Stoked: The Rise and Fall of Gator (2002)

Genres - History, Sports & Recreation  |   Sub-Genres - Biography, Law & Crime, Extreme Sports  |   Release Date - Aug 22, 2003 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 82 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Josh Ralske

Stoked: The Rise and Fall of Gator is a consistently compelling documentary about the tragic downfall of early skateboard star Mark "Gator" Rogowski, who brought short-lived celebrity and glamour to the skating world before crashing and burning as styles changed and he failed to adjust. Gator eventually ended up in prison for rape and murder, and the film includes a telephone interview in which he expresses his remorse. Filmmaker Helen Stickler tells the story with compassion and insight, interviewing friends and fellow skaters in an effort to piece together how the talented, charismatic young man could have fallen to such depths. She captures the way skater culture -- rooted in antiauthoritarian, youthful rebellion -- turned on Gator when his success made him a more corporate figure, and changing styles rendered his brand of skating (in addition to the actual brand that sponsored him) obsolete. There's a sardonically funny clip of Gator's ill-fated appearance on Club MTV, during which he reportedly got upset because hostess "Downtown" Julie Brown wouldn't speak to him off-camera. By then, however, both of their respective career paths had started on a downward trajectory. Stickler offers an absorbing and valuable analysis of skate culture and its discontents, but doesn't spend quite enough time on the young man himself. While there are passing references to the father Rogowski never knew, the film spends surprisingly little time exploring his home life and the forces that shaped him. Still, overall, Stoked is a near-perfect time capsule of a specific moment in our culture, and a telling analysis of instant celebrity and the fickleness of youth culture in general.