It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
"Dogtown and Z-Boys," a documentary about how the humble skateboard became the launch pad for aerial gymnastics, answers a question I have long been curious about: How and why was the first skateboarder inspired to go aerial, to break contact with any surface and do acrobatics in mid-air? Consider that the pioneer was doing this for the very first time over a vertical drop of perhaps 15 feet to a concrete surface. It's not the sort of thing you try out of idle curiosity.
The movie answers this and other questions in its history of a sport that grew out of idle time and boundless energy in the oceanfront neighborhood between Santa Monica and Venice in California. Today the area contains expensive condos and trendy restaurants, but circa 1975, it was the last remaining "beachfront slum" in the Los Angeles area. Druggies and hippies lived in cheap rentals and supported themselves by working in hot dog stands, tattoo parlors, head shops and saloons.
Surfing was the definitive lifestyle, the Beach Boys supplied the soundtrack and tough surfer gangs staked out waves as their turf. In the afternoon, after the waves died down, they turned to skateboards, which at first were used as a variation of roller skates. But the members of the Zephyr Team, we learn, devised a new style of skateboarding, defying gravity, adding acrobatics, devising stunts. When a drought struck the area and thousands of swimming pools were drained, they invented vertical skateboarding on the walls of the empty pools. Sometimes they'd glide so close to the edge that only one of their four wheels still had a purchase on the lip. One day a Z-Boy went airborne, and a new style was born--a style reflected today in Olympic ski acrobatics.
I am not sure whether the members of the Zephyr Team were solely responsible for all significant advances in the sport, or whether they only think they were. "Dogtown and Z-Boys" is directed by Stacy Peralta, an original and gifted team member, still a legend in the sport. Like many of the other Z-Boys (and one Z-girl), he marketed himself, his name, his image, his products, and became a successful businessman and filmmaker while still surfing concrete. His film describes the evolution of skateboarding almost entirely in terms of the experience of himself and his friends. It's like the vet who thinks World War II centered around his platoon.
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