Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Lights, Camera, Hike!

Ahhhh the Oscars. I grew up with movies, I love movies and I even work in movies for my bread, butter and hiking poles. The Oscars noms just came out yesterday and with several of the nods going to the excellent "127 Hours", it got me thinking about other great hiking/climbing movies of the past. What are some of them, you might ask?

Danny Boyle (he of "Slumdog Millionaire" and "28 Days Later") makes a great, bouncy movie. The true life story of Aron Ralston who hacked off his own arm to escape a boulder in the backcountry of Utah. The movie makes clear that Aron's lack of telling anyone where he was going, lack of being prepared (not only lacking a bonesaw but also only having enough supplies for the afternoon) and seemingly lack of appreciation of the dangers of nature got him into that jam. Still, the movie also brings home that Aron was unbelievably resourceful in trying to extract himself from that situation and really willed himself to live after saying goodbye to Righty and hello to Stumpy.

As a movie, it really Tigger's along, is not TOO graphic about the stumpy sequences and Franco is amazing in it.

Still the standard-bearer of climbing movies for me. You see this once and you can't help but be amazed. Whenever it comes on, it is an automatic "stop the clicking" for me. Telling the true story (another true stories, fiction, meet your stranger half) of two climbers making an insane climb and then what happens when one fractures his leg after leaving the summit? Not only is the story compelling and unbelievable that a human could put himself through it, but the cinematography is top notch. They actually recreate the hiking sequences in the most "realer than real" way where you get both get caught up in the story and keep stepping back wondering how they hell they were filming all of this.

The first of our "Nazi Hiking Movies" ouvre, 7 Years focuses on yet another true story of a real jerk played by Brad(ley) Pitt who, as part of the Nazi-claiming-victory-over-everything program they had going on there in Germany in the 30s was sent with team to climb in Tibet. War broke out, he and his team were captured and then he eventually escaped. Despite Brad trying on a German accent for size, the movie has amazing scenery and some pretty realistic portrayals of actually trying to hike across Tibet and the perils involved.

I would be remiss in not including this gem from the 90s (could this movie really be nearing its 20th Anniversary?). Oh Sly, you really feel bad for that climbing accident year ago and then, before you know it, you are embroiled in a rescue mission/international terrorist plot. Of course, we also have this movie to thank for this inspired climbing "sequence".


I will say that the views in the movie are pretty killer and while I am no expert on the climbing techniques used, it all looked pretty legit.

The second Nazi movie we are discussing today, involves yet another true story. I have yet to see this movie but it is on the top of my list. I mean, just look at this description!

"Sometimes described as the Wall of Death, the North Face of the Eiger proves irresistible to a couple of German climbers, Toni Kurz (Benno F├╝rmann) and Andi Hinterstoisser (Florian Lukas). Their childhood friend, Luise Fellner (Johanna Wokalek), becomes a photojournalist assigned to cover the event...What begins as a tourist's spectacle turns complicated when an Austrian team joins the Germans in their assault on the mountain. After a climber is seriously injured by falling rocks, the film's adventurous tone shifts drastically. 'Come in a train,' notes one observer, 'leave in a coffin.'"

And if you aren't convinced yet, check out this trailer:


Finally, I leave best (some might say the worst) for last.

The film stars the multi-talented Costas Mandylor (who has starred in such films as "Disaster Zone: Volcano In New York", "Dinocroc" and "Hyenas") and Nina Peeples. Here is the IMDB plot to get you sufficiently jazzed:

"A device that controls a powerful Russian-made satellite weapon is stolen by Russian terrorists, who try to escape by flying out but are shot down. The device is now on top of K2. The device is still active and where it will strike is indeterminable. The good guys have to get to the device and deactivate it. Only trouble, it's winter and it'll be difficult to climb K2. A few of the best mountain climbers in the world are recruited to take techs who can deactivate the device to the top of K2. However, before the climbing party leaves, a team member dies, and it might not be natural causes. The group who stole the device might have someone on the team. But they still go on."

The plot and the McGuffin are nonsensical but the climbing is actually pretty good and whatever they got to sub in for K2 is pretty cool. I definitely think you should cue this up on Netflix, sit back with a few Four Lokos and enjoy the evening.

Other movies include "Vertical Limit" (Chris O'Donnell?!?), "K2" (Michael Biehn?!?) and while not technically about hiking, involves lots of woods, a bear and Alec Baldwin in "The Edge".

What are your favs?


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