Deformer (2000) - Essay



Deformer (2000)

Beautiful Losers is a documentary by Aaron Rose and Joshua Leonard about people with whom I identify. Skate kids, suburban punkers, people trying to make a life for themselves and art for themselves in the blankness of Orange County (among other places, of course).

On December 5th, Rose curated a short film night at Cinefamily with works from the Beautiful Loserscrowd. The two stand outs were Mike Mills' Deformer and a mini-documentary by Tobin Yelland about the two sides of a fight. Two interviews: the skate kid who got his head kicked in trying to defend a friend, and the towering bro who did the pummeling. Yelland's movie was my favorite; a nugget of gold all of two minutes long (maybe three?), hilarious and sad and completely neutral. I still don't know who started the fight or which story is closer to the truth or who deserved what, but I do know that the bro was on his way to the "beer store" after watching some Ultimate Fighting Championship, and was totally impressed by his ability to crush a couple of stupid skate motherfuckers. I loved it. It made me want to pick up a camera and point it at my friends and talk about life.

Deformer by Mike Mills was my second favorite. It is a portrait of nineties Orange County that rings very true to me. It sounds like Mills was shocked to learn that Ed Templeton lived in Huntington Beach, and went in to document his paintings and art and surroundings. Strange seeing Templeton holed up, painting in the taupe and beige rooms with white popcorned ceilings of every track home I have ever been in, imagining him eventually producing the red horned demon that would grace so many Toy Machine shirts worn by skate kids living in their own taupe and beige rooms with white popcorned ceilings. Mills points the camera at a couple of kids, fifteen maybe, weezing from smoke talking about divorce and the expectation of a track home kid, perfection expected but here they are, fuck ups nonetheless. These are kids that I knew, little pockets of subculture I never really dove into but was always a part of.

Unfortunately these movies are kind of hard to find. Rose played most of them out of a box of VHS tapes he dug from his closet. You can see a foreshortened intro clip to "Deformer" here, but it doesn't capture the tone or scope of the 20ish minute movie at all. I want to say the shots themselves have been cut down a little bit, too. It is available in full as a special feature on the DVD of his film "Paper Boys," which I will have to check out. Yelland's fight documentary is surely a rarity. I clicked around his website looking for hints, googled to no avail. I sent Yelland an email asking about its availability, so if anything comes up, I'll let you know.