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Steve Aschburner

From comedies to Russian films, Ronny Turiaf is a connoisseur of all movie types.
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Movie buff Turiaf finds no film too obscure to review

Posted Mar 9 2010 11:14AM

Everyone's a critic on Oscars night, but Golden State forward Ronny Turiaf doesn't begin or end there.

Like a lot of his NBA peers, Turiaf watches and enjoys many motion pictures, either in theaters, at home via DVD or on his laptop through an account that enables him to pack a multiplex on those six-game Eastern Conference road trips. Unlike a lot of his NBA peers, though, Turiaf then channels his inner Siskel & Ebert to share his views in video reviews that are posted on the Warriors' Web site.

If that seems unusual, well, remember that Turiaf is not your typical NBA big man. A native of Martinique in the Caribbean, the son of a professional handball player, fluent in five languages, relocated to Paris (where he played high school basketball with Tony Parker, Boris Diaw and Johan Petro), a survivor of open heart surgery ... no, Turiaf's not typical at all. The 6-foot-10 center-forward has averaged 5.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.4 blocks and 17.9 minutes in five seasons with the Warriors and the Lakers since leaving Gonzaga University with a degree in sports management and communication. He has been active in numerous charitable organizations, including his own Heart-to-Heart Foundation.

Now Turiaf has found a way to take his hobby to the people, offering up reviews as a way of making the movies more fun for everyone. Or at least those films he doesn't rate as an F or a Z.


I interviewed Turiaf recently and got him to go out on a limb with his Oscars predictions: So these movie reviews are a real labor of love for you?

Ronny Turiaf: I really, honestly love movies. I watch movies every night before I go to sleep. Ever since I first came to America and was in college, I used to love to go to Hollywood Video and buy the already-viewed DVDs. Now I have a Netflix account. I probably watch a movie every single night. How big is your movie library?

RT: Man, I think I probably have close to 550 DVDs. The thing is, I have so many of them, so many cases, that I have to buy the CD "magazines" to hold them, because I don't have enough space for them in my two-bedroom apartment in L.A. If you're watching movies right before bed, are there certain kinds you don't want to see then? You know, the ones that might keep you awake?

RT: There's no problem whatsoever. It depends on what mood I'm in. If I see a good cover of the DVD and I like it, I'll watch it. If I'm in the mood for suspense, I'll watch suspense. Lately I've been in the mood for action. I just watched two days ago a Clint Eastwood movie called Firefox. That was pretty cool -- a little long. Last night I watched an old [Chinese] movie called Election about two triad members who are trying to get elected [boss]. It was pretty cool, too. So you're not just going for the popular stuff or sticking to the new releases wall.

RT: I'm very eclectic. I watch independent movies, low-budget movies, foreign, everything. I'm all over the globe, everywhere. There's art, there's passion in every part of the world, so I think it's good to watch everything. I even watched a movie from Russia the other day. When someone speaks five languages as you do -- French, English, Spanish, Italian and Creole -- is there even such a thing as a "foreign" film?

RT: Yeah, definitely! I don't speak Japanese or Russian! The Russian movie I watched was pretty good, a scary movie, but it had English subtitles. At 27, do you like old movies or do you stick to more contemporary stuff?

RT: The earliest I went back was probably about 1962, some old black-and-white movie about these two brothers -- I don't remember the name. I don't really like to watch old, old movies. How often do you go to movies on your off-nights on the road?

RT: I try to go see movies on the road, to see what's out now. If not, I have my Netflix account, so I just go on the Internet. I can either get DVDs shipped to where I am or, on the road, I can watch them streaming directly from the Web site. France is known for having a nation full of film buffs. Did living there [from age 15] influence your interest and tastes in movies?

RT: Me, my Mom and my little sister, growing up, we'd watch movies at night. They'd come on TV at 8 o'clock at night. On Sundays after church, we'd usually put a little mattress in the living room -- we used to live in a two-bedroom apartment -- and we'd watch our 20-inch TV or whatever it was at the time. Or we'd watch a show -- what was it called? -- Little House On The Prairie, that's what my Mom liked to watch. Then I started to really like the Japanese cartoons. French film critics have strong and sometimes controversial opinions. So we have to ask -- where do you stand on Jerry Lewis?

