Ben Affleck’s film, Air, about how Nike’s relationship with Michael Jordan and his family produced the cultural phenomenon now known as Air Jordans, premiered at SXSW this weekend, and if the audience reaction is any indication, it’s a winner. The critics, so far, seem to agree. Not all of them have weighed in yet, but the trades all seem to be in alignment with Deadline, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Slash, and The Wrap all in consensus that Air can back up its hype.
Ben seems to be very confident in his own work here as it was revealed that Ben may have wanted to put a late season Oscar push behind the film but was talked out of it by Amazon. That said, the original reporting for that story came from Above the Line and they seem to have removed their article. So either they got it wrong or the studio didn’t want that out there to avoid creating too much expectation too early.
The point here though is that it would appear that the film delivers, at least on content. Whether or not audiences show up for it in a couple of weeks is another story. What Ben and Amazon are hoping, of course, is that the movie opens strong, especially for an adult drama, and that they can ride that momentum and see what their options are for the rest of the year.
After heading to Austin for the weekend, Ben, Matt Damon, and Viola Davis are now all in New York on promotion. About Viola though, and the initial hesitation about Air and whether or not two white guys should be centered in a story about a Black icon and his mother, Viola told THR in the profile on Ben that I covered last week that working with him on this story was one of the best experiences of her career, describing it as:
“…an unbelievable experience that me and my husband and even my hair and makeup team still talk about to this day,” says Davis, whose husband, actor and producer Julius Tennon, plays Jordan’s father in the film. “Ben’s an auteur and so unbelievably kind and respectful. It was one of our top experiences of being treated the way we felt we deserved to be treated.”
I’m going to assume that Viola Davis doesn’t dole out these compliments casually. That she means what she says. That she has no reason to praise Ben if she doesn’t actually want to. Neither does Barry Jenkins:
This was a fantastic read— Barry Jenkins (@BarryJenkins) March 16, 2023
Enjoyed it ALMOST as much as I enjoyed AIR ðŸ‘€ https://t.co/CfFPwfcek2
So we’re at the top of a Ben Affleck cycle. And we’ve talked about this often – how his career can swing dramatically from highs to lows to comeback highs. We also happen to be in a Ben Affleck high swing while he’s married to Jennifer Lopez. Back when they were first together, the trajectory went in the opposite direction, from high to low. It’ll be interesting to see how they manage it this time around. Because… they’ll be working together.
It was announced last week that Ben and Matt Damon’s production company, Artists’ Equity, will produce JLo’s next movie, Unstoppable. It’s another sports movie. Ben isn’t directing this one but since Unstoppable is an Artists’ Equity title, obviously he’ll be involved as the CEO, with his wife as the star.
Attached – the Air team at SXSW this weekend and in New York today. And JLo at her Revolve collaboration launch over the weekend.