With Andy Kennedy's wonderfully self-deprecatory advertisement hitting the web on Wednesday, we can safely assume that Coach has solidified his nomination for Best Short at next year's Cannes, Golden Globe and Oscars award shows. This is indisputable cinematic fact. But what will critics find so heart-wrenchingly stirring about AK's first foray onto the silver screen? Here is the definitive movie review of Ole Miss Men's Hoops: Andy and Randy Kennedy (2015, PG).
"I'm Andy Kennedy, and I'm the winningest coach in Ole Miss basketball history." Thus avers our hero to adoring fans after signing a basketball for the luckiest Make-A-Wish winner in recorded history (she's off-screen, lest the heavenly luminescence about AK's beautiful, shiny head be in any way diminished). What a tremendous, under-stated incipit. What a fascinating -- if laconic -- glimpse into the humble heart of this angular brood. I haven't felt so emotionally invested in a movie's opening scene since Saving Private Ryan. But now, I'm the one vomiting my breakfast over the side of an amphibious assault craft, and that amphibious assault craft is a weightless cloud, and the water of the English Channel is all the signs of the zodiac, and my vomit is the screaming emotion throughout all human art, sublimated into my mind, which cannot ultimately contain the pure, aesthetic oneness of Andy Kennedy, the winningest coach in Ole Miss basketball history.
"And I'm Randy Kennedy," grumbles Randy, our hirsute alter ego, "winningest coach in city youth league history -- eight and under division [wink]." Look at that range! Where did that accent come from? Did he just say "shitty youth league" on camera? I think he just said "shitty youth league" on camera! The persona switch is seamless and perfect. The masks of comedy and tragedy side-by-side, with Euripides himself weeping tears of elation and hope for the history and future of high drama. I see Jean Racine and Plautus and Terence and Tennessee Williams casting mountains of roses at AK's feet. I see Arthur Miller's chilly ghost regretting every word he's put to paper, but that Andy Kennedy has stolen all shows that have ever been, are, or will be. Antigone has hanged herself a second time and yet still walks the Earth. Aristotle has found the Platonic form of drama, and it is most certainly not the Oedipus Rex.
"In my nine years here," bellows Andy, playing it straight now, striding powerfully across his field of battle, "I've won a hundred and ninety two games." A hundred and ninety two games, full stop. That is all you -- mere dusty mortal that you are -- need to know. Etch "192 games" into bronze and marble and obsidian. Let all who pass by here say "192 games" and feel heartened awe. Let Leonidas and the 300 rewrite their epitaph to simply "192 games." Raise "192 games" into the rafters of the British Museum and sound Big Ben's bells across thrice a fortnight. Begone, General Patton, and yield the Star Spangled Banner's stage to "192 games." If you laid 192 yard sticks end-to-end, you'd arrive at the Gates of Heaven, and upon those gates is inscribed "192 games," as the Good Book has foretold.
We mercifully return to the mustachioed antagonist: "In my nine years, I've never lost a game ... though technically we don't keep score." My word. I've melted into a reflecting pool of unfettered laughter and yet I'm weeping that none shall know or create humor again. I'm barely able to hear Randy's belated complaint -- "HEY, what are you DOING?" -- to a faraway referee, because I myself am far, far away from this place. I exist outside of space and time. I am but the massless shape of my animus, watching myself watch the screen of my tiny computer. I have died and risen from the ashes of my pyre ten times over. I am Neil Gaimon's Shadow, bound to the tree and walking through Hell. And yet, Hell is Heaven, night is day, and light is dark. Laughter is wailing and no amount of beaten chests and shredded hair will return me to terra firma. I am the Father and Son of this Mother Earth, and Andy and Randy my warring siblings. There shall never be peace between them, and for that I love them fanatically.
"This season we move into our new home, the 90-million-dollar Pavilion at Ole Miss." Did I miss a costume change? Has AK been wearing the hard hat since time immemorial? A good craftsmen never forgets to protect his straight-razored head. And more: Andy's built a monument more lasting than Pharaoh's Sphinx. Yet Andy asks the riddles now, and the answer is "Yes, I'll buy season tickets." Avert your eyes at your own peril, traveler, and watch for falling rebar. You and I, we are all men at work.
"I'm not moving anywhere; I've got this palatial basement apartment with everything a man could possibly need." We've returned to bathos now, and the dark underbelly of Randy's subterranean horror show. We are Jonah, and this basement is the whale. We've entered the theater of the absurd and Bakhtin sits icily in the corner, hollow and straight-jacketed. The Cowboys cheerleaders stare blankly down from their wall. They wear Cheshire grins but their eyes are empty, emptier than Randy's juice box, blanker than his tube socks. Andy and Randy are but one degree of separation from Kevin Bacon and Footloose. They refuse to be silenced and they will dance as far as the second round of the tournament. "MOM, JUICEBOX!" we cry in unison, thirsting for succor in a dark, windowless room. It is here, we finally reflect, that the staircase ends in this particular house of leaves.
"Don't be like Randy [shakes head, points dismissively] ... visit Ole Miss hoops dot com to order your season tickets today. Hotty Toddy." And thus, the circle is complete. The Yin and Yang have elided and meshed, the art has brought us understanding in the only way that art can, and it's within this beautiful kaleidoscope that we hoi polloi can glimpse the one, unbending truth of the universe: Ole Miss basketball season tickets are on sale today. Hotty Toddy.