We review this year's crop of ski flicks, not that they could compare to
Better Off Dead.
Before I go spouting my opinions about this year's crop of ski flicks, I need to set a reference point. The greatest ski movie of all time was 1985's less-than-smash hit Better Off Dead,starring John Cusack. And here's why: For starters, it had a plot -- something about paper routes, popularity, and a wannabe drug addict named Charles Dumar. But more important, it elevated skiing to a philosophical and, one might say, spiritual plane. In it, a single ski run (the K-12) became a metaphor for life, letting us all in on a big secret to conquering any struggle we might ever encounter: "Go that way, really fast. If something gets in your way...turn."
While none of this year's flicks approach Better Off Dead'slofty standards, they sure as hell do get you psyched to ski. And that's got to be good for something.
This movie oozes cool from the get-go. It has the slickest opening to a ski flick I've ever seen; and though you'd think it would be hard to keep a plotless ski movie interesting after such a spectacular start, Ski Moviehad me pulling mental back flips the entire time. A word of caution: This movie is not for discriminating ears -- I'm guessing that whoever decided putting skiers behind the mike would be a good idea is also behind boy bands.
THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT McCONKEY
A tribute to the granddaddy of fat-skied freeskiing, There's Something About McConkeyis the best ski film of this bunch for the singular reason that, like Shane McConkey himself, it doesn't take itself seriously. McConkey is the John Holmes of ski porn, the king of gnarly self-sacrifice, the god of goofy alter egos (like Saucer Boy), and the guy at the party everyone is keeping an eye on, expecting him to do something entertaining. He always delivers.
The folks at Wind-Up Films surprise us every year with their style -- something you could almost call artsy. An unpretentious flick with a kicking indie-band soundtrack, Tee-Timeuses odd camera angles and a mix of film types to blend together today's new schoolers, yesterday's hotdoggers, and weird travel scenes from around the world in a way that leaves you feeling nothing but good. In other words, it's different, which is probably why we like it so much.
It was a cool idea: Turn the editing room over to a bunch of ski stars and let them create their own segments, then have the fans vote on who rocked hardest. But some skiers got longer segments than others, and almost everyone had footage from the same locations, so everyone looks the same. Bottom line: All these skiers rip; the only way to make a choice is to pick whoever plays the best music. Shane Szocs won it for me.
Poor Boyz Productions
PARENTAL ADVISORY 1
Take the Wu-Tang Clan, put them in charge of Maxim magazine, give them a sports-film division, add 30 gallons of whiskey, stir, and you might come up with Parental Advisory 1.The film was dedicated to late, great Whistler skier Brett Carlson, but I couldn't help feeling that the dedication was misdirected. Impressive skiing, but the transitional sequences (skiers getting wasted and throwing gang signs; a nasty, Darth Vader-looking, cop-killing cartoon) get old fast.
Heavy Hitting Films
The kings of big-mountain freeskiing footie dish out another healthy serving of daydream fodder. While most ski flicks are dealing more and more in reality -- people ripping it up at their local terrain parks -- TGR makes you want to quit your ski-bum llifestyle and start making some greenbacks so that someday you, too, can trade in your twin tips for a pair of fatties and taste the deep, heli-access-only Alaskan powder that this film serves up in mouthwatering doses.
Teton Gravity Research
BETTER THAN BETTER OFF DEAD?
If you prefer movies with plots, check out Scrapple.The story of Al Dean, a 'froed-out small-time drug dealer with dreams of buying a house in the mythical '70s ski town of Ajax, Colorado, Scrapple,released in 1998, has quickly and rightfully earned its place as a ski-country cult classic.
The plot thickens when Al's best friend, Tom, rolls back into town to come to grips with his past. And then there's Scrapple, the fatalistic pig that escapes a luau-style execution and rides off a hero. Although not exactly a ski film, Scrapplegets to the heart of why we aspire to brush aside capitalistic good sense and become ski bums. The killer soundtrack features original music by Taj Mahal.