- Two audio commentaries with stars Arthur Agee and William Gates and filmmakers Peter Gilbert, Steve James, and Frederick Marx
- Segments from Siskel and Ebert tracking the acclaim for Hoop Dreams
- Original music video
- Theatrical Trailers
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
Customers who bought this item also bought
Two ordinary inner-city kids dare to dream the impossible - professional basketball glory - in this epic chronicle of hope and faith. Filmed over a five-year period, Hoop Dreams follows young Arthur Agee and William Gates as they navigate the complex, competitive world of scholastic athletics while striving to overcome the intense pressures of family life and the realities of their Chicago streets. The Criterion Collection is proud to present this landmark documentary chronicling two remarkable families who challenge the American dream.
Would you like to tell us about a lower price?
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
Read reviews that mention
Showing 1-8 of 78 reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
But otherwise, as a film this is a poignant reminder of poverty induced on ethnic groups within the USA, specifically to stop highly intelligent and capable people from being able to make a threat on the racist system we've held in place since the illusionary Emancipation Proclamation. Personally I believe a basketball league for people about 6'2 and under would be highly lucrative for many of these stellar talents who won't otherwise fit (reduced ball size perhaps and rim size, height very slightly?) but...the system is going to wind up changing because it's not making use of all that talent outside the basketball court and people don't want to be oppressed.
Agee and Gates with their whole families are heroes.
I guess the best place to start is to assume that you've no idea what this movie is, and have stumbled onto it by accident. After all, "Hoop Dreams" hasn't taken its rightful place in film history yet. It was released the same year as "Forrest Gump", "Pulp Fiction", "Speed", "The Shawshank Redemption", and "The Lion King"...sadly, "Hoop Dreams" has yet to be as well-known, even though it was more critically-praised than any of those 1994 pictures.
So, what is "Hoop Dreams"? In simplest terms, it's a 3-hour documentary that focuses on two kids in Chicago, both of them loving nothing more than playing basketball. The film begins with 8th graders Arthur Agee and Williams Gates being "recruited" to St. Joseph High School on the basis of their athletic abilities. They attend a summer camp. They meet St. Joseph grad Isiah Thomas, who made it to the NBA. William and Arthur commute 3 hours to attend the school. Their families are lower-class African-Americans, each with their share of struggles and reactions to the boys' education and athletics. By the end of "Hoop Dreams", we have joined the filmmakers in following Arthur and William from grade 8 to their freshman year in college.
Now, for some reason, documentaries don't sound like they can be interesting or exciting. I think that's because most of us had to watch very dull and laborious educational programs when we were in school, not to mention that documentaries by their very nature lack a certain amount of control in the story. But "Hoop Dreams" is different, VERY different. Not only are the people engaging, but in simple filmic terms, this crew managed to get some awesome footage and did an incredible job of cutting 7 years' worth of footage into a 3-hour picture. The film has a great pace, and in some ways, is more dramatically compelling than most fictional tales. Yet "Hoop Dreams" tells its story through the interviews and camera shots, rather than the filmmakers voice-over narrations. We do get some narration so that we can understand what's going on, but "Hoop Dreams" doesn't have a Michael Moore telling you what to think. The footage speaks for itself.
The stories of William and Arthur have very fascinating aspects to them. William has an older brother, Curtis, whose basketball career never took off, leaving Curtis to live vicariously through his younger brother. William has to contend with a knee injury during his junior year, raise a daughter with his girlfriend, and endure a love/hate relationship with St. Joseph coach Gene Pingatore. The coach's behavior alternates between verbally abusive and down-to-Earth. He's the kind of man whose methods are like double-or-nothing bets in blackjack; you're either a genius, or a madman.
