• Strictly Films

Weekly Roundup Episode 89; NBA Summer League


Welcome to another edition of Weekly Roundup!


Around this time of year, used be an exciting time. It’s a time where basketball fans all gather at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, for a good week or so, to watch NBA rookies showcase their talents or those whom are trying to make a grand impression to make a roster spot for NBA training camp in the fall. Yes this event would be known as The NBA Summer League.


My first experience of attending NBA Summer League was when I was ten years old, watching alongside with my father. Before the NBA Summer League blossomed to what is currently today: The games that were played when I first experience in 2006, would just be in a small little gym known as The Cox Pavilion, where the Women’s College Basketball team UNLV plays. I recall the experience to be an enjoyable quality time with my dad, we experience Antoine Walker whom just won the NBA title with the Miami Heat walking around the court chatting up on the phone. 


This would also be the first time I was introduced to the idea, where a “Meet and Greet” opportunity exists. During my day at the NBA summer league, there was a Meet and Greet autograph signing opportunity with NBA Hall of Famer Walt Frazier, who won two titles with the New York Knicks… That maybe a shocker to hear there was a time, where the New York Knicks actually won something. My father kept insisting me to go down to the concourse to meet him, as he claimed he was one the best point guards of that era, but unfortunately I didn’t grow out of my shy state so I kept refusing to go. It would’ve been nice to know the first time I met an NBA player would’ve been Walt Frazier and to have his autograph, young Mitch is forgiven.


When I came back to Vegas from living in Buffalo, New York from fall 2007 to fall 2008, from 2009 and on… NBA Summer League would be something of my traditional summer routine. The thing I mostly enjoyed about NBA Summer League, was the fact it was a rare opportunity that I got to hangout with my friends Noah Nobert and Nick Bizov. Noah and Nick were cousins, however they were more like brothers. I’ve known Noah since he was like 4 or 5, as he was introduced to me as a family friend of my mothers, as we would hangout all the time playing video games on his Playstation 2. Nick and I met at a birthday party when I was like nine or ten at Las Vegas Mini Grand Prix, as he was introduced to me by his mother. 


So I made a return to the NBA Summer League in 2009, where it was just me and my dad going. As out of nowhere: I spotted Noah and Nick at NBA Summer League along with a couple of their friends and Nick’s father. I was ever so excited to see them, as I then joined them on their quest to meet as many NBA Players and get as many autographs as possible. Back in the early days of NBA Summer League: Security was more relaxed with the idea of fans roaming around the arena, as they look to meet players and get autographs. Players especially were more open to meet fans as well and make their days by signing items and interact with the fans.


The first major signing that I can vividly recall was us meeting Mike Miller and Antawn Jamison of the Washington Wizards, which were spotted out by Nick’s father. I would say Nick and his friends were the ones whom did most of the talking, where I just politely hand over the program booklet for the players to sign. Antawn Jamison looked over to me, as he asked, “You want me to sign this?” as I quickly replied “Yes please!” It was the beginning of an era, in which I would be a massive autograph head at the time.


I’ve recalled many memorable moments in which I had during my time at the NBA Summer League. I recall meeting Steph Curry for the first time, waiting in line for an hour or so to get his autograph, while my friend Noah couldn’t join us for that moment as he gotten sick from the air conditioning so he had to leave home early. I recall watching Noah play basketball at a halftime show like event with his fellow teammates he played with at a gymnasium center.


There was a time where I met one of my fav college players at the time Jeremy Lamb, as at first I asked for his autograph as he said, “Not right now.” As disappointed as I was: I figured I would not let it defeat me, as I followed him from a distance to at least get another chance in getting his autograph. At halftime of the game, fans lined up to get Lamb’s autograph as I then ran down and got in line. As I offered him my program booklet to sign, Jeremy Lamb did indeed sign it. After he was done signing I thanked him for signing it, as he smiled and said, “Alright” which left me an extremely happy sixteen year old kid. I mean come on: Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lamb was the most iconic college basketball duo at the time, winning a championship at UCONN… It meant the world to me meeting and having Lamb’s autograph.


There were a couple moments in which I got to meet former head coach of the Boston Celtics Brad Stevens. I recalled first meeting him court side as I had on an Andrew Wiggins t-shirt with a Bears hat on, as we took a picture together as this was the beginning to the end of my autograph phase, which I was WAY more interested in taking pictures. I told him to win us a championship excitingly while shaking his hand, as he enjoyed my presence much so. We then reunited for my last time attending NBA Summer League as I was in a Celtics jersey this time, as it was cool to chat up with him briefly again. 

