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I came home from work one night at about 1:30AM only to find that Hoop Dreams was on TNT from 1:30AM to 5:30AM. Some say four hours of a movie is too much, however, this documentary took the heart and soul of two young men and exposed it for all of the world to see. What a fantastic journey. I watched the whole movie that night (and I had already seen it). If you're a basketball fan, or just a fan of the human struggle to stay alive...watch this movie.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Strong, incisive docu-drama that follows the aspirations and
misfortunes of two very talented teenage sensations from basketball
Film gets inside the minds and lives of both these boys as they race toward adulthood and hopeful stardom. Steve James and Peter Gilbert do a great job in giving us an expose on both the youngster's psyche's and less fortunate African-American families in Harlem.
Especially good is our journey into the lives of the Agee family. Perhaps basketball fans will get more out of it than most, but all audiences are sure to gain something from this quality documentary which is as much a social study as it is a sports commentary.
Monday, August 31, 1998 - Hoyts Croydon
When I first moved to England in the mid-nineties, I took advantage of
living in a city and having an art cinema near me for the first time
ever. As a result I saw many things that I wouldn't have otherwise seen
and Hoop Dreams was one of those things. At the time it was getting a
lot of buzz about it being a rare film about real life and it also
interested me as I had just started getting into basketball as well.
Since then the film has become one of those films that is generally
well remembered but not seen very often (at least it is in the UK). I
eventually managed to get hold of it again recently (again thanks to
some of the very kind users on IMDb) and I was looking forward to
watching it again.
Unfortunately this also meant appraising it again and it must be said that, watching with modern eyes almost 15 years from its release (and longer since it started being made) it doesn't stand up as well as I would have liked. As a rider on this it must be said that Hoop Dreams still has value considering what it is and when it was made. Nowadays we are used to every other programme being some sort of real-life fly-on-the-wall programme, simply because they are popular and cheap to make. However these differ from the ambition here, which is to chart the progress of two boys looking to basketball as their way to a better life a project that spread over many years with many hundreds and hundreds of hours of video to edit down (and accordingly the film did get the Oscar for editing). So what we are left with is a film that does a solid job of telling these two stories and marks itself as a bit of a modern milestone in reality cinema. It must be noted though that being an important film in terms of what it does is not the same as it being a really good film.
The problem is that it doesn't totally manage to tell the story in a way that engages on a personal level and inform on a more general basis both of which appear to have been aims. The film is solid when it comes to the focus on the two boys but the problem is that, as individuals, the film doesn't make them particularly engaging people for the audience to care about and I didn't get a lot of drama from their respective journeys. OK they were interesting enough and also pulled together in quite a succinct manner but it never gave me much of a reason to really be held by the tale. Surprisingly bigger events in their lives are frequently just mentioned by the narrator (the father getting on and then off crack is dealt with in one line). Of course this is why it is important for a larger message to be clear and, in the case of Hoop Dreams, the bigger picture is the reality of the "making it out the ghetto via basketball" dream and the limited options to those who do not have this. In this regard the film doesn't achieve it because it is too tightly focused on the two boys and their families. There isn't a feel of the scale of this, of the challenges facing those who don't make it, of the desperation to make it and so on. This is a real shame because it could have made a good film into a great film and were the film made today one does think that it would be a pre-requisite. The dated presentation doesn't help obviously visually it is of the time it was made but I remember the cheesy sax music as horrid and time has only made it worse.
There is no doubt that the scale and aims of Hoop Dreams and its cinematic success makes it an important part of modern reality cinema it is just that the film isn't as good to watch as its reputation deserves. The editing is good but the structure lacks a personal hook and doesn't manage to deliver much in terms of the bigger picture. It is still worth seeing and it is "good" but it is hard to understand why so many people lavish praise on it without pointing out its many faults.
What a powerful and honest movie this is. While non fiction films with
screenwriters and actors try so hard to fit in honesty while creating
touching scenes and making you believe in the characters, Hoop Dreams
does it better than any film I've seen with little effort. While
watching it, all the hairs on my body stick up and I get tears in my
eyes every time. I've never seen a more touching movie about real
people attempting to overcome the odds in my life. It's because we know
the reality lives beyond the camera. Unlike films like Rocky, Hoop
Dreams actually follows underdogs who stay underdogs after the camera
turns off making it even more touching and profound.
Following Arthur Agee and William Gates, Hoop Dreams begins when they're young kids just playing basketball on the school yards. Scouts from prestigious middle schools, their families can't afford, are sent there to find pure talent on the courts. A scout finds Arthur presenting him the opportunity to go to Saint Josephs with a basketball scholarship. Arthur is confident he will make it to the NBA. He even says so whenever he sees the shoe commercials and won't let his mom or anyone else discourage him with the harsh reality.
