[Editor’s note: This was a team effort by the Knickerbloggeristas. In case it wasn’t clear, Jim Cavan’s Jimskel, Kevin McElroy’s Kevbert, and Robert Silverman’s Roepert.]
|Carmelo Anthony, SF 37 MIN | 17-28 FG | 4-4 FT | 14 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 5 TO | 41 PTS | +22
JIMSKEL: It’s a narrative as old as time itself: Battle-tested hero earns his stripes fending off the kingdom’s most feared foes, only to be summarily thwarted in brief by a hinterland upstart. Battered and bruised, Melo – who recently agreed to do voiceover work for the forthcoming Echo the Dolphin vehicle – is inspired by a reenactment put on by his elders, responding with a tour de force second act that could well net him an Oscar nod.
KEVBERT: Our society is complex and our heroes reflect that. We like them flawed, dark, mortal; even our comic book movies now humanize their superhuman protagonists by burdening them with defects, vices, and vulnerabilities. But here we have the implausible tale of a star whose unrivaled powers render all supposed “challenges” puffed-up and laughable. I watched in bemused agony as his seemingly bottomless bag of tricks got him and his merry band of misfits out of one jam after another, eluding even the fundamental laws of probability. We’re not children, we don’t believe in the Tooth Fairy or in 3-game stretches where basketball players average 43 points on 60% shooting. Stop treating us like we need to be protected from the truth.
|Iman Shumpert, SF 19 MIN | 0-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +8
KEVBERT: An earnest effort that fell totally flat with me. Too reliant on that most cynical of tropes that one sensational visual — in this case, a spring-in-his-shoes swat — can save a performance that is otherwise entirely bereft of substance. Yawn.
JIMSKEL: Not since The Room has an outwardly earnest performance seemed so awkward. Every line was wide by a mile, every move a belabored lumber. That earnestness pays off with a few memorable moments (the block on Jennings, basically), but when we can barely look past your schill haircut, you’re about three Transformers flicks from Megan Fox territory… Oh shit, here comes Roepert…
ROEPERT: Okay, this is going to get a tad political, so if that’s not your cup of bile, please feel free to jump ahead to the next capsule, but here goes.
You might not have caught it, but Iman Shumpert, who’s been a part of this neat-o campaign by Adidas (That’s not sarcasm. I like that ad.), decided it was a good idea to shave said company’s logo into the back of his flat top, Anthony Mason-style.
Well, I had/have a problem with it. You might counter, “But Bob, Shump’s wearing Adidas shoes, headbands, socks, merkins, etc. What’s the difference between that and a bit of creative hairstyling? He’s already a de facto billboard. What’s the big deal? Aren’t you just quibbling with semantics?”
And you wouldn’t be entirely wrong. For me, though, the haircut crossed a line. There’s a difference between being a spokesperson for a widget and actually altering your body to become a walking, breathing, farting corporate logo.. I realize that, in all likelihood, this decision was Shump’s alone, and he’s free to do whatever he wants with his skin. If this encroachment of product placement doesn’t rankle you, what if Melo legally changed his last name to “Hot Pockets?” He could then become, “Carmelo Hot Pockets,” and receive a tidy sum from Nestlé because “Hot Pockets” is festooned across the back of every Knick jersey sold. Not to get all Adbusters/No Logo, but it’s part and parcel of the overwhelming trend of corporatization; of the encroachment of market interests into what might (possibly naively so) be considered our private lives and public spaces.
Iman Shumpert is many things. I enjoy watching him play. Aside from his skills on the court, he’s clearly a kind, humble human being. He is far more than that Adidas logo (and whatever business practices Adidas engages in and/or the totality of their fine products) and when I see that symbol on the back of his head, it makes me angry because it feels reductive and dehumanizing and a disservice to Iman (even if he [clearly] was okay with it). Now, back to basketmoviesball…
|Tyson Chandler, C 37 MIN | 3-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 10 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | +16
JIMSKEL: I’m sorry, did Daniel Day-Lewis give anyone permission to reattempt doing a movie about someone who can’t use their hands? Chandler’s derivative drivel of a performance couldn’t help but collapse upon itself – even when he was slapping balls away haphazardly, he still retained the look of a man you the viewer knew was capable of more. The faint glimmers – a pair of dunks, some surprisingly prescient passing – weren’t near enough to mask the thespian thievery.
