It’s been a long time coming and the ads over the past 18 months have certainly fueled our expectant minds, but Emerica’s ‘Stay Gold’ certainly lives up to the promise. I don’t usually venture out to skate film premieres these days (the last one I went to was probably ‘Public Domain’ at the National Film Theatre in 1989), but I actually wanted to see this one in the cinema. Well, unlucky me: a prearranged client meeting put paid to any leisure activities on the evening of 26th August. Messageboards blew up with news and early reports and I did my best to ignore leaked footage and spoilers so that I could approach viewing with a clear mind. You have no idea how difficult this was.
I wouldn’t normally pay for a download – call me ‘old school’, but having the physical DVD is far more appealing when it comes to parting with money – but I dropped the £5.99 via iTunes and purchased an official copy of ‘Stay Gold’.
A physical copy is on the way, and I’ll update this review when it arrives, but in the meantime let’s run through the feature presentation.
(Big thanks to Tom at Sole Tech for dropping me the DVD in the mail: see the bottom of this review for a DVD-specific additional section)
Firstly, it may or may not surprise you to find out that this is unofficially Heath Kirchart’s retirement video. The guy’s smashed it for years (I first saw him in Birdhouse’s ‘Ravers’ back in ’93) and when you look at what he’s accomplished since then, he’s been at the top of his game for the best part of a decade. Read the full run-through of Heath’s part towards the end of this page.
The opening sequence is slick. I really like the combination of Jon Miner and Mike Manzoori behind the cameras and the edit desk: the result is far more cinematic than a lot of other skate films and easier to stomach on repeated viewings. Handdrawn typography, the green tint to the footage and other devices such as vignetting and careful use of slow motion gives a relaxed and immersive feel. One thing I had heard was that the video was tough going in places because of the repeated hammers being thrown left, right and centre. Whilst that’s true to certain extent, there’s enough variety from section to section to keep things interesting.
Brandon Westgate. Jesus Christ. What an opening section. I’d seen a fair bit of him (the Zoo York DVD springs to mind), but this section elevates him to a new level. On the topic of elevation, he’s a contender for having the biggest pop out of anyone at the moment. Comparing him to Busenitz or Cardiel is being lazy, but there are definite similarities: confidence, speed and style being three common characteristics they all share. My favourite trick of his section? Probably the massive driveway/rail clearance when he’s bombing the hills of San Francisco. Seriously impressive.
Bryan Herman follows with an entire block’s worth of kickflip nose manual and some schoolyard picnic-table/bench destruction before his section truly starts. Big rails and big tricks all popped and landed solidly. The hardflip at Bercy in Paris was particularly insane. Marquis Preston doesn’t seem to be restricted by his choice in drainpipe trousers: lots of large steps and rails get annihilated in his part. Spanky’s section – Kevin Long, to his parents – is short but good fun (the backside tailslide bigspin out on the brick banks was smooth and being able to cry on command is fairly unique) and Collin Provost shows that he can cruise a skatepark properly and drop some ridiculous tricks into the mix as well (the 270° ollie flip into the painted red bank was amazing). Little Jamie Tancowny starts with a harsh slam before proving that he’s pro material with a part that’s packed with man-sized tricks. I’ve seen enough crooked grinds on handrails to last me a lifetime, but the one down the kinker he does is as good as they get. Aaron Suski… what can you say? A killer part with a mix of power that’s best summed up by the reaction of the schoolchildren when he clears the ramp/rail. This man deserves a pro shoe, in my opinion. Braydon Szafranski might wear some illegal clothes by my standards but damn he can skate: great smooth lines and plenty of big tricks to keep the hammer count high.
Justin ‘Figgy’ Figueroa skates fast and can do every trick you can do on a flatbar but on a full sized handrail. You could sit and pick out individual tricks (his kickflip smith grind, for example), but it’s best watched as a whole part. Jerry Hsu has been plagued with injuries – his opening montage will convince you of that, in case you thought he was being lazy – but what he does show in his short part is amazing. Switch tailslide over the ‘rainbow’ rail was frickin’ incredible.
Leo Romero goes up handrails as you might have seen in photos before, but he does a hell of a lot more as well. One of my favourite sections in the whole film, he does some seriously impressive stuff going at mach one: frontside half-cab boardslide to fakie, a sick nosegrind nollie big heel out on a picnic table, a l-o-n-g double kinker 5-0 grind and an amazing 50-50 up a proper handrail at the end. Surpassed my expectations, which were already high enough.
Who else but The Boss could end this one? Andrew Reynolds in ‘Stay Gold’ has one of the best ending parts of any skate video yet. If you’re a fan (and, c’mon, who isn’t?), you can rest assured that you’ll enjoy this one. Speed and energy go without saying, but it’s the style of his skating that makes it so pleasurable to watch. In a video that is crammed full of pneumatic-level hammering, Reynolds follows the formula but makes it look like no-one else’s section. Watch his line with the backside 360 down the stairs and then the kickflip down the next set: if you couldn’t see the stairs, you’d think he was doing them down curbs. A frontside flip down another massive set of stairs is celebrated by having a puff on the lit cigarette he’s holding in his hand. The nonchalance is in override.
The outro and credits show little clips of Chris Senn and Ed Templeton – yeah, I’d hoped for full sections from both, but a little is better than none – before Marisa Dal Santo and Ben Krahn give us a glimpse of their skills.
Time for some data:
1) The main feature clocks in at 56 minutes and 47 seconds long.
