DVD - Image A Sound A Extras B
BD - Image C- Sound A Extras B
directed by Stacy Peralta
by Walter Chaw Winner of the Audience and Director's awards at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival, the kinetic social history document Dogtown and Z-Boys suggests that the amalgamation of art and sport created a unique brand of protest performance art centred around eight kids growing up in the "dead wonderland" of Venice Beach (and the surrounding urban wasteland referred to by the locals as Dogtown). Directed by Stacy Peralta, a member of the legendary Zephyr Skating Team that almost single-handedly defined the modern X-Game at the 1975 Del Mar Nationals Bahne-Cadillac Skateboard Championship, Dogtown and Z-Boys accomplishes several tasks at once, evoking the ethic that captured the imagination of American punks, portraying the dangers of stardom, and telling a rags-to-riches fable about how boys (and a girl) from the wrong side of the tracks sometimes make good on their own terms. The film is so intent on harnessing the off-the-cuff spirit that informed the Zephyr Team ("Z-Boys") that we hear narrator Sean Penn cough and clear his throat.
Dogtown and Z-Boys is blessed with archival stills and footage taken by photojournalists Craig Stecyk and Glen E. Friedman showing the Z-Boys first as surfers, then as backyard "urban guerillas" during a statewide drought that hit California in the early '70s. The severe water shortage caused some homeowners to drain their pools, leading the Z-Boys to inventing the "vert" (vertical half-pipe), taking their skateboards up along the sides of a concrete pool's deep end: emulating surf gods in oceans of industry. In the film's best sequence, Peralta edits and superimposes images of legendary surfer Larry Bertleman cutting a wave over images of the Z-Boys mimicking the man's style in those pools and on the asphalt crests of Dogtown's schools, where giant canals had been created in an attempt to even the rolling landscape.
The real heart of Dogtown and Z-Boys comes in the documentation of the ferocious graffiti that festooned the concrete ruins of the tribalistic Z-Boys' stomping ground ("locals only") before it became the basis for the designs of decorating Jeff Ho and Craig Stecyk's legendary Zephyr Shop surfboards. The graffiti is a revelation because Peralta's film suggests that the skateboarders themselves were creating a kind of inner city revolt, utilizing the sterile architecture of man in the twentieth century as every bit the canvas for dissidence as the graffitists who came before them. Like the images of those spray-paint Rembrandts, the Z-Boys eventually were hijacked by industry and corporate sponsorship, victims of their own visibility and success.
Dogtown and Z-Boys is as flamboyantly executed as the Z-Boys' aerial exploits, invoking blithe rebel fantasy with the kind of insouciance embedded in the sexy demise of James Dean. Like Peralta himself, the most successful of the Z-Boys in the years following their heyday, the film betrays a surplus of intelligence and passion. Dogtown and Z-Boys makes believers out of squares, presents a compelling socio-political education as it entertains, and best of all, motivates you to go down to the store to buy a skateboard, some Vans, and a helmet to recapture a little of that lost impetuousness of youth. It's distilled adolescence seasoned with proper portions of nostalgia, bottled with craft and served cool. Drink deep, it's the fountain of reckless creation and we could all use a little of its inspiration. Originally published: October 14, 2001.
by Bill Chambers Sony reissues Dogtown and Z-Boys on DVD in a Deluxe Edition cross-promoting Lords of Dogtown, the long-awaited biopic based on the exploits of the Zephyr skating team. Much of the bonus material that's been added to the previous line-up of supplements for this release therefore specifically pertains to Lords of Dogtown, although the hardcore demo will be more interested in--if ultimately underwhelmed by--the addition of a 2-minute slideshow of Pat Darrin photographs from 1974 (snapped at the "Bricknell Hill Session"), a silent Super8 reel (2 mins.) of Jeff Ho showing off new surfboards outside his Oahu workshop in 2000, and a 3-minute video of Stacy Peralta, Scott Juergens, and Dogtown and Z-Boys editor Paul Crowder (explicitly labelled a "rookie" as though his moves aren't a dead giveaway) horsing around on their skateboards in the reservoir behind Mar Vista School between editing sessions.
