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By Anna

It takes a lot of patience and a lot of guts to follow (and watch) two boys from middle school age to college. If nothing else, that’s what makes Hoop Dreams a great film—persistent and patient filmmaking.

But Steve James’1994 Hoop Dreams is great for more than filmmaking. It’s got a little of a devil-may-care feel as it runs at 171 minutes with little mood-manipulating music. The documentary is raw and gets the audience into these boys’ lives so much that the viewer knows them.

Hoop Dreams follows William Gates and Arthur Agee for almost six years as they attempt to fulfill their dreams of playing in the NBA. As the young boys try to make it into a high school (and then college) with a good basketball program in Chicago, everything gets in their way: hormones, parents, drugs, school, injuries, and death.


Gates has a natural ability and can dunk the ball at 14. At St. Joseph’s High School he had a kid, injured his knee, and took the ACT four times to finally get the 18 he needed to attend Marquette University. His brother, Curtis, went to college on a basketball scholarship, but was “uncoachable” and ended up dropping out. He wants a better life for his brother. Almost 10 years after the film’s release, Curtis was murdered.


Agee worked at Pizza Hut for $3.35 an hour. He was recruited by predominately white St. Joseph High School, but couldn’t afford it after his sophomore year, so he attended public school (though St. Joe’s is still after him, but not for his skills this time, for his $1,300 in tuition he owes). Before his junior year, his dad left home and appears on and off screen and in his life until he was murdered in 2004.

Both attended St. Joe’s and hated academics. But they don’t talk about each other and, as far as we know, hardly knew each other. Gates started on Varsity as a freshman and Agee started on the freshman team.

Though Gates was the more naturally talented, Agee is the one to go onto the University of Illinois and succeed (even after having two kids of his own in junior college). Gates will finish at Marquette and become a real estate agent.

Spike Lee, Bobby Knight and Mike Krzyzeski all make appearances in the film (at the Nike Camp Gates attended), but nothing about the documentarian’s interviews with them or shots of them are glorified. They are not the story. Basketball isn’t even the story.

The story is found in the playground in inner city Chicago and in Agee’s mother’s words about wanting the best for her son no matter what she has to sacrifice (including having no electricity or water part of the time). And it’s compelling in the fact that after six years the filmmakers had a story, where they couldn’t be sure they would find one.

Like good art, Hoop Dreams has so much to offer that after every viewing the audience will walk away with more than they got the previous time.


Compiled by Ryan

The links:

Andrew Bird has announced an extended tour that finds him playing churches in Minneapolis (St. Mark’s Episcopal) and Chicago (Fourth Presbyterian).

Yeasayer have signed with Secretly Canadian and will release their second album, entitled ODD BLOOD, early next year.

-Of course Jack White gave a philosophy lecture in Dublin.

-The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn is teaming with Letterman scribe Tom Ruprecht to adapt Chuck Klosterman’s Fargo Rock City for the big screen.

Comedy Central has acquired the syndication rights to It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, an unusual move for FX, the cable channel that produces the show.

-Where you wondering what George Wendt was up to? I bet you were wondering what George Wendt was up to. Here’s what George Wendt is up to.

Time has a brief Q&A with Malcolm Gladwell.

Food, Inc. arrives on DVD in early November, and a friend passed along this link to the film’s highly-education and surprisingly-fun website.

New music spotlight:

Tegan and SaraSainthood

Everyone’s favorite Canadian twins look to continue their run of success that started with 2004’s So Jealous and peaked with 2007’s The ConSainthood is the duo’s fullest sounding record yet, employing a full band to fill out the post-punk infused pop of the Quinn twins:

Tegan and Sara – “Hell” from Sainthood, out October 27 on Sire

By Ryan

Okay, so I went away for a bit.  But I know you liked the podcasts.  And don’t tell me you didn’t click on every one of those links on Fridays.  Yes, it was summer, the time you’re most bored and also the time when I completely forget about maintaining any kind of update schedule for this blog.  Like Michael Jackson and propofol, it’s an unfortunate pairing.

Speaking of that, did you hear that he died?

