Tuesday, August 04, 2009

"Attitude of a Champion" Documentary - Review - First Impressions

To the Villanova Wildcats faithful-

This evening, I had the good fortune, to attend the initial screening of Attitude of a Champion, the documentary which focused on the enchanted NCAA tournament run, by the 2008-09 Villanova Wildcats.

The screening was held at 6 PM and 7:30 PM, in the Connelly Center Cinema. It was a great atmosphere for the event, and Villanova, to its credit, made it fun. They steered everyone to the front side of Connelly (down near the ramps), so that all attendees would walk in the door, be greeted by cheerleaders and hospitality staff, as well as The Wildcat (a/k/a, Will D. Cat, #6), plus a giant poster of the Wildcats.

The Wildcat gave a great performance in the lobby, and the aisles, as the crowd settled in. He also got a laugh from the crowd, when after everyone had settled in, he walked up to the formal podium with Villanova University solemnly emblazoned upon it, as if he was going to give the opening remarks...

The Surreal Elements

Summer and Basketball at Villanova

There is nothing like the Villanova campus in summer, in terms of sheer aesthetic beauty. The one really surreal aspect of it, was arriving on campus on a very pleasant August evening, with basketball on our minds. It's baseball season, with the Phillies leading the NL East, and the Eagles are starting training camp, and basketball doesn't really fit in with that picture, naturally.

The Villanova Wildcats on the Big Screen

In addition to the incongruency of the warm weather, it's really surreal to see Jay Wright and the players, up on the big screen, in the Connelly Center.

After the Phillies had won the World Series in 2008, I had the good fortune to see a documentary on the World Series in a movie theater, and had noticed the same effect.

We're so used to watching sporting events live, or on television, and it seems so unusual to see them up on a big screen in a movie theater, simply because we're not used to them being presented in that format. So that takes some getting used to... And that's a good segue into the next point:

The 2008-09 Wildcats Have Already Entered Villanova History

Seeing them up on the big screen, I was reminded of something I had written in the immediate aftermath of The Shot by Scottie Reynolds to vanquish Pitt...

This team, due to its extraordinary (and entirely unexpected) accomplishments, is already part of the lore. They already have a high-production-value, well-written documentary on their feats. They are legends already.

Now, that might seem absurd, given that all but four of the Wildcats will be back on the hardwood next season- some for multiple seasons. But, nonetheless, it's true.

What they've done last year, has already completed an incredible story - memories that will last for a lifetime, for anyone who experienced it, even those of us who experienced it only as spectators.

The Film Per Se - It Was So Much Fun

Narrated by Scott Graham, the Phillies broadcaster, who also does Big Five games, it was a marvelous time capsule of the 2008-09 season, one of the greatest in the history of Villanova's storied program. It was about 70-some minutes of outstanding craftsmanship. The film itself was incredible.

Granted, I had been hoping that it would be outstanding, given the extraordinarly storylines - buzzer-beaters, upsets, victories over titans like Duke and UCLA - but they really did a remarkable job with it.

Probably the highest praise that I can offer WipeOut Productions, is that watching the film was so much fun. Up on the big screen and with the surround sound, it whisked me back to the season. Despite the warm temperatures, I was taken back to February and March, and the drama of each contest.

I was very pleased to see the attention and time that they gave to Dwayne Anderson's layup to defeat Marquette, in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament. That really did lay the groundwork for the NCAA tournament run, and it was an incredible play. They showed it from four different angles, and it's equally thrilling to watch, each time. They gave Anderson justifiable credit, for the role he played not just on that shot, but all through March.

Watching this documentary was so much fun. With every play, as you saw the clock ticking down, you momentarily forgot the happy endings that you already knew, that Villanova beats Marquette in the Big East tournament,
and of course, Pitt in the Elite Eight.

You remember how nervous you were, during the close games. When you see Reggie Redding throw that pass away against Pitt, you have the same sickening feeling in your stomach that you had at the time.

The Shot

They did a superb job, chronicling it. They showed it in the beginning, to set the tone, and then showed it from multiple camera angles and speeds. One laugh line is from Scottie Reynolds, at the press conference - it was something to the effect, that he had said:
"I didn't see the ball go in, but I saw everyone else running in one direction and so I figured I should run that way, too."
I was hoping that they would include an angle that CBS had included on the original broadcast: an overhead shot of the team, cascading onto the floor in full euphoria. And they did.

The Script and the Players

All of the players received a profile, including Frank Tchuisi, who is portrayed in depth. I was really impressed with the writing of the script, and how seamlessly the stories of the players were woven into the story of the season. To use one example, they saved the profiles of the two close friends, Anderson and Dante Cunningham, till the end, and described the journey from Silver Spring, Maryland, to Villanova, and finally to the Final Four.

In summary, it was a tremendous evening. They're going to be screening it at Connelly again on Thursday, August 6, although seating is limited (unlike tonight). If you're in the area, you really should try to see it on the big screen. You won't be disappointed.

1 comment:

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