Skip to main content

The Vault: Hoop Dreams (1994)

It’s no secret ladies and gentlemen, the films we gravitate towards and embrace forever, are the pictures that make the film going experience a personal one. Steven James’s brilliant and downright breathtaking documentary Hoop Dreams, shared with me two deeply personal matters: the city of Chicago and of course, the game of basketball.

There was a time, like I’m positive all of you who are reading have had, where I thought professional basketball was in my near future. Sure, I was quite good and stood out on my team, and most places I played. But the chances of every making it into the NBA or any professional sport are so slim you have a better chance winning that 400 million-dollar lottery.

But hell that was the beauty of being child: we dreamed big, perhaps a bit naïve, but when you’re 9 years old the sky is the limit. That’s not to say we as people don’t chase our passions – but there is a time where one must face reality and the fortunes that come along with it.

William Gates and Arthur Agee, the subjects of Hoop Dreams, are breaking the chain and planning to do something bigger and better in their lives. Director Steven James follows these two kids and their respective families for six years. With this all-access pass in these households, we witness some honest behavior and sad realities for the two, primarily poor families.

We embark on a journey; watching these two kids casually shooting hoops on the schoolyard, transpire over the years into an opportunity to play for a college team. Every second Arthur and William are on the court counts. These games and outcomes mean so much more than winning or losing, but in fact dictate the future of these two kid’s lives.

In basketball it’s all about being recognized. If you’re really good, there’s a shot you may be recruited. Arthur and William fall into this category. Their talents are beyond comparison with others they play with. So, with a hint of fortune and a whole lot of luck, the two, rather deprived kids get offered a chance to attend a largely white prep school in Chicago (St. Joes) with tuition money being decreased, as long as they play basketball (very well mind you) for the school.

It’s an understatement to say these kids had no idea what they were in for: long commutes everyday, a new snooty social environment, academics held to a certain high standard, family pressures, and of course, rigorous basketball coaching.

For me to capsule and pick point what occurs in Hoop Dreams would be an injustice to everyone involved with his masterful picture. Those who have problems with documentaries, give it a chance: these stories on screen are for more fascinating than anything you will find in Hollywood.

I was moved, in shock, and engrossed in what was unfolding in front of my eyes. Here is a documentary that is painstakingly honest with its subject matter. These are genuine families, ones with legitimate worries and fears. And we have William and Arthur’s ambitions to be in the NBA peak and falter simultaneously throughout this 6 year journey James and company invested their lives in.

Hoop Dreams is a mammoth in documentary filmmaking: one that capsulated people’s hopes, emotions, and dreams greater and more dramatic than anything I’ve ever seen. The film’s three hour run time flies by, but the impressions and thoughts Hoop Dreams left, will last me a lifetime.

You can find all my reviews at Duke & The Movies & follow me on twitter @DukeSensation

Popular posts from this blog

Hulk vs. The Incredible Hulk vs. The Avengers

There are two movies about the Hulk and one that features the green monster as a major player. One was made in 2003 by an auteur, starring a little-known Aussie. Five years later The Incredible Hulk came out to the same tepid reaction as Ang Lee's Hulk did. This weekend, The Avengers made the Hulk as popular as he has been in a long time. So it comes down to this: Hulk vs. Hulk vs. Hulk. Who will smash whom?

Round One: Acting
Edward Norton outshines Eric Bana as the dual persona of the meek Bruce Banner and the rage-induced Hulk. Eric Bana was given little to do but run and fight and often the audience was just waiting for him to transform. With the Incredible Hulk, Norton's Banner is fully fleshed-out and we are given a reason to care about him. Being allowed to go a little dark with Banner's scenes questioning what is left of his life provided emotional resonance to the character that Hulk lacked. Yet even with the capable performance that Norton gives there was something …

Review: The Salvation

Westerns have never recovered from the oversaturation that killed off viewer interest decades ago, but every now and then a gem pops up. Recent successes like The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, 2007’s 3:10 to Yuma and the Coen brothers adaptation of True Grit all did well because they tweaked the genre slightly, but director Kristian Levring goes with an old school approach. A faithful recreation of those revenge Westerns made so popular in the 1970s, The Salvation envelopes many elements of previous Clint Eastwood classics and wraps it into a tidy package.

The Salvation starts in on the central dilemma, joining Jon (Hannibal‘s Mad Mikkelsen) at the train station where he awaits the arrival of his wife and son. Jon and his brother, Peter (Mikael Persbrandt), have lived in the United States long enough to build a hospitable life for their family back in Denmark. This homecoming should be a sweet moment to establish the family important to Jon, but fate plays out…

Review: The Voices

Jerry (Ryan Reynolds) spends his days working the nine-to-five shift at his new job at the Milton Bathtub Factory. Jerry is chipper to the point that he may turn some people off, but he never stops trying to make friends. Friends are something that Jerry could use because the only other conversation he has is with his dog Bosco and his cat Mr. Whiskers. Things are looking up though, Jerry has been tasked with planning the company picnic and he’s asked a girl (Gemma Arterton) out on a date. Jerry is so excited to share the news he rushes home to tell his pets about Fiona. Oddly enough, both Bosco and Mr. Whiskers start talking back.

No need to go back and re-read that last sentence, yes, Ryan Reynolds has pets who talk back to him. His dog, Bosco, is quite affable, however, his cat, Mr. Whiskers, would feel right at home curled in the lap of Blofeld. Unfortunately for everyone around him, it’s the advice of the evil cat that Jerry heeds more often than not. For all of Jerry’s pleasant…