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Better Late Than Never: Hoop Dreams

I watch TV when I exercise. Typically I watch one hour television programs (which actually run about 40 minutes). However, television programmers seem to be losing the ability of showing compelling fare. So, care of Netflix’ “Watch Instantly” service, I’ve been discovering media that has passed me by. My most recent Netflix selection was Hoop Dreams (Netflix, IMDB), a documentary film about two high school freshmen from Chicago’s inner city who are angling to make it in the NBA. As a fan of both basketball and doc films, it’s pathetic that I has not seen this sooner — I think the 171 minute (!) running time scared me away, as it seemed like such a commitment.

It turns out you can break that up into about 4 exercise-length viewings, and that ended up working out quite well. There’s a naturally episodic quality to the film, as it follow Arthur and William year by year. The story the filmmakers uncovered is remarkable, with twists and turns, ups and downs, highs and lows, and very real drama. Hoop Dreams is about so many things — family, race issues, class issues, basketball, motherhood, fatherhood, coming of age — but really what it’s about is America, thick and thin, better and worse. You have to give huge kudos to the filmmakers who stuck with this for four-plus years (and doubtless had so many hours of tape shot that figuring out how to pull together a story must have been beyond daunting), but you also have to show respect for the the film’s two subjects, who make *something* of themselves against extraordinary countervailing pressures.

Anyway, don’t be like me. If you have any inkling of interest in this film, but haven’t seen it yet, do not put off watching it.