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Must Watch, Basketball fan or not

Author: Omer Osman ( from United States
6 November 2013

I strongly believe that the documentary, Hoop Dreams, was very effective in showing its point, while following the lives of two high school basketball players. It was excellent due to the great interviews, and effective cross cutting between both stories. There was great pacing between the shots and each character was equally as important. But aside from the editing, the content of the film was very eye opening. What I was surprised to notice was that I didn't see much mention in other reviews of the school reforms required to make this a better country, If colleges required a higher GPA, SAT/ACT score in order to receive a sports scholarship that way players will be able to gain a good education and not be thrown out on the streets the second they get injured. Currently students are willing to not go to classes in hopes of reaching professional sports, but they need something to fall back on just in case they don't make it. And in the small chances that they do make it to professional sports, what happens if they get injured, they have no career to fall back on. This movie was very effective and inspiring.

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Hoop Dreams

Author: Jackson Booth-Millard from United Kingdom
27 September 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I have seen a few of the documentary films featured in the book of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, some are standard subjects, some are controversial, and some are unusual, but of course all are interesting for their own reasons, I was hoping this one would be another good one. Basically this film follows two African American teenagers, William Gates and Arthur Agee, both from inner-city Chicago, who dream of becoming superstar basketball players for the NBA (National Basketball Association). The film starts from their early beginnings in St. Joseph High School in Westchester, Illinois, and sees them grow and progress through the following five years, including starting and graduating college, and maturing into men. William and Arthur were both recruited into the same school that Isiah Thomas came from, and put into a team where white and black people mix, which then was not usual, we see their workouts, practises and struggles through learning all about the game, and obviously their skills come into play and they do rise to become noticed. By the end of the film one of the young men grows into the star he dreamt of becoming, while the other keeps trying, but they stay true to each other and support one another through whatever happens, and their families, friends and closest supporters are with them all the way as well. With narration by Steve James, and also starring Emma Gates - William's Mother, Curtis Gates - William's Brother, Sheila Agee - Arthur's Mother, Arthur 'Bo' Agee - Arthur's Father, Earl Smith - Talent Scout, Gene Pingatore - High School Basketball Coach, Sister Marlyn Hopewell - High School Guidance Counselor, Bill Gleason - Television Reporter, Patricia Weir - President: Encyclopedia Brittanica, Marjorie Heard - High School Guidance Counselor, Luther Bedford - High School Basketball Coach, Aretha Mitchell - High School Guidance Counselor, Shannon Johnson - Arthur's Friend, Tomika Agee - Arthur's Sister, Joe 'Sweetie' Agee - Arthur's Brother, Jazz Agee - Tomika's Daughter and Arthur's Niece, Catherine Mines - William's Girlfriend, Alicia Mines - William's Daughter, Alvin Bibbs - William's Brother-in-Law, Willie Gates - Himself - William's Father and film director Spike Lee. I will be honest that I faded in and out of the story because I did think the three hour length was a bit too much, obviously the five year span of filming makes sense for this length, however I did pay attention to the actual basketball stuff, and the two true life characters are likable, so it is I suppose a worthwhile sports documentary. It was nominated the Oscar for Best Film Editing. It was number 11 on The 50 Greatest Documentaries. Good!

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Terrific Documentary on Dreams

Author: Michael_Elliott from Louisville, KY
30 June 2012

Hoop Dreams (1994)

**** (out of 4)

Wonderful documentary from Steve James who spent nearly five years with teenagers William Gates and Arthur Agee, two kids dreaming of making it up through the ranks of basketball and getting into the NBA one day. HOOP DREAMS is one of the most respected documentaries ever made and I hadn't seen it since it was originally released but this second viewer really made it clear how well this thing has held up over the years and what a remarkable piece of work it actually is. Obviously, since I was just fourteen when I originally viewed the film the entire thing really didn't hit home as well as it did today, when I'm older and understand the ups and downs of life. It's just so strange to see a documentary on people you don't know that can hold your attention for nearly three hours. Throughout that time we follow their careers through high school where both struggle with their grades and this impacts what their future might hold because of needing to reach a certain level to be eligible to get into college. We also get to see their home lives, which aren't always the best due to being in poor incomes where we even learn that their power and gas has been turned off. What works so well with this film is that it really gives you a clear portrait of life in general. I don't see how anyone could watch this film and not feel or understand what these two kids are going through and at the same time you really cheer for them even if you see some of the paint on the wall saying that things aren't going to turn out as planned. It's rare for a film to be insightful, heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time but HOOP DREAMS is quite a remarkable little gem.

