Sunday, January 03, 2010

Movie Review: Sonicsgate

I don't normally post my film reviews here, but Sonicsgate is not only a sports documentary, it's a good one that can be watched (legally) online. So if you have a chance, check the movie out via the embedded video below or on the film's website.

Sonicsgate SD Full Version from sonicsgate on Vimeo.

Here's my take on it:

Professional sports has had its share of controversies: the Chicago Black Sox scandal in 1918, Mike Tyson snacking on Evander Holyfield's ear, Andre the Giant selling the WWF Championship to the "Million Dollar Man." After watching Jason Reid's documentary Sonicsgate, you can add the demise of the Seattle Supersonics to the list.

Sonicsgate charts the history and hoodwinking that led to men's professional basketball packing up and heading to Oklahoma City following the 2007-08 season. It's both fascinating and heartbreaking to hear of the events that led up to the demise of the franchise. I guess they're sort of still alive as a new team with a new name in a new city, but for Sonics fans they're team is gone and as of right now, nothing's going to replace them.

The film goes into great detail, almost too much, to tell the story. From former players, coaches, local politicians, fans and members of the media come together in an extensive collection of interviews. The most interesting comments come from author Sherman Alexie, a well-spoken resident who brings a lot of passion to the court, explaining how his love for the Sonics went beyond the game and into the deepest parts of his and his family's psyche. The interviews are definitely one-sided, but a footnote at the end of the movie notes that the 'bad guys' in the story were given a chance to appear or comment but all declined.

Reid does a good job of laying out the chronology of how it all went down and, more importantly, providing the context with which a seemingly successful sports franchise disintegrated. As the scandal-insinuating title alludes to, Sonicsgate isn't fearful of taking sides. It's like a Michael Moore movie about sports. Those involved in the film are Sonics fans and they want the team back that was taken from them because of the actions (or lack thereof) of politicians not willing to take a stand and from mega-millionaires who figure it's okay to do whatever their ego wants them to.

Recently named "Grassroots Movie of the Year" by Sports Illustrated, Sonicsgate is a rebel film both in its subject matter and its unorthodox distribution. Although it has screened at festivals, the two-hour documentary is available for download free of charge. In doing so, it's a call to action not only for Seattle basketball fans but all sports fans. With the landscape of professional sports evolving, all teams except maybe a select few could be at risk of being uprooted and shipped off elsewhere. As Sonicsgate points out, everything that could have gone wrong for the team's faithful did. But with the film there's been a call to action against the decision makers who messed up, the National Basketball League for allowing it to happen and the slimy tycoons who ultimately paid for the moving trucks at the end of the season.

No comments: