It is not easy to write about Patrick O’Dell’s film, Dumb: The Story Of Big Brother Magazine, and Shit: The Big Brother Book within one year of each other without sounding redundant. Even though it hasn’t published an issue in thirteen years, Big Brother holds a unshakeable stake in skateboarding’s collective heart. Thrasher bears perhaps the most recognizable skate brand on the planet, Skateboarder was the first-ever skateboard magazine, but no, more Big Brother, we need more.
Having covered everything from the cult of Cardiel to Menace throughout Epicly Later’d, O’Dell is the best person to sit across from anyone throwing heart eyes at a mammoth of skateboard lore. The linear story of the magazine is told through a series of new interviews, shoddy unseen footage that otherwise only had its audio transcribed, archived clips from newscasts (i.e. interviews with angry parents), and clips from Big Brother‘s video series.
An abridged history of Big Brother was told in the 2007 Steve Rocco documentary, The Man Who Souled the World. Rocco’s few appearances in Dumb cover the same ground as before, where he recounts the infamous story of why he started the mag in the first place. Unlike the Big Brother book, which apart from the epilogue, was narrated by Sean Cliver and Dave Carnie’s recollections, Dumb‘s interviews cover a wider spectrum of contributors to any and all Big Brother projects.
“Why the hell would I want to watch a documentary about two Australian vert skaters?”
That thought likely popped into many people’s heads when told they should watch All This Mayhem, the Tas and Ben Pappas documentary that was released last month.
“No dude, it’s really crazy, watch it.”
Considering there is already a documentary about Gator and the surfboard bag, how much more “crazy” could a skate documentary get, especially to elevate it beyond what we expect in an Epicly Later’d or a similar straight-to-web series of shorts?
In assessing the horrible P.R. behind Australians visiting New York (see point B), a frequent gripe — mostly from those who work in hospitality or nightlife industries — is their love of cocaine. Cocaine is believed to be a major source of awful Australian behavior on American soil because of its availability, not to mention low price when converted against our weak dollar. (Couple a drug that makes people annoying by-design, with the rambunctiousness of partying with play-money, and you have an eight-million person city at odds with a 23-million person continent.) Perhaps these were only problems to DJs annoyed at being covered in spit particles during the night’s third “Shake It Off” request, spoken in an accent rendered undecipherable by a half-dozen drinks, but after watching this “crazy” documentary, maybe Australians really do love cocaine that much ;)
If it’s possible to go into All This Mayhem fresh, without any knowledge of the story aside from a vague recollection of Ben and Tas’ names from the peak X-Games era, you’ll get the most out of the film’s “holy shit” factor. Coming from a generation that invented “the vert button,” this should not be difficult.
It may have a vague title (…most skate scenes are not California), but This Ain’t California is a detailed pseudo-documentary about a crossroads of recent world history and lesser-known local skate lore.
Marten Persiel’s tale centers around Denis “Panik” Paraceck and his 1980s skate crew in the German Democratic Republic, the portion of Germany that was a Soviet satellite state until 1990. The story is told through Panik’s friends as they gather to reminisce in 2011 upon learning he was killed as a soldier in Afghanistan. This Ain’t California is seemingly presented as fact through old footage, modern interviews and animation sequences, but the viewer suspects the main character may not have existed early on in the film, due to “archival” footage that is a bit too-good-to-be-true, and several obviously scripted moments. Some Googling will reveal that the character of Panik is played by German model and skater, Kai Hillebrandt, and that the film is a blend of both reenactments and real home movies.
Though Panik is fictionalized, he is a composite character found in any skate crew out there — the hometown hero who will try the gnarliest trick to further his legend, who could be good at just about anything but chooses to skate, often to the chagrin of parents. (Even superficially, one would think the actor’s resemblance to Natas Kaupas was part of the casting decision.) Denis Paraceck may not be real, but every skater knows someone like him.
Waiting For Lightning is part Danny Way biography, and part rationalization of how Way’s two decade-spanning career reached its current stage of “Evel Knievel stuntman shit.” The first half of the documentary operates as an Epicly Later’d-esque clip show narrated by Way’s family and friends, while the other is a two-month countdown chronicling the preparation for his jump over the Great Wall of China. The two stories gradually tie closer together, with the biography serving as a primer for the sight of Way skating over a manmade object once assumed to be visible from outer space. (It’s not, but still.)
In a way, the film has been in the making for over twenty years. It is directed by Jacob Rosenberg, who had met Way in the H-Street days, and filmed him for the company’s now-classic videos. Their collaborative relationship carried over to Plan B, and has continued ever since. Rosenberg took a deep dive into dusty tape boxes to provide the film with plenty of unseen archival footage and skate nerd trivia, touching on the Bones Brigade, Del Mar Skate Ranch, H-Street, Plan B, etc. in the process.