Yesterday I knocked out eight or so quick hits of movies I enjoyed in 2019. I should have mentioned in that first post that I’m talking about movies I watched in that year, not necesarily movies that came out in said year. If that were the case, I probably wouldn’t have much to write about as someone who mainly gets their entertainment from Netflix (digital AND disc, like an O.G.), Amazon Video, the library and Hulu! Let’s get back to it!
I’m a sucker for skateboarding documentaries, you guys. So, when I was flipping through Netflix Instant options and came across Waiting For Lightning, which focuses on Danny Way and his attempt to jump over the Great Wall of China on his skateboard, I was definitely interested. In addition to sounding pretty interesting in and of itself, I was very, very vaguely familiar with Way thanks to his inclusion in the Skate series of video games. Director Jacob Rosenberg takes the opportunity of using Way’s record breaking skate stunt as a springboard to dive into the man’s incredibly interesting past.
Way’s early days were pretty rough. His mom and dad got married and had two kids, but after moving back to California his dad got locked up in prison where he was murdered. His mom wound up marrying a guy who sounded pretty great, but she never really dealt with her husband’s death and it wound up eating away at her and that relationship which lead to a split and a series of crummy fill-in dads. All of that, mixed with what sounds like an inborn desire to prove himself and an older brother whose friends were all into skating all lead to Way trying his damnedest to nail every trick he saw and could think of.
He quickly rose through the ranks of skating where he latched on to several other people who filled the father role for him — some of which who were tragically taken from his life — but it wasn’t enough. Way was one of the guys who really got behind the idea of building giant ramps for big air competitions. That all lead into the idea of jumping the Great Wall which was equal parts terrifying and inspiring.
Actually, I found this entire movie inspiring. You’ve not only got Way’s burning desire to continually top himself, but also this story of a kid whose support system was ripped away from him and yet found a way to survive and thrive. This film also finds ways to present some incredible skateboarding tricks in ways that make them look as graceful and complicated as profesional dancers. That ability to train and twist the body into doing things above and beyond normal human abilities is just fascinating to me.
Finally, I was drawn to this movie as a father. Every father, no every man, needs to watch this film to see what kind of impact a father/male role model can have on a person. I don’t believe that a male or female influence is more important than the other, but it’s monumentally important to have a balance in all things in life. Danny Way had to search for his balance and he eventually found it in the fathers and men who encouraged him to follow his passion of skateboarding. He used that drive to achieve things that, literally, no other person on the planet has achieved. That’s a testament not only to his skill, but also to the men and women who were there for him in his formative years.
The experience of watching Waiting For Lightning reminded me of a mini-documentary I saw on ESPN a few months back and was similarly captivated by, The Birth Of Big Air part of the network’s 30 For 30 line-up. This film, directed by Jackass creator Jeff Tremaine, shines the spotlight on Mat Hoffman, a BMX rider whose desire to ride higher and harder than anyone else has earned him a place in sports history.
Hoffman and Way actually share quite a few similarities, which shouldn’t be too surprising considering they did very similar things on different man-powered vehicles. Both were driven by a desire to learn and top themselves, which included flying through the air to death defying heights. Both invented numerous tricks. Both have suffered serious injuries in the process (Hoffman’s doctor says he’s broken every extremity available). Both were also fueled by the deaths of loved ones, in Hoffman’s case it was his mother.
While Waiting For Lightning documents Way’s desire to jump the grand canyon, Birth Of Big Air shows Hoffman’s struggles to achieve world records and get recognition for the work he was doing. It’s an intense journey that has resulted in recognition, but also plenty of worrisome injuries.
The problem I have with guys like Danny and Mat is that they’re both dads who feel the need to push themselves as hard as possible in order to prove their abilities or even show how great they are to their kids. This bothers me because you’re directly risking your life to impress your kids whereas I believe you need to have a longer view of life that includes sticking around and taking care of your children. But hey, that’s why I’m sitting on my couch blogging about guys soaring through the air and not doing it myself.
Thrashin‘s basically a genetically designed movie to be liked by yours truly considering I love Airborne, Lords of Dogtown, Dogtown and Z-Boys, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and ridiculous 80s movies. This skating flick stars Josh Brolin as a young, skating dude who meets a girl who is the sister of the rival skating gang called The Daggers. As you might expect, this causes quite a bit of tension between Brolin’s gang (filled with dudes who are named Radley and look a lot like Jason Segel) and the Daggers. My favorite ridiculous moments from the movie include the crazy skating party which includes dudes dancing on their boards and also the Red Hot Chili Peppers (one of my favorite bands of all time) and a joust between Brolin and the main bad guy where they’re skating a half pipe of sorts and trying to hit each other with, what looks like, pillows on the end of chains, kind of like a mace.
The skating is super fun and quite different than you might expect if you watch the X-Games nowadays. Speaking of which, Tony Hawk’s in this flick, though I wasn’t able to easily grab a screencap of him, so is Christian Hosoi who was the subject of the Rising Son doc I watched and really dug who I also didn’t get a cap of. Also, check out the brown haired girl in the fifth pic, that’s Sherilyn Fenn of Twin Peaks fame playing Velvet, the Daggers’ resident Betty.
I had a great time watching this movie because it’s a nice relic from its time. Plus, I’m a sucker for anything with skateboards, rollerskates, roller blades or BMX bikes (I kind of want to watch Airborne and Rad again after this, or possibly BMX Bandits). If you’re a fan of anything I mentioned in the past few paragraphs, do yourself a favor and check the movie out. It’s currently available to watch on Instant Netflix!