After meeting Isiah Thomas and playing him one on one in awe, Arthur is kicked out of Saint Josephs on account of his low grades and not being able to afford it. His coach, at Marshall, says "it doesn't take a genius to realize he was kicked out because he didn't play like they expected him to play. They would have worked something out if he played like they expected him to play" (not an exact quote)
Meanwhile, Arthur's transferred back to Marshall while William becomes a sensation on the court. Hoop Dreams also follows the families attempting to survive in the tough Neighborhood. Williams brother is an ex ballplayer who's living his dream through William. He gets a job as a security guard and feels he has amounted to nothing. William even says, after he learns he will not make it to the NBA "Sometimes I feel Curtis should stop living his dream through me". Stuff like that is what makes Hoop Dreams incredible. Arthur's father starts dealing drugs, but repents. The harsh realities also kick in on the court. Junior year, while in his prime, William has an unexpected leg injury. He gets numerous operations and even misses most of a season. Although he gets some major scouts attentions at a basketball camp, the leg prevents him from playing to his highest potential ever again. His dreams of NBA basketball, day by day, become more a dream than reality. Meanwhile, Arthur is playing great basketball but his grades are low. He will not excel in his school work like he does on the court.
Senior year, Arthur and his underdog commandos make it down to the state finals and overcome the odds. William gets into Marquette University and obviously is not very excited about it. Hoop Dreams is by far the most touching film I have had the privilege of watching. It's amazing to watch two kids and two families attempt to overcome the odds and accomplish a dream. Anyone can relate to this film, not just basketball players. Watching two kids do something they love and get rewarded for it is a magical experience for not only them, but for us as well. Even the disappointment they endure hit us where it hurts. Hoop Dreams shows the harsh realities, unlike many Hollywood films. Arthur and William never make it professionally, they miss important foul shots, and they end up at colleges they have no interest in.
This, of course, is all a part of life. By showing all of this Steve James creates something really special that lives beyond the camera entering your heart. Hoop Dreams is one of the greatest movies ever made. You might think i'm overstating it, but 3 hours of this movie opened me to things in life no Hollywood movie has dared to try. While most movies work so hard to touch your emotions moving you with fake situations and unbelievable twists of fate, Hoop Dreams does it for 3 hours and more with such a subtle effort.10-10 for this miracle of a movie!! Sorry about the long review, I just love this film!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It really was a treat to finally see this film. I had heard so much, but had never been able to find a copy of it. The fact that I was unable to find a copy was a shame, considering I live only but a few hours from where the story actually took place. "Hoop Dreams" perfectly sums up the storyline of this docu: two inner city youths hoping to one day make it big in the NBA. This docu tracks the progress of William Gates and Arthur Agee through their entire high school career. It makes no bones about the politics of high school sports, especially in a scene where Agee is booted from a Catholic school because he was unable to financially meet the requirements. Which, in all honesty, was a bogus reason. They really booted him because they didn't feel he had "it". It being the talent to bring this school to the championship. Whereas, on the other hand, Gates, who also was recruited to attend this school was supported financially by outside influences and had continued support all throughout his high school career. "Hoop Dreams" compares and contrasts like no other film I have ever seen. Even if you are not a fan of sports, and even if you don't like documentaries this film is as enjoyable as anything you're likely to see. An American classic. 10 out of 10.
"Hoop Dreams" is one of the finest films I ever seen. It is easily the best documentary subject ever put on celluloid and it is a blueprint to all film-makers (especially those trying to break into the industry). It is late-1980s inner-city Chicago and two youngsters (Arthur Agee and William Gates) are preparing for their high school careers. Neither know one another, but they soon become linked in the fact that they are both recruited to go to the prep school that then-NBA superstar Isiah Thomas (a hero to both) attended. We then follow the two over a course of five years as they try to make their dreams of basketball super-stardom come true. "Hoop Dreams" is a definitive example of a true documentary (something that most never do understand the concept of). It is a film that took years and years to make. It told a story that most of mainstream America did not understand or even know about. It relied on lots of planning and lots of luck to all come together. This was a labor of love and desire for the film-makers involved (most notably director/co-writer/co-editor Steve James). "Hoop Dreams" is the cinema in its rawest and most untamed form. It is not a film that was developed for profit, awards or recognition from others in the entertainment community. It is a film that was made to educate people and tell a story that could not have been conveyed by any other form of mass communication. An Oscar-nominee for its mind-numbingly difficult editing in 1994. 5 stars out of 5.