For what it's worth, over-the-hill skateboarders are in better shape than most grumpy old athletes, something that's abundantly clear in the "Lords of Dogtown Sneak Peek" (6 mins.), wherein 47-year-old ex-Zephyr Tony Alva looks fit enough to double for the young punks of the feature film's cast. (Indeed, according to reports, he did that very thing.) We discover that Lords of Dogtown helmer Catherine Hardwicke (thirteen) grew up in Dogtown, which isn't half as surprising as Hardwicke's ability to get through her intro to the "Lords of Dogtown Webisodes" (6 mins.) without once saying "like" or "y'know." Originally produced as Internet-exclusive content, this block of featurettes finds the real-life Skip Engblom interacting with personally-requested onscreen avatar Heath Ledger (Engbloom admits that Jack Black's name was brought up in casting sessions) and artist Jim Muir--in a piece rendered all but unwatchable by a patronizing mix of ADD editing and ersatz grain--explaining the genesis of his iconic Zephyr board designs. Aesthetics aside, a nice balance of the promotional and the educational.
Extras carried over from 2002's Special Edition DVD include a 3-minute "Alternate Ending" in which Alva partakes in a modern-day "pool session" with successors to the throne like Lance Mountain, as well as the "Freestyle Experience," a 'white rabbit' viewing mode that opens the door to outtakes (a.k.a. "raw footage") whenever a particular glyph appears onscreen. (This option unfortunately disables subtitles.) Also recycled is the fullscreen, direct-from-tape transfer--which, considering the variety of media involved, is both impeccably encoded and impossible to appraise with any objectivity. Apart from throwing some projector noise over the shoulders during the opening credits, the Dolby Digital 5.0 audio feels more like stereo, albeit richly-recorded stereo. Peralta and the British Crowder's amiable film-length commentary from the older disc resurfaces here, and though they're spinning their wheels by about two-thirds of the way in (i.e., once two-time FILM FREAK CENTRAL interviewee Peralta returns to the exhausted subject of Wentzle Ruml's sidesplitting Q&A), the years have not diluted the integrity of this comprehensive yakker. Trailers for Dogtown and Z-Boys, Riding Giants, Lords of Dogtown, xXx Deluxe Edition, Boogeyman, D.E.B.S., and The Cave round out the platter, while the keepcase packaging contains a free ticket to see Lords of Dogtown. Originally published: May 2, 2005.
THE BLU-RAY DISC
Sony has made the sure-to-be controversial decision to go back to Dogtown and Z-Boys' 35mm blowup for the documentary's Blu-ray debut. Thus, while the 1.33:1, 1080p transfer looks more faithful to the theatrical presentation than the tape-sourced DVD does, it also looks like shit. As a lot of the skating footage was shot on film, it's now on its fourth generation, having gone from celluloid to tape and back to film, only to be digitized for this release. I assume the DV-shot interviews are not native HD and that rescanning and reintegrating the super8, 16mm, and 35mm material at even 2k would've broken the bank, but if they were worried about Dogtown and Z-Boys having too camcorder-y an appearance for its HiDef debut, even running the video master through a 24fps strobe editor would've been preferable to this. Ghosting artifacts abound and the image has a consistently harsh, electronic, removed quality. If you own it in standard-def, there's no reason to upgrade: not the 5.0 DTS-HD audio (the mix hasn't become any more active in the interim) and not the two BD-exclusive featurettes produced by Vans "Off the Wall," "The State of Pool Skating with Tony Alva and Bucky Lasek" (13 mins., 1080i) and "Tony Alva's Art Show" (4 mins., 1080i), neither of which expands much on its respective title. We learn that "bowls," no longer acquired by trespassing, have gotten bigger in recent years--gratuitously so, according to the old-school Alva, who eventually just starts proselytizing in his familiar way. In other words, skateboarding's arc is that of all professionalized sports: lawless diversion turned heavily-regulated spectacle. Disappointingly, the segment on Alva's art show--an exhibit devoted to paintings by fellow skaters called "Die Poser Die"--all but ignores the pieces themselves in favour of vacuous soundbites from the featured artists. Meanwhile, the belowmentioned Deluxe Edition's extras were ported over intact, the raw footage as a menu-based option rather than as part of any special viewing mode. HD previews for The Da Vinci Code, Ghostbusters, This Is It, 2012, Armored, and The Stepfather (remake) round out the platter. Originally published: January 4, 2010.