The reviews are out for “Air” and it seems like critics are on cloud nine for the film with a staggering 99% on Rotten Tomatoes as of the time of writing. The film recounts the story of Matt Damon’s Sonny Vaccaro, a shoe salesman and basketball guru, and his team at Nike as they hustle, negotiate, scream and work their way into closing a deal with the greatest basketball athlete of all time. This is the story of how Nike went from a mildly popular choice for joggers to becoming the premiere shoe brand for athletes and celebrities across the world. All because they took a chance on an NBA rookie…Michael Jordan. Personally, we loved “Air”. Though simple in its premise, director Ben Affleck goes the distance to tell a compelling story that is both equal parts nerve-wracking and side-splitting,
With near-universal acclaim for the film, it’s hard not to imagine them making it into the Oscars in some way. We’re calling it here right now, these are the Oscar categories we predict “Air” could land on and even possibly win!
1. Best Picture
While “Air” is significantly more comedic in tone than perhaps some of the more sombre and self-serious Oscar contenders revealed this year, by no means is this necessarily a hindrance to it possibly gaining a spot for Best Picture. Last year, we saw two comedy-drama films “The Banshees of Inisherin” and “Triangle of Sadness” breaking into the category. Furthermore, films like 2022’s “King Richard” is proof that there is a place for sports biopics to at least be nominated as well.
It’s been over a decade since Affleck took home an Oscar for Best Picture with “Argo” and there’s a chance he may yet do it again. Now personally, do we think “Air” could take home Best Picture? It’s a bit of a long shot but with a ton of heart, a strong character-driven direction and some outstanding performances, it’s definitely a shoe-in for a nomination.
2. Best Lead Actor
Don’t let the age fool you, Matt Damon is still a force to be reckoned with after all these years. He captured the academy’s attention with his soulful angst in “Good Will Hunting” and his seemingly endless positivity in “The Martian”. In “Air”, Damon plays an abrasive but brilliant sports marketing executive who follows his gut, even when everyone in the room is screaming for him not to. That being said, the film doesn’t simply fall into the cookie-cutter underdog formula for his character. There are consequences in taking major risks and the film makes it a point to let Damon’s character come to that sobering realisation.
Damon does a great job of bringing a tired world-weariness to the role that is slowly interrupted by sparks of passion and frustration as he sees the future in the eyes of Michael Jordan. Simply put, his excitement is infectious and it’ll make you root for him and the folks over at Nike. Long enough for you to forget that you’re watching a giant ad for the company. With his killer speech at the film’s climax, he’s definitely got a fighting chance for Best Lead Actor.
3. Best Supporting Actress
Viola Davis’ performance as the matriarch of the Jordan family, Deloris Jordan is nothing short of phenomenal. While most people will probably know the actress for her role as Amanda Wallace in the DC Universe (DCU) with “Peacemaker” and “The Suicide Squad”, the academy is well acquainted with her work in films like “Fences” and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”. In every single of them, she gave an absolute powerhouse performance. Needless to say, we’re fairly certain that Viola Davis will at least be nominated for Best Supporting Actress.
Now, does she get to deliver some fiery confrontational monologues in “Air”? Well, no. The power of her performance here lies in her dry wit and quiet authority over every scene. That phone call between her and Sonny where she explains to him the value of an athlete and their rights is a powerful moment.
Sidenote: We also can’t wait to see what she brings with her solo series “Waller”.
4. Best Original Screenplay
There was rarely a moment in the film when you weren’t hooked by the gripping drama or wonderful bits of comedic banter. Alex Convery understands the subject matter of securing a shoe deal with Michael Jordan might not exactly be the most interesting premise out there. However, he wisely makes the decision of making the characters surrounding Michael Jordan infinitely more engaging than the man himself. Around every corner of this film is a pithy wisecrack, an emphatic argument or a pretentious piece of sagacious advice that keeps you tuned in.
The idea of making a film about Michael Jordan, Nike and basketball while not placing the actual basketball matches at the centre of the film is an insanely gutsy move. It could have easily backfired in the wrong hands. However, thanks to an incredibly intelligent script and great performances all around, “Air” will no doubt land a comfortable slamdunk in the Best Original Screenplay category. Seriously, we dare any of you not to chuckle at Chris Messina’s rants as David Falk or Patrick Bateman’s Rob Strasser when he’s lecturing Sonny.
5. Best Costume Design
C’mon, we’re talking about the legendary Air Jordan sneakers here! Throughout the film, Sonny and Matthew Maher’s Peter Moore constantly remind us that the shoes are just as much a character in the film as Michael Jordan. Everything from the form and design to the nature of the shoe violating the NBA guidelines every time they show up on the court does a wonderful job building a mythology around them. So when they’re finally unveiled and we see them in all of their material glory, there’s a richer context behind their presence and creation.
Yes, yes we’re aware that their presence in the film as a prop is probably also a very smart marketing ploy on the part of Nike to send shoe sales skyrocketing. That being said, it’s done with so much panache and style that we can’t help but give it a pass. A good costume and piece of fashion should always tell you something about the character or the world they inhabit. Like Sauron and the One Ring, the Air Jordan shoes are indeed Michael Jordan in all his ambition, effort and talent.
Be sure to catch “Air” in theatres today!