Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Opinion: 'Ski porn' should not define ski films

I had an opportunity to watch two feature-length ski films, "Wintervention" and "The Way I See It," on consecutive days earlier this week. While I'm passionate about skiing, I can't say I'm a huge fan of the ski-film genre as it stands now.

"Wintervention" Trailer



The Urban Dictionary website defines "ski porn" as "a movie or movie clip consisting of montages of sick ski or snowboard tricks with no context, plot, or any other attempt to tie it all together." To borrow the title from the Matchstick Productions film I recently saw, "the way I see it" there is too much ski porn in today's ski films.

"The Way I See It" Trailer



Yes, I am impressed by the skilled athletes and eye-popping scenery of ski films... for about ten minutes at a sitting. At this point, I've seen professional skiers nail incredible lines heli-skiing in Alaska. I get it. They're really good. Ski porn works fine as video wallpaper in the apres-ski bar, but focusing on it for 90 minutes gets a bit tiresome.

Having spent about 1,000 days field producing and directing in an almost 20-year career as a television producer, I can also appreciate the logistics involved in capturing the stunning images in ski films. Taking the terrain and vagaries of natural light and weather into consideration, the DP of a ski film could have one of the toughest jobs in movie making.

There must be some good stories in the world of skiing, but apparently the story-tellers are somewhere else for the most part. Last year's film, "The Edge of Never" was one exception. Filmmaker Bill Kerig did try to elevate the true story of a young skier and his late father above the actual ski footage.

 "The Edge of Never" Trailer



"These other sports have their great movies and skiing has more tradition, more colorful characters than most of these other sports that really do have soulful, storytelling movies," Kerig told me in an interview last year. "All the ski porn is great and has its place. I love it. I love to hang out at the bar to watch it and not have to follow a story, but I think that story-- kind of making the myth of our little culture-- is going to be what keeps our skiing culture alive."

Although far from feature-length, a recent episode of Salomon Freeski TV available on the web told a simple, but compelling story and managed to include some rather impressive ski footage and scenery in the process.

Salomon Freeski TV



After screening "Wintervention," I watched the "Making of Wintervention" on the Warren Miller Entertainment website. In many ways, I found the "making of" documentary more interesting than the actual film, because the behind-the-scenes doc told a true-life story of the filmmakers.

For the most part, "Wintervention," itself, consists of skiing music montages tied together by rather inane segues of Jonny Moseley pretending to be a radio host. I'm not saying ski movies can't be funny and even frivolous at times. Colby James West's masterful comedic timing was probably my favorite part of "The Way I See It."

However, if the center of world-class skiing is really just a bunch of vapid-sounding dudes pursuing the perfect line with a pumping music track, then ski filmmakers might want to consider focusing in a different direction.

5 comments:

  1. Amen, walked out at intermission on 'Wintervention' there was nothing else to see, nothing else they could show us but more of the same.

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  2. Have you seen 'The Story' by the ski channel folks? right up your alley.

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  3. Same old, same old... thrills and chills, like I'll ever jump off a cliff and do a 540 prior to landing ( more like landing in a hospital )...It doesn't sell the resort, it only sells the thrill of attempted suicide. FIS racing has more importance that aerials from insane mountain venues. Basic skiing has been uncool for a while due to Resorts needing to bring in new revenue. They target the youth, their lack of fear, their ego-boosting antics, their purchasing power... the social media has done what TV and Movies used to do...you create your own celebrity status...you become a ski god with your adventures and you (and any one else who cares to watch) can do this too. "EPIC" is the in-word... but enough from me, I'm an idiot, to those who get to party with Red Bull, Four Loko, Jello-shots and the newest...18 proof (36% alcohol content) Whipped Cream in a can. Just what the indemnification people need.

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  4. Funny enough considering that I also do freelance writing for theskichannel.com, I haven't yet seen "The Story." Being that I'm wanting more story, a movie actually called "The Story" might indeed be more up my alley. Thanks.

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  5. I agree 100%, Eric. I sat through three flicks this year (TeleVision, Wintervention, & Light the Wick) and by minute 30 I was thinking, "Why is this movie an hour and a half long when all the shots are exactly the same?" Luckily, 2 free lift tickets and a new jacket from raffles lessened the suffering (which, I must admit, is half the reason I go).

    I would love to see more story-based ski films. If someone told the story of Shane McConkey or Craig Kelly I'd watch that in a second no matter how many triple flips or 100' cliffs the latest films feature.

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