Posts Tagged ‘Sage Elsesser’

A New Gilded Age For Skate Videos

December 2, 2018

There is more hugging in the new Supreme vid than you might think. A heartfelt Tyshawn Jones embrace features in promotional posters tucked into Thrasher and plastered across New York City in the run-up to the billion-dollar streetwear barony’s new full-length, emphasis on the full. Bloby pickup Kevin Rodrigues collects three after one clip, Sean Pablo rolls straight into a businesslike squeeze after successfully stepping to a backside lipslide on the Jake Johnson rail, and Sage Elsesser appears to willingly accept the outstretched arms of Andy Roy. Dudes sitting and watching tricks hug. ‘Blessed,’ which surpasses President Trump’s most-recent State of the Union address in length, freely ladles out the love: These young men bound by the red box-logo are older, better and seemingly tighter than ever, drawn close by their good fortune, high-value boxes, and a tinge of tragedy. Each heavy clip, many slathered in slow-mo, culminates in relief in the trick conquered, exaltation in the accomplishment, and joy in bro-dom. Bill Strobeck’s title, obligatory quotation marks included, says it all.*

This universe is a far cry from headbutts dealt to uppity sneakerheads, but going strictly off the skating, ‘Blessed’ justifies its celebratory vibes. Ben Kadow, he of the thousand-yard stare and latent disgruntlement, hurls himself onto rails and electrical boxes out the gate, but even he eventually succumbs to a satisfied grin by the time he chews through a couple boards on a jagged crescent-shaped lipslide. Rowan Zorilla, who still looks odd decked out in Supreme gear, delivers off-kilter jaw-slackeners including a China Banks nollie flip, another wallie noseblunt for the 2018 tally, and a how-the-fuck nose manual wallride. Sage Elsesser steps to Pulaski’s dishes from another, lower level; Kevin Bradley presses pause on his piling-out campaign to throw a beautiful over-bin heelflip and huck at the Brooklyn Banks. Splindly Blue Steel-worker Sean Pablo flicks a rather mean backside flip to fakie 5-0 at the bank-to-hubba spot while a new generation of tween onlookers man the fence, and elsewhere gets unexpectedly gnarly, backside lipsliding the Jake Johnson rail and taking a picture-perfect line down a three stack under security duress. For goodness’ sake, Na’kel Smith makes slamming look fun.

It is Tyshawn Jones, however, whose curtain-dropper asserts a measure of severity and awe, turning in what must be the heaviest east coast video part since Jake Johnson tore down walls in ‘Mindfield.’ It’s just a handful of clips here that wouldn’t stand as enders for other, lesser pros, and some whose like hasn’t much been seen before — the switch backside 360 over the can, say, or the enormously lofted fakie float over the bar. Bill Strobeck’s lingering and oft-zoomy lens soaks in the pain, struggle and eventual euphoria permeating the last few tricks, and it’s hard to turn ‘Blessed’ off without the feeling that Tyshawn Jones has changed the conversation at some level. (And then there’s the nollie flip.)

The onetime Fat Bill evolved out of the primordial VX-toting ooze to become one of the relatively few videomaking iconoclasts out there, with a fairly set group of muses, a much-derided/much-copied style, and legit classics to his resume. Surely ‘Blessed’ applies to its editor/director as much as any of his leading dudes, and he is savoring their shared moment — but at 84 minutes, he overextends himself, and there are points where ‘Blessed’ drags despite its adherence to a more classical part-part-part structure. Despite all its montages and occasional interludes, ‘Cherry’ kept things moving for a fairly brisk 40 minutes. Here, you’re watching screwed footage of Ben Kadow on a light-up wheeled cruiser for 40 seconds, or waiting as la smoke curls for the duration of Jason Dill’s ‘Trilogy’ part. There’s a lengthy EMB session capturing the crew’s chemistry, but it gets you wondering whether Bill Strobeck’s real aim is to memorialize and immortalize two years of these Supreme kids collectively ‘in the window,’ traveling the world, wearing expensive clothing pieces, and living their best lifes before the vagaries of adulthood encroach — versus constructing a more functional, digestable skate video. His filming, reliably aped here and there by Johnny Wilson, in some cases only obscures any perspective of the trick or spot at hand. There are Madinna and Motley Crue singles, incongruously.

