Movies and NBA Teams

Over Thanksgiving break, with no classes to fall asleep in and no projects to worry about, I had time to burn my way through an impressive (or depressing, depending on how you look at it) number of movies. Some made more of an impression than others, but I enjoyed aspects of every movie, just like I enjoy things about every NBA team. So I had the bright idea to compare each movie to an NBA squad. Here’s what I came up with.


Django was the first movie I saw, and the one I had the most fun watching. That sounds awkward, since the movie vividly depicts the brutality of southern slavery, and at times it is downright sickening. But Django’s spirit is that of a Western: a comically bloody, Tarantino-ized Western with Jamie Foxx as the cowboy and Rick Ross highlighting the soundtrack. There’s much more to Django than just that, but none of the other movies I watched matched the sheer pleasure of seeing Jamie Foxx perched tall on a horse — cowboy hat donned, black sunglasses hiding his eyes, ready to draw and fire his pistol in the blink of an eye.

So for Django, I’m going with the Pelicans. They’re not the best team in the NBA. They’re good though, maybe really good, and more than that, they’re a ton of fun.

After feeling very much like a lottery team the past couple of years, the Pelicans suddenly seem relevant. That might be an illusion; they’re by no means guaranteed a playoff spot in the Western bloodbath. Still, they’re in the conversation now, thanks to Anthony Davis’s emergence as the behemoth we all knew he would be. His PER is 33 right now. 33. As in six points higher than Michael Jordan’s all-time best career average of 27.

The Pelicans have no expectations to live up to, only exceed. That’s a rare and fleeting gift in the NBA. So sit back and enjoy as they ride through the Southwest, leaving havoc in their wake.

The Silence of the Lambs

Which team will get the honor of being compared to a movie about a serial killer that eats his victims alive, another serial killer that tries to make a skin suit out of women, and the ubiquity of creepy, unwanted male gaze on young women?

No team deserves that, so instead I’ll compare a team to the The Silence of the Lamb’s protagonist, Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster), who manages to stay sane despite being in contact with almost nobody but men who either stare at her lustily or try to murder her.

The Cavs, too, seem to have a target on their back at all times. Every night, they face a team intent on proving its worth by going toe-to-toe with the newest Superteam. The media lurks around every corner, waiting to pounce on anything that might be construed as a sign of Lebron and Kyrie hating each other, or Kyrie and Waiters hating each other, or Lebron and David Blatt hating each other. No, it’s not as bad as being around serial killers, but it’s sports, and I had to pick something.

The Cavs have, in my opinion, handled that target admirably. Yes, their record is mediocre. But like I said before the season, this was a group of guys that had never played together, and it was going to take time. When people expect you to whip the ball around like the Spurs after playing together for two weeks, you’re going to fall short of expectations. Despite that, they’ve managed to avoid a meltdown, and, after four straight wins, it looks like things are coming together.

The Science Fiction Trio – Interstellar/SnowPiercer/2001: A Space Odyssey

Interstellar has some cool space scenes, but the logic is confusing and it’s mostly Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway taking turns giving monologues. I’m being overly dismissive, but the point is, in the grand scheme of things, this movie can be stamped as mediocre. Congratulations Hawks.

Not that the Hawks are bad. They’re actually pretty good. Which is the point. For a team that fancied itself an Eastern Conference version of the Spurs, they look surprisingly average. They pass it around and their big men shoot threes, but with the Cavs still getting their feet under them and Derrick Rose only playing half the time, the East is anybody’s to take. The Hawks have yet to look like a real candidate.

Snowpiercer, on the other hand, was a delight. Was the logic airtight? No. But it was offbeat enough to keep you interested, and a pleasure to take in visually. The action scenes had a quick, martial arts quality that separated them from the blinding series of explosions common to most recent blockbusters. And there was something truly eye-opening about seeing a miniature version of the world condensed into the close quarters of a train. When Curtis Everett (Chris Evans), leads the lowly tail section passengers, covered in layers of grime, out of the overcrowded back cars up no more than maybe 100 feet into a quiet sushi restaurant flanked by a beautiful aquarium, the sudden contrast is momentarily disabling. Kind of like if fighters in Syria ran out of an exploding building and directly into a classroom at Brown.

Teams today are supposed to be efficiency engines. Shoot threes, get layups, go to the line. So it’s weird to see a team built around a baby-faced, temperamental center who yells at refs and sulks on the court suddenly taking on the league’s best. It’s different, it’s disconcerting, and it’s not how things are supposed to work. But the Kings, in their own strange way, are working. I’m fully onboard.

2001: A Space Odyssey, well, where to begin. This movie is in a class of its own.

Part of what makes it so special — its ability to communicate almost entirely visually — also makes it impossible to describe adequately in print. Anything I write will be a pale attempt at getting across its brilliance.

There wasn’t a word of dialogue until about forty minutes in. And yet with a slow and deliberate pace, it pushes forth profound ideas. Actually, pushes is the wrong word; it forces nothing. But it presents something — I’m still not sure what — that is deep and fascinating and up to the viewer to make sense of.

The Spurs are the closest thing the NBA has to a masterpiece. The names on the roster don’t jump off the page. There isn’t a superstar playing 40 minutes and dropping 35 every night. There’s just movement — this way, then that way, around and around, until finally the defense is tangled in knots and the Spurs are staring straight at the basket. Fans are left scratching their heads, trying to figure out what exactly they just saw.

The Graduate

The Graduate is the only one in the bunch I had seen before, which says something about how I feel about it. I usually prefer to watch something new, but I made an exception for The Graduate, both because my brother hadn’t seen it and I wanted to share a great and iconic movie with him, and because I wanted to relive one of my all-time favorite movies.

Watching The Graduate a second time, free from worrying about where the story was headed, I was able to bask in the movie’s subtle pleasures. The soundtrack by Simon and Garfunkel that both fits with and adds to the movie’s tone so beautifully. The iconic lines (“Just one word … Plastics.”). The simple but impactful shots (it’s amazing what happens when the camera lingers just a few extra seconds).

Watching the Mavs these days is no different. It’s still just Dirk, draining his iconic one-legged fadeaways. And it’s no less exciting to witness than it was when I was a little kid. There are plenty of shiny new objects to amuse us around the league, but the number one offense still resides in Dallas, and it’s a sight to behold.

Ferris Buehler’s Day Off

Ferris Buehler was supposed to be a lock to be great. Every person I had ever told I hadn’t seen it berated me. What kind of monster could I be not to have seen Ferris Buehler?

Well, I finally watched it. It wasn’t funny. I don’t know if I laughed once. The movie keeps asking you to root for Ferris Buehler, but he just comes across like an entitled jerk. Why is it cool to pressure your sick friend into getting out of bed and stealing his dad’s Ferrari to drive you and your girlfriend around the city? I came close to turning it off, and I never bail on movies.

The Hornets were also supposed to be a lock to be fun. I gushed about them in my preview. New name, new jerseys, Lance.

After ten straight losses, the party’s over. This thing is not enjoyable to watch. With an easier schedule coming up and some trade potential in the air, it’s too soon to bail. But it’s ugly.

And on that happy note, we come to the end. Seven movies, seven teams, 1,500 words and absolutely nothing learned, other than that no one should give me this much free time.



Photo credit: Keith Allison via photopin cc


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