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Lords of Dogtown

Dogtown and Z-Boys and the Lords of Dogtown go hand in hand. Dogtown and Z-Boys is an awesome documentary about how a group of kids revolutionized skateboarding. Lords of Dogtown is its Hollywooded-out film counterpart. Catherine Hardwicke directs and Heath Ledger, Emile Hirsch, John Robinson, Victor Rasuk, and Michael Angarano lead the cast.

The documentary primarily focuses on Stacy Peralta, Tony Alva, and Jay Adams, and the movie does the same. The movie adds a character named Sid (Michael Angarano), who hangs out with them and has an inner ear problem. They surf, skate, and raise mayhem on the streets of Dogtown. They hang out at the Zephyr Skate Shop and try to impress the cool owner Skip Engblom (played by Heath Ledger). I know Heath Ledger kicked ass as the Joker and a lot of people were surprised that he really could act. Watch the documentary and the movie back to back and compare Heath Ledger’s performance to the real life Skip Engblom. He becomes Skip Engblom, he is Skip Engblom.

One glorious day, Skip gets polyurethane wheels and skateboarding changed forever. The new wheels grip the pavement, and the boys go crazy with the possibilities. They start curving and carving and copying surfing moves. Skip decides to start a skateboard team and forms the Z-Boys.

The Z-Boys tear it up at skating contents and start getting noticed. They discover that empty swimming pools are great for skating, and push the sport to new heights. Stacy, Tony, Jay and the other Z-Boys not only revolutionized the sport, they started a new industry. Skating become profitable and companies and sleazy businessmen start coming after the Z-Boys. The team breaks up and friendships start to dissolve. Stacy and Tony become rich and successful, and they handle it in different ways. Jay thinks that skating stopped being fun, so he joins a violence gang. And then they find out that Sid’s inner ear problem was a brain tumor. He gets his dad to empty their swimming pool, and invites Stacy, Tony and Jay to skate it. The friends are reunited, however briefly, and skate for fun again, however briefly.

The movie is decent, but the documentary is better. You should watch the documentary before you watch the movie version. Hollywood has a tendency to whitewash movies. I couldn’t help but notice that Jeff Ho is completely missing. The same Jeff Ho of Jeff Ho & Zephyr Surfboard Productions. He was Skip Engblom’s fucking boss. And he’s just not there. You’ll notice the film borrows a few quotes and songs from the documentary too. It makes them feel connected.

By the way Catherine Hardwicke directed Twilight. So this movie just lost a few cool points by association. Fucking Twilight.

Critically Rated at 12/17

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Dogtown and Z-Boys

Dogtown and Z-Boys is a documentary about the Zephyr skateboard team, of how a group of teenaged slackers from South Santa Monica, Venice and Ocean Park revolutionized skateboarding. Stacy Peralta directs using a blend of archival footage and various interviews with the Z-Boys and the people influenced by them. The skating footage highlights the film, but the awesome soundtrack and having Sean Penn narrating makes it more entertaining.

Stacy Peralta was one of the Z-Boys and he provides the viewer with an extensive history of what it was like to grow up in Dogtown. The film doesn’t just jump into skateboards; it explains the social and economic situation of Dogtown in the ‘70s, the importance of the surfing culture, and a few of the key players who formed the team like Jeff Ho, Skip Engblom, and Craig Stecyk. Dogtown was a way of life, a ghetto by the sea, and it was their paradise.

There were twelve members of the Zephyr team. They each had their own style, but were always skating with each other, competing and pushing and driving themselves to always do more. It’s wasn’t enough to do something cool, you had to look cool doing it. The documentary talks about all the skaters, but there’s a definite focus on Stacy Peralta, Tony Alva, and Jay Adams. Stacy Peralta had style and grace. Tony Alva had style and a big ego that made him want to be the best. Jay Adams was a natural, they describe him as the spark that modernized skating.

The Zephyr team weren’t the first skateboarders. They were the ones who transitioned the sport from being a hobby to being a lifestyle. Before the Z-Boys, skateboard tricks were super lame. They involved handstands and twirls and flat ground. The Z-Boys turned skating into land surfing. They carved and went low to the ground, they used theirs hands to pivot, and they treated the pavement like it was waves. It also helps that skateboard wheels went from clay to polyurethane, allowing them to do things that old boards weren’t capable of.

The Zephyr team made use of an ongoing drought and empty swimming pools were turned into impromptu skate parks. They started doing new tricks that weren’t even conceivable on flat ground. They pushed themselves to go higher and higher, and eventually they were able to escape gravity and start doing aerial tricks, which leads us directly to modern skating.

This is one of the best documentaries I’ve ever experienced. It is required viewing if you are a skater. It is worth watching even if you aren’t. It might turn you into one.

Critically Rated at 15/17

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