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Skateaway

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Fame, groupies, booze, murder. Stoked: The Rise and Fall of Gator, Helen Stickler's documentary about the world of professional skateboarding, has it all. You don't have to know the difference between vertical and street-style skating to be engrossed by the film's account of a skateboard star's reversals of fortune.

Stickler recounts how the skateboarding subculture emerged in the early 1980s and Mark "Gator" Rogowski rode the pastime to fame. A charismatic contest winner popular with fans, Gator signed an endorsement deal and began earning a fortune. (One interviewee estimates that some skaters earned $20,000 a month on board sales alone.) In an era of legal crackdowns on boarding, Gator embodied the sport's rebelliousness while, paradoxically, eagerly cashing in on it.

When Gator started to hobnob with pop stars, he tried to extend his celebrity and changed his name to Mark Anthony. But when the popularity of "vert skating" (executed on ramps or in empty swimming pools) gave way to street skating, Gator couldn't adapt, and footage in the documentary captures him having tantrums as he struggles to skate the new way. Meanwhile, his boozing, hard-partying ways grew increasingly violent and self-destructive.

Fittingly for a film that includes footage from MTV, Stoked masters that VH1 "Behind the Music" narrative style, driven by memorable soundbites, private and public video clips, a lively pop soundtrack and a subject matter that's familiar if not universal. Stickler rounds up plenty of charming weirdos and burn-outs to interview, with former skater Jason Jessee coming across like a hazy Steven Zahn type.

Ultimately Gator's demons get the upper hand, and Stoked offers the chilling details of a ghastly crime he commits and almost gets away with. Stoked ends on a note of nostalgia for the lifestyle's early days, and grieves that one young man could go from being skateboarding's golden boy to its poster boy. Opens Sept. 26 at Landmark Midtown Art Cinema.

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