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The movie follows two high school basketball players who grew up in the ghetto through their journey to become NBA baketball players.

Author: goirish4 from United States
18 December 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The movie Hoop Dreams follows two young basketball players from the projects of Chicago in their quest to one day play NBA basketball. The documentary provides viewers with a gripping plot line and an in depth look into the lives of the two boys on and off the court. The movie does a very good job of communicating not only the stress that the boys feel as they chase a dream that has a miniscule success rate, but also life's hardships the boys have to endure on and off the court as the movie progresses through the boy's four years of high school. Throughout the movie, the directors do a very good job of putting the audience in the boy's shoes, which is the component that makes this movie so good. The filmmakers portray the difficult environment the boys grow up in, both at home and at school. They also do a very good job of documenting the people in Arthur and William's lives that influence them the most.

As the movie starts out, the audience is introduced to Arthur Agee and William Gates, two fourteen year old boys with dreams of playing NBA basketball. Arthur lives on the south side of Chicago and William lives in the Cabrini Greens Housing Project. Both are poverty stricken areas without much chance for those raised there to escape the cycle of poverty. The boys are surrounded by lots of crime and gang activity which usually keeps kids their age from escaping the projects. The movie shows scenes of what life is like in the ghetto, from kids playing in rundown parks with inadequate basketball hoops, to Arthur's dad buying drugs from some gang members, both in view of Arthur and the cameras. It is scenes like these that bring the audience to understand the type of harsh environment the boys grew up in. The filmmakers realize that most of their audience cannot relate to the boys and they need to find a way to provide the audience with an understanding of what life is like for the boys. The directors do a very good job of showing the audience what it is like to grow up in the ghetto rather than just tell them. This is one aspect that keeps the audience so involved in the movie.

The character development and portrayal in the documentary is exceptional. The filmmakers do a great job of showing the audience how the two main characters mature and grow not only as basketball players, but as young men too. Arthur Agee is described by coaches as a player full of potential, but one who still plays as if he is on the playground and not the basketball court. He does not know how to play "team basketball". However, as the movie progresses, it is enjoyable to watch Arthur leave St. Joe's due to financial problems, but go on to mature from a playground player to a team player, leading Marshall to the state title. William Gates starts out much more mature than Arthur does. He is also recruited by St. Joe's and is billed to be the next Isaiah Thomas by many. William starts on varsity as a freshman and is expected to lead his team to the state title four years in a row. William is also expected to keep his grades up, score an 18 or higher on his ACT, and provide for a new addition to his family, his first born child. Obviously there is a lot of pressure on William to succeed, and watching him progress through the movie is very captivating.

The movie may focus on the basketball careers of William and Arthur, but another element which makes the movie so good is the added story line of the two player's families. This allows the filmmakers to show the audience the sacrifice the boy's families have to go through in order to help the boys reach their dreams. Arthur's mom in particular represents this theme. She has to raise her family as a single mother for a couple years when Arthur's dad leaves the family. At one point in time she loses her job due to chronic back pain and has to raise her kids on welfare for a while. She and Arthur's struggles are emotionally charged and very interesting to watch those conflicts play out.

Hoop Dreams is an excellent documentary, because of the filmmaker's in depth connections of the boy's dreams and struggles with the movie's audience. The film shows the viewers instead of just simply telling. The documentary is incredibly involving and a joy to watch.

