1995-05-04 Focus, page 6
1995-05-04 Focus, page 6
FEATURES focus Thursday , May 4,1995 ___\ fl Hoop Dreams" is an original look at the inner city By Michael Kantro Focus features editor "Hoop Dreams," one of the most daring, exciting and interesting films of 1994, is r ow available on home video. The film is a documentary about two African- American teenage basketball players and their families. Both boys wish to parlay their skills on the court into a passport out of the Chicago projects. The filmmakers, Steve James, Frederick Marx, and Peter Gilbert spent close to eight years following the lives and careers of the two boys, Arthur Agee and Wi'liam Gates. Arthur and William are boih recruited out of junior high school at the age of fourteen by Saint Joseph's high school, a Chicago high schools basketball powerhouse. The movie deals with the issue of whether athletes, should be treated differently than 0010" students. William and Arthur know that the only reason that they can attend St. Joesph's is because of their basketball skills. Is it fair to Arthur and William to add to their already troubled lives the pressure of being recruited at a young age and knowing that the reason that they are. at school is basketball? St. Joseph's coach seems to believe that it is fair. After all, St Joseph's is famous for one of its former basketball standouts, former Detroit Pistons' all-star and future NBA hall-of-famer, Isaiah Thomas. Thomas represents the ideal of the dream of escaping and playing big league basketball. He is a hero to the children in the inner city and a standard by which every other Chicago prep- school basketball player is judged. William and Arthur's stories diverge a St. Joseph's. William is successful from the start and becomes the only freshman to ever start on the varsity team in St. Joseph's history. Even Thomas did not have that distinction. Arthur, however, progresses more slowly than the coaches expected, although he is a starter for the freshman team. When St. Joseph's hikes their tuition, the Agee family is unable to pay the fee because Arthur's lather "Bo" has just lost his job. Arthur is dropped at the semester and his transcripts are held until the fee is paid. Although William's family cannot afford to pay the fee hike either, because William is a better basketball player, the school finds a community sponsor who pays for the entire cost of William's schooling at St. Joseph's (with the exception of the money paid for by his athletic scholarship). One of the interesting venues the movie explores is the pressure inflicted upon young boys by referring to them as "...the next Isaiah Thomas." Beyond the acclaim and prestige of being a star, there is also the danger that these young men will see themselves as only basketball players and nothing more. The hoop dreams of William's older brother Curtis are deferred, and instead of exploding, like Langston Hughes predicted, he simply shrivels up into a shell of a man. He drifts in and out of jobs, unable to see anything else of himself other than (he talented, but "uncoachable" high school basketball-star who was a failure at the college level. His hoop dreams are his only dreams and he tries futilely to relive them vicariously through his brother. Arthur also feels the pressure of having to live up to someone else's potential. His father Bo was a good high school player who believes that he could have been a good college player. Arthur and his father seem only to have a relationship on the basketball court, and for a period in Arthur's life, the only time that he sees his father is by the courts when his father is buying cocaine from a cour tside pusher. For both William and Arthur, basketball is about love and respect. They are more than just stars at school, but they are also stars at home, but they are also Stars at home because of their on court skills. It is the relationships that William and Arthur have with their respective families that makes "Hoop Dreams". an exciting and fascinating movie. "Hoop Dreams" is as much about the love, pressure, support, and pain of being a part of a family trapped in the inner city that is hanging by a thread than it is about basketball. What makes these hoop dreams so powerful for these inner city children is that they have little else to dream about. They have no real male role models (William's, father left when William was a child and Arthur's father has had drug problems). Both Arthur and William are just getting by in school and would probably have trouble getting into a four year school without an athletic scholarship. Dreaming about a career as a doctor or a lawyer is porbably unrealistic to them. What they fail to realize is that the odds of becoming a doctor or a lawyer are far better than becoming an professional basketball player. The filmmakers chronicle the pain and family problems of William and Arthur, but they also show the loye and power that families have to overcome hardships. Arthur's father, Bo, manages to kick his cocaine habit while in prison for burglary and becomes a born again Christian and a more loving and diligent father. William chooses to place the welfare of Mg daughter above anything and vows to be a better father than his own father ever was. Both men triumph over hardship and manage to find something more worth- wile than basketball to fight for: families. "Hoop Dreams" is a remarkable movie for what is sys about love and families, not for basketball highlights. James, Marx and Gilbert have taken the high road and have made a film that is about something that is truly moving and powerful, instead of bending to the pressure to make a commercial film about three-sixty jams and fade-away fifteen- footers. The only weakness with the film is that there is too much basketball. William and Arthur are the reason why "Hoop Dreams" is a good film, and their stories deserve to be cento* stage. It is their actions off the court that are the most intersting. The movie, at approximately three hours, is too long and some of the basketball scenes cold have been cut. Nevertheless, "Hoop Dreams" is one of the best films I have seen this year. It is far better than "Quiz Show" and "Four Weddings and a Funeral," two of the five films nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. "Hoop Dreams" is fun and serious at the same time. The film undoubtably owes some of its success to the fact that Arthur and William are charismatic and* interesting. The story is socially relevant while still being fun to watch. 100% Bachelor's degree 25% less time. You can earn a Bachelor's degree in just 3 years or in Just 12 months if you already have an Associate's degree. 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Modesto Junior College, “1995-05-04 Focus, page 6,” MJC Library Digital Collections , accessed March 5, 2021, http://mjclibrarydigitalcollections.org/items/show/23938.