Ski Movie Review – Matchstick – Claim


This post by WildSnow.com blogger  

Reviewing all the movies at Aspen Ski Co’s “Meeting” is like herding cats. You’ve got the big tom in the lead, a few panting yowlers in the middle and some kittens at the rear. I was going to cover some of the yowlers, but realized (as the sky darkened at the Minneapolis airport) that I should cut through the feline furballs, ignore the mewling kittens, and talk about the tom.

In this case, the scrappy stud who rules the alley is Matchstick Productions, with this year’s screen splitting blast of testosterone otherwise known as “Claim.”

The Matchstick boys claim it.

The Matchstick boys claim it. From left to right, Chris Davenport, Colby West, Mark Abma, Steve Winter, Steve Reska, Murray Wais.

You didn’t have to work hard to pick up on Claim’s uniting theme, that of “hey, we’re tired of all these amazing athletes acting like what they do is nothing more than parking in their grandmother’s driveway with her watching — it’s time they ‘claimed’ their dominance.

Ok, how do you do that without looking like a bunch of jerks? Humor, my dear Watson, humor.

By cutting out to vignettes of the film’s athletes claiming how great they are, tongue in cheek, you get a feeling of self depreciating humor that’s way more genuine than fake looking nonchalance and false modesty. Then, when these cats do pump a fist or raise a cheer for a job well done, it looks, well, right.

I loved it. Seeing guys like Mark Abma and Simon Dumont doing amazing stuff on skis, then hearing the back chatter, and then getting a dose of on the scene excitement. Even the intro segments were crafted to convey more than athletic excellence, but rather enthusiasm and I’ll say it, pride, that goes with this kind of stuff. And, worth stating again, a healthy dose of hyperbolic humor as the athletes claim their buddies are great — but their own skiing is better. This is especially true of the trailer, which presents the “claim” gag nearly ad nauseam, but pulls it off.

Segments that stand out in my mind:

Simon Dumont going for his 35 foot quarter pipe record, which involved no small amount of danger as he was something like 75 feet off the deck. Other movies have footage of this as well, but Matchstick’s is better (a 100 foot crane shot helped).

Speed flying, that totally psychotic “sport” shown in all its glory and failure, when the pilot does crash on a 50 degree death wall above an ice cliff. In this case, the claim we see is our fist punching protagonist trying to stop his slide for life with little more than his fists. The guy of course survives and shrugs it off, but seeing him struggling to prevent his own demise is not pretty, and brings a certain point across. Basically, that some things are particularly crazy, might be fun to watch on film, but no necessarily viable mountain sports.

Climbing skins. Five seconds worth. Five seconds more than any other film at the festival.

Colby West. Outdoes himself as a crooner. Has to be seen. Might go on a bit long but makes this a great date movie.

And, ta da, an actual ski mountaineering segment featuring Chris Davenport on a couple of classic extreme lines in the Alps. This was of course my favorite part by a longshot, and will not disappoint anyone with even a shred of alpinist in their soul. While Dav actually did four of the Alps classic descents this past season, “Claim” only features two: Eiger and Matterhorn. Both are big and fairly steep, and with modern film technique make for some good eye candy. I would have liked more tight shots of the actual skiing, with angles to show how steep and dangerous that terrain really is, but getting shots like that is a quantum tougher than setting up a camera position at the outrun of a cliff jump, so I’ll keep my gripes quiet.

Lastly, an interview with extreme skiing pioneer Sylvan Saudan is included in the Davenport segment. Saudan’s claim can not be denied. At the same time, he’s known for always having his hand out and thus being difficult to interview for folks with less than an astronomical budget. Somehow Matchstick got around “the skier of the impossible’s” taste for coin — perhaps the rad Frenchman is mellowing out a bit? Or he liked Dav and the Matchstick boys? Probably both. And Sylvan, you did look good in the interview. How did you get that tan?

WildSnow four thumbs up. And Colby, stay away from my wife. Saucer boy, you too.

