Hoop Dreams, about the struggles and aspirations of two young Chicago youths to follow their dreams and become professional basketball players, may quite possibly be the best documentary I have ever seen. It is just quintessential, perfectly made. It’s entertaining, keeps your interest for almost three whole hours, and encompasses five years in the lives of these boys. How this did not even get nominated for Best Documentary at the Academy Awards is completely beyond me, and apparently also beyond the Academy, who underwent a reform process in how documentaries got nominated as a result of the backlash caused by this not getting the nom. This film was so good, and so well received, that it altered how the Academy chose its nominees from then on. That’s something.
The film originally was only meant to be a 30 minute PBS special on inner-city Chicago youths and their neighborhood basketball courts. The filmmakers, however, found a more intriguing story in that of Arthur Agee, Jr. and William Gates, the two youths the film ultimately focuses on, and from there, it blossomed into a five year long, 250-hour raw footage spectacle condensed into a mere three hours for our consumption. The film pretty much literally follows them through all four years of their high school, and goes into their freshman years of college, offering very little (if any) opinion on the events that transpire, but doing what a documentary should; merely present its content, and allow us to form our own thoughts and feelings about it. We often root for the young men, and often it doesn’t go their way; that’s life, and that’s what Hoop Dreams excels at; showing life as it is for these two young men, and thus showing life as it is for young men like them, in the same areas and situations, for us to contemplate.
Roger Ebert, among other critics, named Hoop Dreams as the best film of 1994, amid competition like Pulp Fiction, The Shawshank Redemption, and Forrest Gump. That’s quite a statement right there. All that being said, as good as Hoop Dreams was, it’s still a documentary, and as much as I liked it, I’m not sure I’d want to see it again. I feel I got everything out of it the first time through, and that’s not a feeling I personally like to have. I’m of the kind that will happily see a great film multiple times; indeed, I’ve seen every movie in my personal library several times over – that’s why I own them. I don’t think I’d really want to own Hoop Dreams. It’s still a great film, and if you have yet to see it, it’s definitely one to add to your lists, especially if you’re into sports or documentaries in general. I just don’t think I’ll ever personally see it again.
Arbitrary Rating: 9/10