Deconstructing “Street Dreams”

January 18, 2011

“When doves cry, Apollonia and Vanity*

The limelight, don’t let it confuse you–it’s a fantasy Island without a Tattoo”

-Corey “C.L. Smooth” Penn, 1992

Back in high school, I wrote movie reviews for the weekly “teen” section of the local newspaper. Until I started writing this post, I had forgotten about this completely. I have also forgotten the process of writing a film review, similar to the manner in which I have mentally “lost” the process of doing nollie flips, among other tricks.  For example, if you put a gun to my head and instructed me to watch a film and write a review of it, I could probably publish it via Twitter:

“The acting and cinematography in this film fucking killed it!” or “The acting and cinematography in this film were not really up to par.” If there isn’t a 140-character film review Twitter account, there should be.

The only entertaining example of movie reviewing I could recall is from that old Ron and Fez** radio show on WNEW. I think they were talking about the cinematography in some Kevin Smith film:

“I’ve seen better camera angles in porn,” Ron proclaimed.

In preparation for this post, I combed the internet for reviews of Street Dreams. I failed to find one from an actual newspaper, but who reads newspapers nowadays anyway. Shits are olde-tymey as fuck–like the songs on Boardwalk Empire. However, back in the Nineties, my parents maintained a curious love/hate relationship with the film review dude in the local paper. Like, if my mom suggested a particular movie, my dad would retort “but it got terrible reviews!” Then they would probably go see it anyway–after Indian food, usually bringing me back a couple samosas (sp). In addition, they habitually complained a lot about how snarky–I’m paraphrasing; word hadn’t been invented yet– the film reviewer dude in our local paper was.

Street Dreams makes its thesis clear from the first frame: tell the story of the 10,000,000 (give or take) street skaters in the U.S.A. I do not know if this statistic includes longboard dudes (whom I see sometimes on my street). Maybe they should have said 10,000,000 (give or take) trick skaters, or some shit.

ANYWAY, this is a worthwhile premise. Indeed, the objective is as follows: Do what The Grapes of Wrath did for migrant Depression-era farmers. What Catcher in the Rye did for existentially conflicted East Coast private school kids. What Vision Quest did for wrestling (not pro wrestling). What Karate Kid did for karate. What 8 Mile did for freestyle battle mc’ing.*** What Flashdance did for stripping and/or welding. What The Wrestler did for pro wrestling (not Greco-Roman wrestling). Take a wacky, seemingly impenetrable subculture and assign to it a meaningful narrative.

On the surface, this does not seem impossible. Indeed, if you think about it, most of us have a group of dudes with whom we grew up skating, and a narrative surrounding those dudes. However, had I skated with a collection of personalities like the characters in Street Dreams, I would have quit and become a “shred” guitar player or some shit; maybe I would have been able to play “LaVilla Strangiato” by now. Within the first four minutes, the viewer meets the one-upper (Rodriguez), the bitter old flow dude (Dyrdek) who makes skating as un-fun as possible, the hesh dude who is always “on” (some dude from Jackass, I think), and Terry Kennedy, who comes off as the most normal.

However, in spite of the unlikability of most of the characters, I found myself relating to some of the other elements in the film. Firstly, there was the dude who “used to skate,” then said “fuck it” and gradually metamorphosized into a frat dude. This happened with like four or five of the dudes I used to skate with. Secondly, most readers of this site should be able to relate to getting bailed out of encounters with law enforcement officials by one’s parents. Although, I was never ambitious enough to attempt to utilize a generator to saw the knobs off a handrail in order to 360 flip crooked grind it. I just wanted to do 30-foot slappy noseslides on a yellow curb.

Thematically, Dyrdek and the other screenwriter dude tap into the same “Tampa is the new California” motif I discussed here. In terms of plot structure, they somewhat competently delve into #skatelife, including gas station cuisine, playing S.K.A.T.E. in sketchy Howard Johnson parking lots, and banging down Jager shots in what I presume to be a Hollywood-ized version of Reservoir.  The only thing missing is a Mons Venus interlude, but the employees of said establishment would probably have demanded compensation for their time/services, unlike the extras in the climactic contest scene.

Furthermore, the four-year lag between filming and release turns the film into somewhat of a mid-00’s nostalgia piece. A simpler, more hopeful time. Before the real estate bubble burst. When all video parts were full street parts. When a magical new place called a “skate plaza” had just appeared in southwest Ohio. When Sean Malto was on DC. And when resurrecting and old Pat Duffy trick could facilitate “going am.” If they made the film now, Rodriguez would have to 270 nollie flip out, or some shit.

At the end of the day, though, conconcting a film to convey the nuances of skating to the type of folks that read the New York Times Film Review may prove superfluous. When 8 Mile came out, I remember olde folks saying “hey, freestyle battle rapping, I GET IT.” I would put forth the theory that filmmaking–vids–plays such a huge part in the lore of skating that they kind of function as narratives unto themselves. Like, making a film about the making of Questionable would be like making a record about the making of a record. Or some shit like that.

Who the fuck knows, though. Pro Wrestling is probably the most narrated, scripted shit around, and The Wrestler killed it. That Pi dude has consistently displayed a proclivity for finding meaning in seemingly shitty subcultures, like Chassidic numerologists and ballet dancers. You could not pay me enough to go to a ballet performance, but I will probably watch Black Swan when it appears on cable. Anyway, a The Wrestler-like approach might prove interesting. While Street Dreams makes it clear that you are watching a heavily dramatized narrative, whatever cinematography techniques Aronofsky utilizes lend an uncomfortably real-life quality to scenes like Mickey Rourke working the deli counter at the local Pathmark.

This particular angle might prove interesting if applied to a film about skating. Consider, if you will, a drug-addicted, physically destroyed, whoremongering, washed up “jumping down stuff”-type dude who struggles to reconstruct the shattered relationships in his life and find a place out there in the regular world. I presume Matt Ball might be available. And/or his girlfriend. They might be an all-or-nothing package deal kind of thing.

However, everyone knows reconceptualizations of  material from yesteryear are so hot right now in filmmaking.  Dig, if you will, a skate version of Purple Rain.  The “the kid” character’s father, a washed-up alcoholic vert dude, sits in his bedroom all day, alternating between staring at a wall and watching the John Sonner part from Hokus Pokus. Such a reinterpretation would, of course, necessitate casting Antwuan Dixon as Morris Day.**** No-brainer.

On the other hand, casting the “The Kid” role poses a much more formidable challenge. The actor would need to carry himself with that same brooding, intense charisma, yet possess transcendental talent.  A trendsetter who forges his own path in the world while waging an inner struggle. A perfectionist who is as prolific as he is polarizing.

Oh wait, hold up:

Quick–someone get Spike, Spike’s lawyer, Forrest, Antwuan, Antwuan’s lawyer, and Prince’s commando squadron of lawyers on conference. This pitch idea is a slam dunk.

*I think this was the beginning of that free-association/”hashtag rap” style that is so popular now

**…the fuck happened to those dudes

***Is this even, like, still a marketable skill?

****Shane Heyl or Neen Williams would, of course, have to be cast as Jerome. I have no idea who the “industry” Apollonia and/or Vanity is (no, I’m not going to say [Podium] Erica).


2 Responses to “Deconstructing “Street Dreams””

  1. Random Matt said

    Don’t wait to see Black Swan- there’s a lesbian scene with Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis that’s worth the admission.

  2. […] In addition, the vid as a whole warrants checking out for parts from everyone’s favorite Forrest Edwards, Love Park alum Tony Montgomery, and Sean “Dammit” […]

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