KEVBERT: Subtle brilliance here. On paper? Not much of a story. But he pulled us in and held us from the first minute. He held the Bucks just as tightly, allowing just 17 for 46 shooting on two-pointers and forcing a Milwaukee team trying to hold a lead into the backwards tactic of heaving from beyond the arc. A reliable offering from a master of his genre.
|Raymond Felton, PG 36 MIN | 4-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 4 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 9 PTS | +22
JIMSKEL: From March of the Penguins to March of the Penguins, America’s love affair with penguin-related films has stood the test of time. Since 2005. Raymond Felton’s lovably clumsy yet resilient performance – peppered with equal parts farcical face plants and timely jumpers – makes for a performance the whole family will enjoy. Even on the 75th sequel!
KEVBERT: Originally cast as Point Guard, a late-in-production reshuffling saw him take on the role of “Two.” Handled it ably at times but was far from the story for most of the evening. It’s been said that the only thing worse than incompetence is irrelevance. I’ll keep my opinion on that one to myself.
|Pablo Prigioni, PG 17 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | +23
JIMSKEL: I’ll admit, I’m not up to date on Argentine cinema. And I accidentally got the copy without subtitles. But something about Prigioni’s performance rang poetic. The determined defense in the face of foes so clearly superior in athletic prowess, perhaps. Or the selfless way he sacrifices making his own mark for his men’s sake. He’s like a more handsome version of Roberto Benigni, who is quite literally the only other non English-speaking actor I can name.
KEVBERT: An international offering that relied too heavily on the viewer to bridge the gap between what we see and what it means. Sometimes it means nothing; next time try to show it to us yourself.
|Chris Copeland, SF 21 MIN | 2-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | -5
JIMSKEL: Like Billy Bob Thornton in Sling Blade, Chris Copeland proves there’s often a fine line between violence (4 fouls) and victimhood (2 of those were clearly charges). He might’ve arrived too late to a game that seldom rewards pluck and Tinseltown toil, but with George Clooney and Bradley Cooper now proving exceptions, perhaps accolades aren’t too far beyond this journeyman’s reach. So long as he cuts his hair and quits smoking dope.
KEVBERT: Ludicrous acting. ”Hands in the air” and “defense” are not one in the same. Generally not believable in the role of “Basketball Player.”
|Steve Novak, SF 15 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -8
JIMSKEL: If I want a one-trick pony that has a 50% chance of nailing his schtick, I’ll watch a Christopher Walken cameo, thank you very much. For a guy given all of five lines to plod his way through, Novak treated the roll like a guy who just got sued for divorce and needs a pay day. Perhaps its time to revisit the Discount Double Check franchise. I hear Michael Bay’s available!
KEVBERT: When people plunk down their dollars to see a Steve Novak performance, they want only one thing. He didn’t give it to them. Adam Sandler needs to do funny voices; Steve Novak needs to hit threes.
|Jason Kidd, PG 24 MIN | 2-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 5 PTS | -5
JIMSKEL: I got flak for referring to the latter stages of Al Pacino’s career as “a circuitous nightmare of shit.” You know what? This is worse – “a shit nightmare of circuitous shit,” as a matter of fact. Don’t let the steady productivity and animated hand gestures fool you: This is a man pacing for a paycheck.
