Dolls of the Bronze Age

All quiet on the Western front? You bet not and guess what, neither on the East side for, on the very same day, longtime Cali-based cultural landmark of an institution Girl Skateboards and the more modern, New York City grown and proud collective Bronze (orchestrated by filmmaker Peter Sidlauskas) dropped their respective newest full-lengths on the New God that is YouTube (part of the Holy Tri-net-y alongside Instagram posts and Instagram stories). At first glance, opposites so polar (on the scale of one country, that is) the Earth might be felt stretching, and minds heard bending accordingly.

More than just of geographical nature, a certain cultural fault may also be felt due to the nearly complete two decades separating Girl's and Bronze's inceptions (1993 and 2001, respectively). Twenty years during which skateboarding has been growing, feeding off renewed influences, inspirations and horizons, exploring original directions and generating just as many styles resulting from the new generations picking up the activity along the years, first getting introduced to it at a given point of its everlasting mutation then eventually contributing to the nurture of the culture themselves.

In the case of both entreprises, they essentially are skater-ran initiatives fueled by love, devotion and sacrifice towards documenting their peers, representing the talents in their local scene and claiming their page of the book to leave their tag on.

Each video will drop you amid the eye of a completely different vortex, each descending (or ascending, your call) towards drastically contrasting universes. Being themselves (or trying to be their twenty-year-old selves?), the Girl guys (yeah, right!) go for the throat with their trademark-sharp cool guy card; as one familiar with the Crailtap camp would expect, the general vibe of the film perspires camaraderie to such an extent, upon getting drenched in smiles, jokes and hugs, the viewer can't help but ponder wild guesses as to how deeply Girl's management rules and regulations may or may not be influenced by communist ideologies, and exactly which ones. Again striking the chord of pure Crailtap tradition, the production of the video is refined, punctuated by B-sides and elaborated Colin Read skits (the greatest successor to Spike Jonze possible in that department), accurate editing and music choices for a polished output that may or may not feel too plastic-slick.

On the opposite end of some U.S.A-wide spectrum, Bronze gives way less damns, son; or at least they try to look like they do. Because "It's Time" to cut the crap, which implies calling out the exaggerations of the mainstream skateboarding industry (when not inviting to ponder the meaning of life altogether whilst mentally wandering around the depth of some Windows 3.11 screensaver-generated endless maze), by the means of creatively crafted instances of editing timeline prowess; but also the-actual-act-of-skating-wise, working toward representing their roots and expanding their horizons one clip at a time, with the raw energy and commitment of a blue collar. And said horizons are beginning to incorporate some European cityscapes it seems; a remarkable feat emphasizing on how kids from Brooklyn can dream of a recently renovated Le Dôme (that some of us may take for granted) on the same frequency as the European youth can similarly grow up aspiring to cross the ocean for in magazines, the most basic parking block or tetanus-radiating diamond plate bulkhead appears more exciting and tangible than whichever makeshift Disneyworld, and it just doesn't matter the coast (the same way Paris and Barcelona probably look equally exotic to the untrained tourist trying to catch those "foreign" vibes).

Anyhow, both camps' skateboarders get gnarly (but then again it's 2018), each and everyone in their own way(s), despite how the most nostalgic, longtime die-hard Girl fans will mourn a lack of footage from the OG's (but then again it's 2018), all classic tech pioneers and style icons. "Doll" fundamentally shines light on the amateurs: Niels Bennett and Griffin Gass clearly steal the show, all the while Simon Bannerot and Tyler Pacheco's merciless wave of improbable stunts sweeps around Andrew Brophy and Sean Malto's high jumps, and cameos by Mike Carroll or a visibly "Mouse"-era nostalgic Rick Howard. Obviously, the general level is incredible - to the point where the performance cult might start overshadowing the original essence of the brand. The traditional Girl aesthetic is carried all throughout the artistic direction very well, but not so much in the skateboarding. Having to renew yourself over and over as an established company of nearly thirty years in a context as effervescent as the modern skateboarding industry has to be some kind of impossible task - how do you keep up with tradition and direction in such an exponentially progressive activity at the same time, let alone in the long run? Girl has been paying more attention to their output as of late, most notably in terms of design, trying to revamp their look and freshen their vibe which eventually resulted in more interesting product, but at their point it would probably be a risky move - in terms of credibility and competitivity, especially in Cali - to showcase less accessible skating styles. Anyway, as far as general interest goes, Girl's new video "Doll" doesn't have to bat a fake eyelid in front of all the new age handrail chomping and impact-generating miracles recently performed and presented in the recent Foundation and Element videos: "Souvenir" and "Peace". All companies the name of which would fit right in a 2004 eMule search bar, and interestingly enough have followed completely different paths, exploring the possibilities and niches of the culture.

Meanwhile, the Bronze remains the same - twenty-two years after "Mouse", six years after "56K", on Uncle Sam's antipode of a coast and even beyond occasionally, now. Their cult following was dreading potential redundancy in the presentation, yet the editing of this new piece did turn out refreshing and entertaining, all the while clearly reeking of the bittersweet fragrance of Peter Sidlauskas' marvellously deranged universe (as well as all the cheap biters'). Some of the OG's are present, quite possibly due to them still being young and not in charge of leading a two-decade-old commercial empire: Billy McFeely, Shawn Powers, Mark Humienik share timeline progression with the likes of Josh Wilson, Dick Rizzo, Jacopo Carozzi, Nick Ferro and DC Shoes' cosplay fetish, Josh Shanahan. Of course the resulting video is rawer, grimier, more realistic and tangible (if you don't live at the skatepark). Some of the cameras used very well might be older than some of our readers (those of you who are more contemporary to the eponymous Circa video).

Before this review starts dwelling into more Eurocentric commentary (which it already long has), let's cut it short(-er) by just realizing that both films and enterprises are just independent labors of love who may not belong the same generations or speak the same language, yet stem from, and aims at communicating a similar energy that's intended to resonate with you emotionally and spark you up. The stoke is timeless, the reason why no one wants to ever see both Girl and Bronze go, and most likely exactly why regardless of your coast, age, personal background and tastes, you will end up watching both videos and hopefully relate to their fundamental essence (but then again it's 2018).

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