Loving Those Eighties: Air, Tetris 


[NoHo Arts District, CA] – This month’s movie and TV reviews of Loving Those Eighties: Air and Tetris.

In the mid-1980s, when I made the conscious choice not to spend $65.00 on that new pair of Air Jordans when they first came from Nike, never did I imagine that those sneakers would be the subject of a mainstream movie. (I grant you, my imagination was a bit more limited then.) Nevertheless, the various professional and personal machinations that helped to unleash Air Jordans on a more-than-welcoming public have been dramatized in Air, a most enjoyable film from director Ben Affleck that benefits greatly from the efforts of a fine cast led by Matt Damon, Jason Bateman, Viola Davis and Affleck himself.

It also helps that the corporate maneuverings are tied into a more accessible film about risk, success, family and the American Dream. As Air begins, it’s established that Jordan, who has yet to play an NBA game, is a potential superstar; it’s also established that out of the name-brand sneakers in America, Jordan (whose image is seen, but the actor playing Jordan is only glimpsed) places Nike a distant third in terms of the brands he would choose to endorse. (Adidas and Converse are the frontrunners.) Enter Damon’s salesman Sonny Vaccaro, who sees Jordan (and his endorsement) as the savior for Nike’s basketball division…if only he had the budget and corporate approval (courtesy of Affleck’s Phil Knight) to pursue Jordan. The fact that he lacks this does not prevent Vaccaro from trying to convince Jordan’s arrogant agent David Falk (Chris Messina) to take a meeting—and more importantly, visiting Jordan’s family (including his influential mother, embodied here by Viola Davis.). Gradually though, Vaccaro’s passion gains the support of management (here represented by Jason Bateman, Chris Tucker, and Affleck), and the design department (Matthew Maher as designer Peter Moore). There is even more than a glimmer of support from Jordan’s mom, but there may be conditions…

Even though I’m not going to provide spoilers, the fact that Air Jordans still exist in 2023 America (and currently sell in the neighborhood of $175) do dim some of the suspense aspect. However as written by Alex Convery and directed by Affleck, Air does a good job of making the viewer care, with the end result being a highly entertaining movie that works as a sports film and a film about family. There’s a good shot toward the end of the movie when it looks like all might be lost, and the camera surveys (from Damon’s POV) all those who work in the basketball division, people who may very well lose their jobs if the deal falls through—people whom Damon’s Vaccaro regards as family. There’s a lovely moment between Damon and Bateman where Bateman relays his support—and what it all means in terms of his tenuous relationship with his daughter. The scenes between Damon and Viola Davis are among the best in the film, with Damon’s sincerity balancing nicely with Davis’ pride and pragmatism toward her son. The eighties soundtrack is also well used to convey emotion and irony, depending on the situation—and the final scenes, notably one with Damon on a track, provide a crowd-pleasing resolution. It’s in theaters now—seek it out. (But I’m not going to tell you to run out and buy the sneakers.)

via https://tv.apple.com/us/movie/tetris/umc.cmc.4evmgcam356pzgxs2l7a18d7b?mttn3pid=Google%20AdWords&mttnagencyid=a5e&mttncc=US&mttnsiteid=143238&mttnsubad=OUS2019993_1-652822533813-c&mttnsubkw=148802126089__pn9XzzPM_

As long as we’re in the 1980s, there’s another “based on real-life events” film, and it’s called Tetris, named after the game that took the world by storm in the eighties. That journey to world-wide dominance in the wake of the Soviet Union’s imminent collapse is the subject of a film that plays fast and loose with the facts. (As you might well think during a climactic car chase that seemingly comes out of nowhere and would better fit a Michael Bay action opus—but I digress.)

As the movie Tetris makes abundantly clear, the ownership and the rights to the game were remarkably unclear in 1988. There are the rights to computers, handheld devices, arcades; there is the question of what constitutes a computer—there is also the question of who currently has ownership and how that ownership was obtained. In any case, Taron Egerton’s Henk Rogers tries to acquire the rights (for PCs, consoles, and arcades) in partnership with Nintendo. This necessitates going to Russia and dealing with danger and duplicity from business rivals (Toby Jones’s Robert Stein, Roger Allam and Anthony Boyle as tottering titan Robert Maxwell and son Kevin), agents of the KGB (Igor Grabuzov as the corrupt Trikonov), and an all-too-helpful interpreter (Sofia Lebedeva’s Sasha).

The film, as written by Noah Pink and directed by Jon S. Baord, gets off to a frenetic start, with the action moving along in the style of the game (complete with accompanying visuals)—and it does take a while to sort out the players, as well as who is playing whom. About forty minutes in, the film does find its groove, and what passes for heart, when Alexi, the designer of Tetris enters the action. Nikita Efremov’s Alexi is torn: he loves his country but his homeland is not what it was; he loves his family and remaining in Russia is looking like less of an option; he also suspects that promises of a better life (whether from his Russian compatriots or his new American “friends”) have little chance of being fulfilled. Tetris amps up the intrigue and suspense in the last section (no spoilers here: the world knows of Tetris, but who might know who owns the rights to what), and Egerton and Efremov do a fine job of making you care about the characters and the outcome. The derring-do at the climax may be a tad overdone, but it does lead to a satisfying conclusion. Give Tetris a gander—it’s on Apple TV+.


Comments are closed.