KEVBERT: A heart-warming performance; a testament to the power of the human spirit. Did his withered, atrophied arms really project that orange spheroid 50-some-odd feet, off the backboard (a turn that approached “too cute” without crossing the line), and through the net? Was it CGI? Perhaps a dream sequence? The answer to that question is left to the viewer; find your answer within yourself.
|J.R. Smith, SG 34 MIN | 11-22 FG | 3-4 FT | 10 REB | 3 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 30 PTS | +14
JIMSKEL: I remember seeing Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid the day it came out in theaters, and marveling at Robert Redford’s ability to make you wonder who was really the cheese in charge. These days, Earl Smith’s supporting roles are taking on precisely that air, and this performance was no different. Deadeye heroics, timely feats – both glowed in spades. As long as it all doesn’t get to this head (the fame and the women), we could be looking at a leading man in wait.
KEVBERT: A performer who built a distinguished career in comedic turns has gone the Bill Murray route: playing serious roles in important shows without sacrificing the charisma and good humor that made us love him in the first place. A tour de force here and, with award season just around the corner, expect to be hearing more about this one. A lot more.
Five Things We Saw
- SCRIPT: Holy Drama! It’s not often that we enjoy watching heroes start at the top and end at the top, with only a marginal affront in between. But Knicks-Bucks somehow made it work. Winners of 10 straight, the Bockers’ sluggish start paved the way for a familiar refrain: the halftime pep talk. But not just ANY halftime pep talk. With the compromised protagonists encamped wounded in the shadows, the warriors of yore – the ’73 Knicks, boasting no less than 10 Hall of Famers – spoke of bygone glory. Of selves sacrificed for points and wins and gold. Of passes being bonds. Of a team, true and tested. And the youngins would hear them, loud and clear. The second act – and third scene in particular – saw the heroes herald their elders with particular aplomb, bombing threes from every which way and turning a would-be curse into a rout. Expertly crafted, borderline cheesy in its realization. It was awesome. (JIMSKEL)
- PLOT: Utterly implausible. The team’s success felt earned but the manner in which it was achieved — 24 minutes of incompetence, an all-too-convenient explosion by the team’s two most charismatic players, and an answered 50-foot prayer by a quadrigenarian guard — strained credibility to the point of distraction. And this is to say nothing of the full complement of the franchise’s past heroes quite literally standing on ceremony and working both crowd and team into the fervor that ultimately proved decisive. If that sort of saccharin is your bag, just save yourself some time and watch The Mighty Ducks — I think that Joshua Jackson kid is going places. (KEVBERT)
- VISUAL EFFECTS: From the high-flying dunks to the self-sacrificing floor dives, tonight’s tilt was rife with exciting stunts. The halftime lighting helped set the mood for a moment both nostalgic and forelorn. Meahwhile, credit the makeup artists for a superb effort on Dick Barnett’s eyes, and the CGI crew for piping a soul into Phil Jackson. (JIMSKEL)
- DIRECTION: Mike Woodson held things together well and impressed with his ability to successfully craft compelling situations with various combinations of cast members. But the show tonight was about it’s star and his performance that transcends plot, direction, even film. You probably know that Daniel-Day Lewis won his first Oscar for “My Left Foot.” Do you remember who directed that film? Do you care? Exactly. (KEVBERT)
- There are a ton of smart, touching things that have been said about Roger Ebert since his passing, but for me/us, before I was old enough to discover Andrew Sarris, J. Hoberman and Pauline Kael, his half-hour syndicated program with Gene Siskel, was an introduction to the notion that it was possible to love movies, even so-called trashy ones, and, at the same time, consider them an art form worthy of serious criticism, both political, social and aesthetic (and this is coming from someone who thought The Cannonball Run was the bestest movie EVAH for a good stretch of time). I suspect the same was true for millions of others. And if you only know him as the portlier Statler to Siskel’s Waldorf, read some of the reviews that he’s written over the years—they’re basically a primer on how to write with clarity, elegance and honest subjectivity. And he never, ever, made the act of engaging in a critical response about himself; it was always about the movies. R.I.P. Roger. (ROEPERT)