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Two Young Athletes, a Basketball, a Court and a Camera Tell the Inside Story of Chicago Basketball Culture

Author: classicalsteve from Oakland, CA
29 July 2011

The original project was intended as a 30-minute short film about two young African-American athletes playing in a yard which was supposed to air on PBS. Several years later, the film became a 3-hour feature documentary film, telling a much larger story than even about the two young athletes. Somewhat similar to Ken Burns' "Baseball", "Hoop Dreams" is an exposé of life in Urban America somewhat removed from much of the fair coming out of Hollywood. The ordeals experienced by these real people, both young and older, make plots of "Beverly Hills 90210" seem mundane by comparison. And none of the participants are actors. Aside from the challenge of basketball itself, these people deal with marginal housing and transporting, food and money shortages, and even an unexpected teenage pregnancy. Also, Gates suffers a knee injury in the middle of the season.

Although the outer subject is primarily about William Gates and Arthur Agee and their rise as outstanding basketball players in high school and early college, the film also has a context and subtext about American society. This film exposes the many racial divides which still exist in our society in terms of economic and social opportunities. One message which speaks loud and clear is that many of these youngsters who live on Chicago's South Side believe their only route to a better life may be through a basketball hoop, hence the name of the film. I don't think this is something the filmmakers necessarily intended, but it's a reality that becomes very apparent as the film progresses.

Both Gates and Agee are highly accomplished athletes yet they struggle with their academics. Gates has an opportunity to enter Marquette University in Wisconsin, and the sports program there decides to court the young player, offering him a full scholarship to the university. They are already sold on his playing ability, but Gates' one hurdle is acquiring a minimum score on the ACT test which Marquette requires for admission. A councilor discussing the problem with Gates who has not yet scored high enough mentions that if he worked on the test as fervently as he works on free throw shots, he could pass the exam. Agee also struggles with his own academics as well, and then something hit me.

Gates and Agee are highly intelligent individuals, and this intelligence exudes itself in spades on the basketball court. Neither could have accomplished their athletic goals without a high level of acumen. But this intelligence is not channeled as successfully into other areas of their lives. Whether we mean to or not, our culture often fragments different kinds of activities. Sports, and sometimes the arts, are not often seen as activities requiring high intelligence, and yet being successful in sports requires as much brain power as writing computer code. And you also have to have a well-trained body. Gates' and Agee's surroundings I believe inadvertently conditioned them to believe that the skills they bring to basketball are not the same as the ones in academic studies. And yet, they never question their ability to improve on the court but have problems believing in their abilities in the classroom, which may be one of the points of Hoop Dreams.

Ultimately, the filmmakers chose two extraordinarily gifted people. When I say gifted, I don't just mean their abilities as athletes. These two channeled their gifts into playing basketball but given other circumstances they might have been able to channel them into almost anything. The hope is that these individuals, now adults when I write this, would be able to channel their gifts into any field they choose, and it looks like they have. Only a few hundred people out of a society of 300 million will be able to play professional basketball. Gates and Agee have followed dreams outside of basketball and maybe their participation in this film helped them to do that. At the same time, basketball did help them to realize they could realize their dreams, hoops or otherwise.

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Very Moving Documentary

Author: Matt Dull from Chi-Town
28 May 2011

I remember when this movie came out in 1994. I saw it, but being 16 and living an affluent small town existence I couldn't relate at all to a 3 hr documentary like this.

Fast forward 15 years and as adult that lives in Chicago(setting of film) and having seen and experienced many more of the ups and downs of life, I really liked this film when I saw it again.

I found this film extremely moving. The struggles of the main characters and their families really made an impact on me. The 3 hrs passed quickly and I must say that the film really stuck in my mind. It made me think critically about sports and our society in general in this day and age. To me, that indicates it was a great film!

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Author: adrongardner from USA
7 April 2011

Plan and simple, the Oscars should have been shut down for good when this film was ignored.

A basketball fanatic, I remember being quite taken with Hoop dreams at age 14 not as a "basketball" or "sports" film, but as a human drama I would never forget.

Today, as a daily and documentary photojournalist, I am equally taken not just by the excellent and dense human story, but also by the absolute and unwavering commitment by the filmmakers to see this film through from beginning to end.

