By Toni Gonzales
You may not expect a movie about basketball icon Michael Jordan to have appeal outside of the male demographic. Honestly, I don’t blame you, it’s not that much of a leap to make that assumption about the Air movie.
But, after seeing Air, not only do I call foul on that presumption, I will take it one step further and say that the Air movie is a slam dunk…for everyone. And yes, that includes us ladies.
Admittedly, the draw for us females is not sculpted stomachs on good-looking guys or sex scenes so steamy even nonsmokers need a cigarette. Heck, it’s not even cause us ladies love us some shoes. Nope, Air needs no assists from the old tricks of Tinseltown.
It is, simply put, a wicked good marvelous motion picture. And, spoiler alert: there is a fierce female at the center of the story.
But first, let’s take a game break and give you the film’s highlights. The story follows Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon), a Nike executive and his charge to secure a top NBA draft pick for the company’s fledgling basketball shoe line. Vaccaro zeros in on Michael Jordan, the third overall pick, and throws all his energy at him. Vaccaro puts his reputation and all of Nike’s budget on the line in a gamble that will make or break both.
Essentially in the game of basketball there is one second left on the clock in a tied game and Vaccaro is at the free-throw line. If he makes it Nike would win the game and claim the #1 spot in the shoe game, forever. If he loses it would be known as the airball heard round the business world.
Playing both sides of the camera on Air is Ben Affleck. The award-winning actor plays Nike CEO Phil Knight on one side. On the other side he coaches the entire production as the film’s director. Air also stars Jason Bateman as Nike marketing executive Rob Strasser, Chris Tucker as Nike executive Howard White, Chris Messina as David Falk, Jordan’s agent and Academy Award winner Viola Davis as Michael Jordan’s mom, Deloris.
If the A-list Hollywood talent isn’t enough of a full court press, then allow me to take my shot and tell you why Air is 2023’s moviegoers MVP… so far.
5 Reasons the Air movie is 2023’s MVP so far
1. Viola Davis
Viola Davis. The woman is a statement all her own. The recent EGOT recipient was the number one draft pick as Deloris Jordan. In fact, she was the only pick for the role – a plot point in Air that resembles Jordan being Nikes one and only pick.
In keeping with Jordan’s high bar of excellence it has been reported by Affleck that Micheal Jordan insisted on involving Viola Davis and only Viola Davis. According to Affleck her casting was one of a couple non-negotiables that the basketball icon had in the making of the film. This is one business decision that I support 110%.
Photo: AMAZON STUDIOS
Davis admittedly didn’t know much about MJ’s mother. She certainly did not know about the fact that it was Deloris that was responsible for brokering a revolutionary deal for her son. A deal that by the way was not only unheard of at the time, but also changed the athlete endorsement relationship forever.
When I think of the balls that Mrs. Jordan had as a woman of color in the early 80’s it inspires me a full court past impressive. For me, there is no question now as to where MJ got his offensive game.
I wonder two things about Davis: did the idea of filling Mama Jordan’s shoes intimidate the actress, and, were those shoes Nike?
2. Pivoting Perspective
Air is far from the only production dedicated to the great Michael Jordan. But where this project stands alone is in Jordan himself. More accurately in the absence of Jordan.
Affleck put Jordan on the bench for Air, choosing not to show him at all. While Jordan appears in a few scenes, he is never shown head on and through the films entirely he only speaks a few words, most of which are through a phone call. I admire this choice. It’s a bold, thoughtful decision that all but guarantees a win at the box office.
However, if you want to know why the decision was made, Affleck had this to say. “Air is is not Michael Jordan’s story, but there is no story without him. Because he is such an icon—an undisputedly important and meaningful figure, someone everyone holds in such high esteem—we didn’t want to shatter the illusion, but rather let the audience invoke their own memories and experiences of what Michael Jordan means.” In my eyes, that strategy is nothing but net – bravo!
That decision allows a pivot in the perspective of a story so well known, that has now become legend. Air scores major points by allowing the coverage to focus on the crucial characters behind the groundbreaking athlete/business relationship. As there is “No ‘I’ in ‘team,’” there is no singular spotlight put on the sports superstar.
In other words, it’s about teamwork.
3. Traveling Down Memory Lane
While the idea of teamwork is timeless, this movie is very centered on a specific time – 1984. For those of us that lived through and actually remember what life was like almost 40 years ago, Air adds to its point total on the board in the nostalgia department.
The film is as drenched in early 80’s pop culture as many NBA players are with sweat in the 4th quarter. Mr. T, Jane Fonda, Axel Foley put on the full court press along with Rubik’s cubes, bright-colored leggings and permed hair.
If the movies or fashion doesn’t take you back then the technology – or lack thereof- will. The absence of cell phones will remind you of a simpler time. A period of time where a payphone delivered the progress of a deal, not a cell phone or text. A time of ever-ringing landlines. An age where if you did have a mobile phone, it came in a car and was the size of a brick.
4. Press Play
The music of Air is a dream team of songs. The soundtrack is totally tubular as us kids at the time would have said. The Dire Straits’s song “Money for Nothing” says it best, “That ain’t workin’, that’s the way you do it.” Believe me when I tell you Affleck certainly understood the assignment when it came to the soundtrack: dominate, dominate, dominate.
You may be inclined to see the addition of a soundtrack as a movie lacking in other departments—don’t. That is not the case for Air. In actuality, the music is just that good. We are talking Diane Warren kind of good. Scratch that, we are talking Michael Jordan kind of good.
The film’s motion picture soundtrack is available digitally the same day that the movie drops. The full list, including the aforementioned Dire Straits song, is below.
Feel free to download the Air Motion Picture Soundtrack today – I already did.
- “Money for Nothing” – Dire Straits
- “Blister in the Sun” – Violent Femmes
- “Ain’t Nobody” – Chaka Khan
- “Sister Christian” – Night Ranger
- “All I Need is a Miracle” – Mike + The Mechanics
- “Born in the U.S.A.” – Bruce Springsteen
- “Sirius” – The Alan Parsons Project
- “Rock the Casbah” – The Clash
- “My Adidas” – Run-D.M.C.
- “In a Big Country” – Big Country
- “Tempted “- Squeeze
- “Time After Time” – Cyndi Lauper
- “Can’t Fight This Feeling” – REO Speedwagon
5. Teamwork Makes The Dream Work
Air reunites Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. The two won an Academy Award for screenwriting on their freshman project Good Will Hunting back in 1998. The longtime friends have a rhythm that clearly benefits them personally and professionally. Their shorthand makes for an easy, comfortable and believable presence on screen.
Team them up with one of the most inspirational and motivational tales ever to be told and you’ve got a pair that leads any division they are a part of. The fact that it happens to be true only adds to its legitimacy.
At its core, Air demonstrates that when you’ve got good guys on your team, an uncompromising vision, and are working toward a common goal, the sky’s the limit.
Or in this case, when you have all three you can fly.
Aside from the terrific team Affleck assembled, see why Air is an instant 2023 MVP.
Real life inspiration makes for great entertainment. Find out why the Air movie is this season’s slam dunk in the ‘inspired by real life’ department.