Review by Michael Jacobson
Arthur Agee, William Gates
Director: Steve James
Audio: Dolby Stereo
Video: Full Frame 1.33:1
Features: See Review
Length: 171 Minutes
Release Date: May 10, 2005
ask me will I remember them if I make it...
tell them, 'Will you remember me if I don't?'"
Dreams is a
film that hints at many conventions but defies all of them.
It's a documentary about inner city life, a look at the hopes and dreams
that equate to narrow avenues out of poverty, a thrilling sports movie, and an
intimate character study. It began
as a short film for PBS, but evolved into a six year project built from the
ground up on faith, ambition and determination.
Considering documentary makers don't know how their story or subject
matter will eventually end up, it was a risk, but the result was one of the
great American movies of all time.
a film filled with suspense, love, laughter, fear, outrage, and the many twists
and turns that only real life could offer.
Nobody could sit down and write this kind of story...if he or she did, it
wouldn't have been touched by any studio because it would have seemed
melodramatic. But so does life from
time to time.
follows two Chicago inner city youths named Arthur Agee and William Gates.
Both are eighth graders when we meet them, and both have notable talent
on the basketball court and dreams of being the rare kid who makes it all the
way to the NBA. By the end of the
movie, we have followed them for nearly six years.
We've seen their entire high school careers and their first moves into
most of all, we've walked miles in their shoes and those of their families.
We understand what it means to live in a place where reaching your 18th
birthday is a true landmark because so many don't make it.
We feel what it's like for families trying to make a better life for
their children with meager means and many roads sealed off to them. We see how dreams can lead to disappointment, as William's
older brother Curtis was once named high school player of the decade, but never
made it in college or beyond. Most
of all, we come to realize how the love of the game can keep two youths going
through hard times, long commutes, and endless hours of work, hope and
strife...all to make a near impossible dream into a reality.
love so much to delve into the details of what happens over the film's running
time, and moreover, the years of these young men's lives.
But to deprive a first time viewer of the movie's surprises, heartaches
and triumphs would be inexcusable. Seeing
these boys grow up before our eyes is extraordinary, but really getting a feel
for their lives is even more so.
biggest blunders seem to come with the documentary category, and 1994 was a year
they'll never live down by failing to nominate this film, which many considered
more than worthy of Best Picture recognition, let alone Best Documentary
Feature. The backlash would cause
the Academy to shake up their rules and attempt to weed out corruption in the
tightly knit voting...it was too little, too late.
has never been a slice of American life depicted on the screen like Hoop
Dreams. It's not a movie you
watch so much as experience to your core. Your
heart will be with these young men and their families every step of the
way...each of their moments, both great and grim, are ours for the sharing.
I've never known the person to sit down with this movie and not be
completely moved and captivated by it. We
may never see it's like again, but at least we'll always have this one to go
this started out as a short documentary for public television, I was very
pleased with the full frame offering. Despite
showing videotape transferred to film for most of the running time, the images
come across with clarity and cleanliness, with good colors and detail
stereo track is lively and dynamic throughout, balancing the all important
spoken words against music and sports action.
I noticed no interference or dropouts, and the overall impact is
comparable to discs with 5.1 sound.
disc boasts two terrific commentary tracks.
The first, by filmmakers Steve James, Peter Gilbert and Frederick Marx,
offers superb insights into the making and development of what became such a
lofty project. The second is even
better, featuring Arthur Agee and William Gates. Watching the movie with their commentary is like seeing a
whole new picture, as both young men reflect not only on their experiences as
recorded in the movie, but how they led to the lives they had afterward.
For those of us who wanted to see a sequel to this film following up on
these people, this commentary suffices pretty well.
commentary tracks are so good, I would have given the features a four star
rating solely based on them, but the disc also includes a trailer, a music
video, and a rather interesting collage of Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert,
following them from their initial praise of the film to their efforts to win it
Academy recognition and the aftermath, all the way to Ebert naming Hoop
Dreams the best film of the 90s. A
typically excellent Criterion booklet filled with essays and photos is also