Directed by Stacy Peralta.
Written by Stacy Peralta and Sam George.
Release Year: 2004
Review Date: 6/26/04
and Z-Boys", so when my friend Tricia dropped a line that
started with "Do you want to see 'Riding Giants' for free?", I said
it's go time. "Riding Giants" is directed by Stacy Peralta,
the man that helped me learn about skateboarding with his classic
skate film from two years ago, so I was eager to see what I could
learn about this next endeavor--the history of big-wave surfing.
While "Riding Giants" doesn't blow you away
like "Dogtown" does, it's still an awesome spectacle, thanks to tons
of surf sequences--sans special effects, stunt guys & gals or
CGI--that were shot as much as fifty years ago and remain intriguing
even today, as we watch some of the sport's earlier stars go at it
in big waves off the coast of California and Hawaii and later
Tahiti. Much like "Dogtown", Peralta does a great job of
mixing the sport with its subculture (or is it counterculture?
I can never keep it straight) by showing us lots of scenes early on
where men are hangin' out with other men, shooting the shit, hangin'
out and passing the day for ten to twelve hours a day on their
boards. We cover some of the big names of the 1950s and '60s.
We get info on the evolution of the surfboard. We get the
progression of events from big swells in Southern California, to
bigger swells off the coast of Hawaii, to huge swells at the
Mavericks near Half Moon Bay in San Francisco. We get the
requisite "Blankety-blank was the biggest fuckin' wave I've ever
witnessed!!" bits, as well as the "Blankety-blank was the greatest
fuckin' surfer that's ever walked the earth!" bits. (As noted
in other Bellviews, I love these scenes more than any other in the
modern documentary: the "holy fucking shit" scenes, like in
"Standing in the Shadows of Motown", Funk Brothers bassist James
Jameson, who is I think called "the greatest bass guitarist in the
history of mankind" a couple of times, and it's even sweeter because
he's dead, and no one even questions Jameson's greatness.
The soundtrack for "Riding Giants" is almost
as good as the cinematography for many of the surf scenes; going
from 50's rock to modern house music, the music is never sleepy, but
when it is, it's more dreamy than drowsy; the beauty of riding a big
wave is captured so well in this film, you do get caught marveling
at how cool it looks in motion, especially in the later scenes with
Laird Hamilton, since there are more helicopter shots available and
the angles are just fuckin' cool at times.
For me, having seen "Dogtown", the setup of
Peralta's current offering makes you feel like you are in familiar
territory while watching "Riding Giants", and this is not a
positive. Sure, I learned a lot, but the structure just felt a
little hackneyed and so the buildup to the film's big moment--a 2000
ride with Hamilton that many consider the greatest moment in the
sport's history--didn't pound me like the sequence in "Dogtown"
where skaters started using empty pools as half-pipes instead of
roller rinks, for example. Also, a couple of the film's
talking heads seem to be saying the same thing over and over again,
and then you realize, they ARE saying the same thing over and over
again, just for different eras of the sport's chronology.
I went to the showing at Mazza Gallerie
recently, and Peralta and a couple of the film's stars were at the
Q&A session afterwards; I didn't even stay, because I just wasn't as
in love with surfing as I was with skateboarding after watching "Dogtown"
and didn't really have much to ask the filmmakers. But, you
should see this film for, if anything, the incredible surf footage,
marked by some oftentimes colorful commentary and some cool-looking
wipeouts by a ton of surfers. As long as nobody dies, how cool
(Note: This film opens in limited
release July 16th, 2004.)
Rating: $9.50 Show
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard