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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

review of "rising son" dvd

I recently viewed the DVD of "Rising Son: The Legend of Skateboarder Christian Hosoi". (I had previously posted the press release here.) I knew absolutely nothing about Hosoi before watching this film, but I found the story riveting. At an easy running time of 98 minutes, it is able to tell a complete story without ever dragging.

I felt that I really got to know Hosoi, a half-Asian native of Hawaii whose family relocated to California, where he began to show promise at a very young age. It's interesting how the film shows the continuity between the already established Z-Boys (such as Jay Adams and Tony Alva) and the much younger, yet-unknown Hosoi, whose lives crossed during the late 70s.

Hosoi rose to fame concurrent with the rise of "vert" skating in the 80s, where the skaters would launch themselves straight into the air off of the half-pipe ramps, perform various tricks, turn around, then do it again on the other side. As his fame and fortune grew, Hosoi formed his own skateboard company, and it seemed he could do no wrong. Hosoi was a natural for the public eye, loving the attention as much as the fans loved him. Wild hair, wild clothes, and wild life, he helped define not only the vert style of skateboarding but also the skateboarding culture of the 1980s.

When the the vert style began to wane and the "street" style began to take over, he was able to adapt on a professional level and continue to compete effectively. However, it was clear that he was no longer the star he was, and as pressures mounted, both financially and emotionally, he turned to methamphetamine for escape. Without saying much more about the plot, the film chronicles his downward spiral into drugs, his incarceration, and his eventual redemption as he found Christ.

The film contains many on-screen interviews with his friends, fellow skateboarders and parents. It becomes clear that his Asian father, an interesting character in his own right, made some pretty bad choices which certainly didn't help Christian during his dark period. Skateboarder Tony Hawk, who rose to fame during the same period, provides a lot of interesting feedback and commentary during his screen time as well. He was able to weather his newfound fortune and fame much better than Hosoi, probably due in large part to a much stronger family support system.

The archival skateboarding footage is certainly a treat to watch, and the film does a great job of balancing this with the interviews and the narrative commentary (Dennis Hopper does the narration). It all comes together quite well, never drags, and will hold your interest throughout.

The soundtrack, mostly 80's punk, fits perfectly with the movie. Strangely, none of the songs on the soundtrack appear on the released CD soundtrack for the movie; those songs on the CD were recently recorded by current artists and were "inspired" by the movie. I will be reviewing that CD soundtrack in a separate post.

My only real complaints about this movie, minor as they are, relate to the audio and video quality. Neither of them were bad, but they could have benefited from an anamorphic transfer and 5.1 audio. On my HDTV widescreen TV, the picture appeared letter-boxed on all four sides. Although the picture quality was quite acceptable, I find this 4-sided letterboxing an annoying inconvenience.

I should also point out there are a few extras on this DVD, but I have not had a chance to view them yet. Once I do, I'll update this part of the review.

If you enjoyed the documentary "Dogtown and Z-Boys", you will certainly enjoy this film as well, as it provides the next chapter in the history of skateboarding. If you haven't seen "Dogtown and Z-Boys", I recommend watching that first then watching "Rising Son" to complete your coursework for Skateboarding History 101.

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