If you show a death trip and a comedy on the same night at a film festival, which should go first?
When we heard Friday evening was comedy night at 5Point Film Festival here in Carbondale, Lisa and I agreed, that’s our time to go. After all, you see a few adventure films, some will be fun to watch and get you on the edge of your seat. But adrenaline is a stress hormone, while laughing causes health. So there.
Problem was, 5Point selected this pesky sixty minute bombast about base jumping they had to fit in somewhere. More, a few other downers sprinkled into the mix made me want to head down the street to the nearby Black Nugget bar and do three shooters of Jack, which doesn’t cause health, thus canceling out the nutritional gains of comedy. But let’s begin at the beginning.
The evening began with an arty pile of pixels called “The Red Helmet,” in which a young boy around nine years old balks at the challenge of diving off a dock during a lake swim. He then finds a magic red helmet, which upon application to his cranium causes his mind to wander on a great epic of adventure sports. You get the impression that after his fantasy journey, the young man is liberated from his fears as he leaps of the dock and splashes in.
Simple concept. Take up an adventure sport (or perhaps a dozen if so moved), confront your fears, conquer fear itself. But more, recapture your youthful joy. I don’t know if ice climbing ever helped me conquer my fear of the IRS, but it certainly helped. As for joy, yep (no lie, I used to smile while ice climbing). So “Red Helmet” worked for me. Innocent, basic, nicely done. Check it out below.
Ok, now the endorphins are burning holes in my skull. Time to quench the fire. What better for that than to see yet another skiing gladiator, this time known as Trevor Hiatt, nearly lose his life for a few seconds of video on a nondescript cliff? You can watch this footy at Patogonia’s Tin Shed, it’s called “Snowmany Possibilities.”
But, the Hiatt flick redeemed itself. Despite my discomfort with what I’ve been calling “injury heroics,” or what’s probably not PC, “wheelchair vids.” I like the way Trevor talks things out and how he claims his limelight for some crystal ball gazing. While I’ve got trouble agreeing that skiing backwards is the future of big mountain skiing, we’ll only know what the future is when we get there, so perhaps he’s right. Conclusion: As we constantly harp on here, we want to see adventure ski movies with some story or at least a bit of interpretive narration. “Snowmany Possibilities” has it, so good.
So, after learning from Trevor what it’s like to splinter every bone in your face and nearly die, it was time to try and scour up a few endorphins again. What better for that than a fishing movie? In that respect, Beattie Production’s “Nervous Water” totally delivers. Nothing earth shattering, just beautiful shots of worldwide adventure angling. Perfectly edited. My simple criteria for a great fishing film: it should moisten my eyes. Done.
Oh, and along with mind blowing fishing we were promised an “all women” surf movie that didn’t skimp on the bikinis. I was of course all for that. After all, once the brain chemistry was amped, might as well take it over the top with the ultimate in male cerebral input. Due to a glitch the surf movie didn’t happen (aw shucks), but was instead replaced by a wonderful fantasy also filmed by director Tiffany Morgan. Subject: Girl solo sails wherever she pleases (mostly tropical), surfs, harvests coconuts, and generally does whatever she can to spend her trust fund wisely. I loved it and so did Lisa. Pure tropical fantasy. I’m smiling even now while thinking about it.
Yeah baby, with the endorphins already flowing like the Colorado river in springtime, let’s take it over the top. I’d heard snips about climbing comedian Timmy O’Neill, but never experienced the guy’s special brand of laugh. Next presentation (live this time) would remedy that.
Totally over the top. O’Neill comes on stage as Dr. Steven “Death Zone” Clark, Mount Everest expert extraordinaire. He’s been to Everest basecamp 19 times, but never above it. Even so, he’s decked out in the latest high altitude suit, and brings the top artifacts from his Everest collection.
Second best artifact, Everest Water, that vaunted H20 which when misted over a needy soul (as Dr. Death Zone does over the audience with squirt bottles), imparts many special things (none of which I got clear on, which is no doubt part of the effect.)
Best artifact: George Mallory, the man who was lost high on Everest in 1924, and is still believed by some to have reached the top.