This was on T.V. last night. I was waiting for Seinfeld reruns to start and stopped here to pass the nxt 30 mins till Seinfeld. Hoop Dreams just began. I'd heard of it, but it didn't sound interesting at all. The problem here was that I became so interested in seeing how the lives of these two boys turned out, that I totally forgot about Seinfeld. Oh well, it's on 14 times a week locally. Hoop Dreams was very interesting. I loved it.
Seeing Hoop Dreams again is like revisiting someone you haven't seen in
a while, and you get caught up on who they are and think back to what
it was like when you knew them, and then you realize you never even
left in a weird way. These two guys, Arthur and William, are kids who
could make it in basketball, but can they make it in life? The film
poses many questions, and we just want them to get out of the mean
streets of Chicago they're in, which is always so close and yet so far
away to accomplish. Ultimately we might think they can make it -
they're good kids, so they won't sell drugs or get into crime, at least
not so soon after graduating high school (if they can pull their grades
up) - but who knows? It really comes down to luck.
I'm not sure if that's what the filmmakers intended to show, but time and time again in Hoop Dreams, which runs almost three hours but breezes by seemingly as it goes past four years of high school, we see how luck, good and bad, plays into Arthur, William and their family members. Take for instance how the two of them start out at St. Joseph's. They're spotted by a recruiter and go to the school because they look promising playing basketball. Both do well in the school, but while William gains some notoriety as a top notch player going into Sophomore year, Arthur has to drop out because his parents can't pay the late fees and the fees due for the upcoming year (all of about two grand, which as one can see is how much they're struggling to get by). So their lives diverge at their respective schools, St. Joseph's for William and Marshall for Arthur, all because of luck.
But it doesn't stop there. Things happen beyond anyone's control. William gets a knee injury and can't play for a while, leaving him on the bench despite his desire to play; Arthur gets better as a top player at the school, but slips in grades when his friend drops out to sell drugs; William has a baby, and her future may depend on how well he can impress the recruiters for a college; family members, like William's brother (also a once promising player himself), get in trouble, or Arthur's mother who has job problems but overcomes it to become a nurse. All of this is all apart of that desperate but likely struggle to attain something of the American dream, or some version of it, and how the two players are like little superheroes to their families, but have their own personal struggles to deal with too.
It's a tableau, an epic look at two lives and, of course, basketball. Going in I remember I thought "I'm not a big fan of basketball, will I like it?" Never should that thought cross your mind, since even a non-fan will be biting their nails and cheering on Arthur and William during their games - the characters lead the momentum of the games, as opposed to all of these pseudo-inspiring sports movies where we know mostly what will happen. Here, anything is possible, and tension rides high (albeit we often see condensed versions of the games, used by a somewhat effective narrator in the director Steve James). It's important that it's about basketball since the teens playing it are at high stakes for their respective futures, so it's not just a device. We see how dangerous life is on the other side of the dream - divorce, drugs, crime, death, despair, poverty - and so whatever 'dreams' of the title carry with it are paramount, and sometimes costly.
I cared about what I saw the first time, and cared about the characters again revisiting the film. It's inspirational without having to force it, and a fine coming of age story as well. And if you wonder what happened to these kids after the movie (after the end cards say what happened during college life) you're not alone.
I seen this movie in a film class, and have fell in love with it ever since, and even still to this day i watch it!!! This documentary takes you on the ride of your life!! I now have a greater sense for how important athletics can be in ones life, and the things that athletes will do to fulfill their dreams!! I bought this film on VHS when it first came out, and i was definitely not disappointed. I would also like to mention that i had the privilege to meet Mr. William Gates, at a 3 on 3 basketball tournament recently, in which he was the guest speaker, I would have to say that i was so amazed to see how compassionate he was, and the man that he turned out to be. It was a great experience for me to be apart of. I would like to say to all those who have seen this remarkable documentary, be on the lookout for Hoops Dreams 2 which will be released in the near future!!!
A film following the lives of two inner-city Chicago boys who struggle
to become college basketball players on the road to going professional.
Gates lived in CabriniGreen while Agee and his family resided in West
Although never a basketball player or from a poor neighborhood, this touches home for me a bit because I am from the Midwest and have spent a fair amount of time in Chicago. And then add Marquette University, a place I have been to countless times, and you are practically in my backyard.
The strength of this film is that -- despite the title -- it is not about basketball. That is what drives the narrative, but the deeper story is one of race, class, poverty, unemployment, crime, family values and more. These are real issues, and whether or not we face them, they are holding entire communities back from succeeding.
Although violence is never a focus of the film, it remains ever on the edges. The families of both men have experienced losses since the release of the film. On Thanksgiving morning 1994, Agee's older half-brother, DeAntonio, was gunned down at CabriniGreen. In September 2001, Gates' older brother, Curtis, 36, was shot to death in the Chicago Lawn neighborhood. Arthur's father, Bo Agee, was murdered in 2004.
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