responsible for playing. Affleck and Damon complement each other's roles once again. Sonny Vaccaro(Damon) is clearly praised as the hero while Phil Knight is almost looked at as his sidekick in this situation and is conflicted by the questionable decision making in pursuit of #23. I would have wished they dove more into Knight's background in greater detail and what it meant for him on a personal level to have Michael Jordan to be the face of the brand he started. But outside of that, I was obsessed with the movie and was completely invested in the storyline. The biggest takeaways once again was the underlining of the unlikely real-life heroes in this legendary partnership. Deloris Jordan is surprisingly the prominent reason for why Air Jordan is the billionaire brand it is today with an intense scene portrayed of her (Davis) and Sonny Vaccaro(Damon) negotiating back-and-forth on the phones to close the deal towards the end of the movie . The film also gets you curious about who should ultimately be credited as the real genius behind the Air Jordan launch. Although it’s debatable, it has to be designer Peter Moore in my honest opinion. Whether he was responsible for the Air Jordan name or not, he is certainly held accountable for inventing the air sole for Nike basketball shoes. He also was credited for replacing the initial Jordan logo with the iconic silhouette of MJ that we all recognize today. The film clearly pays tribute to his efforts in innovating basketball shoes as he sadly passed away a week before the filming began.
When I left the theater, fans were immediately lining up to take pictures with the poster. Do I need to say more? This movie has to be considered to be one of the top films by the end of 2023 and is certainly one of my favorite sports films of all-time. Put it this way, the movie came out 5 days ago and I’ve already seen it three times barely being able to find an open seat. I think what makes this film so special aside from the all-star cast, was everyone in the theater has some small memory of Michael Jordan in their life. Whether that's purchasing his shoes, watching him on TV, hitting game winning shots in the NBA finals, or even starring in Space Jam- his competitive spirit is infectious and his story has touched millions. If you don’t watch this film in theaters, you are missing out as it brought back the “good old days” of going to the movies with friends and family which is what made attending that much more memorable. Huge thank you to Amazon Studios and Ginsberg Libby for including me in the launch of this project and make sure to check out Air today!