HA!  Of course you did, it’s, like, literally, everywhere.  Literally.  I was watching The Battle Over Citizen Kane today, and one of the interviewees said that William Randolph Hurst literally shoved Marion Davies down the throats of the American public.  Naturally, I tried to find a picture of this, but to no avail.

Feel free to paint me one.

Look, we’ve got more of this burnished banter, along with fresh takes on social justice, pop culture, politics, and maybe even a poem or two in store for you this year at Reactionary Century.  Because we use school years here; calendars are so Mayan, and those guys predicted we’d be dead by 2012.  WE’LL SHOW THEM!

Compiled by Ryan

The links:

-NBC has released their fall schedule, complete with the return of Thursday night SNL Updates and the fantastic-looking Community.

NYT Magazine has a long and quite good feature about Conan and The Tonight Show.

-I heard an interesting piece on NPR this week about how primetime shows are pushing the traditional sex-on-television boundaries; you can listen to it here.

-It’s pretty inexplicable, but Sofia Coppola has former Jackass star Chris Pontius playing a big role in her upcoming flim.

Ben Stiller spoke this week about the long-rumored Zoolander follow-up.

-Michael Moore’s documentary about the economy will be released October 2nd.

URLesque had a fun feature—“The Most Inappropriate Wedding Songs Immortalized on YouTube.”

The YouTube highlights:

Here’s Jimmy Kimmel’s much-talked-about act from this week’s ABC uprfonts:

New music spotlight:

Jeremy EnigkOK Bear

Jeremy Enigk was the leadman for the highly-influential Seattle band Sunny Day Real Estate.  He’s been putting out solo albums for a few years now, but his new one, OK Bear, draws more on his SDRE days than his previous outings.  The production is wide open and there’s none of the orchestration that marked 2006’s Word Waits.  It’s not groundbreaking, but it is good:

Jeremy Enigk – “Mind Idea” from OK Bear, out now on Lewis Hollow

Passion PitManners

The latest in a new wave of indie electro-pop, Passion Pit stand out thanks in large part to the vocals of Michael Angelakos.  His unique voice gives Passion Pit a recognizability that many of their peers lack in a genre where bands struggle to stand apart from their peers:

Passion Pit – “The Reeling” from Manners, out now on Frenchkiss Records

Compiled by Ryan

The links:

-Those nice people at Daytrotter recently had Stephen Malkmus in for a studio session; you can download the tracks here.

-The Decemberists’ Colin Meloy tried to make some sense of The Hazards of Love for A.V. Club.

NY Magazine had a short and not-all-that-interesting interview with Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig.

-Eugene Mirman did a “Guest List” feature for Pitchfork this week.

Time Online had 10 questions for Amy Poehler, and it was surprisingly interesting.

-If you saw The King of Kong, you’ll probably want to check this out.

The YouTube highlights:

There’s a new documentary about Cloud Cult called No One Said It Would Be Easy.  Check out the trailer:

Speaking of movie trailers, you should probably watch this one.  Like now (via Videogum):

New music spotlight:

Peter Bjorn and JohnLiving Thing

A few years ago I remember hearing a song on satellite radio all the time.  The intro vaguely reminded me of the guitar riff from Modest Mouses’s “Invisible” only way more wussy.  It was Peter Bjorn and John’s “Young Folks,” and its nonstop radioplay probably ruined any chance a lot of people had of liking this band for more than 15 minutes.  They’re really quite a decent little band, and you give a listen to “Nothing to Worry About”:

Peter Bjorn and John – “Nothing to Worry About” from Living Thing, out now on Almost Gold Recordings

Yeah Yeah YeahsIt’s Blitz!

Did people like Show Your Bones?  I can never remember.  I know I thought it was good, but I also haven’t pulled it out in a few years, so I obviously didn’t think it was great.  Still, I’m listening to it right now, and, yeah, this band is really, really good.  I have listened to It’s Blitz! quite a bit, and it’s definitely another really solid output from a band that seems largely overlooked outside of the blogosphere.  Check out the first single:

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Zero” from It’s Blitz, out now on Interscope