Photo stolen from NYSkateboarding.com’s Instagram.
Girl and Chocolate premiered Pretty Sweet in New York this past Sunday. Like most of their videos, it will initiate several trends (540 tricks on street, for one), and come to encapsulate this particular moment in skateboarding more than any video of the past year or two. Even Kanye West showed up to watch it, likely for Spike Jonze related reasons more than rappers-suddenly-like-skateboarding ones. “The blackest white guy,” Michael Rapaport, was also in attendance.
Below are a some thoughts on the video. If you have not seen it and want to go in fresh, don’t read anything below this line. Spoiler alert. Spoiler alert. Spoiler alert. Ben “Burger Boy” Sanchez had the best part. Whoops.
Intros are a dispensable skate video tradition. Girl has long been the anomaly: the Mouse intro is as good as anything in the video and the Fully Flared explosions are still impressive. Pretty Sweet‘s intro channels one of capital-C cinema’s most famous openings for a grandiose one-shot take that involves maybe fifty variables, dozens of people and two confetti canons. It is not often that you’ll be thirty minutes into a skate video and still wondering how the they pulled off the intro.
When Pretty Sweet‘s teaser was released a year ago, anyone born before 1990 assumed it would take a “mostly parts from young kids I don’t care about and shared parts of the older dudes I grew up watching” route. For the “I’d rather watch Gino push” crowd, that’s exactly what the video is. Pretty Sweet is perhaps the first skate video made with a generational shift in mind. (The park-to-street transition 25 years ago is a different topic.) The format used to be a set roster complimented by two or three new kids; that 70/30 split is inversed here.
The pre-1990ers are aging along with favorites who they have a particular attachment to. Rick, Carroll, Koston, Gino, etc. are the “first” (thus “best” or most influential) generation of street skaters. Unfortunately, nobody is making The Expendables for skateboarding. Girl’s best way to cover a few bases moving forward is by diversifying the roster and humanizing presumed “robots” with solid music supervision and toning down the flip-in-flip-outs. The average open minded grown-up will step away from Pretty Sweet liking Corey Kennedy more (great song and a higher amount of basic tricks than expected), but Mike Mo less (not-so-good song and too many flip tricks that aren’t actual tricks.)
Pretty Sweet reserves a skit for generational self-deprecation, in which actor Will Arnett finds different ways to call Carroll and Koston old, and asks Alex Olson to do tricks “that someone under thirty could appreciate.” Girl has a sense of humor about its twenty-year history, and is self aware enough to toss in jokes, or an Olson type with a style implicitly tied to simpler times to go over with an older crowd. But generally speaking, companies do not prioritize skaters in their thirties. Sorry guys, but the kids would not rather watch Gino go grocery shopping.
Koston, Carroll, Brian Anderson and Gino all have footage, with their appearances in the five-to-ten trick range. A Rick Howard cameo is sorely missed and Anthony Pappalardo, much to the dismay of message board apologists everywhere, is nowhere to be seen.
However, not all of the vets relegate themselves to bit parts. Jeron Wilson, who shares a section with Brandon Biebel, pulls through with twice the amount of clips he had in Yeah Right! In a “I can’t believe it took them so long to think of this” moment, Jesus Fernandez skates to the finest music supervision of 2012, though it is understandable if that honor is only agreed upon by fans of a certain Coen Brothers movie. Also, Marc Johnson was made aware of the dignity to be had in a one-song video part.
The main contribution from the first generation comes via Guy Mariano. His part has the most unnameable combo tricks in the video. It is impressive, the kids will dig it (the more complicated, the better…think about how many people’s first favorite skater was Rodney Mullen), but one is left to wonder: is all this NBD technical shit necessary? He does a front smith laser flip out — it is impossible to make that trick look good. With Jake Johnson, Lucas Puig, Spaniards, etc. carving a niche of high-brow tech trick selection in recent years, it would have been nice to see Mariano, one of their blueprints (and the guy who once filmed the video part with the best ensemble trick selection ever), exhibit some technical restraint. In Pretty Sweet, he seems midway between keeping up with the kids and making up for lost time.
Things come full circle with an outro that skaters can unanimously embrace, regardless of age. They took Daft Punk’s “Teachers,” a song that paid homage to the group’s influences and predecessors in electronic music, and remixed it to run down all the skaters who paved the way for the hundred big flips you just witnessed. The visual accompaniment is a barrage of cameos from all of the names mentioned, which likely took excruciating lengths to obtain. It is a skate nerd overload. Hopefully, it sends some young kids sifting through old video parts on YouTube.
Pretty Sweet comes out on DVD and iTunes November 27th.