RT: [Laughs] Ah, he's pretty good. After three seasons as a Laker and two more in the Bay Area, you must have had some brushes with Hollywood types.

RT: Oh yeah. I met Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith. I'm always good friends with Jack Nicholson -- I see him whenever we're in Los Angeles. I have a good relationship with Forest Whitaker and his wife -- we go to the same chiropractor in L.A. Obviously, one of my [national] teammate's and best friend's wife is Eva Longoria. I got to meet Jessica Alba, I got to hang out with Terrence Howard. I've met so many of those people at some point. Do you have any ambitions to be in the movies? Some NBA players have done that, from Ray Allen [He Got Game] and Allan Houston [Laws of Attraction] to Michael Jordan [Space Jam] and obviously Shaquille O'Neal [Kazaam, Steel]. Others like Baron Davis [Crips and Bloods: Made in America] and Elton Brand [Across the Hall] have gotten involved as producers.

RT: I don't necessarily want to be in movies. I would love to be in the TV show Dexter -- I love Dexter. I would have loved to be in that movie 300. But I think I'm more interested in the producing aspect or being behind the camera or being involved behind the scenes rather than being in the movies. So about your reviews... You don't go the "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" route, favoring old-fashioned letter grades: A, B, C, D, F.

RT: And Z as well. Z is for when I fall asleep. That is never a good thing. Have you given out any Fs or Zs yet?

RT: Oh definitely. When I was in L.A., I went to see a movie -- I don't remember the name, it was a comedy about a bear or something -- and I walked out of the theater. I couldn't take it anymore. You gave Avatar an A in an especially enthusiastic review. Law-Abiding Citizen got the same grade from you, and you raved about The Hangover, giving it an A+! I haven't seen any of those movies yet, but now I feel like can go or rent them on your recommendations.

RT: Oh my gosh, you are lacking something in your life if you haven't seen those movies. Anything you try to do or not do when you're reviewing the films?

RT: The one thing I want to remind people is that I do not want to spoil any movies for them. In my reviews, if they pay attention, they see that I don't give details other than a summary of the plot. That's very important for a critic, that you do not give any spoilers. That's a big no-no in the Ronny Turiaf guidelines. Keep it short, keep it precise about your opinion and what you think of it. And give the reasons why you think it's a good movie or not. I read in your bio that your favorite movies of all time are Scarface and Malcolm X. Those seem like pretty different tastes in films. What is it about them that makes them so special?

RT: Malcolm X is, to me, a story about my family. My auntie. When I moved to Paris, when I left my country when I was about 15 years old, she was watching Malcolm X on VHS at the time. We kept watching it together, so it reminds me of great moments in my life and this great woman, and it also is a story about somebody who had ideas and reshaped himself into the man that he became. It's a beautiful story about how much charisma he had. To watch Denzel Washington was amazing -- I'm very big on facial expressions.

And the same thing Denzel Washington had, Al Pacino had in Scarface. It's the story about somebody who came from nothing and made something of his life, even though he ran on the wrong path. His path led him to destruction and it was a sad story, but at the same time, it was a beautiful story. By the time this interview gets posted, the Academy Awards already will have been presented. But I'd like to get your picks for the major awards so that we can gauge your tastes against the views of those who actually vote for the Oscars. OK?

RT: Let's go. Best Supporting Actor?

RT: Christopher Walz. Super, super, super. He did a fantastic job [in Inglourious Basterds]. Not taking over but still having a great presence. I really enjoyed that. Best Supporting Actress?

RT: Mo'Nique [in Precious]. Best Actor?

RT: Ahhhhh, that's a tough one. I would say Morgan Freeman [in Invictus]. Best Actress?

RT: Sandra Bullock [The Blind Side]. And finally, Best Picture of 2009?

RT: Avatar. Avatar. Avatar. I don't even need to hear the rest. There's nothing that has ever come close to that. Ever, ever, ever. I saw it in 3D, I saw it in 2D, I'm going to see it again and again.

[Interviewer's note: Turiaf nailed three of the five categories, missing on Best Actor (Jeff Bridges won for his role in Crazy Heart) and Best Picture (The Hurt Locker). That's a 60 percent average, which seems about right for a guy hitting 55.2 percent of his shots this season. Well done!]

Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA for 25 years. You can e-mail him here.

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