Friday, October 4, 2013

"Linsanity" -- Guest Movie Review from L.A. Premiere

As our readers may (or may not) know, scored two tickets to the Los Angeles Premiere of the "Linsanity" movie.  [These were in addition to the tickets that we were able to give away to @nicksianipar, the lucky winner of our ticket giveaway contest.]

Although the team was not able to attend, we sent a couple of our friends (Linda and Helen) who were kind enough to do a movie review.

Caveat:  Our movie reviewers were just that -- movie reviewers.  Not really sports fans.  And they enjoyed the film, nevertheless.  Thanks again to Linda and Helen for the write-up!

Linsanity is the inspirational, feel-good documentary chronicling the
rise of NBA pro-basketball player Jeremy Lin to global fame.  At 88
minutes, the documentary runs at a brisk pace, interweaving news
excerpts, sports clips, spontaneous video footage, and interviews with
Lin and his family, friends, and notables in the sports industry.
Director Evan Leong clearly has an affinity for Jeremy Lin, and Lin
reciprocates with a level of trust and comfort before the camera that
allows the audience to feel at moments as if they too are part of Lin's
close circle of friends.  So we see moments such as Lin
relaxing with his "favorite" blanket (which is printed with various
characters from the Lion King whom he names with tongue-in-cheek,
boyish exuberance), or enthralled as he goes shopping at WalMart (or
similar retail store) that an item is on clearance for less than $10.
Lin is unafraid to show his self-described "dorky" side, and he
comes off as a very likeable, down-to-earth young man whose humility
strengthens the emotional pull of the underdog story.

And what a story it is.  Chances are if you are reading this review on this
website, you are already familiar with Jeremy Lin's not-so-ordinary
life and the struggles he experienced prior to the onslaught of "Linsanity."

As explained by director Evan Leong in a Q&A session after the screening
at the Los Angeles premiere, filming apparently began as early as Lin's
days as a college basketball player at Harvard.  But the film's
narrative story starts much earlier, as the film begins by focusing on
Lin's father, whose obsession for the sport was clearly passed on
to his children.  The film plays excerpts from home videos of Lin
as a child growing up in Palo Alto, California, whose biggest desire
is to play basketball (including an inspired and funny sequence
splicing together Lin's piano recitals over the years, making
clear that the world is better off with Lin as a basketball player
than as a concert pianist).  The film also hops around the globe as
Lin visits his ancestral roots in Taiwan and in China.

The documentary greatly benefits from its early start in production.
When Lin, after the initial high of signing with his local team
the Golden State Warriors and playing in the NBA, was waived first by
the Warriors, and then subsequently by the Houston Rockets, it is a
deflated Lin--onw with no idea of his future successes
with the NY Knicks and resulting global fame--who is present before
the camera.  As revealed in the post-screening Q&A, the filmmakers
also had no idea that Linsanity (the phenomenon and the film) would
happen.  They had originally intended only to make a series of YouTube
videos on Lin.  So, in a metatextual moment, when Lin finally
explodes on the court during the pivotal February 4, 2012 Knicks vs
Nets game, we are witnessing not only the birth of Linsanity the
phenomenon but also of the film itself.

The documentary provides Lin's journey towards NBA superstardom
from his perspective as an Asian American and as a Christian.  It
shows the prejudices faced by Lin--and not only in the form of
politically incorrect headlines and offensive jokes based on Asian
stereotypes.  Lin, for example, tells of the time he was stopped
at the players' entrance to Madison Square Garden and informed that
the entrance was for "players only."  Even when he showed that he did
indeed belong, Lin was met with the unfounded assumption that he
must be there only to help train the players.  Any indignities thrown
at Lin are, however, handled with grace.  Lin, it seems, tries
to live his life asking himself, literally at one point, "WWJD?" ("What would
Jesus Do?")  And even as Linsanity grows, Lin is shown as humble throughout,
attributing success not to himself but, as he explains with sincerity
and gratitude, to God's manipulation of circumstances such that Lin
would be paired with then-Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni whose offensive
strategy seemed tailor-made to showcase Lin's strengths.

The documentary paints a very flattering portrait of Jeremy Lin.  And while
some cynics may claim that Mr. Leong bought into the Linsanity hype, 
so did I as I got swept up in the thrilling replays of game highlights
from the February 2012 string of Knicks victories--successes made all
the more remarkable by the fact that, up until then, Lin had
apparently been couch surfing and taking taxicabs to practice, rather
than renting an apartment and buying a car, because of concerns that
he would be let go by the Knicks.  Lin's story provides a lesson
on perseverence applicable not only to Asian Americans but to
everyone.  So when the underdog finally triumphs, you can't help but
leave the theater with a big grin on your face.  Here's hoping the
whole world goes "Linsane."

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