Movie Reviews: KGB, Tanner Hall, PW07, TGR

Post by blogger | October 9, 2007      

Been up to my eyeballs in ski flicks.

KGB productions “Sublimation Experiment” is an attempt to break the mold of ski porn by being more documentarian and a bit more personal with people’s stories. This is done by simply filming core Jackson locals talking about their lives, interspersed with plenty of excellent ski footage that has a distinct backcountry and earn-your-turns slant. Does it work? I’d give it a yes, though since they went there (into people’s lives) I kept feeling like the KGB boys touched only the surface of our culture. For example, I would have liked to have heard more philosophical musings about what value backcountry recreation has to humanity as a whole.

Yeah, that’s reaching to say the least, but there is usually at least one philosopher in a room full of PBR quaffing backcountry skiers who can speak to such things, so let’s hear more of it. But to say again, good start (and a huge improvement from their earlier effort.) Check out the Trailer here.

TGR's new flick.
TGR’s new flick included a bit of everything, but mostly it’s about aggressive in-your-face action that blows you away.

Last year we were laughing our rear ends off at the PW06 flick. This crew’s goofy juvenile humor could have gotten old fast, but they pulled it off. Judging from this year’s effort (PW07), Noah Howell and his posse of rowdy telemarkers probably realized you can’t sustain that sort of thing unless you’ve got a room full of comedy writers, so they backed into more of a basic ski porn format combined with a fair amount of documentary.

The mix they achieved for this year still made me smile, especially since they go out and do some truly excellent backcountry in places that reach from huge pow days in the Wasatch all the way to Baffin Island, and include plenty of story telling.

Also, I like watching Nick DeVore ski, and PW07 doesn’t disappoint in that area either. Nick’s run at the Snowbird US Freeskiing Championships, when he was the first tele skier to make the finals and finished 18th out of 150 talents, is something to behold in terms of athletic excellence and shear hubris. And is of course encouraging for would-be telemarkers considering learning the telemark turn — not to mention a nice “told-you-so” moment for televangelists the world over. More here.

Another feather in the PW07 cap: They show a perfect bluebird pow day up in Days Fork in the Wasatch, only the avy danger is too high and they don’t go for the tempting open terrain. Good to see some role modeling — though another segment does show a guy out-skiing an avalanche that could have killed him, and that’s not exactly something to emulate unless you have to.

PW06 also includes a variety of Alaskan tele footage that looks pretty impressive on first glance. Then I saw TGR’s new flick, “Lost and Found” a few days ago in Aspen at The Meeting film festival.

I’ll go big here and say that “Lost and Found” is hands down TGRs best movie ever, and a sets the bar for edge-of-your-seat ski action beyond anything I’ve previously experienced. What they’ve done is go for reality, grit and realism — along with masterful filming that shows this crew’s years of experience and desire to one-up their own success. A goodly amount of story strings the ski segments together, helping bring you into the film. They show more falls, so you know the athletes are keeping it real and pushing limits. And then — the skiing in “Lost and Found” is simply the most intense slashing dynamic trigger-happy tumbling riding I’ve ever seen in a ski movie. Did I say “skiing?” Whoops, slip of the tongue. You can barely stay in your seat for the whole flick, then they throw a snowboard segment at you that has to be one of the most exuberant expressions of big mountain riding ever digitized.

You young guys might not know it, but there is a musician named Charlie Daniels who for about three decades has mixed country, bluegrass and rock in a unique style that’s crossed several generations. He did a song a long time ago called “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” a sort of rockin’ bluegrass number about a fiddle battle between a kid and the devil. It’s a wild number, to say the least. So TGR gets snowboard legend Jeremy Jones on this huge Alaskan spine line, but he doesn’t just stick to the spine. The music starts, Jones launches, and he’s dancing like a wildman in and out of couloirs, through sluffs, over cliffs and down spines with nary a moment of hesitation. If the term “take no prisoners” ever applied to big mountain riding, it goes here. All the while, with Jones spanking this huge mountain, Charlie Daniels is singing about challenging the Devil and winning as the “best there ever was.” Take my word for it, you’ve got to see this. I get short of breath even writing about it. Teaser here.

