When I first heard about Lords of Dogtown, I was led to believe that Fred Durst was going to be directing it. How in the world a guy from a jock rock, metalcore band in Florida was seen fit to direct a movie about skateboarders in Venice, CA was beyond me. Then that talk died and the movie seemed to languish. A bit later I heard that Catherine Hardwicke had been tapped for this project and after seeing the movie Thirteen this made all the sense in the world.
Lords of Dogtown was a movie I really wanted to like a lot more than I did. While I thought it was good, it seemed too hellbent on telling a traditional story then it did on making things look authentic and real. Other then the way the characters dressed, it really seemed like they were walking around on sets in a staged environment. Part of what made the movie Dogtown and Z-Boys so vital was the fact that it was mired in it’s element. That film was a documentary and overall it really gave the viewer a sense of perspective for what they were seeing. Lords of Dogtown did that a little but it just wasn’t enough. Truthfully, Hardwicke is to be commended because I think a lot of people were negative about this movie. Purists are naturally cynical when they are being portrayed on the big screen, and when you add to this that there already existed a documentary that pretty much said it all about this subject, Lords of Dogtown simply came off as superfluous.
That said, if you aren’t into documentaries but you like skateboarding and are interested in it’s origins, then Lords of Dogtown is great primer for that. It will give you a decent sense of the time and place that all this happened, and that might be all someone needs to go a little deeper.
Commentary by Catherine Hardwicke and Cast
This was something I was pretty excited about listening to and Miss Hardwicke and Co. did not disappoint. I was curious about certain decisions they made during the film, why she chose to highlight certain aspects of the boys and skateboarding, and why they left other aspects to linger a bit more. There is an easy energy that Hardwicke brings to this commentary that sort of keeps everybody in check, and it was cool to see that she certainly didn’t feel daunted by the Dogtown and Z-Boys documentary in the sense that she let it effect her work.
Behind the Scenes; Deleted Scenes and Featurettes
There are 2 behind the scenes featurettes. One is a general EPK styled look at “The Making of Lords of Dogtown.” It is pretty straight forward and just has the main people involved talking about their roles in the project. The other behind the scenes featurette is “The Making of Pacific Ocean Park” which is a pretty interesting take on how they achieved that look for this movie. There are a bevy of deleted scenes which I think could have worked actually cut into the film, but they were most likely removed for pace and timing purposes. There are also 5 Featurettes which give a decent look at skateboarding culture and the making of this film. They are “Bails & Spills,” “Extended Pool Session,” “Dogtown Cameos,” “Of Course We Want a Skateboarding Bulldog” and “The Ocean Washes My Hair and Make-up Test!”. While I didn’t think any of these were that great, it was cool to get this kind of perspective on Lords of Dogtown.
Introduction to LORDS OF DOGTOWN by director Catherine Hardwicke and Gag Reel
I think that these introductions to the DVD are pretty cool, it’s just that sometimes they are not placed first amongst the features and it’s hard to watch this supplemental feature because it’s out of place. Hardwicke mainly talks about the movie, why she wanted to make it and what she hoped she could bring to the film. There is an earnestness to the way she describes what she was going for that is very endearing. The gag reel is simply a compilation of high jinks that happened on the set, which were interesting to view mainly because the cast is full of such colorful characters.
"Nervous Breakdown" Music Video by Rise Against and Original Z-Boys Commentary
I hated this music video mainly because I am such a fan of Black Flag. This is probably some old man, punk pride thing that I have, so I should probably get passed it, I just hate seeing bands that I don’t consider “real” punk bands covering such seminal acts as Black Flag. As I stated, this is more my problem than it is Rise Against’s so perhaps I shouldn’t be so hard on them. The Original Z-Boys Commentary has some of the real people that are being depicted in the movie, talking about the film in relation to their real life experiences. This is a gem and something that I would hope the documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys has. It is really cool hearing these guys talk about the film and the events that they experienced firsthand.
Anamorphic Widescreen - 1.85:1. My biggest bone of contention is that I wanted this movie to look grander, to feel grander and it just didn’t. I was hoping Hardwicke would capture skateboarding in a way that it had never been captured on the big screen. That didn’t happen but I don’t think Hardwicke and Co. can really be faulted for it. I say this because maybe I am too used to today’s current skateboard trends. The style that is being depicted in Lords of Dogtown isn’t flashy, it was just different than what people were initially doing with their boards. It was more aggressive and I guess that that is why this film is the way that it is. To have added a grand look and scope to the movie would have ultimately done a disservice to the “Birth of Extreme.” Something like that is always messy and takes a while to work itself out. Lords of Dogtown will hopefully be one of the first films of this type that examines that.
Dolby Digital 5.1. Subtitled in English. There isn’t anything too special about the audio. Hardwicke even shoots in a quasi-documentary style, so the movies she makes play as naturally as possible. In fact, it is the look that she achieves in her films that obviously made her the ideal candidate to make Lords of Dogtown. This movie is neither a totally visual or audio experience. It just seems out to capture what is going on in front of the camera in the most straightforward way possible. I didn’t really notice any songs on the soundtrack that stood out, except for a bad cover of a Black Flag song. It was things like this that kept reminding me I was watching a movie. I truly wish they would have gotten a group of people to play a band that looked like Black Flag, and then had them lip sync the actual song.
The cover is composed of characters from the movie skating in a pool with the same characters of Tony Alva, Jay Adams, Stacey Peralta and Skip looming over them. This cover looks really cool and if I was a skateboarder, I would probably buy it or rent it just out of curiosity. The back features some more shots from the film, a description of the movie and technical specs. All in all, I think I just wanted everything about this film to be bigger (including this DVD release). At the end of the day, maybe this story, while very important, just isn’t as big or as grand as I think it is?
I actually worked on this film for one day as an extra. I played a homeless person in a scene where one of the skaters was supposedly “skating around in a bad area.” It was for some second unit stuff and I never even saw it in the film. I remember looking around at the place we were shooting in. It was in San Pedro and they had completely overdone the spraypaint on the walls. It all looked too new and not like how an old, rundown alleyway would be. Add to this that when we wrapped, we went back to base camp and Tony Alva was standing there waiting by his truck which said ALVA on the side. He may have also been wearing a shirt bearing his last name. I think seeing all of that was what really lowered my expectations for this movie.
Interestingly, revisiting this movie on DVD made me like it a lot more. In fact, I think the work that Heath Ledger does in the film as Skip and Emile Hirsch’s portrayal of Jay Adams are both very well done. I have slowly learned that Ledger is more of a character actor than he is a straight up leading man, but it will be interesting to see what path Hirsch takes with his ever burgeoning career.
Lords of Dogtown, while not a perfect film by any stretch of the imagination, certainly has it’s heart in the right place.
Lords of Dogtown was released June 3, 2005.