LORDS OF DOGTOWN: Anyone who grew up in Southern California will talk with both nostalgia and frustration about the periodic summers of drought in which the oppressive heat is exacerbated by a shortage of its antidote--fresh water. In 1975, a clan of scruffy, rebellious teens found a way to turn this dearth to their advantage, using the sloping bowl of empty suburban swimming pools to create a new underground sport--skateboarding. The development, explosion, and corporate co-opting of this now ubiquitous sport was the subject of Stacy Peralta's acclaimed 2002 documentary, DOGTOWN AND Z-BOYS. Peralta, one of the original skaters who came to be known as the "Z-Boys," has penned this dramatized account of his own story, a kinetic and gripping tale with dramatic turns reflective of the extreme crests and falls of those concrete waves.
When a shipment of polyurethane wheels arrives at Venice Beach's Zephyr surf shop, the proprietor, Skip (Heath Ledger), puts together a team of roughly a dozen local layabouts to try his new idea. At lightning speed, the three most talented become international stars, infusing sexuality, danger, and punk rock into a sport formerly associated with kneesocks and lite pop. LORDS OF DOGTOWN principally follows these three as they deal with sudden fame and fortune. Stacy (John Robinson) is the elegant, responsible beauty. Tony Alva (Victor Rasuk) is a frizzy-haired heartthrob with an overblown ego and penchant for pugilism. And Jay (Emile Hirsch), arguably the most compelling of the leads, supports his drug-addicted mother and is too cynical to be lured by the temptations of corporate vultures. Director Catherine Hardwicke, who fused gritty documentary techniques and high teen drama to great acclaim in her first feature, THIRTEEN, perfects that style here. The combination of a pulsating punk rock soundtrack, dynamic skateboarding sequences, and a gripping narrative combine in a forceful sweep that keeps viewers glued to the screen.
DOGTOWN & Z-BOYS: In the late 1960s, a group of burnt out teenagers from broken homes ambled together and began to surf along Venice, California's Pacific Ocean Park pier, a ghostly shell of a former amusement park nicknamed "Dogtown." United by their attention to style and willingness to take risks, this group of unruly boys were handpicked and nurtured by maverick surfboard designer Jeff Ho, who christened them the Zephyr surf team (or Z-boys). Originally taking up skateboarding as a distraction for the non-surfing hours, the team ended up revolutionizing what was to become an internationally popular sport, using emptied out pools to create a surf-inspired style that was fluid and vertical and ultimately made them legends.
In this fine, frenetic documentary, director Stacy Peralta (one of the most famous Z-boys) tells the inspiring story of himself and his team. Through interviews, archival film footage, and stunningly beautiful still photographs taken by the Z-boys photographers Craig Stecyk and Glen E. Friedman, Peralta delves into both the large and small of the story--from the personal details of skaters' lives to their lasting impact upon a sport that became a culture. The soundtrack--an expertly chosen mix of classic punk rock and heavy metal including The Stooges, Black Sabbath, and Alice Cooper--is the perfect aural complement to this story, reflecting the rebellious attitude that fueled the boys.