Hoop Dreams Reviews
But Steve James' documentary is a great movie, a powerful study of youth, race, pop culture, education, society and identity in Chicago in the early 90s that makes no effort to manipulate its subjects into its own vision, instead showing them for who they are, people with hopes and dreams, flaws and virtues, and aspirations and fears just like everyone else their age, though the two subjects - basketball players William Gates and Arthur Agee - have a little bit more heart to them than the average Joe.
Watching this three hour odyssey through the high school lives of two teenagers was at the same time eye-opening and cathartic for me, introducing me to a way of life wholly different to mine yet relatable in many ways. The film explores the boys' family and home life, relationships with friends and teachers, and plans for the future. Basketball is of course the focus of their aspirations, and is central to the film's energy, but the film never feels like a film aimed solely at basketball fans, capturing the spirit of the game and using it to say something profound about its place within society and that society itself.
"Hoop Dreams", while edited to Academy Award-nominated precision, feels modest and subtle, and never throws anything into our faces. Steve James' style is clearly to make his subjects comfortable, as there is never one of those a-ha moments where someone pleads for the camera to be turned off or says that the documentary is stupid, misleading or a waste of time. Every person in the film is themselves in this film, and so no one ever really feels like the bad guy even though there are two clear protagonists. That said, there are some scenes where the relationships between the boys and their families (especially the fathers) come across as broken, especially with Arthur's father, who seems to push his broken basketball dreams on his son, only to leave, become a drug addict, go to jail, and come back to bask in the limelight just when his son is hitting his stride.
This is a vital documentary and certainly one of the best ever made. For its monumental running time, it's never boring and every scene adds something to the film. It's like "Boyhood" in that it has us grow over a few hours with a few people living complex and interesting lives, though it's an even more personal and affecting film. I'm not sure if I'd call it better, but this isn't really a film that needs to be compared to anything else. On the surface it seems like one of those "I could do that" modest TV documentaries, but it's much more than that, a totally unique and enthralling project.
....that god damn solo jazz sax!!!!