Sunday, October 21, 2012

PFF: Waiting for Lightning Review

DC Shoes and Megaramp present the story of Megaramp founder and DC Shoes co-founder in a DC Shoes production of a Megaramp film brought to you through special promotional consideration by DC Shoes parent company Quicksilver in association with Monster Energy Drink the story of oh crap we've run out of money for the last ten minutes quick Bud Light will pick up the tab and do we still even need to do a movie?

I haven't seen The Greatest Movie Ever Sold yet, but it's hard to imagine it having less aggressive product-placement than this documentary. Even the trailer is constantly marked "DC Shoes." I actually liked DC Shoes before seeing this movie--their shoes were comfy, simple, and fit well. But having wasted one of my festival viewings being tricked into watching a 90-minute ad has made them join Nike on the list of brands I'll never wear again.

I'd be able to overlook the product-placement if the movie itself weren't already two movies forced together and failing to have a happy marriage.

The film is supposed to be about skateboarder Danny Way jumping the Great Wall of China in 2005. This represents the signal moment of his career, the pinnacle, where he pushes not only himself beyond what he had imagined was possible, but skateboarding as a sport. A technically massive undertaking that requires building a 120-foot-high ramp with a crew that doesn't speak the language of the project heads and where a half-inch imprecision could mean Way's death.

That's a story right there: how does something like this get off the ground, how does it come together, what drives a man to pursue such a thing, and, obviously, does he make it?

The problem is, that's not the movie, that's the frame that the movie keeps returning to, forever teasing a little more of the jump throughout so that when the jump finally arrives, not only does the outcome seem a given, I'm too bored to even care.

The movie we get instead is a VH1 Behind the Music-style biopic about Danny Way which involves equal parts archival footage of Way skating, talking heads, and recreations/dramatizations of what the talking heads are saying, usually with the players in the recreations wearing DC Shoes. Bad enough that the biopic follows the tragedy-passion-downfall-redemption arc of Behind the Music, and ignoring that all the interviewees speaking in elegiac terms of Danny throughout as though he died in the jump (which was the biggest giveaway that he did it successfully), the film fails to translate skateboarding to the layman.

I know I'm asking a lot of the documentary to make me understand the difference between good skateboarding and bad, to generate a literacy I would never otherwise have, but there is such a lost opportunity here. The talking heads keep returning to the fact that Way's the best out there, the best ever, and that was clear from day one, that watching him skate was an unrelenting shock. We don't want for videos of Way on the skateboard. He does some moves that are, yes, very impressive, but most of the videos are of him grinding an edge, getting vertical on a ramp, doing a kickflip or a turn. He may be doing these things very well, he may be demonstrating an obvious and unparalleled skill, but I don't know good from bad. All I saw was him doing skateboard things I've seen other skateboarders do too. I can't do them, but I don't know why him doing them was amazing.

I've seen documentaries inform me in exactly that way. Planet B-Boy made me understand breakdancing in ways I never did before and has allowed me to be truly impressed by what I see. Hell, even Wordplay made me understand the thrill of crossword puzzles. How can a skateboarding documentary actually make me care less about skateboarding after watching it?

A relentlessly frustrating film and probably the worst I'll see at the festival this year. On the upside, things can only get better.

2/5 stars

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