DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: Dogtown and Z-Boys

Thursday 7 January 2010

Dogtown and Z-Boys

Dogtown and Z-Boys (2002) dir. Stacey Peralta


By Alan Bacchus

Dogtown and Z-Boys not only chronicles the formative years of the SoCal surfers who turned their surf board into skateboards and monumentally elevated the sport to national and international success, the film itself helped to elevate the documentary form in the formative years of the 2000’s documentary revolution.

Peralta starts in the 50’s and 60’s charts the first incarnation of the skateboard, back when it was a fad used by suburban chumps who rode the board like fanciful girlymen. It wasn’t until the Z-Boys – named for the famous surf shop on Venice Beach which constructed the skateboards for the young kids – started using skateboards to mimic the revered surfing styles of their idols. Other than the slalom it would appear they only had one move, the cutback, whereby the skater bent low to the ground and spun the board around with their hand like a surfer against a wave. It’s not as elegant or extreme as the boarders of today, but it was enough to spark a whole new trend.

The half dozen or so Z-boys, many from broken homes, and disconnected families entered competitions and found notoriety on TV, sports specials and magazines. All the while the young punks continued to skate the hell out of Los Angeles, disrupt the public and all other skateboarders that weren’t from Dogtown.

If you take this film as the comprehensive account of the history of skateboarding you’d think the world revolved around the Dogtown area and the Z-boys invented every major move in the sport. The in-your-face attitude of the skateboarders fuel a distinct urgent tone - an ego-driven punk attitude where the participants are not shy to exalt and aggrandize themselves like gods of the ultrahip.

And like the skaters in the film, Stacey Peralta injects the same rock and roll attitude into his cinematic style, lifting the tired documentary elements of old talking heads, stock footage and still photos out of humdrumness with a kinetic stylistically assured slapdash audio and visual delight. As such, for 2002, like films such as ‘Bowling for Columbine’ and ‘The Kid Stays in the Picture’ 'Dogtown and Z-Boys' also served as one of the seminal films in resurgence of the theatrical documentary medium in this decade.

If anything the film suffers from the constant regurgitation of self-aggrandizement. Just look on the credits and you’ll see its Stacey Peralta as director, and he and partner Craig Stecyk as co-writers. And so everything recounted and documented is puffed up with godlike deification. But really do we need a bunch of older skateboarders waxing intellectually? If attitude is part of the culture of the sport, then the Z-Boys and their documentary has it all, in spades.

“Dogtown and Z-Boys” is available on Blu-Ray from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

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