Beautiful Losers is a documentary about the lives and work of a group of Do-It-Yourself artists. The film also addresses the subcultures these artists sprang from, such as skateboarding, surfing, and graffiti. The film was directed by Aaron Rose, who founded the Alleged Gallery in New York. He appears in the film along with a number of other artists. These include Mike Mills (director of Thumbsucker), Shepard Fairey (creator of the Obama “Hope” poster), pro-skateboarder Ed Templeton, and various others. More after the jump.
Beautiful Losers is a portrait of the experiences of the group of artists known as being part of the “Beautiful Losers” movement. They all began as teenage outcasts who found an outlet in art and in the cultures of skateboarding, surfing, etc. Their humble, “street art” beginnings have led to success in various domains. It’s one of those stories of people who went from being losers to being internationally recognized. Though they all have lived undeniably interesting lives, the film tells a story that has been told countless time before.
The film mixes old footage of the artists working, hanging out, and exhibiting their work with interviews and new video of the artists creating. The film jumps around a bit, covering topics such as how they began, what their lives were like growing up, and how they feel about commercializing what began as an underground movement. The questions and answers are exactly what you’d expect, including the inevitable high art vs. low art controversy.
The most interesting aspect of the film is the art itself. The footage of the artists at work is especially fascinating. I liked that the film included some of the commercial art that these artists have created. Oftentimes, there’s the issue of “selling out,” but you could see through the film that these artists stayed true to their vision while still being able to pay the bills.
An introduction to each of the artists and their work could have been useful. In fact, the overall film could have used more organization. There are some moments that seem random and might have been more useful as part of a deleted scenes segment. The film seems longer than it actually is, and I kept feeling like it was about to end.
Some parts of the film seemed too excessive to me. For example, one interview takes place while an artist is getting a haircut. Of course I imagined that a documentary by and about do-it-yourself artists was not going to be stiff and serious, but this interview made me feel like it was trying too hard. I also can’t resist mentioning that one interviewee actually managed to fit gnarly, stoked, and righteous in the same sentence.
Even though the film could use more focus and isn’t the most original concept, I found it generally entertaining. From the nicely designed opening titles, I knew I’d be exposed to cool, accessible art, and I wasn’t disappointed in that regard. If there was one thing the film did best, it was leave me itching to create. Art supplies are now on my shopping list.
Special Features: The DVD includes “Make Something With…” videos, with a list of artists to choose from. Unfortunately, the title is a little deceiving. If you’re imagining little featurettes with cool tips for designing a skateboard, for example, don’t get too excited. The videos are instead a look at workshops these artists held with kids, teaching them about being creative. Once you get over the title, it’s nice to see that these artists, who speak a lot about community, are actually doing something that helps theirs.
Special Features: B