Gunnin' For That #1 Spot

Gunnin' For That #1 Spot


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Whatever happened to the Beastie Boys? Unlike many of their contemporaries, they never stopped making music. They're still out there composing, recording and performing today. But Adam Yauch doesn't need to worry about the day job. On the strength of this film, he has a promising new career waiting for him in the film industry, should he ever choose to take it up.

This is Yauch's first feature-length film. His background is in music videos - he made several for the band - and it shows, as the camera hops around and continually adopts new approaches. But this is no weakness. In the context of his subject - pre-college American basketball - it's ideal. If only more sport were filmed like this, it might gain a whole new audience. For Yauch it's clearly a part of the urban culture he loves. Hip hop music is woven into a complex soundtrack, likewise energetic, and there's an intense sense of rhythm pulsing throughout the film. Combined with sharp editing, this really brings the sporting scenes to life, giving the viewer a real sense of the players' excitement rather than the usual more distant appreciation.

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There are some really great shots here which must have been enormously difficult to set up, but they're not just there to look pretty, they work with the action. Yauch's hand held cameras are always well balanced and there's none of the random jerkiness normally associated with this sort of thing. It's curious, considering this, that the lighting work is so poor, but one almost gets the sense that it has been left raw to contribute to the film's grungy atmosphere.

The documentary follows a group of eight teenagers whose dream is to become NBA basketball stars. As their stories make clear, this is about far more than just achieving sporting success - it could get them to college, give them a solid financial start in life, help struggling families, give them a future. The very lack of emphasis placed on this lets its message come across all the more strongly. Furthermore, though the boys themselves are wholeheartedly enthusiatic about the game, older commentators worry about the effects the pressure may have on them as the US media looks for stars who are younger and younger.

This laid back, unpushy approach to interviewing results in a more balanced picture than one might expect and certainly scores a few points, but the interview scenes are drawn out a little too long without enough to substantiate them. Whilst the subjects are interesting as phenomena, they're too young to have a great deal to say about themselves and their stories are often similar. It's not until we get to the action that the film really grips.

If you're a fan of basketball, you will probably find this fascinating - it doesn't have much new to tell but it has a lot to show. But although it is in many ways an impressive piece of work, it probably won't manage to break through and entertain a wider audience.

Reviewed on: 09 Oct 2008
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Gunnin' For That #1 Spot packshot
Examination of pre-college American basketball.
Amazon link

Director: Adam Yauch

Starring: Jerryd Bayless, Michael Beasley, Tyreke Evans, Donte Green, Brandon Jennings, Kevin Love, Kyle Singler, Lance Stephenson

Year: 2007

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: US

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