I don’t know Tony Hawk from Ronny Hawkins, and doubt I could keep my balance on a board for ten feet. I don’t say this to bash those who love the sport, or to say that I am above it in any way. I only say this to set the table: That what I write, I write as a film-goer, and a lover of well-executed non-fiction.
So now that you know that, perhaps it will slant my position that BONES BRIGADE: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY is fucking. epic.
For director Stacy Peralta, this film is a spiritual sequel to his landmark DOGTOWN AND Z-BOYS. It begins with his formation of Powell-Peralta and his handpicking of the talented skateboarders that would make up a team known as The Bones Brigade. One by one we meet and hear from Tony Hawk, Steve Caballero, Rodney Mullen, Lance Mountain, Tommy Guerrero and Mike McGill. The film combines archival footage and brand new interviews to show us how these young men changed the sport, and become a pop culture phenomenon.
I have one small nit to pick, so I feel I should get it out of the way now. As mentioned, the story of BONES BRIGADE (and its predecessor DOGTOWN AND Z-BOYS), are events that director Stacy Peralta lived out. While I understand that this film isn’t meant to be an expose (nor an advert), I do wonder about its even-handedness with the primary storyteller being so central to the events. Like I say, a very small nit.
The film unspools with so much energy and nostalgia for the era. It is underscored with some killer music, and goes to great lengths to illustrate just how innovative these boys were to a sport they loved so much. I noticed graphics and logos that I remember my schoolmates wearing when I was a kid, and now it’s blatantly obvious why they did.
But where the film really earns its stripes is in the beginning of its final act. It’s at this junction that my cinema went dead quiet as Rodney Mullen and Tony Hawk began discussing the disillusionment that came with dominating their sport – especially the former. He compares it to a short story written by Kafka…something that was once joyous, has lost its weight, but still remains mandatory. It’s tragic to think of boys approaching something like skateboarding without any happiness. What’s more, is that having it explained by Rodney – a man who seems like he’ll burst into tears if you look at him funny – is all the more heartbreaking.
Even after watching BONES BRIGADE, I still couldn’t care less about skateboarding. Knowing that about myself and still intently loving the film tells me that I’ve seen something special. It’s the mark of an exceptional doc – to speak not just to the fans of your subject, but to those who just want to watch a movie. The film is well-told, handsome, and exudes the very energy its subjects became famous for…definitely not to be missed.