Skip to main content

oscar dreams

Three weeks and counting… to Oscar night! Christy and I and another couple have an annual tradition of picking Oscar winners. We haven’t gotten to it yet, but it’s always fun competition. And one of our favorite TV personalities, Jon Stewart, will host Oscar night. We’re looking forward to the evening March 5.

Most of the talk this year is about Brokeback Mountain. It is widely believed to be the favorite to run the Oscars, particularly Best Picture and Best Director. Another film that caused much public “water cooler” discussion was Crash. Released in May, it is still widely talked about, with special screenings being hosted with discussion to follow. I have not seen Brokeback; I saw Crash after it came out on DVD. It is interesting that these two movies nominated for Best Picture discuss topics most of us are afraid to talk about: homosexuality and racism.

As a member of the North Texas Conference Anti-Racism Team, I have been through extensive training on the evil of racism. Grounded in white superiority, racism tells our sisters and brothers of color that they are second-class citizens. Even though I have many loving relationships with persons of color, I know that American society and its institutions were built with the idea to serve white people and exclude others. As Crash excellently illustrates, racism is so powerful that it can reveal our true character without our consent—before we have a chance to take back that comment or make that destructive choice.

As great as Crash is, it obviously is not the first film to address the issue of racism. But while everyone is talking about that movie, I would like to discuss another, which, unlike Crash, does not set out to explore racism. The other night Christy and I watched Hoop Dreams, the acclaimed 1994 documentary about two African-American youth from the projects in Chicago who are consumed with dreams of playing in the NBA. Both are recruited for the same private high school. Both struggle with the pressures of life on the basketball court and home. Hoop Dreams is about basketball, love for the game that is instilled day after day of practice. But lurking underneath the game, there was the face of evil itself: racism.

The only way the boys know to escape the poverty and crime they have grown up with is playing a game. To develop that chance further, they must go to a predominantly white school in suburban Chicago—a daily three hour round trip on the “L.” Once there, the boys are treated differently, based on their skill level. The one who started on varsity as a freshman is given full scholarship money and a summer job; the one who played on the freshman team is eventually forced to drop out of school for lack of tuition money. Later colleges recruit them both, and when they accept the opportunity for further education, they are driven even further from home and family.

The boys learn quickly that while it was love of the game that inspired them to begin playing, basketball on higher levels ultimately has very little to do with the game itself, and everything to do with generating money for individuals and institutions. See how racism works? They are forced to live in high poverty/high crime areas. The schools are in terrible shape. There is little hope. Drug abuse and violence are rampant. They are given a chance to get out, only to see themselves separated from all they know and love. I am grateful for Hoop Dreams, giving me an insider’s view to a world that I have been insulated from. After you have seen the film, go to for a follow-up on the young men featured in the film.

The irony is that while Hoop Dreams was undoubtedly one of the best films of 1994, it was not nominated for Best Picture; in fact, due to antiquated rules of the Motion Picture Association of America, it was not even eligible for an Oscar for Best Documentary. Nevermind. Those of us who love movies never let Oscar or the MPAA determine what is fine filmmaking and what is not.

If I were a betting man, my money for Best Picture of 2005 would be on Brokeback Mountain. Whether it or Crash wins, I hope they will push us to think about what is going on in our society, and correct its inherent evils and biases, be they homophobia, racism, whatever. While I wait for the envelope to be opened, I will pause and remember Hoop Dreams. I will be thankful for this masterpiece of cinema, which teaches us that whether or not we make those final free throws with no time left on the clock, we are still champions—able to overcome all evils and oppression—if our hearts are in the right place.


Popular posts from this blog

Reflecting Upon Newtown

Note: I offered these words during the prayer section of worship Sunday, December 16.

Last Friday was a day full of surprising ministry. After I wrote my usual Friday email devotion to the church, I received a call from Byron Proutt, our missions coordinator. He and others had recently partnered with Park Cities Presbyterian on a project, and their missions director called Byron to say another ministry was unable to pick up several boxes of food for their pantry—could we use it? Of course we could! So Pastor Gregg, Mr Johnny, and I rolled out to the warehouse and hauled back 80 boxes of food. Praise God! After we unloaded it Gregg and I went to Kroger to give them a letter of appreciation for making our Thanksgiving baskets for hungry families a priority. After I dropped Gregg off at home, I turned on my radio for the first time that day and heard the reports of the shootings in Newtown, Conn. I could not believe what I heard, especially as a father of young children.

I came back to m…

The Famous Black Cat Band

This week my former high school band director, Mr Reinke, died. Mr Reinke is a legend in my hometown of Bay City. He was the leader of our Black Cat Band for many years. He was a fiery man, a perfectionist with extremely high standards. He was a gifted musician. He and I both played the trombone; one of us sounded like a goose being strangled. The other sounded like... well I can't think of a metaphor to properly describe Mr Reinke's horn. It was amazing. He would pull that thing out occasionally to show us how to properly play a part of a song and the sound was spellbinding. 
Mr Reinke was very innovative in his music selections. He had us playing the most random music, from popular stuff of the day by Michael Jackson to Also Sprach Zarathustra (popularly known as the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey) to Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody. This song in particular was a great choice-- it's amazing, complicated; however, this was the late 1980s. The song was originally released…

a response to gideons international

last sunday prosper united methodist church welcomed representatives of the gideons to share about their ministry. how many times have you stayed in a hotel or visited someone in the hospital and found a gideons Bible there? and while no one can argue that reading the Bible is a bad thing, or that distributing Bibles to others in native languages is inherently harmful, i would like to offer some thoughts on the practices of the gideons, as they were described at church.

1. bravo to the gideons for distributing 73 million Bibles last year. however, most of the Bibles they sent were tiny new testaments with psalms. i am a Christian, and i love the words of the new testament. but those words have their foundation in the old testament, and to remove thousands of years of traditions and stories of God's powerful love and acts of salvation diminishes the power of the whole Bible. we must never forget that the old testament (or "first" testament or "hebrew Bible"…