Forget reality television, this is a reality movie. So taking it back to the 80’s, this is a documentary showcasing two promising high school basketball players, Arthur Agee and William Gates. They both come from impoverished backgrounds where there is struggle a plenty off the court. Can they rise up, overcome and take their games to the next level? This is another film that is featured on the 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list, but the thing that really caught my eye about this is that Roger Ebert has been quoted as saying that this is his favorite film released in the 1990’s, which is certainly high praise, given the thousands of movies the man watched throughout his illustrious career. And the movie is really solid, too, but I wasn’t expecting anything different from a movie that got paid such a hefty compliment.
I don’t know if I would go so far to call it the best movie of the 90’s, but that’s just me.
One thing you may not know about me is that I’m actually a huge fan of the NBA and of basketball in general. I have always had a love for the sport, and can always watch a game and get really into it, regardless if it is high school, college, or professional. If you are going to watch this, the one thing that you have to keep in mind about the NBA is that while it glamorous, there is only about 450 open spots in the league, averaging about 14 – 15 spots per roster per 30 teams. This means that when you watch Hoop Dreams, you are getting what is undoubtedly an inspiring underdog story, but if you have a foot in the realm of realism, you know that the likelihood that these two get to go pro is astronomical, even given how talented they both are.
Also, given the fact that you still haven’t heard about these guys outside of the movie is kind of a spoiler when you think about it, but that’s hardly the film’s fault.
This is a raw and emotional documentary that is easy to get into. You get invested in it, and you want to see nothing but good things for these kids, especially given their backgrounds. It’s almost 3 hours long, but it moves as fast as can be, showing years of their lives in a very abbreviated form (they apparently shot over 250 hours of footage over 5 years). Even if you tether the expectations of their dreams, simply getting into college would be a triumph, so you always have something to root for. Hoop Dreams is a wonderful documentary, is accessible at every moment, and is absolutely something that you should take the time to view.
Hoop Dreams (1994) ****
– Critic for Hire