They broke all the rules and changed the world.
I have to admit: There is already an excellent review of Dogtown and Z-Boys on DVD Verdict. It was written several years ago by former Judge Deren Ney. He knew what he was talking about — he was into skateboarding, was already familiar with the film’s subject matter, and gave it a thorough, insightful review. I, on the other hand, have no clue about skateboarding. Ask me to name three pro skaters, and I’ll rattle off Tony Hawk, Tony Hawk, and, uhh, Tony Hawk. But then, he’s so ubiquitous my mom would probably recognize his name. I’ve owned two skateboards in my life, but I’m so wretchedly uncoordinated they’ve been garage sale fodder within weeks.
What draws me to Dogtown and Z-Boys is not the same urge that drove me to read biographies of the game’s legends as a teenaged baseball fan, or to see every film directed, produced, or otherwise vaguely touched by Tim Burton — that is, the urge of a fan to know every detail. I first saw Dogtown as part of a documentary block on the Independent Film Channel, bookended by Lost in La Mancha and Michael Moore’s The Big One (his best film, Palme d’Or be damned). I had no interest in the film, but was suckered into watching it because I was too lazy to surf (channel surf, that is) away. It didn’t take long to be mesmerized. It seems like a slight topic — the history of a marginal sport, the bastard offspring of surfing and Roller Derby — yet Dogtown builds a compelling narrative out of it. Stacy Peralta, the man behind the camera, moves the film with self-assurance — not just as a great storyteller (which he is), but as someone who was at Ground Zero when the bomb went off. He was there, man. He filmed these crazy kids doing crazy things…when he wasn’t doing it himself. It’s like John Lennon’s home movies about the birth of the Beatles, except edited together with grace and skill. His film wisely does not assume that you’re familiar with the lingo, history, or legends. It’s mercifully free of terms like “ollie” and “soul grind.” (Thank you, Google, for making me sound hip!) It presents the natural evolution of skating, from the gimmick of the ’50s, to the pastime of waveless surfdogs, to the bona fide sport it is today. Every person interviewed is treated with the same reverence, even that Hawk guy (who wasn’t part of the original “Z-Boys”; he’s more like “Z-Boys: The Next Generation”).
I already mentioned that DVD Verdict reviewed this film — three years ago. Get your cones ready, boys — here comes a double dip! I have not seen the original release that Deren reviewed lo these many years ago, but from what I can tell, this disc is nearly identical. Same tech specs, same special features. So why the new disc? Three words: Lords of Dogtown. Peralta went back to the well, writing the screenplay for a dramatization of the events in this docu. This DVD was meant to coincide with its theatrical release — I’m wicked late reviewing it — so what’s added is promotional material. There’s a six-minute “sneak peek” at the making of the film, which is mostly footage of guys you saw in Dogtown and Z-Boys — not a bad thing, since it goes to show you that maybe Lords of Dogtown really is trying to be a fictionalized documentary, not just a cash-in. Unfortunately, there’s no interview with director Catherine Hardwicke (a production designer turned director, whose previous directorial effort was critical darling Thirteen). You do get her in the other new special feature, six minutes of so-called “webisodes,” which is rawer on-set interviews and whatnot.
If your DVD shelf already houses the original DVD, there’s no need to upgrade. If, however, you haven’t seen Dogtown and Z-Boys, you really owe it to yourself to pick up this disc. It’s a powerful look at the beginnings of what became a cultural phenomenon. Charges against the film are dropped, but Sony — we’re hip to your attempts to cash in.