Wave aside for a moment though what ‘Blessed’ is, or is not, and instead slow-mo pan across what it says — at a time when Instagram, Youtube and other FAANG-funded suspects are meant to have brutalized attention spans and left the full-length skate video for dead, we arrive at the end of 2018 with a bushelful of projects, some ranking among the decade’s most vital. Quasi, Polar, Bronze, GX1000, Element, Foundation, Primitive, Alltimers, Cons, Vans, Girl and Transworld all put out meaty and worthwhile video releases this year; even Etnies saw fit to offer its first in 23 years. The bloat of ‘Blessed’ itself can be celebrated, in that its frenetically collabing, billion-dollar benefactors believe in not just the concept of an hour-plus vid but will support the dude with the vision. Years after ‘Pretty Sweet,’ ‘Stay Gold,’ ‘Fully Flared’ and other big-ticket productions were declared in sotto vice to variously be ‘tha last video ever,’ a bumper crop of great videos, worth revisiting as a whole or in parts — the opening Portland tear in ‘We Blew It,’ Jake Johnson’s uphill roof flip for Converse, Buggy Talls’ switch 180 manual impossible out on the big block in ‘Its Time,’ Jeff Carlyle’s vein-pumping arms-down descents in ‘Roll Up,’ etc — suggest a new gilded age of skate videos at hand.

With internet users reportedly cutting back on Facebook pokes and youngsters formulating fewer Tweets, is it too early to declare the World Wide Web ‘totally over’ and with it, mouldering and half-sensical blogging outlets? Would there have been more hugging in the GX video if dudes weren’t moving so fast? Does Sean Pablo’s extended middle finger segment suggest he’s embraced Richard D. James as his next stylistic touchstone? Will Bill Strobeck’s use of ‘Birthday Boy’ boost Ween sufficiently in the skate video music supervision power rankings such that kids next year will soundtrack IG clips to ‘Touch My Tooter’ and ‘Poop Ship Destroyer’?

*Also, weed

The Best Night of Sleep Sanger Rainsford Ever Had

May 13, 2018

In Richard Connell’s 1924 classic ‘The Most Dangerous Game,’ a big-city trophy hunter washes up on a remote island, soon revealed to be inhabited by a philosophizing fellow hunter. Over a stately dinner, the host identifies himself to be a prize hunter too, as well as something of a freethinking homicidal. Stalking elephants and leopards had grown tiresome, he explained — hence the island equipped with treacherous waters, occasionally delivering via shipwreck to its proprietor the only remaining worthwhile quarry: Men. Soon, a new hunt is on.

Among the improbably growing ranks of skateboard filmers, the thrill of the hunt tends to scale alongside duration. Instagram-ready clips are single-digit ‘Duck Hunt’ level potshots; the one-off/solo part barely Bambi. There is a worthy challenge in nailing and transcending the attention-span sweet spot that is the 15 to 20-minute promo, with a couple full parts and a couple montages, or the footage-dumping ‘mixtape’ project of similar length. But in this woolly realm, the most dangerous game is the full-length video —- its gaping maw of hubris, its difficult-to-wrangle girth, its often unbearable weight, threatening to trample less-seasoned filmers under viewers’ colossal expectations.

Having conquered skateboard professionals, shops and the upper-shredding masses, what prey remains for those moneyed alphas of the industry, the industrial shoe merchants? Mastering the full-length video, that great unquantifiable, that tantalizing money pit, that great ‘Branding Statement,’ continues to beckon and tempt international sporting goods manufacturers like some VX1000-mic’d siren song. For Nike Inc., this has been a slow process. The Oregonian sportswear conglomerate dipped in its toe-piece with 2004’s ‘On Tap,’ flexing some plotting and production and a little bit of those Rodriguez acting chops, but never fully committing. Nike saved that for 2007’s bloated misfire ‘Nuttin’ But the Truth,’ which saddled some truly great skating, a still-corralable team and perhaps the all-time greatest Danny Supa part with an insistent storyline that, while intriguingly bizarre, asked far too much of a skate video viewer base freshly armed with DVD ‘skip’ buttons. Jason Hernandez’s excellent ‘Debacle’ project from 2009 hit all the marks for length, range and focus, but led into the increasingly rote ‘Chronicles’ series, which by the third installment had devolved into a transactional, paint-by-numbers affair.

