STOKED tells the story of 80s skateboarding icon and convicted killer Mark "Gator" Rogowski. Spanning a decade from the early 80s to early 90s, STOKED is the fascinating character study of a young man's development, couched within the social and historical framework of skateboarding's biggest era. STOKED takes a trip to the 'in-your-face' era of 80s youth pop culture, exploring the mechanism of fame and its darker consequences in one man. A thoughtful and energetic look back at the apex of punk rock, neon jams, and the early days of MTV, the archival documentary follows skateboarding from its grass roots in Southern California backyards to an international phenomenon. Featuring skateboarding legends such as Tony Hawk, Stacy Peralta, Lance Mountain, Steve Caballero, and testimony from Mark "Gator" Rogowski from behind bars, STOKED dramatically reveals for the first time the factors leading to a hero's tragic fall from grace, and the unyielding spirit that allows skateboarding to ... Written by
This film doubles as a peerless document of skateboarding as a legitimate American phenomenon *and* an unflinching look into the dark and doomed life of Mark Rogowski.
Ms. Stickler deftly handles the thrill of Rogowski's career triumphs and the chilling fall from grace that no one could have anticipated or, sadly, prevented.
'Stoked' stands bravely as neither celebratory nor exploitive; nor does it presume to answer 'Why?'. Instead, like the Maysles brothers' finest work, this film presents a 'fly on the wall' look at the Who, What, Where, and How with the precision and objectivity of a postmortem exam.
It's tough to successfully reconcile the duality this film presents to its audience - the great retrospective fun of high octane 80s culture sits uncomfortably next to what is essentially a grim and unsettling story. Viewers have to sort out for themselves if Rogowski's doom was a product of his huge fame and subsequent & abrupt fall from the top, or if it was, sadly, bound to happen anyway.
Rogowski could have been one of those elementary school teachers or office workers or Home Depot employees gone bad in what would have been an otherwise anonymous American murder story - but he wasn't: he was Gator. And as the authorities & families involved (and perhaps most tellingly, the friends & skaters in the periphery) in this dark tale will tell you, that may have made all the difference in the world.
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