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NBA Movies: Where Amazing Rarely Happens

NBA Movies: Where Amazing Rarely Happens (photo)

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The New Jersey Nets finished the 2009-2010 NBA season with a record of 12 wins and 70 losses, good enough — well, bad enough — to rank them amongst the worst teams in league history. The New Jersey Nets of the new film “Just Wright,” on the other hand, are playoff contenders, thanks to the play of their star point guard Scott McKnight (Common). In other words, “Just Wright” is a ludicrous fiction, which puts it squarely in the dubious tradition of films set in and around the National Basketball Association. Movies about the NBA are, at best, wildly unfaithful to the realities of the pro game and, at worst, strange concoctions of mediocre hoops and outlandish and sometimes downright bizarre storylines. While we patiently wait for someone to make the “Slap Shot” of pro basketball — or at least release the long-unavailable “The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh” on DVD — let’s take a look at five other movies featuring the “real” NBA. (NOTE: Spoilers ahead.)

05142010_LikeMikeNBA.jpg“Like Mike” (2002)
Directed by John Schultz

Made “in association” with NBA Entertainment, this innocuous kids film is the basketball version of “Rookie of the Year,” where an adorable scamp gains magical athletic abilities and becomes a pre-pubescent pro athlete. In “Like Mike,” that scamp is Calvin Cambridge (Bow Wow), an orphan who finds a pair of magical sneakers that may or may not have belonged to Michael Jordan. When given the opportunity to lace up for a halftime stunt game of one-on-one with NBA star Tracey Reynolds (Morris Chestnut), he not only takes Reynolds to the hole, but subsequently winds up with a contract to play as his teammate for the lowly Los Angeles Knights. I can’t decide what element of this story is more ludicrous: the idea that a bolt of lightning could give sneakers superpowers or that the NBA, which doesn’t even allow high school graduates to enter the draft without at least one year of college, would permit the Knights to suit up a 14-year-old. Stranger still, real NBA stars appear as themselves, allowed the filmmakers to show them getting schooled by a little kid. In a sport where players are notoriously afraid of getting ‘posterized,’ what in the world convinced guys like Jason Kidd and Vince Carter to let themselves be dunked on by a 5’2″ teen? Oh, right. Money.

05142010_CelticPrideNBA.jpg“Celtic Pride” (1996)
Directed by Tom DeCerchio

“Celtic Pride” is the story of Mike and Jimmy (Daniel Stern and Dan Aykroyd), two Boston Celtics fans who try to help their team win the NBA Finals by kidnapping their opponent’s star player (Damon Wayans) before the all-important series’ Game 7. Their plan is extreme, but then their obsession is extreme. The Celtics have won more World Championships than any other team, and at the time “Celtic Pride” was made, they were only 10 years removed from their last championship. In other words, these fans were hardly starved for success. (The Utah Jazz, on the other hand, who are the Cetlics’s opponents in the film, have been in the NBA for over 35 years and they’ve won exactly zero titles). That’s part of what makes the film interesting. “Celtic Pride” co-writer Judd Apatow’s dark script was the most blatantly uncommercial of his career until last summer’s “Funny People” (another film about fans and stars, and the conflicts that arise when that class divide is breached). We don’t root for Mike and Jimmy, we sort of hate them and their greed, which is probably why the movie doesn’t really work as a comedy. That’s because the rules of comedy demand that the end of the movie absolve and even celebrate Mike and Jimmy’s actions, rather than chastise them for what is, let’s face it, cruel, illegal behavior. Still, I do admire the scene where Mike’s estranged wife, watching the Celtics-Jazz game on television, oh-so-casually drops the NBA’s mid-90s advertising slogan “I love this game!” We sure do.

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.