DVD Reviews: 'Epicly Later'd' and 'An American Carol'
Fifteen-plus reasons you need to get your hands on 'Epicly Later'd, Vol. 1' "Epicly Later'd" is a crafty little program that documents the lives of some of the skateboarding world's biggest names. It was created by videographer and photographer P...
Fifteen-plus reasons you need to get your hands on 'Epicly Later'd, Vol. 1'
"Epicly Later'd" is a crafty little program that documents the lives of some of the skateboarding world's biggest names. It was created by videographer and photographer Patrick O'Dell for Vice's Web site of free original programming, VBS.tv.
Yes, you heard me right: the Web site's video content is free. So, why would you want to shell out 20 bucks for one of its shows?
Besides helping out a really cool group of people -- among others, VBS's creative director is Academy Award-nominated director and music-video visionary Spike Jonze -- I'll give you 15.
They're called episodes. (Well, to be fair, there are some excellent bonus features included on this two-DVD set -- like a nice featurette on the Emerica motorcycle tour -- but, since I'm substituting a traditional review in favor of a hopefully-more-useful viewers' guide, we'll leave those little bonuses to the hardcore fans. But I digress....)
They're that good, and, no, you don't have to be a boarder to enjoy them.
I'm not. In fact, you probably couldn't find anyone more not into skating than yours truly. You know those "Skateboarding Isn't a Crime" T-shirts? I've always thought it'd be funny to buy one, cross out the "Isn't" and write in "Should Be." Yes, I'm that guy.
I had my reservations about this show, too, but O'Dell just makes you want to watch it because -- this is just awesome -- he isn't afraid to admit that "almost all skateboard shows are dumb."
So, put to rest any preconceived notions you might have about skateboarding videos; this isn't like anything else on the market.
"I didn't want to use a punk or hip-hop soundtrack; that always makes it seem like you're trying to sell some lame lifestyle," O'Dell writes in the packaging's notes. "I just wanted the show to be an honest look into these amazing and vastly different people's lives. ... It's isn't perfect, and sometimes things look sketchy, but that's what I like. Hopefully it captures 2007 and skateboarding in general in TV-show form but without being totally embarrassing to skateboarding -- like some other shows out there."
Even if the show sucked, I'd still respect this guy's brutal honesty.
Anyway, without further ado, an episode-by-episode guide to the first volume of this eye-opening show (and/or an idiot's guide to skateboarding):
When people who hate skateboarding (wanna buy a T-shirt?) think of skateboarders, a couple stereotypes surely come to mind: snot-nosed punks who A) curse like sailors, B) don't have respect for authority and/or other people's private property and C) so on and so forth. Well, Aussie Dustin Dollin lives up to all of these and more: He's also homophobic, completely obnoxious and hammered all day and all night. Makes for quite the entertaining DVD-watching experience if you ask me.
Opening shot: Dill hocks a massive loogey in front of the camera's eye. Something tells me this profile won't be any less interesting than Dollin's. Man, was I right; not only is Dill as quirky as apartment-dwelling New Yorkers come, but his humble abode includes a -- and I'm not making this up -- wall of blood. He calls it "inspiration to get my teeth fixed finally." See, the Dinosaur Jr.-loving skateboarder would wake up with blood in his mouth every morning because of some dental issues. Instead of just, say, going to see a dentist, he would spit the morning's "collection" on the same wall next to his shower as a reminder to -- you guessed it -- go see said mouth specialist. Completely disgusting. You can't make this stuff up.
Gonz & Hosoi
This episode, featuring Christian Hosoi and Mark Gonzalez, is a bit of departure in formula for "Epicly Later'd." Instead of following these two aging boarders around day-in-the-life, mini-documentary style like everyone else, it's just them talking ... about events that happened in skateboarding in the late '80s. While I let out an audible groan when I found out that's all this mini-episode* would be about, it actually turned out to be one of the most intriguing ones. Hosoi and the eccentric "Gonz" (now a visual artist and, go figure, a friend of Spike Jonze's) have a certain charisma that's impossible to ignore. Plus, O'Dell and his crew keep their conversation lively by bringing up vintage shots of the pair back in the day (as kids, basically) in magazines like Thrasher, so the whole thing moves along quite nicely.
Andrew Reynolds' Madness
As this episode's title lets on, Andrew Reynolds isn't your typical skateboarder. He's got issues. Namely, little rituals, in multiples of three, that he does before everything he does. You've seen Jack Nicholson's character in "As Good as It Gets," haven't you? Kind of like that. O'Dell visits him in San Francisco, where, you better believe it, the streets are probably as cracked up as those of the Zenith City. Needless to say, not the easiest concrete jungle for an OCD-afflicted individual like Reynolds to maneuver.
Hsu was already spending weeks trying to perfect a trick at the age of 13. As such, he was considered a child prodigy by many who followed skateboarding -- including this show's host. So, fittingly, O'Dell takes a trip to San Jose to visit the spots where Hsu learned his trade. That's what I like about this show: Even if you don't care what everyone on screen is yapping about, you at least get to see what San Jose looks like.... I kid, I kid.