This movie proves there is no greater honor you can earn in Hollywood, than to never win an Oscar.

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Author: ThreeThumbsUp from United States
26 October 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This groundbreaking documentary is about as close to cinematic perfect as a film can get.

Taking no less than six full years to construct, Hoops Dreams follows the lives of two aspiring basketball players from Chicago's lower-class communities. Starting as freshman, cameras document the lives of Arthur Agee and William Gates as the pair enters their freshman years at St. Joe's High School, a private institution known for its rich basketball tradition.

Gates is considered the next great basketball prodigy to come out of St. Joe's, drawing comparisons to NBA Hall of Famer Isaiah Thomas, who graduated from the school in the 1960s.

Discovered by a scout mining for talent in one of the city's many forgotten blacktops of the deprived south side, Agee is much less renowned than Gates, but still earns a partial athletic scholarship.

Gates immediately makes the varsity team as a freshman and enjoys a generally successful first two years at St. Joe's. Letters from almost every major college basketball program come flooding in as Gates becomes one of the most sought-after young basketball players in the state of Illinois.

After one year at St. Joe's, Agee struggles to acclimate to the school's "suburban" culture and transfers to a public high school much closer to his home in the city.

With expectations sky-high entering his junior season, Gates suffers a serious knee injury early on, forcing him to miss almost every game while hampering his chances of garnering a major Division I scholarship.

With his father aimlessly wandering the streets strung out on drugs and the family struggling to pay even the most basic of bills, life is even more tumultuous for Agee. The low point comes when the electricity in there home is cut off due to excessive missed payments.

Despite his personal and academic struggles, Agee begins to flourish on the hardwood, leading his John Marshall High School team to the city championship and a berth in the Illinois State Basketball Tournament. Along the way, the team fastens a few inspiring - and equally thrilling - upsets of some of the state's elite teams.

Wearing a perceptible and somewhat clunky brace, Gates returns for his senior season and seems to have lost his explosive first step and fearless attitude. His team is upset early in the playoffs, putting an unceremonious end to Gates's high school career. Despite his struggles and a re-aggravation of his knee injury during an elite off-season basketball camp, Gates manages to receive, and accept, a full-athletic scholarship from Marquette University in Milwaukee.

Agee does not have the grades to attend a four-year college directly out of high school, so the budding talent signs with a Junior College in the Midwest before ultimately transferring to Division I Arkansas State.

The juxtaposition of the lives of these two young men make for a compelling and authentic look at inner-city life, big-time basketball recruiting, expectations, pressure and the pursuit of a better life through athletics. You don't have to be a basketball fanatic to appreciate this superb piece of filmmaking either. It's simply a masterpiece that will transcend generations.

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A real story about two young men's journey in achieving their dream basketball career

Author: Kevin H from United States
22 August 2010

The documentary is very real, authentic, and touching.

It is about two young men in their teens trying to make it in basketball. The movie capture about 5 years of their life in high school as basketball player.

They came from tough neighborhoods. Their families went though touch times just to make sure their kids turn out alright. I have a lot of respect for them and their family as well as their school.

The movie is almost 3 hour long but every moment is worth watching. A shorter version would not be sufficient to show so much truth and reality.

I would recommend this movie for anybody who have have kids who are pursuing an athletic career. They would get a chance to learn the lesson from the two young men and their families.

A great work! I would like to thank the filmmakers and the two families.

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Tackling issues of racism, politics, and the dangerous power of hope, the film stands out as a complex and astute examination of the African-American experience.

Author: G K from Mars
6 May 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Hoop Dreams is one of the richest film experiences of 1994, a spellbinding American epic that holds you firmly in its grip for nearly three hours. Two African-American teenagers (William Gates and Arthur Agee) from inner-city Chicago struggle to enter the world of professional basketball.

Epic, moving and intensely memorable, the film tackles the issue of sport as an escape route from the ghetto, but heroically transcends the clichés, delving into the backgrounds of the boys and their families, detailing the obstacles they have to face over four years, and showing us what it means to them to win - a game, a place in the team, a new life. It is truly a great American documentary.

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