Arthur Agee, on the other hand, ends up in a very different place than William. Because of his low grades and his family's inability to pay for the education, Arthur spends most of high school career at another school with less money and poorer facilities. Ironically, Marshall High School (w/ Arthur) fares much better than St. Joseph (w/ William), even though the latter has more resources for its students and extra-curricular activities. The Agee family supplies both the saddest and happiest moments of "Hoop Dreams". Arthur's father, Bo, struggles to remain a positive influence on his son's life. The scene when Bo pays a sudden visit to his son, only to buy drugs minutes after shooting hoops is harrowing, made even sadder that the filmmakers just happened to be there. But Arthur's mother, Sheila, becomes a true heroine, as she remembers to celebrate Arthur's birthdays and works to become a nurse.
There are so many more moments in "Hoop Dreams" that have imprinted onto my memory that I can't possibly name them all. But one more thing I want to focus on is the basketball games. After all, this is a movie called "Hoop Dreams". The footage that is shown is sure to strike a personal chord with anyone who's been to a game. The odd enthusiasm of a high school game's audience. The smell of the hardwood floor. The dimly-lit gyms. The sad faces of the losing team's players. It all hits you in the heart, and will spark some nostalgia. But more importantly, the games themselves are kinda exciting to watch. When William Gates' knee injury starts to affect his team, you (the viewer) feel sad. We don't want to see him fail; we want him to sink those dramatic free throws and earn a chance for a scholarship. Sports movies typically have a formula, but "Hoop Dreams" makes the formulas work, and it's not even trying!
Why does "Hoop Dreams" resonate with me so much? It's because "Hoop Dreams" isn't a basketball movie, and it's not just a documentary either. This is a movie with something to say, but lets you decide what it is. This is a movie filled with compelling characters, but none of them are actors. These are real people! "Hoop Dreams" has great footage and scenes, but none of them were storyboarded or scripted (Listen to the DVD commentaries to learn why they regretted filming a moment when the Agee Family loses power to their home). Finally, it is so much more than a talking-heads documentary. You truly feel like you're sitting in the same room as these people, attending the same basketball games, worshipping with the same congregation, listening to the same doctors & coaches, and playing on those same asphalt courts.
There are many films that have been praised to be something more than just a movie, but "Hoop Dreams" is one of the few to deserve such praise. It did back in 1994, and it deserves to be remembered among the true achievements in motion pictures.
There are very few extras on the DVD, but in true Criterion fashion, they're all splendid. First, you get to see about 15 minutes of clips from the Siskel & Ebert show. Say what you will about critics, but Gene Siskel (of the Chicago Tribune) and Roger Ebert (of the Chicago Sun-Times) were very responsible for making this sure that "Hoop Dreams" achived the success it did back then. You get to see the original review, their original pitch to have the film nominated for the Academy Awards, the shocking reveal that "Hoop Dreams" was deliberately screwed out of the Oscar votes, and finally seeing Roger Ebert hail it his favorite movie of the 1990s with Martin Scorsese as his guest host. Come to think of it, "Hoop Dreams" is my favorite movie from the 1990s, as well.
The last extras are two audio commentaries. The first is by Steve James, Frederick Marx and Peter Gilbert (the filmmakers). They reveal many interesting facts of "Hoop Dreams", like how it was originally just a short project about 8th graders getting into high school basketball, or how William Gates' story has so many surprises because they just didn't get to meet some of his family & friends until later in the shooting. In short, this commentary track is never boring.
The second commentary is another treasure, with Williams Gates and Arthur Agee doing their track. And like the filmmakers' track, these two are engaging speakers with plenty to add to the film. After all, they lived it, right? It's so heart-warming to see these two speak honestly about their struggles, their dreams, their current lives, and their mutual respect & friendship.
What's so terrific about this DVD is that in addition to getting a 3-hour masterpiece, there are 2 additional commentary tracks that broaden the scope even more! You could literally spend 9 hours with this DVD, and still be dying to learn more about the world and people of "Hoop Dreams". Never have I been so engaged, entertained, and inspired by such a DVD!
I want to close with this quote from Roger Ebert, "The greatest value of film is that it helps us break out of our boxes of time and space, and helps us to empathize with other people. It lets us walk in someone else's shoes. HOOP DREAMS, gave me that gift."