Can’t Be Stopped



Last Friday night, after a very long week, my husband and I went to The Crest in Sacramento to see Can’t Be Stopped, of which we knew little about upon entering the theater. In fact, we were so clueless, we had no idea if it was a movie or a live show because the whole shabang took so long to get started (the movie was supposed to start at 8pm but didn’t until about 8:40pm)– really, I told you, we’re bad at going to watch movies!

The Crest is great because there is a lounge downstairs where you can eat and hang before the show. We were down there eating at the bar and a gentleman next to us said he was here to see the movie. We said us too. He replied “Who do you know?” I said “Absolutely no one! In fact, I have no idea what the movie is about other than graffiti.” He seemed impressed that two people would come see a movie without really knowing the premise. He told us he was a graffiti artist and showed us some of his work– he creates prints that he sticks up on walls. If you are familiar with Banksy, this is a similar approach of modern street artists.

When we went upstairs to get seated and the crowd was sparse. Also, I noticed that many people had their work with them– big binders full of laminated prints or a notebook. Many were doodling in their notebooks waiting for the movie to start.

A lot of acronyms emerged as two men joined on the stage to announce the starting of the film. CBS — Can’t Be Stopped — is not just the name of the film, but the name of the group of artists the film is about. The film starts in the 1980’s in LA– riots blasting the screen, flames, police brutality, etc. This demonstrated the environment that CBS was growing up in– who would bother a bunch of skater teens spray painting the walls when such violence and chaos was so prominent. The police simply had ‘better things’ to do. Though of course kids got in trouble if caught, but, really– they were not the central focus of LA law enforcement.

A central character in the film, Sk8, is a kind of founding father of CBS. He had a very tough upbringing (nearly everyone in the film had a rough life) — his mom kicked him out routinely; he was homeless from around the age of 13 I believe. So, Sk8 built a community — he was a kind, gentle, huge young man with an equally huge heart who just wanted to be loved. He brought in all kinds of people into CBS and essentially inspired artists to get out there and paint. It took kids away from drugs and gangs (mostly) — gave these young men something creative to put their frustrations into.

Sk8 dies — he gets hit by a train — some think it’s an accident; other’s don’t. He was 23 I think. It wasn’t a shock because they speak about him in past tense through the first half of the movie. But, how he dies, was a little jarring– they show video of him getting put on a gurney and wheeled off the railroad tracks.

His death inspired CBS to really go full throttle– they wanted Sk8 to always be remembered.

The movie goes on to document the commercialization of graffiti- being that this was during the punk rock era of the 80s and 90s, zines were all the rage, and graffiti artists pulled together publications to get their work out there. They painted hoodies and sold them, and so on–

The documentary has a home movie quality to it– the footage is from the era, mixed and matched together to tell the story with current interviews woven in between. It was more about the people than the actual art, which was where my husband felt a little distant. He loves Bansky– which is why I got tickets to this movie in the first place. However, we both enjoyed learning more about this group, how they evolved and where they are today.

The movie is a little too long if you are not “into” this group– I would say for outreach into communities or other artistic fronts, they should edit down a bit. There were a lot of redundancies but it felt genuine, which is why I didn’t really mind.

I’m glad we went to see this film. I will be looking for CBS tags wherever I go now!

2 comments on “Can’t Be Stopped”

  1. This sounds like a really interesting movie, and not at all the usual Hollywood or even art house fare. And I love that the people in the audience were doodling while the movie was showing–this kind of instant interactivity is something movie theaters should encourage more of, especially when targeting specific crowds with specific content. And kudos for going to see something that wasn’t even clear to begin with! It’s been a long time since I’ve lived in an urban graffiti environment–the complete antithesis of the suburbs where I am now–and I miss that swirling energy, the enormous verbiage and tagging, the statements of “here I am even without being here, I will always be here” that graffiti culture, pre-commercialization, shouts out to the world.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have a tendency to avoid reading the backs of books; or synopses of just about anything– I just like going in “blind”! Avoids bias/expectations — a little bit of science in my approach to art 🙂


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