While at The Meeting I also checked out Tanner Hall’s movie “Believe.” This nicely textured effort mostly features Tanner and his buddies taking their park moves to the backcountry, but goes beyond tricks by including plenty of deep powder skiing at Mount Baker, and even some in Japan. Much of the powder filming is quite good, but doesn’t top what people have been shooting for years. In fact, it could be said that straight powder skiing on big fat skis with modern technique might be getting a bit boring as film footage. These guys really have to work to get that stuff going over their heads, as opposed to the old days when you went out on your skinny sticks and the whole day was a battle to stay afloat. Perhaps that’s why Tanner throws in so many tricks while he’s powder riding? To Tanner’s credit, he says he doesn’t want skiing to “become rollerblading,” and aims to prevent that by going for broader horizons. So he does that here.

Tanner Hall.
Tanner Hall (on the right) with some of his movie cohorts. Who would have ever thought that homeless people would have started a fashion trend…

Thus, “Believe” also includes the obligatory Alaskan segment, only this time we see Tanner as an obviously inexperienced and somewhat hesitant protege of old master Seth Morrison. Don’t get me wrong, Tanner still skis some good lines. But you can really see the difference between the two riders (Morrison earns his paycheck, let’s put it that way). Will Tanner become a big mountain skiing film star? Jury is out on that, as he appears to enjoy the smaller, more “session” style of enjoying backcountry hits with a crew of friends. But he and his buddies are definitely taking their park moves to the backcountry and doing it in a smooth and effective manner that makes for some creative and enjoyable viewing, so that could evolve to something interesting and even beautiful.

After seeing all these movies a few ideas pop out. One, while telemarking has become viable and fun, even Nick Devore isn’t doing big mountain ripping like the guys with fixed heel in films such as “Lost and Found. Two, taking park tricks to the backcountry looks like fun and makes for creative filming, but one has to wonder how important that trend is when it comes to skiing huge steep Alaskan faces where just getting down the thing in one piece while looking good for a movie is challenge enough. What I’m wondering is, if throwing tricks during big descents becomes the thing, will the film makers dial back the challenge of the actual lines they pick so there is more room for stunts? I’d hate to see that — but even so I’d laugh, cheer and smile along with everyone else. After all, this is supposed to be fun, and it indeed is!

(Aspen area locals note: Sublimation Experiment will show at Dos Gringos Burritos, Oct. 20, doors 7:30, tix $6.00)



8 Responses to “Movie Reviews: KGB, Tanner Hall, PW07, TGR”

  1. Joel October 9th, 2007 12:14 pm

    The stuff modern skiers are doing in these movies is big, fast and GS like. It’s cool, however, I wish there was more turning going on. Mix it up, put some quick, precise turns in with some of those long carves.

  2. mike s. October 9th, 2007 12:35 pm

    After watching nearly all twelve of the movies at The Meeting (they had snowboarding flicks, too), it’s still easy to pick out the athletes that grew up turning and those that grew up jumping. There’s only a few, like Sage for example, that can hit a big mountain feature, look cool doing it, land, then actually make great turns while skiing away. Of course being on “cheater skis” kind of discourages building that skill set. You know, things like counter and angulation and pole plants. But on the whole the better athletes are getting there.

  3. Will October 9th, 2007 2:04 pm

    Any idea on where you can buy Sublimation Experiment? Says its for sale on the website, but no link to order.

  4. Lou October 9th, 2007 3:12 pm

    Mike, how is the retina burn? Healing quickly?

    Will, I called someone who can get that taken care of. Check back soon.

  5. Dave F. October 10th, 2007 7:40 am

    Hi Lou,
    Glad to hear that telemarking has become viable and fun! Thanks for the reviews, I’ll have to catch a few of these.

  6. Lou October 10th, 2007 7:58 am

    Hmmm, a bit of stating the obvious there. Sorry ’bout that. But then, I’m taking the long view. There was a time when telemarking was fun for certain elite athletes, but tended to be less than fun for the average skier. That was quite a while ago. Perhaps my view is sometimes too long (grin)?

  7. mike s. October 10th, 2007 11:15 pm

    Lou: You have the wrong Mike I think.
    Will: KGB is updating their site tonight with the tour schedule and how to buy (I think). A good chunk of the movie is actually up on nossaTV, as are the trailers, which are pretty cool by themselves.

  8. chris kitchen October 17th, 2007 7:17 pm

    The Sublimation Experiment is now up and for sale @
    $22.95 for the movie Soundtrack CD and A Bonus DVD full of entertaining and Funny shorts. If you buy it and do not think it was worth the cash send it back to me with a note and I will personally refund you.
    Chris Kitchen
    PO Box 875
    Wilson, WY 83014

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