Ultimate X | Chicago Reader

Ultimate X

Writer/director Bruce Hendricks and an 80-person Imax camera crew document the 2001 Summer X Games in Philadelphia, where “extreme” athletes compete at skateboarding, BMX biking, motocross, and street luge. This pumped-up promo, produced by ESPN, never explains how the judges assign points or how corporate sponsors sign up stars, focusing instead on the young men soaring, spinning, and, in a free fall artfully prolonged by slow-motion effects, gyrating with their wheeled vehicles like cyborg dance partners. Minicameras on the athletes' helmets provide vertiginous point-of-view shots, and when cameras flash Hendricks syncs up sound effects of detonations. Stacy Peralta's documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys (2001) showed the LA surfer and skateboard subculture hijacked by endorsement deals; in contrast, Ultimate X suggests that the “extreme” ethos is less about marketing and media than about kids doing what they do best—showing off. 40 min.

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