Thursday, January 17, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Bones Brigade: An Autobiography (2012) ****

NR, 111 min.
Director: Stacy Peralta
Starring: Tony Hawk, Steve Caballero, Lance Mountain, Rodney Mullen, Tommy Guerrero, Mike McGill, Stacy Peralta, George Powell, Craig Stecyk, Tony Alva, Fred Durst, Shepard Fairey, Ben Harper, Christian Hosoi

For anyone who had anything to do with skating in the 80s—even if it was just watching your older brother fall on a halfpipe—Stacy Peralta’s new sports documentary “Bones Brigade: An Autobiography” will be a nostalgic rush back to a turning point in your life. Peralta’s film gives the entire history of the skate team he formed from a bunch of unknown and well under age boarders that would eventually become the most famous skateboarders of all time and would revolutionize the sport on professional and pop culture levels.

I was a skate rat myself, but mostly only through association. Oh, I had a board—a Tony Alva design. I would put my feet on it and ride. I even launched myself off a couple of ramps a few times—to the demise of my Alva. I also got kicked out of bank parking lots and grocery store loading docks. My biggest problem as a skater was that I understood that they kicked us out because of liability issues, not because they had something against us punks. I never could rage against the machine to the proper proportions of a true skate rat. I also wasn’t any good. I spent most of my time watching other people skate.  But then, that’s how even the best skaters I knew got started. They started by watching the Bones Brigade skate.

At one point in the film, one of the six primary team members of the Bones Brigade refers to their first video as “a manifesto.” I think that’s about the right way to describe the videos that I remember consuming with my best friend in his basement. They were a declaration of principles with which to approach our lives as teenagers with too little to do, or at least seeming to have too little to do. Mostly it applied to skating, but what we learned from this skate team carried over into many aspects of our lives for years to come. For some more than others.

The documentary is a very personal film. It’s not at all like the history lesson of Peralta’s earlier film, “Dogtown and Z-Boys”, about his own start as a professional skater. This one sits down all six of the core members of the Brigade and asks them to open their hearts about their early catapult into cult fame. These guys dig deep to examine what really went down for them at the time, and the emotional results are like no other sports documentary I’ve ever seen.

While Tony Hawk is by far the most famous of the crew, his story isn’t nearly as interesting as Lance Mountain’s or Rodney Mullen’s. They were the outsiders of the crew, proving even outsiders have outsiders. Mountain wasn’t nearly as skilled as the other riders. His journey to figure out his place is fascinating and explains much about those video manifestos. Mullen’s was probably the most talented skater of the bunch, although his talent was in a highly specialized discipline. He was the freestyle specialist of the crew. I remember not really getting into his stuff so much while watching the movies as a kid. I wanted to see the vert. Looking back at it now, I realize he was truly an artist. He speaks like an artist, too, a poet of sorts. He seems to be a fascinating man.

Whether you appreciate the lofty prose of Mullen’s ideas or you just need to know the story of how these six amazing athletes changed the face of professional sports by essentially creating the X-Games at a time when their sport was waning, this movie will transport you to the time in which all this happened. The early 80s were a pretty good time in general for this country and better times were on the horizon. To have been a part of the strange revolution that was born out of that prosperity was a privilege for me. I know it meant much more to others who didn’t feel quite so prosperous just because times were supposedly good. This movie is a great reminder of that time, of my youth. 


t-rocc said...

love love love this review, man. for personal reasons and beyond, you killed it, dead on

Andrew Wells said...

Thanks, man. I was hoping you'd like it.

Dan G said...

Nice write-up Andy, put's a lot of my feelings into words.

Andrew Wells said...

I'm tempted to revise this into a full length review, as opposed to the briefer Penny Thought. There's so much more I'd like to say about who these guys are and what they meant to us as teenagers. I didn't allow myself the chance to write about Caballero or their art director, whom I'd watch an entire documentary about. Hell, I'd watch an entire doc about just about any of them. Mike McGill doesn't get much of a profile here. Perhaps the McTwist was all he did. I don't really remember. But this doc goes a long way toward shaking all those memories loose.

Dan G said...

I think McGill was just too normal relative to the rest of them. Amazing skater at the time, but Cab had awesome style and Tony dominated (and endured). Good to see these guys all survived the fame too, Mark Gator Ragowski, Tony Alva and Hosoi didn't. This may speak to Stacy's influence...