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Hill Pens Hymn to Skateboard Culture with Mid90s

Hill+is+obviously+enamored+with+%E2%80%9990s+hip-hop+and+skateboard+culture%2C+and+Mid90s+serves+as+a+eulogy.+%28Courtesy+of+Facebook%29
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Hill Pens Hymn to Skateboard Culture with Mid90s

Hill is obviously enamored with ’90s hip-hop and skateboard culture, and Mid90s serves as a eulogy. (Courtesy of Facebook)

Hill is obviously enamored with ’90s hip-hop and skateboard culture, and Mid90s serves as a eulogy. (Courtesy of Facebook)

Hill is obviously enamored with ’90s hip-hop and skateboard culture, and Mid90s serves as a eulogy. (Courtesy of Facebook)

Hill is obviously enamored with ’90s hip-hop and skateboard culture, and Mid90s serves as a eulogy. (Courtesy of Facebook)


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By Kieran Press-Reynolds

This isn’t Jonah Hill’s first rodeo.

Most people would not know, but in 2017, he directed the excellent, three minute music video for rapper Danny Brown’s “Ain’t It Funny.”

While Mid90s is feature-length, it does not feel much longer: the film is a whir of skating and smoking, and by the end of its 84 minutes, you will be yearning for more.

Hill is obviously enamored with ’90s hip-hop and skateboard culture, and Mid90s serves as a eulogy.

It is a coming-of-age story set in Los Angeles that follows 13 year-old Stevie (Sunny Suljic), as he begins to hang out with four older skateboarders.

Initially, I was apprehensive. The film is presented in the old-school box-shaped 4:3 format, which is jarring to see on a huge theater widescreen.

It was also shot on Super 16mm film, which provides that sort of trite, grainy vintage aesthetic.

There was also some funky audio editing in the first scene as Stevie’s older brother Ian (Lucas Hedges) wails on him, each punch sounding strikingly loud and a little syncopated.

It all seemed like Hill was screaming, “this is artsy!”

But Mid90s is earnest. For these boys, who come mostly from poor backgrounds, life is ugly. Hill does a great job at stressing skateboarding as a source of release, happiness and identity.

At the beginning of the film, Stevie is lost. It does not seem like he has many friends, and his brother, who he looks up to, treats him terribly.

His new skateboarding friends practically become his family, and his personality changes so drastically throughout the film to reflect their influence on his development.

Sometimes, it does feel almost like a glorification of the “do anything to be cool” mindset, as displayed in Stevie’s willingness to do crazy thing. Yet, there are a plenty of sobering moments as well.

The relationship between the group’s two leaders, Ray (Na-kel Smith) and F***s*** (Olan Prenatt), is particularly profound.

As childhood best friends, they dreamt of becoming professional skaters.

Now, F***s*** is somewhat of a deadbeat, determined to party nonstop and drink his life away.

However, Ray is still insistent on his dream and we watch as the bond between the two friends begins to crumble.

There is a scene where Ray is speaking to a couple professionals, and F***s*** comes over intoxicated, ruining the mood. This is especially tragic to watch.

The movie also succeeds because of the incredible attention to detail, from the graphic tees to the soundtrack to the lexicon (lots of homophobia).

The mise-en-scène is beautiful, and highlights how much effort Hill put into making Mid90s period-perfect.

He said in interviews how much he cared specifically about trash, killing himself over recreating the most authentic ’90s skate park environment possible by using only the most faithful styles of trash (like ’90s Doritos bags).

The only problem I had was that the plot seemed fashioned.

Some moments were not realistic at all (like Stevie hooking up with a much older girl at a party), and with the film’s such short runtime, they were not given breathing space.

It felt like many impractical things were happening one after the other.

Mid90s is an excellent exercise in aesthetic, and it will be interesting to see what Hill does next.

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