Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Players: A Review

It has been a terrible Christmas break here in Boulder and therefore a great time to look over Brian Solano's film, The Players, which he kindly sent to me. When the snow is deep and the temps are consistently below freezing, a good climbing video can help with the motivation like few other training devices.

The movie presents us with portraits of nine climbers from the US who are currently at the top of the game, "players" as the jargon has it. Fortunately this concept is not taken too far and the climbers typically speak about themselves in more modest terms.

Joe Kinder gets the job done on Kryptonite and routes at Rifle such as Zulu and Girl Talk. Joe's voiceover is engaging and honest and the action is consistent and the energy is high. Good stuff so far.

Daniel Woods' section offers a look at the little-publicized Moe's Valley in Utah. The footage is good, but ultimately we don't learn a lot about what makes this powerhouse tick. The problems all look like V7 thanks to Daniel's power but they also look classic. The segment of Emily Harrington has much the same feel, nice footage but we are left wondering what is being left out.

The Chris Sharma segment is among the best, well filmed, and more introspective. The sequence of him onsighting Proper Soul at the New River Gorge is almost worth the price alone. Gorgeous shapes and colors dominate the screen as Chris walks the route. This is continued in the portion featuring Lisa Rands in South Africa's Rocklands, featuring aesthetic lines and appealing commentary and attitude. The camera movement on Nutsa really explores the boulder, giving an almost 3-D effect.

Chris Lindner explores the limits of deep-water soloing in Vietnam both in terms of death-defying plunges and the 360-degree possibilities of horizontal tufa-ridden ceilings. Ultimately this segment lost me as it was unclear what the purpose of the trip was, climbing or jumping in the water. The excursion into town to buy machetes to defend against escaped convicts turned pirate seemed slightly ridiculous, even if Joe Brooks is wielding them.

Although an unlikely locale for good innovative filming, Flagstaff Mountain in Boulder is the site where Alex Puccio does Trice (V12) and is perhaps the best-filmed 30 seconds in the movie. Alex is an amazingly gifted climber and her portion of the movie clearly shows this. I would say that overall it was one of my favorite parts of the film.

Not so much with the segment featuring Dave Graham. Dave loves to talk which is great for a change but the climbing itself is not as well shot as the rest of the film. The segment on Elefunk does not compare well with a similar shot seen in Between the Trees. The Island (V15) is sick hard but somehow its appeal is lost on this viewer. The segment seems hasty and we learn next to nothing about the problem itself. Switzerland is better but V11, however beautiful, is not what we want to see Dave climb and V8 at Hueco? Seriously?

Ethan Pringle is on some really good hard trad routes around Boulder and it is here where things really come together for The Players. Great routes, superb camera work, a real standout overall. The Independence Pass segment is really good with a dynamic and scenic route but the Iron Monkey piece is even better with excellent cinematography that really captures the ambiance of the route's location perfectly.

So overall I liked the movie, despite some uneven patches. The geographical diversity is excellent and the filming is at times as good as any I have seen elsewhere. The question that all video producers are going to face at this point is one that Brian might possibly be considering which is what is the future for this kind of production given the widespread availability of free video on the Internet? I hope to get a brief interview together with Brian on this question and others. Stay tuned.


chuffer said...

An honest perspective about a movie I've been wondering about. Thanks ... I look forward to a review of Rocky Mountain Highball in the next month or so!

Peter Beal said...

Andy is supposed to send a copy to me so I hope to get that in the works.

sock hands said...

peter: i expect that your review is completely flawed in every way imaginable. please forward me the dvd so that i might find support to withdraw this statement and occasion later submit a humble and sincere apology.

until that time: your review is a festering sewer.

also, never tell anyone that filming v8 is wasteful. i will be forced to get a glove, put it on, drive to boulder, take it off, and slap you with it so that it creates sharp "pish-posh" sounds.

with love,
the shining light of truth and justice

Peter Beal said...

Thanks for the endorsement SH. I would recommend instead going to and ordering up your own copy, all nice and legal-like. Then you can refute my festering prose to your heart's desire.

Watching DG climb V8 might be interesting if his shoes were set on fire or he was above a shark tank, nah not even then.

Besides that, and of course Joe Brooks wielding a machete, I think the film is good.

amy said...

hi peter, wanted to email you but didn't know how to get your contact. anyway, just wanted to say that i read your article in the climbing narcissist on baby vs climbing and could so relate cos i have an 11 month old son and tried climbing for the first time today after laying off for 19 months. am curious to know if and when you started climbing again.

amy tan (kuala lumpur, malaysia)

Peter Beal said...

hi amy, send me an email at petergbeal at hotmail dot com. The short answer is absolutely yes, I am still climbing and my wife as well. She started about 3 months after Sophia was born. Sophia is now 3 years old.