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David Mamet's Oleanna

David Mamet's Oleanna image
Parent Issue
Month
November
Year
1994
Copyright
Creative Commons (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-alike)
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Agenda Publications
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■-W:HH!IJHJJ4iMiM; John (William H. Macy) is a college professor at a prominent university where he teaches a liberal arts course. An attractive, middle-aged man, he is married and in the final stages of purchasing a new home. Recently, it was announced that John is a candidate for tenure. Carol (Debra Eisenstadt) is a student at the same university. Average-looking and single, she lives alone in the dormitory. Carol has recently learned that she is failing John's course. She appears at John's office without an appointment. As they sit down to discuss her grade, the ensuing conversation is at first an innocuous one. This seemingly helpless student has turned to her professor for help. He instead turns their meeting into a platform from which he espouses his own pedan tic ideologies on educaüon and life, but not her grade. Sentences fly, inner thoughts are revealed, and motives change with great precisión. Carol walks away from his office feeling a little confused and unsure of the entire episode - a dissatisfaction that leads her to turn John's life upside down. Alleging that he subjected her to mental and physical misconduct during their ill-fated meeting, Carol files charges of sexual harassment against him. John is initially shocked by the charges, but he attempts to head off an escalation by asking Carol to meet with him. She agrees. With each meeting, their roles as teacher and student begin to blur. As the balance of power shifts, with Carol assuming control and John defendinghimselfinvain, their conversations devolve into verbal assaults. With x-ray-like intensity, they attack each other intellectually, morally, and finallly based on the gender roles that led them to this debacle. Nothing is resolved. Ultimately, John is forced to ask himself if he has overstepped hisbounds as an educator. Did he viólate her personal rights? Is Carol on a personal crusade for poli tical correctness, selecting John as a prominent target? Primal in its intensity, this war of words strikes a contemporarychord, hittingfever pitch from which neither character can escape. This füm is written and directed by David Mamet, based on his award-winning stage play. HOOP DREAMS Much has already been written about the potent allure that pro sports has for youngsters, especially those who see it as their road to a better life. So the basic message of "Hoop Dreams," which chronicles the lives and high-school careers of two Chicago-area basketball players, might seem to be old hat. But "Hoop Dreams" is such a comprehensive achievement and is so effective, both dramatically and as a social portrait, thatwe can't help but remain engrossed throughout this extraordinary work. William Gates and Arthur Agee are both in junior high school when their skill on the court catches the attention of recruiters who want them to attend one of Chicago's premier high-school basketball powerhouses, St. Joseph's, which also pens to be the alma mater of NBA superstar Isaiah Thomas. Agee idolizes Thomas, and the coach's assurance that he will help get Agee a college scholarship if he attends St. Joseph's convinces him and his family to make the choice. Gates is even more heavily pursued, told by everyone that he is already a star and projected by many in the sports establishment to be the next Thomas. Thus begins a four-anda-half-year odyssey which documents the boys' separate sports careers (Arthur doesn't manage to stay at St. Joseph's very long) , and includes many of the familiar peaks and valleys experienced by high-school athletic prodigies. But as important as their lives on the court are, this is more than a sports doe, and the events in the boys' personal lives, the crises in their families, the pressures they feel by being among the best in their business are beautifully revealed and strikingly contrasted. This is real-life drama, and the intimacy which the filmmakers have managed to achieve allows for both subtle and dramatic tums of events. The attraction of sports, unlike real life, allows many people a taste of clearcut triumph and failure. The metaphors provided by sports are sometimes too simple for that real world, but "Hoop Dreams" gives us all something to think about. - by Geqffrey Gilmore, in "Sundance Film Festival '94. " As the boys in my Bryant Elementary School graduating class of 1 953 wrote when asked about their f utures for the school newspaper, they were hoping to be engineers, businessmen, airplane pilots, and, yes, ballplayers. Tragjcally, one of the few dreams left in the inner cities, it seems, is that of being a sports star, primarily a basketball hero. It is, as Harry Edwards, a University of California sociologist. . ., has said, one of the "cruelest hoaxes," because the odds of any high school player making it to the pros is astronomical. Arther Ashe once remarked, "We blacks spend too much time on the basketball court and not enough time in the library." - excerpted from "Dreaming Hoop Dreams," by Ira Berkow, in The New York Times, Oct. 9, 1994. AN EXTRAORDINARYTRUE STORY. DREAMS "ONE OF THE BEST FILMS ABOUT AMERICAN LIFE I HAVE EVER SEEN." - Roger Ebert, SISKEL & EBERT uuiaííiu.IQILIj2SHBiS5hIII

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