NBA Summer League did brought me a lot of grand memories meeting players and quality time with friends/family… But there is one memory that I have to say stands out as my favorite memory.


2014 came the Number One Pick in the NBA Draft by the name of Andrew Wiggins. I wasn’t a big fan of Wiggins for a good portion of his college season at Kansas, sometimes I believe his game was a bit overrated since he was mostly known for his dunking ability. Then all of a sudden… I became a fan after Drake released Draft Day. In the song Draft Day, he raps “Draft Day, A Wiggins, Fuck that other side, bitch we stay winning!” When I heard that line… All of a sudden I became a fan now. If Drake thinks Andrew Wiggins is dope, then surely he is dope.


It was my destiny to meet Andrew Wiggins at the 2014 NBA Summer League, as I wouldn’t stop going to NBA Summer League until I meet him. The first two trips to Summer League were unsuccessful in terms of meeting him, however the third trip… Different story. As he was playing a game at the Thomas and Mack Center arena, there was a line already forming that there was an indication that Andrew Wiggins was going to do a meet and greet signing. I waited in this line for a good couple hours, hoping this will be the moment I get to meet him. As after the game about ten or fifteen minutes later… THERE COMES ANDREW WIGGINS!


Now normally when it comes to NBA Summer League I would have players sign my program booklet or rare occasions have them sign a shoe or ball. Andrew Wiggins however, I have a special item for him to sign just for him… My OVOXO Owl Chain Necklace. If the man got a special co-sign shoutout on a Drake song, he is worthy of signing my OVO necklace. As we begin walking up, there stand a few kids. I asked one of the kids to record me and Andrew Wiggins, so I can obviously show off on Vine and Twitter, as I even offered the kid $5. He does take the phone and does record the experience, I wish he was better at recording as you couldn’t see me and Andrew enough to where I can have a proper screenshot photo, but it was good enough especially since the kid was a kid.


So I was next in line, I gave the woman my necklace for Andrew Wiggins to sign as people were confused on why I letting him sign a necklace out of all things. However one woman said, “Ah he knows what this is” as Andrew Wiggins grew a big smile, as I handed him my grey sharpie to sign it. As while Andrew Wiggins starts signing the necklace… I had to put on a show for him, as I rapped that same Draft Day line for him. It was such an epic surreal moment of rapping that bar for him, as he was laughing and having a grand time with me, as afterwards we did the whole TOPSZN regime hand gesture Drake does with his buddies and such, as you can clearly tell we both made our days. That was honestly the highlight of NBA Summer League for me out of all the years I’ve gone, it took so much time and effort to get that autograph, while planning it out to be a special occasion. 


My drive to wanting to go to NBA Summer League would slowly come to an end, after 2017. I feel the last couple years I’ve been… It just didn’t have that same feel it had when it first started out. When it first started out it was a special experience, where not only can you watch basketball but you can also have so many opportunities to meet players and coaches you wanted to meet. Now a days it’s way too over crowded, a bit pricey, more restricted in terms of security where you barely have much opportunities to meet players/coaches, the basketball itself was a bit boring some to watch, and my interest for the NBA has digress a bit much as the rookies aren’t worth checking out. It’s amazing how once something gains a great amount of attraction and popularity… It then tends to lose it’s sense of quality, as that is exactly what happened to the NBA Summer League over the years.


Still: Extremely thankful for all the awesome memories that the NBA Summer League has given to me in life. I’ve enjoyed all my experiences with my friends, with my dad, with meeting players, and of course who can’t forget all the autographs that’ll be worth a lot of money over the years… My Curry autograph continues to gain so much worth in value. Time to talk about movies!


Machine Gun Kelly’s: Life in Pink Grade: C-


When it came to Machine Gun Kelly’s rap career, I’ve only heard tracks of Wild Boy or his feature in French Montana’s Ocho Cinco, so I wasn’t much of a fan of his music I would say. When Machine Gun Kelly switched over to pop rock… It was kind of a surprise, however it made sense considering he didn’t have much of an impact on the rap genre in my opinion. I listened to some snippets of Tickets to my Downfall and that sound was kind of fun to listen to. I then listened to his newest album Mainstream Sellout as I thought it wasn’t half bad. To me: Machine Gun Kelly’s pop rock music is guilty pleasure music to me, lyric wise it’s a bit rubbish but the music is fun to listen to, especially on my morning bike rides to work.


This documentary film covers the artist transition from rap to punk rock, while also getting to know the artist personally. I would say this film has some moments. I felt learning about Machine Gun Kelly having a daughter was executed just fine, as you get to learn about their relationship while surprisingly how cool and supportive of a dad Machine Gun Kelly is, probably the best part of the film for me. 


