In the movie everyone wanted an Oscar this season and couldn’t find it here. “Air” is the first movie made by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon since they first met in 1997’s “Good Will to Hunt.” It is also the first potential Best Picture nominee of the new era.
“Air” opens April 5 in theaters around the country for wide release, although it was made by Amazon Studios for the platform. Amazon realized that it had given birth to an old hit, the kind of movie audience would love and changed its release strategy. You want to see this movie in the theater. They are super heroes, but they don’t wear capes. They wear sneakers (bring yours). “Air” is funny, and moving, and surprising with the huge act sent by the A-list.
We forget that Ben Affleck is a good director. Lately, all of his songs have been about Jennifer Lopez. But remember, Ben did “Argo,” “The Town,” and “Gone Baby”—three films most directors want to repeat in their own. “Argo” won best picture. But this is the first movie that he starred in and Damon directed, bringing them back to the screen. (They were seen in Ridley Scott’s 2021 film, “The Last Duel”, not quite together and are best forgotten.
We’ve heard and read that “Air” had a standing ovation at noon this past winter set, but you always wonder if it’s getting that crazy of a holiday cheer. Well, “Air” got the same ovation tonight at the Warner Discovery Theater for a packed, invited audience that included all kinds of influencers, actors, and showbiz types who “SNL” star Heidi Gardner in a huge room.
“Air” is the story of how Michael Jordan rose to stardom before he even started playing in the NBA. A movie, you say? No, the movie is “sneaky” because it’s about people, not shoes, and it’s constructed in such a way that it cares significantly about these people during its two-hour running time.
Affleck is set to play YouTube founder Phil Knight, but he’s supported several other giant shows. Matt Damon stars as Sonny Vaccaro in Tomorrowland, a non-athlete who brought Jordans to Nike, Viola Davis and her real-life husband Julius Tennon as Jordan’s parents, plus Chris Messina as Michael Jordan’s acting agent, and Jason Bateman, Chris Tucker, Marlon Wayans, and Matthew Maher as the Nike team.
Their sensational-watch group is the best Ensemble nod in 2024. As he did in “Argo”, Affleck knows how to move people through tight spaces like offices and warren like apartments, producing drama and comedy at the same time. . No car chases or bank robberies or daring escapes. Affleck simply plays them like a chamber orchestra, building momentum and building momentum as Vaccaro follows Jordan and appeases Phil Knight, who doesn’t think he has the money to lure Michael Jordan from Adidas and Conversa.
Of course, we all know what happened in 1984: Nike rebranded with Air Jordan and the rest was history. Vaccaro was right (so was Delores Michael’s mother) that Jordan became the greatest player of all time. They made millions together, and still do today. But the movie “Air” has no commercial connection with Nike. The athletic team has no interest in the film and wasn’t even that keen on it when the idea was first floated. But Affleck met with Jordan, who finally approved. (Furthermore, there is no financial interest in it or the editing).
The screenplay is by Alex Convery, it’s his first. It was rejected and the editor added and shaped it but it’s his. and he has the luxury of taking time off when needed. You can feel the film is full of “air” giving each actor important moments and enough backstory that they make a momentary connection with the audience. The film is also supported by a jukebox of the hottest early 80s hits that help us position ourselves in a time and place before cell phones and when Apple computers were just boxes of blinking promise. Damon is at the top of his game, so Davis and Chris Messina finally get a showcase no one will forget.
Four stars, two digits, 21 gun salute. If this isn’t Matt Damon’s Oscar for acting (he also has Ben for writing “Good Will Hunting”) I don’t know what will.
See the Q&A for this cover here. That’s right, I ended up asking Matthew Damon about gaining and losing weight for the role.