Top positive review
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The play ethic
on 22 November 2009
"The best skate film since Dogtown and Z-Boys" says the blurb on the cover.
You what? Beautiful Losers isn't a skate film. There is some skateboard footage in there, but it's not the theme of the film or even much of a feature of it.
Beautiful Losers is a retrospective documentary about a group of loosely connected artists and their early development as such during the early 1990s. The film is curiously downbeat, and despite the New York locus has more of a Midwestern vibe.
Some of the interviewees speak more interestingly than others - Steve Powers, Cheryl Dunn and Harmony Korine are all insightful and fascinating. Most of the others aren't. This isn't a criticism of their art or their respective personalities - not by any means. It's just that because of the editing or the way the interviews were conducted, there's a lot of thin chat: "my friends liked what I was doing, they said it was like, so rad" - do we really need to hear this? The interview with Mike Mills, the multitalented musician and sleeve designer/video director for Air, Beastie Boys, Sonic Youth, is particularly tedious. Which is a shame, because he's clearly an interesting guy who's done a lot of great stuff.
Yes, there was some kind of nexus between skateboarding, the DIY ethic, and some great, great art. But Beautiful losers fails to muster any kind of directorial vision.
The most interesting bit of the film: archive footage of Harmony Korine attempting a classic noise up whereby he 'threatens' a sixteen stone hell's angel with a banjo.
Packaging: A Jason Lee lookalike on a skateboard. Odd use of colour (drab/muted-lurid). The Region 2 edition's cover is undoubtedly misrepresentative of the film. Check the region 1 cover art - completely different.
Extras: no director's commentary here. Even if there was I wouldn't deploy it. However there is a handy 'scene selection' feature whereby you can go and select scenes. The DVD comes in a durable case constructed from injection moulded lightweight polymer, with a paper inlay.
3.5 rounded up to a 4 - directors Joshua Leonard and Aaron Page haven't made a bad or unlikeable film with Beautiful Losers, just one that doesn't have enough energy.