Dr. Death Zone unpacks the mummified Mallory from a large wood shipping crate (of course noisily pulling the screeching nails with an antique ice ax), whereupon the legendary climber falls to the stage amidst the packing material and re-animates through some unknown process that probably involves the Everest water. The good doctor then proceeds to engage the discombobulated Mallory in a lengthy conversation that practically had me rolling in the isles. Many subjects are addressed, such as what Mallory feels like missing part of his rear end, which was eaten by birds during his 85 year sleep on an Everest talus field, and the missing tin of beef lozenges which he’d been planning on leaving at the summit — conversation about which didn’t quite seem to jog the man’s memory for a definitive answer.
If you ever ever get the chance to see this, don’t not miss it. And credit to Jeb Berrier as Mallory.
Uh oh, too many positive brain chemicals, time for another downer. Next endorphin clamp was a cheesy diatribe of negativity called “Don’t Let it All Unravel.” The two minute animation depicts the world as knitting, with a string of yard being pulled and slowly unraveling it all, while a disharmonious techno choir chants something like “save the planet” ad nauseum. Frankly, I simply do not see the point of this kind of stuff. Preaching to the choir is an understatement. I just hit the delete key on the next 300 words. Let’s leave it at that. I’ll not embed this pesky little thing, but you can watch it at YouTube.
Next, a kayak flick brought things up a bit. “African Revolutions Tour” is a film about boating a variety of rivers in Africa, replete with rapids that could swallow an elephant, and hungry crocodiles waiting for snacks.
“African Revolutions” had some amusing moments. But what is it about kayak films? I’ve never unicycled, but I can watch Kris Holm for hours. I’ve never deep ocean sailed, but I can dig a whole 30 minute flick about a girl goofing around on a boat. I’ve never fly fished for and caught a trophy brown trout, but seeing that event on film makes me cry. Then I watch a 33 minute kayak movie and nearly all I can think about is what kind of parasites are these kids getting from that African water? The social change they ostensibly supported through the movie was excellent (solar ovens for Africans in desperate circumstance), but a bit of social change content doesn’t save a movie. In fact, it can just make it go on too long, as it did in this case. Boaters, go ahead and flame me.
As mentioned long ago at the start of this little series of movie reviews, a death trip was coming. In this case BASE jumping was on the menu. “20 Seconds of Joy” is 3,600 seconds of story about Karina Hollekim’s life as a BASE jumper. And nearly every one of those 3,600 seconds felt like a bad landing.
Yep, I’m not a big fan of BASE jumping. Stated more strongly, if I never saw BASE jumping in a movie again, I’d be a very happy camper.
Why? Because as stated by an expert in “20 Seconds of Joy,” if you take up the “sport” of BASE jumping, chances are you’ll die doing it. What is more, in a moment of journalistic compromise, the ground breaking ski movie “Steep” implied BASE jumping with skis was somehow the ultimate extension (or at least the future of) big mountain skiing. In doing so, they wasted valuable minutes that could have added to their definitive historical documentary. We can never get those minutes back.
Big mountain skiing and ski mountaineering are survivable sports that can be done for decades by a careful and committed practitioner, often with little to no physical tragedy beyond cranky knees. BASE jumping is simply not that kind of activity. At least the way the sport is practiced and equipped presently, you are simply not going to see 70-year-old base jumpers who have been getting out for 75+ days a year, the way some older ski mountaineers are still after it. To put it bluntly, Shane McConkey, the promulgator of BASE jumping who “Steep” featured, is now dead after a jumping accident.
So, back to “3,600 Seconds of Pain.” Karina doesn’t die, but ends up in a wheelchair. I heard some social justice or change content attempts to lift the movie up, but I couldn’t watch the flick long enough to get to that part (I know, not very pro for a movie blogger, but reality strikes). So let me know if you do sit through it, and what you think.
Meanwhile, from that Friday night at 5-Points I’ve got some fantastic pictures in my head. I’m thinking of that young gal at the wheel of her boat; a man with a fly rod and a really big fish; some Africans who can now boil water without firewood; perhaps Mallory did make it; my helmet is now red. As for my possible Black Nugget soujourn, all the evening’s great flicks combined with O’Neill’s commedy easily cancled out the downers, so I was saved from cheap bourbon.
Thanks everyone who put 5Point together. Great job and we hope to see it happen again next year!
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.