Adidas, which for a while mastered the five-to-six minute road trip video with rotating picks from its more diverse roster, also veered into a predictable pattern to where it eventually seemed obligatory to attempt something bigger — and they wound up with 2016’s ‘Away Days,’ overlong and too top-heavy with too many good parts that wound up buried. The Juice crew seemed to struggle to construct a project greater than the sum of its parts, linked by something more than Gonz vignettes and blurred shots of streetlights and moving cars.

Now comes Cons, Nike’s subsidiary for the thrift-shop set, which moves without the weight of the world’s biggest sporting goods franchise stuffed into its canvas and rubber. For this reason Cons maybe squares a bit easier with skateboarding’s historic resume of scruffiness, artsiness and a general low-fi bearing, and ‘Purple’ headmaster Ben Chadbourne plays up this angle from the opening frames, typing out an introductory monologue on mid-century equipment (though not without some mobile-phone shorthand).

‘Purple’ justifies a good chunk of its 45-minute runtime in a way that, say, a Primitive full-length might struggle with, that is, diversity in style and approach. Straightaway Bobby De Keyzer pops out of all the backside noseblunts, sets his wide-bottoms whipping with a switch backside 360 in a line, and displays a mean halfway half-cab flip — but then you veer into Sage Elsesser, languid over tall bars, and what seems like whole-body lipslides. Kevin Rodriguez brings his abrasive wallrides and grabs in a Neubauten shirt, though Pontus Alv’s more-frenetic framing maybe was a better look for him, while Aaron Herrington stays on his ‘Welcome to Hell’ shit and there’s a weirdly endearing amount of Corey Duffel clips throughout. Underground style soldier Eli Reed swerves switch over a China Bank long bench, Frank Gerwer briefly reprises his star-making Transworld turn and Brian Delatorre somewhere in the middle dishes out maybe his best part ever, a half-switch scorcher that incorporates some brawny Al Davis moves and a wild new branch line from Black Rock. There’s some curated roll-ups courtesy of Sean Pablo, a mind-numbing Sean Greene ollie and then Louie Lopez, offering another few minutes of heaters with the occasional curveball — the rarely seen fakie frontside shove-it, a night line at Third and Army.

But it is Ben Chadbourne’s choice to close not with the obvious enders from a SOTY coulda/shoulda-been, but rather a comparatively skimpy contribution from the mercurial Jake Johnson, that argues strongest for Cons pulling off the full-length better than its larger-revenued predecessors. It’s easy to make the ‘quality over quantity’ argument justifying Jake Johnson’s solemn two minute wind-down to ‘Purple,’ even if it’s also a little disappointing, given prodigious recent output elsewhere. This though is the same logic that placed Guy Mariano’s ledge-heavy part last in ‘Mouse,’ not Eric Koston’s handrail-heavier section with its NBDs; or when Birdhouse’s blockbuster ‘The End’ stuck by its winking sketch to close on a shorter Bucky Lasek section rather than the stadium-touring Tony Hawk; or how Bill Strobeck’s ‘Cherry,’ among the strongest full-lengths of this aging decade, came with hardly any conventional ‘parts’ at all.

Does humankind’s hope for deeper Jake Johnson satisfaction now hinge upon the coming Quasi video? How many angles did Sean Greene’s ollie need for real? Was Adidas putting Dennis Busenitz last in ‘Away Days’ a left turn or playing it safe? Were people allowed to smoke in prior big shoe company videos? How come there were no Game Genie codes that let you shoot the dog in Duck Hunt?