So how does a painter like a lowrider movie?
Intially, funny enough I was reluctant to see the movie. I think the lame title "Lowriders" kind of off put me intially. I think I really like a poetic title like say "Blood in, Blood out", which really dove deep into criminal gangs and the routes it takes. In this movie, you have a graffiti artist working with his father in his garage doing low rider projects on the side. I think they captured a bit how graffiti artists are pursued endlessly by the police in one scene, but not how this can lead to multiple criminal behaviors like stealing tons of paint to tag and the property damage it can cause. I think most graffiti artists try to claim unused spots like heavens (backs of highway signs) or building roof tops, but sometimes can be blurry as some taggers hit businesses and really cause the neiighborhood to decline as property is tagged openly. The movie glosses over a bit how agressive the LA police department can react to tagging and any illegal graffiti. Of course, they are trying to do a movie, so you have to boil down the scenes to fit.
I love the dynamic of how the younger brother is an aspiring artist that really hasn't gotten into serious trouble while his brother is fresh out of prison. He has this mysterious kind of gang name "Ghost", which is revealed later in the movie to its origin. There is this undertone of family torn apart based on the 8 years the older brother Ghost played by Theo Rossi and how a prison sentence can fundamentally change a family dynamic. There is also the risk that the older brother can pull the younger one into a life of crime as his car gang is running more like a gang vs. car club. The lines get blurry as members are in and out of jail.
Again another pivotal family member shaping the dynasty of the main character Danny played by Gabriel Chavarria. His father has all this great baggage of an ex-wife that ended wrongly and you wonder why as the audience, later to be reveiled. As well as his reluctance to see his older son Francisco that went to jail. There is also the underlying bitterness of both sons at the new wife Gloria played by Eva Longoria. She kind of enjoyed the better version of the father by getting him off alcohol and into Alcoholics Anonymous after his first wife left. It really emphasizes the challenge of a step family after the first generation is almost grown up.
Well, being a lowrider movie, you have to have the true low riders in the film. These are too legit and authentic through and through on the cars. It really captures the culture of the cars and how the rivalries in various car owners runs deep in the community in East LA. One of the coolest aspects is they tell the tale of how the hydraulics systems became so crucial element in lowriders. Basically, the the lowered cars became illegal and then the hydraulics allowed the lowriders to persist and maintain street legal height. From there it became an art form.
How have these types of cars impacted other cultures?
One of the true connections was to street rap in the 1990s. One of the masters of using these cars to fully establish street cred was Snoop Dogg and his 64. He was taking off of Ice Cube's early use of lowriders as part of NWA and later Ice Cube. These cars became part of hip hop beyond the original Latino East LA barrio per say.
Well, there is a small subplot of the graffiti artist falling for a white girl that isn't Latino. She turns out to be a photographer and becomes enamored of his mural work. She later introduces him to a gallery owner that is reaching out to street art. She kind of messes up by misinterpreting his empty face murals as being him distancing himself from his culture when it really is because he is waiting to discover the face of his biological mother, whose face he forgot.
How would you improve the film?
Initially, I thought that maybe there should have been a lot more Spanish or Spanglish in the film, but my wife pointed out that at the 3rd generation, they likely just have a few phrases left, so may be authentic in this aspect. I felt that the threat of the police chasing graffiti artists could have been more accentuated, but there are limits to how many scenes you can show in one film. Some parts of the film seem a bit stiff like the police not running the brother off the road, but just pulling him other in the end. I really did like how the younger brother turned around the desperate car situation near the end of the movie, which led to his own success. All in all its a fairly solid film without all the fluff of CGI in say a Fast and Furious.
Can you relate to the mixed dating in the film?
Yes, I can. I had in college a Mexican American girlfriend, who played in Mariachi, which is about as Mexican as you get. I felt a bit of the crossing cultures feel that the white girlfriend played by Melissa Benoist had to play in the film. Definitely, had a bit of angst as I had to stay at the family house after missing my train back to my house in the summer.
Well, although my brother and I did some illegal acts back in the day (can't say right now), luckily we both didn't go to prison although my brother definitely came very close and eventually resettled from Chicago to the country side to avoid in future run-ins with the law.
The other times I related in the film is I had a upper class friend in Poland when I lived there that always like to get drunk and would always drive drunk. Eventually, his recklessness caught up with him and he ran over someone in Warsaw. He ended up going to prison for several years. It was such a waste as he had PhD parents, so definitely had the smarts to do a lot of things. He had little drive though outside of drinking and his parents tolerated his developing bad behavior until it was too late to turn back the clock.
In high school, I also knew a black guy that ended up getting arrested for murder as well. Luckily in both cases I ended the friendship as I saw them going down the wrong paths early enough. That's the best protection you can give a kid is a sixth sense of when to avoid danger after 15 or so. The situation was similar to the movie in that after he got out of prison, I never forgave him for taking a young girl's life and broke off the relationship permanently.
Have you ever thought of getting into air paint spraying or graffiti?
I have done some minor graffiti, mostly stickers and a bit of street art with wheat pasting. I have a Trump one I am doing right now. In general, though I run a very low profile as getting caught for graffiti can lead to felony and jail time. When I was younger my mom gave me an air gun, but it never caught my taste. I think if I had been exposed to real spray graffiti then I might have jumped at it. Where I lived in the suburbs, I didn't see much beyond tagging, so the real city graffiti was kind of a hidden world I later discovered on Flickr, Instagram and Facebook.