“Trash or Treasure” is a column here at Very Aware in which I return to a film that holds a special place in my heart (for a multitude of possible reasons) – and see if it is still deserving of that place. Have I been holding on to a piece of trash, or are my beloved films still bonafide treasure?
To know me is to know I love sports, I say that time and time again. I probably say it so much that it’s becoming kind of annoying. It’s obvious though that if you follow sports, the inspiration for choosing this movie for Trash or Treasure is obvious; the emergence of Jeremy Lin for the New York Knicks. Spike Lee’s 1998 film came at a time when I was in high school and my love of basketball was at it’s highest, probably because this is the time of my life that I actually played basketball very frequently.
At the time this film was released, Ray Allen was already one of my favorite players in the league so right away it wasn’t hard for this film to have me in the palm of it’s hand. The process of how basketball players select colleges and are highly touted on a national level was something very fascinating to me and HE GOT GAME took a more realistic look at this process in a way that no other sports film had ever done. Sure, films like The Program, and Blue Chips detailed this process a little bit, but those were more about the corruption involved. HE GOT GAME goes into some of that, but it’s mostly about the player himself, and those that are most closely associated with him. It’s an amazingly fascinating process the way people pull at whatever string they can get from a rising star the way they sometimes do. It’s easily the most compelling aspect of a pretty complex film that covers more ground that simple tale about a basketball player.
The basketball aspect of the film will always hold up for me, but what I’ve learned on this viewing is that the parts of this 136 minute film that always kind of dragged for I appreciate a lot more. Denzel Washington was a star in 1998, but his light has continued to shine and it can be argued that his performance here is just as good as any that he’s ever done. It’s got an early performance from Rosario Dawson who, because of this movie has always remained one of my favorite actresses to watch. Small roles from John Turturro and Jim Brown were also a nice surprise and the sort of roles that I can appreciate now that I’m a more knowledgable cinephile than I was when I was 16 years old.
How do I know for sure that this film is still a treasure to me? Well I popped in the DVD at 1:30 A.M. and stayed up to watch the whole thing without ever feeling an ounce of sleepiness. Every aspect of this film just works for me. I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a Spike Lee fan either. I like a lot of his work but I haven’t seen it all, certainly not enough to know whether or not how HE GOT GAME stands up to rest of his filmography.
Sports film aside, this is a great film about how people treat a rising star. Sure, it’s easy to wish happy thoughts on someone’s success, but on some level well want a piece of the pie and this film that captures that very real humanistic nature. The verdict is still TREASURE, and I’d recommend it to anyone at any time. If you’re curious about the Jeremy Lin phenomenon and how some of the people in his life might be treating him now that he’s the King of New York, this will give you a good idea.