2) There are numerous Easter Eggs hidden in the DVD: Heath Kerchart’s section is one, a Barrier Kult section is another. There’s also a flow team section, an Andrew Reynolds bonus part, a Euro team section… and probably some other bits hiding in there as well.
3) The deluxe edition of ‘Stay Gold’ comes with a dope book of Ed Templeton’s photography of the Emerica team from the past ten years. I’ll update this review with a breakdown on that when it arrives.
The ‘Stay Gold’ soundtrack is pretty cool. Some mellow guitar stuff and a few heavier bits and pieces, which suits the style of the film perfectly. Data collectors, here’s a full tracklist for you:
‘Stay Gold’ soundtrack: main feature:
Intro Dead Meadow ‘Through The Gates Of The Sleepy Silver Door’
Brandon Westgate Earthless ‘Jull’
Bryan Herman #1 Tom Waits ‘Top Of The Hill’
Bryan Herman #2 Black Sabbath ‘Fairies Wear Boots’
Marquis Preston John Cale ‘Big White Cloud’
Kevin Long Captain Beefheart ‘Electicity’
Collin Provost Dead Meadow ‘Green Sky Green Lake’
Jamie Tancowny Comets on Fire ‘The Swallow’s Eye’
Aaron Suski Flower Travlin’ Band ‘Satori Pt. 2′
Braydon Szafranski Hawkwind ‘We Took The Wrong Steps Years Ago’
Justin Figueroa Dead Meadow ‘That Old Temple’
Jerry Hsu Ultimate Spinach III ‘Somedays You Just Can’t Win’
Leo Romero Mott the Hoople ‘Thunderbuck Ram’
Andrew Reynolds Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros ‘Om Nashi Me’
Credits Earthless ‘No Road To Follow’
‘Stay Gold’ soundtrack: bonus sections and Easter egg soundtrack:
Andrew Reynolds & The Madness #1 Chali 2na ’4 Be Be’ (Instrumental)
Andrew Reynolds & The Madness #2 Chali 2na ‘Controlled Conscience’ (instrumental)
Andrew Reynolds & The Madness #3 Years ‘Don’t Let The Blind Go Deaf’
Ed Templeton Stay Gold Deluxe Tristeza ‘Golden Hill’
Emerica Europe #1 Graveyard ‘Lost in Confusion’
Emerica Europe #2 Earthless ‘Devil-Eyed Woman’
International Montage Sleep ‘Aquarian’
Heath Kirchart Joy Division ‘Atmosphere’
So the iTunes download is a cheaper alternative for those who want something convenient for the laptop or iPod, but the physical DVD is the way forwards for those who want to wring every last morsel from ‘Stay Gold’. The DVD contents and timings are as follows:
Stay Gold Main Feature: 56:41
Andrew Reynolds And The Madness (DVD bonus): 13:19
Ed Templeton – Stay Gold Deluxe (DVD bonus): 6:18
Emerica Europe (DVD bonus): 8:23
International Montage (DVD bonus): 5:34
Flow Bros (DVD bonus): 7:47
Heath Kirchart (DVD easter egg): 3:34
Barrier Kult (DVD easter egg): 3:46
You can find Heath Kirchart’s section by doing the following maneuvers with your DVD remote control:
Go to ‘Chapters’ – and then press up.
The highlighted menu link will go away: then press ‘Enter’.
Allow jaw to lower to ground level.
The main feature will play as normal, but it’s prefaced with what’s rumoured to be Heath’s last video part of his skating career. And what a part it is. Of the 3 and a half minutes of footage, a good chunk is older footage you’ve already seen in previous videos. That doesn’t matter. All it does is remind us just how amazing Heath was and is.
The few new tricks in this section are just as good as you’d expect – the downhill street line only has two ‘basic’ tricks in it, but no-one else could do them like that – and his last trick is… well… just watch it for yourself. He might have a permanent facial expression that looks like someone’s just set fire to his pet dog, but that only adds to the legend. Skating’s gonna miss you.
My personal favourite DVD-only part is ‘Andrew Reynolds and the Madness’. I’m a big fan of The Boss (again, someone who I first saw when I picked up Birdhouse’s ‘Ravers’ VHS tape), both as a skater and his personality. The episodes of ‘Epicly Later’d’ with Andrew were some of the best filmed, so to watch another little insight into the man’s character is really interesting stuff. Rather than come across as being weird or eccentric, he shows that no matter how good you are at something, you’re just the same as everyone else in many ways: we’ve all got out own ticks and habits. Watching him land a perfect noseslide 270° out on a handrail repeatedly or the tricks at Bercy again and again and again is amazing. A true perfectionist – and a true professional in the real sense of the word.
The Barrier Kult Easter egg part is viewed by following this sequence:
Click into the Bonus menu.
Select ‘Andrew Reynolds and the Madness’ – and then hit ‘left arrow’ and ‘Enter’.
It’s almost 4 minutes of concrete destruction, with bare chests, masks and noisy metal guitars. If this doesn’t induce bedwetting, nothing will. The other bonus sections are just as worthwhile, but picking the entire contents of every section apart is boring to read when you could be watching it for yourself on the TV.
If you care about the future of skate films, then bonus parts and Easter eggs on the DVDs are the way forwards. The iTunes download is great for convenience, but with so many extras on the physical DVD disc, you’d be crazy to turn it down. Not to mention the excellent design and packaging: simple, but premium. ‘Stay Gold’ isn’t one to sit and watch on YouTube or via crappy-quality downloads: you’re shortchanging your experience if that’s how you choose to view it.
This is a proper cinematic skateboarding experience. Thank you Emerica.
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