The film also uncovers Machine Gun Kelly as a very insecure being, whom has severe issues in terms of addiction from across the board, especially an addiction of satisfaction from a social media presence. When you combine insecurity and addiction… You create an emotionally unstable person, as which Machine Gun Kelly is according to this documentary. There was an empowering moment from Machine Gun Kelly’s significant other Megan Fox, to calm the artist down and realize all the people that do love him and that criticism or people disliking you isn’t all that important.


Unfortunately this documentary felt more of a highlight reel than it did a documentary. There is a serious focus issue involved with this film, as it felt all over the place as there wasn’t a moving constructed narrative. Even with the hour and forty-two minute run time: There are segments in which felt under developed and rushed. Even the final twenty or so minutes… It just felt like a very weird and not well thought out ending for your documentary, it was definitely a sloppy presentation constructive wise.


Overall, Machine Gun Kelly’s: Life in Pink was mediocre. I don’t recommend this film, I would just rather hear his punk rock music instead.


Master Grade: D


The day of that I watched this film, I was having such a weird day. Though I was productive in terms of cleaning and continuing on my novel… My mind however felt extremely out of sorts as well. Here I watched this Amazon Original film which debuted at Sundance, hoping to watch a good drama… Oh boy, this wasn’t good.


Master felt like a cross breed between a ghost story horror film, while trying to execute social commentary, in terms of exposing unhealthy nature of race in colleges of some kind. I felt it failed in both areas. The horror side of the film felt like typical mythical ghost story, in which was uneventful but mostly lame. The way the horror side of the story wraps up, it felt like it was meant to escalate into perhaps defeating the entity this college has that involved hanged for being involved in witch craft, but turns out it really didn’t lead to anywhere thinking to yourself… Was there even a point in why our lead character, would do such a terrible thing without having a purpose to do so?!


The social commentary of this story… I felt it missed entirely for me. It felt like a complete mess, as the epic reveal towards the end like the horror side of the film really led to absolutely nowhere. The thing about the social commentary side that did come across as a positive, it was towards how colleges or establishments claim they’re up for change, so they hire someone of a different race they normally don’t hire, but it’s all for show as they don’t really change at all. That part is fine as many companies and establishments are mostly full of shit about caring about anybody or any group, as it’s all for a marketing scheme, as this film too had a mockery of an advertisement. But still… The reveal in the end and where it goes, doesn’t correlate much at all as you scratch your head thinking what was the point in the reveal?!


The film is just dreadfully dull, bland, and most certainly boring. When you have a cross breed of two different genres, that aren’t presented well or written well to where it’s not fascinating by any means… You’re left with wanting the film to end, as I had myself begging this film to end several times.


Overall, Master was a bad film. I don’t recommend this film.


The House Grade: B-


This stop motion animated dark comedy from Netflix, has been on my radar for quite sometime as I’ve never gotten around to see it until now. I’m a huge fan of stop motion animation, my favorite style of animation by far, I’ve loved it ever since my childhood experiencing Chicken Run for the first time in theaters.


The House is an anthology film, telling three separate stories all involving a house. The first story features a family of four, who’s family visited in town gave the father of the home a rough ordeal, as he settled onto an agreement in which the entire family will move into a much bigger home. The second story involves a rat, who invested on a property in which he’s been developing and renovating for years, as he hopes to land a major sale. The final story involves a cat which owns a house as the cat rents out many studio apartments, but unfortunately due to the flooding majority of her attendants have left, leaving her with no money coming in to repair the damages and she just can’t let the house go.


I felt the animation in all these stories were the main highlight of this film, as the character design and the world building was fabulous to look at, especially in the first story where it can be described as a living nightmare. Though all stories fair evenly in terms of grading wise, however my favorite story of the three would have to be the first story. I felt that story was developed fairly nicely, as what it was going for in terms of the messaging was quite spot on. It’s definitely the most engaging story of the three by far from start to finish, it also executes extremely well on a very creepy atmosphere that is comparable to the likes of Courage the Cowardly Dog.


I liked the ending of stories two and three. Story two had a very saddening disgusting ending, considering how much work that rat put into developing that place. The third story’s ending was quite adorable, felt like a sweet metaphor to let go of the past that can not be recreated, as you have to move onto the next big thing. I especially adore the line, “Love your past, travel on”... I can see that being on one of them motivational posters, with a mountain on the background.


Overall, The House was fairly decent. I recommend checking this one out on Netflix, especially if you’re into unique animated films and especially if you’re into stop motion animation as well. -Mitch Smietana

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