An NBA hopeful goes down in Lenny Cooke | Movie Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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An NBA hopeful goes down in Lenny Cooke

Joshua and Bennie Safdie's documentary is a hoop nightmare.


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For their first nonfiction feature, New York-based indie filmmakers Joshua and Benny Safdie (Daddy Longlegs) tell the story of a onetime pro-basketball hopeful who lapsed into obscurity after failing to make the NBA draft in 2002. The movie communicates a sense of righteous anger about wheeling and dealing in professional sports (which one interviewee compares to the slave trade) and about American celebrity culture in general. At the same time, it's a spirited experiment in documentary form, with the directors showing great imagination in their fusion of new and archival footage and conveying a sharp dramatic sensibility in their portrait of Cooke, which they assemble largely from offhand moments. This reminded me at times of Dusan Makavejev's classic experimental documentary Innocence Unprotected (1968), which would make a good alternate title for the Safdies' cautionary tale.


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