Ben Affleck as Phil Knight in “Air.” Photo by Ana Carballosa/Prime

“Air” is coming to Maine!

No, I’m not talking about the long-overdue, much needed first warmish breezes of spring (although, hallelujah), but the new sort-of sports movie directed by Ben Affleck and re-teaming Affleck with his “Good Will Hunting” Oscar co-winner Matt Damon in a real-life tale about … a sneaker.

Opening nationwide this week, “Air” is, naturally, the story of how struggling athletic shoe company Nike (ever heard of it?) took the advice of marketing consultant Sonny Vaccaro (Damon) to pin all their hopes on a brand-new basketball sneaker built around a North Carolina college star and untested NBA draft pick named Michael Jordan. Again, ever heard of him?

Now, I like Damon, and Affleck. (Say all you want about the guy’s mediocre Batman and celebrity page ubiquity, but go watch the Affleck-directed 2007 movie “Gone Baby Gone” and get back to me.) There are some good actors rounding out the cast (Jason Bateman, Marlon Wayans, Chris Messina), all having some fun in their 1980s haircuts and office attire, and “Air” made the canny choice to cast the great Viola Davis as Jordan’s take-charge mom, Deloris, which, apart from counterbalancing all the middle-aged male whiteness, all but guarantees I’ll go and see what is, from the outside, a bafflingly unnecessary piece of corporate propaganda.

Don’t get me wrong, business is an essential part of human civilization, and movies about the economic and political effects of capitalism are A-OK with this movie fanatic. (Just going to throw out a few essential examples in “Matewan,” “Harlan County, USA,” “The Corporation,” “The Big Short.”) But a sneaker?

I try to be fair. “Air’s” story looks poised to delve into the social impact of Nike’s ultimately groundbreaking choice of spokesperson, elevating Michael Jordan’s brand even higher than the all-time great could actually leap on his way to the hoop. And I know there’s a whole sneaker culture out there, at least partly inspired by the social phenomenon that were those original Air Jordan 1s, which still look pretty cool.) Also, there have been other movies built around similarly unassuming-looking products and inventions over the years. Greg Kinnear starred as the guy who invented the intermittent windshield wiper in 2008’s “Flash of Genius,” while 2015’s “Joy” chronicled a real-life housewife (Jennifer Lawrence) realizing her dreams by inventing a mop that later sold moderately well on QVC.


Julius Tennon as James Jordan in “Air.” Photo by Ana Carballosa/Prime

To be fair once more, “Flash of Genius” wanted to say a lot about how corporations swipe credit (and untold riches) by appropriating things invented by their employees, and “Joy” wanted to be a populist rags-to-riches story while giving Lawrence a chance to try out her New York accent. And “Air,” with all its acting and filmmaking firepower, seems determined to craft a truly multifaceted American tale out of … a sneaker.

Still, the whole “major motion picture based on a seemingly trivial product” genre needs some Maine color. So here are my pitches for movies based on Maine-related items and inventions just waiting for the big screen treatment. (Ben Affleck, you can contact me through my very kind editor.)

Whoopie pies are Maine’s official state treat. Staff photo by Doug Jones

Up first is “Whoopie!,” a rollicking, tastily exciting depiction of the still-roiling controversy surrounding the invention of Maine’s official treat (not a joke, look up the 2011 Maine legislative record). Where’s the drama, you ask? Well, how about the fact that there are at least four other states laying claim to the creation of everyone’s favorite, Maine-claimed disc of white goo sandwiched between two slightly dry chocolate wafers, including Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Virginia and Massachusetts (boooo). Or that the Pennsylvania angle is sweetened even more by claims that the Amish there invented the tummy-swelling treat but, thanks to a cultural aversion to leaving a paper trail, the idea was snapped up and appropriated by out-of-staters. There’s even a can’t miss late-film twist, where our intrepid culinary investigator (I’m picturing Pedro Pascal, mainly because I want him to come to Maine so I can be his best friend) uncovers a dusty, long-forgotten tome called, “Yummy Book.” Which is a real cookbook put out by the deceptively named Massachusetts’ (boooo) company Durkee Mower which never sold mowers, but does sell Marshmallow Fluff, the ideal filling, according to the 1930-era “Yummy Book,” for a recipe called … “Amish Whoopie Pie.” Dum-dum-dummm.

Allen’s Coffee Flavored Brandy long held the title of best-selling liquor in Maine. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Then, what about “The Champagne of Maine,” a boozy romp depicting how the Massachusetts-(booo)-made coffee-flavored alcoholic beverage and low-rent Kahlúa substitute Allen’s Coffee Brandy inexplicably became our state’s most treasured and copiously consumed brand of hooch. I see an intrepid Maine filmmaker taking a go at this one, since it’s going to take a real Mainer to find the right tone in describing how over a million bottles a year of this stuff colloquially described as the Lewiston Martini, Burnt Trailer or several other nicknames I’m not going to repeat here are sold in finer Maine state liquor stores everywhere. “Again, where’s the drama,” I hear from the skeptical, possibly drunk peanut gallery, to which I point to the perilous time when a 2010 nationwide ban on caffeinated alcoholic beverages threatened the very existence of Maine’s number one sickly sweet libation (thanks a lot, Four Loko), setting up a climactic courtroom battle where Allen’s colorful (and possibly drunk) lawyer heroically proves that the brandy-like substance’s coffee tang mostly comes from coffee flavorings and not added caffeine. “Your honor, the defense (takes a long pull of murky, milky beverage) … rests.”

Cans of Moxie, Maine’s official soft drink. Photo by Lianne Milton

Sticking with the Maine-favored beverage genre, how about “Moxie.” Or, owing to that former “Beverage Moxie Nerve Food’s,” let’s call it … singular flavor, “Moxie: The Devil’s Bathwater.” But I kid the bitter, throat-scouring soft drink – my dad loves it. There’s a number of ways to go here. One film could trace the roots of Maine-born inventor Augustin Thompson, who made all manner of medicinal claims about his concoction in the days before the FDA, and spun colorfully suspect tales about the supposed Abenaki origin of the name, and the mysterious “South American plant” that supposedly gave Moxie its miraculous properties. (Psst, it’s gentian root. It grows everywhere.) Another possible route is a David Cronenberg-style body horror flick, where the annual Moxie Festival in Lisbon is turned into a terrifying spectacle of mutations caused by a bad batch – or just just a batch – of Maine’s official soft drink. I don’t have an agent, but, again, studios, send all inquiries and multi-million dollar pitches to the paper.

“Air” is playing everywhere, including at the Eveningstar in Brunswick and Portland’s own Nickelodeon Cinema.

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