Rodriguez, a New Yorker who's been skating since '83, is kind of nuts. Not only does he "skitch" from time to time, but you'll see a lot of footage of him going the wrong way in a one-way. Against traffic and up on walls, O'Dell is right when he says this dude is "diehard." He's also an advocate for the sport, both with his company, 5Boro, and working with New York City administrators to provide safe, legal spots for boarders to assemble and do their thing.
Another unusual episode: Instead of delving into the life of a pro or amateur skateboarder, O'Dell spends some time with Rosenberg, a fellow videographer. They take a look at some of the unreleased footage Rosenberg has amassed throughout the years. I gotta say, this one's a little disturbing, but not overtly so like some of the other episodes: After watching some way-old vids, with skaters who appear to be 12 or 13 -- 14 tops -- Rosenberg casually says, "I think we were all a little stoned there." Say what?
Greco is the most outlandish, over-the-top and goofy skater of all time. Sincerely. He drives a Cadillac, he's an aspiring musician who works with similarly burnt-out souls and ... man, the clothes he wears. It's telling that half his episode is dedicated to his years of drug use and subsequent kicking of the habit(s). Quite a character.
Location: Whitneyville, Maine. A big, drunken backwoods party attended by a whole bunch of crazy mofos you would never, ever let watch your kids. Highlights include freaks and geeks jumping out of a tree (have board, will drop) and trying to land on a halfpipe. Similarly unsuccessful is their jimmy-rigged line of boards that leads away from the halfpipe and over a burning pile of trash. Proceed with caution.
O'Dell travels all the way to Santa Monica to visit with Olson -- only to have the episode hijacked by the unimpressed, under-appreciated skater's annoying-as-sin father, who acts at least 20 years younger than he actually is. Age gracefully, man; I know you were a pro skater in the '70s, but acting like an adult doesn't necessarily equate to giving up your soul to "the man." This one's almost too frustrating to finish.
Gall's a Jersey boy. He jumps over things with his board while slamming a beer. 'Nuff said.
I don't know what Ellington did so differently than most of his non-Tony Hawk skateboarding peers, but he lives in the hills above Hollywood. And, having witnessed the blood-stained walls of Jason Dill's tiny NYC apartment, the digs can fairly be described as "mansion-like." He's pretty likable, considering that he's a family man who didn't come from a whole lot and, most importantly, doesn't take what he has for granted: "It's a good experience to know both sides of the tracks," he thoughtfully tells O'Dell. For a skater whose style is described as "sketchy," he sure made a few right moves along the way.
In San Diego, O'Dell visits Rattray, a college-educated Scot with Tom Waits lyrics scrawled upon his skateboard shoes. "I've been studying up on your culture, the American people ... and this man Tom Waits I've found to be an exceptional one," he says. Probably the best all-around episode, considering that Rattray is consistently interesting to listen to and it's really quite fascinating to watch clips from his old Scottish videos. (At one point, he and five buddies lay on their boards and come together Voltron-style -- whilst careening down a sidewalk with brews in hand, mind you -- to form a manmade "beer boat.")
San Diego's Duffy, an old-school hero, is perhaps best known of late for going off one of the biggest skateboard jumps ever erected, landing it, going up a ramp after that, biffing it on the comedown and totally messing up his leg. It was used on "that stupid MTV show," he says, kind of laughing. Not overtly bitter, but something tells me he hasn't totally given up the ghost.
Kevin "Spanky" Long
Spanky, who could almost play River Phoenix in the fallen star's inevitable biopic, is another genuinely likeable character. In one of the first scenes, he jokes that his New Year's resolution is to give up anything that doesn't "gouge his eyes out with excitement." Fast-forward to his clean, spacious apartment, which includes some expensive-looking toys (like a giant giraffe statue he picked up at a flea market), and you start to think, This pretty boy's never skated a second in his life. Then again, remember what show you're watching.
*Probably because it was made for the Web, most "Epicly Later'd" installments are less than 15 minutes long.
To view the "Epicly Later'd, Vol. 1" trailer, or just watch select episodes: www.vbs.tv/epicly-laterd-dvd .
Also released: 'An American Carol'
There aren't words to describe how hopelessly misguided David Zucker's "An American Carol" is. I know it's probably my job, but I don't even want to give it a shot. Comparing Michael Moore to an America-hating jihadist just because he was patriotic enough to question something that was going wrong in this country (health care, in "Sicko") is like saying Barack Obama is secretly a Muslim because of his bloody middle name. At first I was thinking, Oh, what a shame, the director of such classic comedies as "Airplane!" and "The Naked Gun" has really lost his touch -- but then I remembered: No, no, this is the same jerk responsible for the third and fourth oh-so-necessary installments in the trashy "Scary Movie" franchise. Even for him, this is a new low.
Visit www.americancarol.com for details. Your funeral....