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Overall Rating
4.2

Awesome: 20%
Worth A Look80%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 4 user ratings


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Stoked: The Rise and Fall of Gator
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by mincemeat

"Fame –- what you get is no tomorrow"
4 stars

Does fame turn people into arrogant pricks, or are arrogant pricks most likely to become famous? In tracing the life of once-famous, now-incarcerated skateboarder Gator, this documentary doesn’t answer that question so much as ask it. The director’s light touch, which lets the audience draw its own conclusions, is probably the film’s best feature. That or the garish ‘80s fashion parade.

This documentary outlines the Southern California skate scene of the 1980s using archival videos, photos, and magazines á la Dogtown and Z Boys. Back then, a kid named Gator was at least as good at skating pools as his cohorts, Steve Caballero, Lance Mountain, and Tony Hawk (all of whom are interviewed in the film). But we see that Gator had a kind of chutzpah –- or star power -– that set him apart.

The film traces the dual arcs of Gator’s rise and the explosion of skateboarding’s popularity. From a distance of almost two decades, his teammates and colleagues remember Gator, who appears only in archival footage and as a disembodied voice.

On screen, we see Gator propelled beyond the world of skateboarding into the margins mainstream fame: he even smirked, preened and skated on Downtown Julie Brown’s MTV dance show. It was a ghastly era in American pop culture, and while his compatriots retreated to the sidelines, Gator ate it up.

Fortune, inevitably, turned, with Gator’s slide beginning as his skating style was eclipsed by street skating. Adoring fans moved on, his fame dissipated, and bad behavior, tolerated when he was a superstar, lost him his big contract. He became Christian, preaching to bewildered skater kids. Eventually, his girlfriend took off. Then an old friend of his girlfriend crossed his path and, 48 hours later, her body was left in a surfboard bag in the desert. Gator confessed the crime to his minister and the police; only after the confession do they find the corpse.

The story is totally engrossing, but if first-time director Helen Stickler has a weakness it is in the camerawork of the present-day footage. Tony Hawk appears to have spent the entire session standing in his driveway; a microphone cord dangles awkwardly between Lance Mountain’s legs. Today, people are talking heads, while the archival footage is all fluid motion, giving the film a jostling rhythm.

However, Stickler maintains an incredibly even hand in framing the story: she is absolutely circumspect, carefully constructing the film without judgment. When interviewees are jerks, she lets them speak for themselves.

And when we find out that Gator spent four hours sexually molesting the victim before bagging and strangling her, we’re left to decide for ourselves to what degree he’s a victim of the pop culture fame machine -– or homicidal megalomaniac.

link directly to this review at https://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=8099&reviewer=354
originally posted: 12/17/03 14:01:58
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Seattle Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Los Angeles Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Los Angeles Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Brisbane Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Brisbane Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

7/03/04 Skate or Die Stay in school 5 stars
3/15/04 Darkjester The film is a fantastic look at the tragedy that can result from uncontrolled fame. 5 stars
9/03/03 Derek Burritt Totally rad documentary! Old-school skateboarding and a tragic 1980's celebrity story. 4 stars
9/03/03 Derek Burritt Totally rad documentary! Old-school skateboarding and a tragic 1980's celebrity story. 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  22-Aug-2003 (R)
  DVD: 17-Feb-2004

UK
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Australia
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