Sunday, March 22, 2009

Michael Jordan: To The Max

This is one of my favorite documentaries. I saw it in IMAX when it first came out back in 2000, loved it, and have since bought it on DVD. This is one that I could watch every couple of months and still be excited to see it.

Michael Jordan: To The Max
Directors: Don Kempf, James D. Stern
Starring: Michael Jordan

This movie is hero worship at its best, shamelessly putting Jordan on a pedestal as the film takes us through the 1998 NBA Playoffs. If you're a Michael Jordan fan, or even know who he is, this is unquestionably worth seeing. The film briefly jumps to key points in the career of His Airness, as we bounce from his high school to The University of North Carolina to his stint in minor league baseball. It mixes in some funny shots of him decked out in 80's and 90's gear off the court, doing events for kids, and commercials (is it the shoes?) with Spike Lee. All the while, the story of the '98 Playoffs is unfolding, building suspense for (one of) Jordan's final moments on the basketball court.

His final shot against the Utah Jazz to win the Championship is one of the most iconic in recent years, and seeing it brought to life again in this movie conjurs up my own personal memories of staying up and watching that game when I was a kid. When I saw it happen then, I remember thinking I had just seen something special - little did I know it would one day be the subject of an IMAX movie.

Speaking of IMAX, it's obviously impossible to relive this film on a screen of that size unless they rerelease it for some reason. But the bigger TV you watch this on, the better - it was made to be viewed on a large screen so a lot of the detail is lost on a smaller TV.

As documentaries go, this one doesn't necessarily provide a new glimpse into any aspects of the man's life or make the audience think about something new. Instead, it concentrates on helping the audience remember what it was like to watch the greatest player in the history of the game do his thing. The music accentuates the masterful editing on display here, and whoever made the music choices should have gotten some kind of award. Every song is memorable, catchy, and (most importantly) perfect for the exact moment it is used on screen. If you're looking for an example of how to choose music for a film, search no further.

I don't know if it's because I played basketball as a kid (and still do, intermittenly), but this film has the rare ability to hit me in the right spot emotionally and conjur up feelings of happiness and triumph. I liken the feeling to what I felt while watching Slumdog Millionaire, but these events actually took happened. The endings to each were undeniable, and the manner in which they arrived at their inevitable conclusions were both thrilling and an absolute joy to watch. Until next time...

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