The Verdict: Tony Hawk: Until the Wheels Fall Off

In my childhood, I was obsessed with skateboarding. As often as possible, me and my friends would go to a halfpipe in a town nearby and practice all day there. We would also visit the skateshop every so often and buy all the skateboarding magazines available. In those magazines was always this absolute legend: Tony Hawk, the best skateboarder in the world. He was like a God to us. The documentary about him, that is now streaming on HBO Max, showed me that he is just a man who, despite all his physical injuries, won’t stop skating until his wheels fall off (Hawk is now 54). Tony Hawk’s life story is not just interesting for skate fans, but for everybody. This is already one of the great sports documentaries. At the age of nine, Tony discovered skateboarding and since then has done nothing else. Pretty soon, he joined the famous Bones Brigade (a team of pro’s with a.o. Lance Mountain, Steve Caballero, Mike McGill and leader Stacy Peralta). A few years later, he turned pro and started winning every competition in the country. In the early nineties, skateboarding went out of fashion and Hawk could no longer make any money doing what he loved. He even had to sell his house and break down his personal halfpipe. He never stopped skating though and in the late nineties/early zeroes, it came back and Hawk made millions on huge shows in Las Vegas and the well known video game franchise. We follow him on his path through those years as he tirelessly works towards his greatest career achievement: the impossible 900. His perseverance is amazing and inspired me to think of new things to try that I think are impossible. Apart from being a moving life story, it also gives the viewer a gigantic amount of the most insane skateboarding footage ever collected. Tony Hawk: Until the Wheels Fall Off is a great flashback to my childhood, but Hawk’s amazing aerial acrobatics are a thrill for everybody to behold.

Tony Hawk: Until the Wheels Fall Off is now available on HBO Max

The verdict: to stream or not to stream? To obsessively stream

A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies


(1995, USA)

Director: Martin Scorsese, Michael Henry Wilson
Written by: Martin Scorsese, Michael Henry Wilson
Features: Martin Scorsese (host), Frank Capra, Francis Ford Coppola, Brian De Palma, ao.

Running Time: 225 mins.

When Scorsese starts to talk there is no ending. For nearly four hours, he talks about American films. From the silent era to the sixties when he started making movies himself. Luckily for the viewer, Scorsese is a very interesting storyteller and film lovers will be glued to the screen.

His ode to American cinema is a mix of personal anecdotes, film fragments, interviews and razor-sharp observations. Scorsese starts with Hollywood pioneers like King Vidor, D.W. Griffith and Cecil B. DeMille. He then takes a closer look at the genres that made Hollywood great; the westerns, the musicals and the gangster films.

Many cinema hallmarks pass by. From the transition from silent to sound films and how technical effects evolved over the years. Scorsese also explains how his own cinematic mind was formed by observing characters like the infamous Ethan Edwards in The Searchers. He explains how the change in genres reflect on the times in which they were made. Like how post WW2 big businesses advanced in gangster films and the musicals got gloomier.

Scorsese provides great insight in the Hollywood system. How producers like David O. Selznick called the shots in the early days and how iconoclasts like Erich von Stroheim and Orson Welles attacked the system and sometimes paid the ultimate price for it. He calls Hollywood films censored art and shows many of the old masters at work. The rarely seen interviews with legendary directors such as Billy Wilder and John Ford alone are worth the four hour investment of watching this documentary.

No less than 60 films are discussed. From most of them a fragment is shown while Scorsese discusses their significance in a voice-over. For the complete list of films discussed click here. Scorsese and his team have created an incredibly rich and insightful documentary. Even the most hardened film buff will find some unseen cinema treasures here.


The Ten Commandments

Bullets Over Hollywood

Bullets Over Hollywood (2005, USA)

Director: Elaina Archer
Written by: John McCarty (book), Elaina Archer, Tom Marksbury
Features: Paul Sorvino (narrator), Leonard Maltin, Michael Madsen, Edward McDonald, ao.

Running Time: 70 mins.

This Hugh Hefner produced documentary shows the fascination of moviegoers with the mob. ‘Once in the racket, always in the racket’, Al Capone said who became the archetype of the gangster and role-model for some legendary movie characters like Caesar ‘Rico’ Bandello (Little Caesar) and Tony Camonte/Montana (Scarface) This also applies to Hollywood when it comes to making gangster films. Every time you think the realms of the genre have been fully explored, some new masterpiece comes along. After the time that Cagney, Robinson and Bogart dominated the screen, a new generation of filmmakers emerged in the seventies with Coppola, Scorsese and De Palma. Then at the brink of the new millennium, the Hollywood gangster legend continued on the small screen with The Sopranos.

Bullets Over Hollywood opens with the very first gangster film: The Musketeers Of Pig Alley, made in 1912. It then goes on to chronologically move through gangster film history right up until The Sopranos. The documentary combines film fragments, interviews and real gangster footage while Paul Sorvino (GoodFellas) provides the narrative. It is an interesting viewing for enthusiasts of the genre, but misses real insight in the works that it covers. Some interesting facts are revealed such as the story that Howard Hawks was forced by Hollywood to add ‘the shame of the nation’ to his gangsterfilm Scarface, because they didn’t want to glorify gangsters. Also interesting is some behind-the-scene footage of gangster classics, but these fragments are unfortunately a little brief. Altogether this is worth a look. If only to hear Leonard Maltin rave about The Godfather and to re-experience some of the finest sequences in the history of this fascinating American phenomenon.

Rating:


The Musketeers Of Pig Alley (1912, D.W. Griffith)

Full Tilt Boogie: The Making of ‘From Dusk Till Dawn’

After Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez both had personal success with Pulp Fiction and Desperado, in 1996 they announced their collaboration on a horror movie, called From Dusk Till Dawn.

Tarantino wrote the script and would play one of the lead roles and Rodriguez would direct. The horror-part was saved for the second half of the film, a strategy inspired by Stephen King, explains Tarantino. “First you let the audience get to know the characters, like them, and then you put them through hell.”

“Many horrors deliver too soon”, says Rodriguez in Full Tilt Boogie, a documentary about the movie’s production released a year after the film in 1997. “There are no clues that the vampires will show up, so the audience members – like the characters – are totally surprised. All of a sudden they’re just there.”

Full Tilt Boogie spends a lot of time interviewing the people that normally don’t get attention; the assistant directors, the personal assistants, the drivers, the best boys, the gaffers, the special effects people, the stunt guys, the caterers… Even the extras get their few minutes of fame. Like Bob Ruth who was also in Pulp Fiction (“I was the coffeeshop manager; ‘I am not a hero’”).

What’s interesting is that while for the creative team (writer, director, cinematographer) it is all about the creative process, for most of the others it is just a job. Sure, they all like movies, but they could easily switch to another industry if it would pay better. They are all mostly concerned with getting overtime paid and complaining about the food, the accommodation and millions of other things.

Still, if you are gonna work on a film then From Dusk Till Dawn is a good choice. It has hot new directors and a hot new star (George Clooney in his first big movie film role after many successful years in television) and lots of groovy special effects and stunts. There were also a lot of parties obviously.

But there were problems as well like sand storms, permits, extreme heat and the union going after the 18 million dollar independent film. Not because there were complaints from workers, but – according to the makers – because of the success of Tarantino and producer Lawrence Bender. And because Rodriguez did almost everything himself. The unions weren’t used to that.

Full Tilt Boogie is ultimately a disappointing documentary, because you learn surprisingly little about the filmmakers. I would rather listen to Tarantino and Rodriguez talking for 90 minutes than watch a lot of film people that don’t have a lot to say about the beauty of the medium.