J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Tribeca ’16: Pistol Shrimps

If you are true to the game, it will be true to you. On the other hand, if you secretly moonlight with a rival team, you might just suffer a season-ending injury. That’s how it is in the big leagues and in the Los Angeles’ women’s rec league as well. Everything you like to think about sports will be confirmed in Brent Hodge’s Pistol Shrimps (trailer here), which screens during this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.

There were plenty of intramural basketball leagues for guys in LA, but nothing for women. As unfair as it sounded, it was also a reflection of demand at the time. However, when a group of actresses, comediennes, and models decided they wanted to play, they managed to drum up enough interest to field a small league. Having built it, more players and teams started to come. In fact, the league sort of caught on, becoming something of a thing.

Although they played a pivotal role in the league’s founding, the Pistol Shrimps ranked towards the bottom of the standings during the initial seasons. Yet, they built up a strange cult following, largely due to their roster, which includes Aubrey Plaza, Molly Hawkey (who became internet-famous for splicing herself in clips from The Bachelor), model Melissa Stetten, and actress Angela Trimbur (who totally kills it in Trash Fire and The Final Girls and also leads the Shrimps’ halftime dancers).

Yes, they really have a halftime show, but it is probably the play-by-play podcasts that built their fanbase. Frankly, it is more random color commentary than play-by-play, but whatever. The point is, people seemed to like following the Shrimps and the poise they gained on the court also seemed to carry-over to some extent with their professional careers.

Unfortunately, Plaza nearly torpedoed their championship run when she tried to play on the down-low for another team, earning herself an untimely injury and a stern talking-to from her management. Can the Shrimps come back? Is there a Hollywood ending in the house?

It is gratifying to see players from different walks of life come together through their passion for the game. The Pistol Shrimps are particularly cool, because they are one of the few teams that did not femme-up a pro team’s name, like the She-Cago Bulls. Rather they took inspire from the small crustacean whose powerful snapping claw emits a mini-sonic boom, so there is your Animal Planet sound bite of the day.

As you would expect, the Pistol Shrimps can talk trash with the best of them. Funny is their business (in most cases), but they play to win. Their enthusiasm is contagious throughout the film. While Hodge and co-producer Morgan Spurlock surely see wider social significance to the Shrimps’ appeal, they keep the film breezy and snarky, as the fans would prefer. Recommended for all basketball fans, Pistol Shrimps screens again today (4/23) as part of the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival, with future screenings scheduled for May 11 and May 15 at the DOXA Documentary Film Festival in Vancouver.

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