Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Basketball Diaries and Jim Carroll
It was 1995 and one of my old friends had contacted me telling me about a movie:  "Hey Mike, you really need to see this, it is so much of what our past was like." I hadn't heard of the movie at the time although it had had some success in theaters and was picking up a cult audience on VHS (the format prior to DVD and digital streaming.) The movie, The Basketball Diaries starred Leonardo DiCaprio as Jim Carroll, and Mark Wahlberg as a friend named Mickey. It was based off of the true story by Jim Carroll a kid who had some talent in basketball who had experienced numerous sexual escapades and ultimately becoming addicted to Heroin while living on the streets of New York. To this day the movie is the best depiction of inner city life and drug addiction I have seen. It moved me so much I went on to write additional verses to a song featured in the movie, written and performed by Jim Carroll, People who Died.

"Cherry got stabbed from a deal gone bad, Sue was a friend and she huffed Pam. Jeff was a friend he jumped from a bridge, Daryl used a bullet and Dinky OD'd.   All my friends who died my friends who died on me."
"These are the people who died died.  4X
They were all my friends and they died."

"You're friend Eddie must have been a good man, my best friend his name was Stan, a musician, writer and a thinker to.  Stan took a shotgun put it to his head, now my friend named Stan is dead." 

"These are the people who died died.  4X
They were all my friends and they died."

The Basketball Diaries is in a few words, "A brilliant movie." It exemplifies for many the horrors of growing up in the inner city, the power of drugs over ones life and the unfortunate death of ones close to you. With the recent death of Robin Williams this movie resonates more than I would have thought after seeing it again after all these years.  While there were other excellent movies with Leonardo DiCaprio, Basketball Diaries helped launch him as a serious star. The film directed by Scott Kalvert who used the music video style he was familiar with directed a brilliant bit of work. Unfortunately Kalvert died on March 5, 2014 of suicide. He was preceded in death on September 11, 2009 by the author and subject of The Basketball Diaries, Jim Carroll. Carroll upon his death at the age of 60 looked emancipated and appeared as if he had continued drug issues causing his heart attack. There has also been speculation that his appearance was in fact due to other health issues such as Hepatitis C. 

www.mosaicwichita.comJust like the auto biographical character in the movie Carroll struggled with addictions for some time. There was even some speculation due to his appearance of his possible usage of drugs prior to his death which was classified as a heart attack from his former wife and long time friend Rosemary Carroll.

One of the beautiful things about movies is they sometimes mirror real life. Yet, one of the terrible things about movies, is at times, they some sometimes mirror real life.  This is the case of The Basketball Diaries, and while the movie leaves us as viewers thinking that life moved on and all was well for Jim Carroll, that simply wasn't the case. There was a continued addiction, albeit at times looking like he had defeated it, yet, despite having hit songs like Catholic Boy and People Who Died with his band, The Jim Carroll Band, having interacted with the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, The Rolling Stones, Patti Smith, Andy Warhol and many others, he still died in a desolate state with those haunting memories of his past living in the neighborhood where much of his earlier story had taken place. He was unable at times to get to the store and was reliant upon others helping him with the most simple of tasks.  

www.thevirtualpew.comThe Basketball Diaries is in my opinion, one of the most thought provoking independent films ever made despite the controversy surrounding the film in the past in relation to a dream sequence involving a school shooting. From a former user of drugs who grew up in the streets, living a life at times similar to that of Jim Carroll, this is an incredible film.  Unfortunately, just as in the movie, it is also a reflection of an individual some had issues with being around, unfortunately, even people of faith. Jim Carroll was open about his search for spiritual truth, both in the movie, and in real life. Yet, many, just like today, look at his addictions and depressive states as something to mock, make fun of, claim that Jesus was needed to cure all of his problems and much more. It isn't to say there aren't answers and solutions in Jesus but I can't help but wonder, if one illustrated the true love and mannerisms of Jesus by offering friendship, help beyond just words, could there have been a difference? Would Jim Carroll or those others like him we may know respond appropriately to that love? It seems as if many at times choose to, willingly or not, drive people away, ignoring their pain and by the actions at times of rejection, drive them to the solutions they think is best for themselves while often rejecting faith while at the same time substituting drugs and in the case of some even suicide. Jesus stated that his followers should draw all men and women to him, unfortunately, for many, we tend to drive them away. It is sad and ultimately the sadness we see in the real life conclusion of The Basketball Diaries continues on for long periods of time after we think the story is done. 

www.mosaicwichita.comThe Basketball Diaries is a harsh movie showing the reality of some. I can attest to witnessing the life of Jim Carroll in the lives of others and at times my own life. I long for a Church, a people, that would love people like Jim Carroll, in both his good and bad times, people who seek solutions to the cause of his pain, not just ignore it, make fun of it, or mock it. Jim Carroll was considered a genius, some compared him to Bob Dylan and state that his writings, especially his poetry early on as some of the best prose ever written. While there is some speculation over his death, there should be none over his talent. God lets it rain on the just and the unjust and he gives talents and gifts to each of us. The Basketball Diaries for what it is, is a terrific reminder of that. It is a reason it remains until this day as one of my favorite movies of all time. For those who haven't seen it, look for it, watch it, see reality as it has seldom been portrayed on screen. While it may be unfortunate it is also a reminder to love those who are less than fortunate, including those we may get to see talent in, if we give a chance. It does something else though, something beautiful, it shows that movies can educate us as to the reality of others and of our own need to understand. In that regard, I believe The Basketball Diaries is one of the best movies I have ever seen. God bless those who hurt and help those of us looking in from the outside have the compassion of Jesus.

To see the following video by The Jim Carroll Band, People Who Died from the movie The Basketball Diaries, click on the video, if there is problems with the video, click on the following link

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