Comments

11 Responses to “Ski Movie Review – Matchstick – Claim”

  1. dave downing October 7th, 2008 5:48 pm

    Lou, I have to say, that was a spot on review for a Hot Dog movie :)

    Seriously though, one of the best ski flicks in the last 5+ years. Did someone say Something About McConkey?

  2. Rune October 8th, 2008 2:03 am

    Hi Lou,

    Just out of curiostiy – how would you rate Dave’s four descents in the alps according to the D-system?

    According to the French toponeige the Eiger rates about a AD/5.1 and 3 in exposure …

  3. jack October 8th, 2008 5:42 am

    Hey Lou,

    I ran into Saudan the last day of the season at G-M, and asked him if we could meet up and talk to him the next day, on camera or not. He was happy to, as I had spoken to him last year about his heli crash in Kashmir for another Powder story.

    The 2-hr conversation was pure gold, and as you can imagine, the best stuff was edited out of the film and the article. Hopefully it makes it into the TV show.

    And you’re right, Saudan’s “claim” is irrefutable, having skied most of his 1st descents SOLO. He was totally approachable and encouraging to Dav and Stian. I guess he has mellowed with age. An amazing experience that we’ll never forget.

    Cheers,
    Jack

  4. Lou October 8th, 2008 5:43 am

    Hi Rune, super question. We should get some European descents in the D-System examples. I’ll take a look at it later today.

  5. Ski October 8th, 2008 7:26 am

    Great post, I agree with the whole skiiers perception, but I think those choosing to hit 75 feet etc, do it just for the adrenaline! and I have seen way too many people heading down descents they are not prepared for, and its almost set up so they try to stop, even if it means using trees or other objects!

  6. Mark October 8th, 2008 8:10 am

    The Final Countdown? Wow, that one brings me back to, oh, about 1986. Trailer was hilarious. Might have to buy Claim.

  7. Lou October 8th, 2008 9:58 am

    It’s really great, worth getting into your collection. Final Countdown is over the top and fits super well with the hilarious over the top theme, but it seems to work in a “real” way as well. Simply super.

    Probably would have even worked better with “This One Goes Out To the One I Love.” Now that would have had me dying of laughter, with the double pun of this being pretty much a flick with a bunch of guys doing guy stuff, though of course they managed to give Ingrid Backstrom her claim. Come to think of it, “This One Goes Out…” would have been really great as her theme song during her segment.

    I’m thinking, is this the golden age of modern ski movies? Just before they get too mainstream, but they’ve got money to play with?

  8. Colin October 8th, 2008 7:05 pm

    Lou,

    I saw it on the big screen last night in San Francisco (and got a poster autographed by Ms. Backstrom :-)), and, yes, it was awesome. Dav and McConkey’s segments were sweet. And yeah, those five seconds of red G3 skins were notable.

  9. Peter L October 11th, 2008 4:55 pm

    I went to the premier in Park City and throughout the movie it looked like some of the guys were wearing mouth guards. What’s the safety reasoning behind that?

  10. dave downing October 11th, 2008 5:33 pm

    @Peter: I’ve been thinking of wearing a mouth guard this year simple to protect pricey dental work that I don’t want to have redone. Can you say knee-to-face contact? Or mouth-to-ski … or bark tasting? etc etc :)

  11. Lou October 12th, 2008 7:08 pm

    Peter, for starters you’ve got to realize that most guys in the movies such as Matchstick’s are pretty much stuntmen now when it comes to doing things worth filming. They do some stuff you might do in a normal day of skiing, but the super fast descents with huge air are not the kind of thing most skiers fit into their normal day. Hence, the stuntmen are wearing all sorts of protective gear. Full face helmets, body armor, knee braces and pads, mouth guards, and so on. That’s not saying some of that gear doesn’t work for the rest of us, but just to answer your question, when you land big air at 60mph, sometimes you fall or just land hard and all sorts of things happen to your body, including knees in face, or face in hard snow. I just hope those guys get paid enough.

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Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information opinion website and e magazine. Lou's passion for the past 45 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about backcountry skiing and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free back country news and information here, and tons of Randonnee rando telemark info.

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