Oscilloscope // 2008 // 97 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // November 10th, 2008
"Pay up! Pay up!"
From Adam Yauch (a.k.a. MCA of the Beastie Boys) comes a highly entertaining combination of street basketball and hip-hop and a peek behind the curtains of what it means to be a top high school basketball prospect.
Yauch has turned his camera onto the first ever Elite 24 high school all-star game, held on September 2006 at the legendary Rucker Park in Harlem. Any basketball aficionado knows Rucker Park and its reputation, and the participants in the game are positively aglow over the prospects of earning some credibility in the Rucker canon.
Eight athletes in particular are highlighted: Kevin Love, Michael Beasley, Jerryd Bayless, Donte Green, Kyle Singler, Tyreke Evans, Brandon Jennings and Lance Stephenson. Some of those names should ring familiar to hoops fans immediately, as the first three were selected high in this year's NBA draft. Before the shoe deals and multi-year contracts and the cocaine scandals, take a look at these budding superstars when they were just dreaming about ascending the podium to accept their team cap from David Stern.
Here's your capsule review: any self-respecting basketball fan needs to track this down. Gunnin' for that #1 Spot is a cool, interesting, entertaining sports documentary that zips with energy. Plus, it's surprisingly probing, considering Yauch didn't have Hoop Dreams time to devote to his subjects. The glimpses it gives into the pressure-cooker that is the life of a high school basketball phenom is compelling stuff.
Using the eight aforementioned stars as his grounding point, Yauch draws out their hopes and visions for their basketball future as well as their desires for NBA stardom and financial freedom. Because the players come from varied regions and socioeconomic backgrounds -- spanning Coney Island to Oregon -- there are different angles and perspectives to be gleaned from what they have to say.
The basketball game is the guts of the production, with the all-star showdown between the blue team and the white team, each stocked with NBA and potential-NBA caliber studs. As legendary Rucker announcer Bobbito Garcia notes during his play-by-play, kudos to the people who divided the teams -- they were evenly matched and the result was a tight, hugely high-scoring game (70 points in the first half!).
Before the action gets rolling in Rucker, Yauch spends his time with his eight focus players and uses their experiences and the interviews with the experts in the know as a portal to the world of arbitrary player rankings, media hyperbole, endorsements, blood feuding between sneaker camps and the omnipresent allure of The League.
Once the game ensues, it's pretty much straight basketball action, sprinkled with the occasional interview to flesh out themes. And it's righteous action, too, exactly what you'd expect when the cream of the crop in high school talent meet the pavement of Rucker -- high-flying dunks, no-look passes, pull-up Js, elbows to the face, blood globules spit out of the mouth, reverse lay-ins and a hefty amount of trash talk (none delivered so eloquently as Michael Beasley, who gets his own bonus feature devoted to the craft).
Speaking of extras, this two-disc set is loaded with them, starting out with a commentary by Yauch and Garcia on the feature film and leading into the second disc, crammed with two hours worth of bonus and extended footage, including a two-on-two game featuring Yauch and Beasley, interviews, three deleted scenes, a selection of NYC video diaries shot by the players, and coming attractions. The film itself looks great (1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen) and blasts the court noise and killer soundtrack with gusto in 5.1.
If you don't have a 50-inch HD TV you are not going to be able to read some of the tiny text on the screen.
Hoop fans give thanks. This is a bounty of full-court pleasure.
Not guilty cucumber slice.
Review content copyright © 2008 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 97 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Bonus Footage
* Deleted Scenes
* Video Diaries
* Official Site