May 1st, 2023

Air: I attended this in the theatre this past weekend having heard some positive buzz about the movie about Nike signing Michael Jordan. Directed by Ben Affleck, it is also produced by Affleck and Matt Damon. It is a very nostalgic film set in the early 1980s with plenty of flashbacks of TV, commercials, music and scenes from the times.

For someone my age, I lived through this time and remember much of it. The dominant shoe companies of the day were Converse and Adidas. NBA stars like Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Dr J all wore Converse. Adidas in the middle of an ownership change was targeting players who were over 7 feet tall.

The movie has an impressive cast. Damon plays Sonny Vaccaro, the talent scout for basketball, asked to recommend newly drafted NBA players to wear their shoes. His challenge is that Nike is relatively unknown, and thought of as a “running shoe” and not a “basketball shoe”. He is dealing with Affleck as the flamboyant CEO of Nike who brought the company up from nothing. Nike is losing market share, and has a limited amount of money to sign some players. Jordan apparently had all but agreed to go to Adidas, because he liked the gym suits (iconic at the time) and was being promised a new red Mercedes.

Apparently when Affleck and Damon approached Michael Jordan about the film, he said that he would only allow it to go forward if Viola Davis would play his Mom. She did and she puts in a really good performance.

What is remarkable to the lay person is how so much money is offered to unproven draft picks to wear shoes. The endorsement is meant for brand loyalty and future sales. For Nike this was crucial in making them relevant in the basketball shoe market once again. There are business decisions to make, with the choice of an 18yo college basketball player making his decision which will impact so very many lives. The entire basketball division at Nike would be dependent on it. History of course shows us which decision that Michael made, with the remarkable red, black and white high top design that changed the industry in more ways than were initially anticipated.

Incidentally, the NBA had a rule at the time that shoes had to be 51% white or black and that the shoe proposed by Jordan would be contrary to the regulation and incur a $5000 fine per game. At the end there is some discussion about what this deal meant to both Nike and Jordan. Twenty plus years after finishing his career on the court, Michael Jordan is still benefiting (as he should) by Nike using his name and likeness. Few people knew exactly what Nike was investing in when this ground-breaking deal was signed. His Mom knew. He knew. And that Matt Damon’s character knew too. I am hopeful that the Damon character who risked much to make this happen, would have benefited financially with a substantial bonus from Nike.

Also incidentally, Sonny Vaccaro was fired by Nike in 1994, just 10 years after bringing Jordan to Nike. Quite a story. I liked this more than I thought I would and certainly with Ben Affleck who channeled the Nike CEO well. Generally I am not a fan.

Mrs. Davis: This is a new series on Crave. I have seen four episodes. It stars former GLOW and Gaslit star Betty Gilpin. I see a remarkable similarity between Gilpin and Killing Eve star Jodie Comer. I think that they are both very watchable, but also smart and funny at the same time. Each brings an element of her character still figuring things out, but also reacting quickly, sometimes not always thinking through the consequences of their actions. IMDB describes this series as Sci Fi. I am not sure that I agree. It plays on a number of levels, and because of one of these levels one has to say that it is more like fantasy or a fable. So far, this is quirky fun where the backstory between the characters is revealed over the episodes.

Gilpin is a nun named Simone, no joke, and she lives at a time where she believes that the Siri-like artifical intelligence presence, engaged by people through ear pieces, is after her to do something. She is looking to get off the grid. Her past reveals how she has been impacted and her experiences with magician’s and magic. Add to that as a child a chance meeting with a young cowboy, you see her impact on Wiley. Things unfold, and not necessarily as you would expect. There are some catchy lines, and good reaction shots from Gilpin. It is entertaining and I will keep watching to see where exactly it goes. I certainly expect that the ultimate goal/quest will not be completed in this first season.

The Citadel: Richard Madden has been making a tidy career out of playing in this political thriller, spy series genre since finshing up as Robb Stark in Game of Thrones. Back in 2018 he starred in the UK thriller Bodyguard which is definitely worth your time if you haven’t watched it. This series puts his in a role with Priyanka Chopra Jonas who open up borrowing heavily from both the Bourne and Bond franchises. It seems that many of these fight scenes recently are taking place on trains, but even that borrows from Bond long ago in From Russia With Love, among others.

So there is an initial scene which sets up the relationship between Mason Kane (Madden) and Nadia Sign (Jonas). Early on we learn that The Citadel is an organization that appears to be on a higher plain than MI6, CIA or KGB. Maybe think of them as a super-spy organization. Stanley Tucci is involved so that gives them instant credibility, as doesn’t he always? He plays the Alfred (Batman), Charlie (Charlie’s Angels), M (Bond) or Benji (Mission Impossible series) who coordinates efforts and can seemingly do anything with a laptop. Some early Bourne-like situations arise which may or not be believable. Same holds true with the potential resolution to cure the Bourne situation, where I just rolled my eyes. It has been said by me many times that movies require a level of suspension of disbelief. However there are times when it simply becomes ridiculous and you get into science fiction territory. That fails when there is this underlying plot which seems to take place in the present day with real elements surrounding them. Already I am feeling that the domestic set up for Mason is just a little too convenient. But that is just pure speculation. All that to be said that I was far more entertained and interested in Mrs Davis than The Citadel. I think that Madden is a compelling leading man.

Many could argue, of course, the other movies have similarly ridiculous unbelievable stunts. Mission Impossible early on I called “Ending Impossible” with a helicopter going into the Chunnel following a train and Ethan Hawke blowing himself forward from it onto a moving train. Yea, whatever!! That is but one of many such examples. But it doesn’t change my view of what was going on early in this series.

We have seen these types of stunts and storylines in other series. There have always been compelling female spy leads, most recently in the latest Bond with Ana De Armas or in Mission Impossible with Rebecca Ferguson as Isla Faust. There is so much content available these days that I think one must to pick and choose where to spend your valuable time. For me, I would pass on the Citadel, even though I was only two epiosdes in and focus on Succession and Mrs Davis.