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Warren Miller's Children of Winter(2009)
No synopsis for Warren Miller's Children of Winter.
For more about Warren Miller's Children of Winter and the Warren Miller's Children of Winter Blu-ray release, see Warren Miller's Children of Winter Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on March 1, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Narrator: Jonny Moseley
Director: Max Bervy
» See full cast & crew
Warren Miller's Children of Winter Blu-ray Review
Powder to the People
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, March 1, 2010
I haven't had the greatest luck on the slopes. The last time I went skiing, I hit a snow-covered log— thinking it was a mogul—and cartoonishly flew right out of my bindings, soaring some fifteen feet through the air, and landing face first, giving myself the icy equivalent of road rash. The time before that—I'll spare you the long, long story—a woman on a lift chucked a ski pole at me as I was clumsily slaloming beneath her, missing me by inches. And I won't even get into the solitary time that I tried snowboarding, but let's just say that it ended with me trudging in defeat down to the rental office and exchanging the board for a pair of skis. I say all that to say this: watching Children of Winter last night seriously amped me up to hit to slopes, and I'm this close to digging my goofy-ass, neon snowsuit out of the Rubbermaid bin in the basement, buying a lift ticket, and testing my luck once again. I'm sure for more competent skiers and boarders, the film will have the same effect.
Since 1950's Deep and Light, Warren Miller Entertainment has produced one ski documentary per year, each a joyous tribute to the lifestyle of the slopes and a testament to the athleticism of the featured skiers and—within the last decade or so—snowboarders. Essentially, Miller single-handedly invented the concept of the ski film, and while he's no longer involved directly in Warren Miller Entertainment's ongoing productions—he sold off his branding in the late 1980s—his spirit of enthusiasm for winter sports lives on. Children of Winter: Never Grow Old is the company's 59th feature, and it follows a template similar to that of previous films. In one vignette after another, we traverse the globe to explore various facets of ski culture, seeing some jaw-dropping jumps and cringe-inducing wipeouts along the way, all set to an appropriately energetic modern rock soundtrack from the likes of The Foo Fighters, Weezer, Beck, Coldplay, and The Mars Volta.
After a brilliantly tone-setting montage, scored with Radiohead's "Bodysnatchers," the film opens in Alaska, where a group of skiers—led by 2006 Winter Olympics bordercross gold medal winner Seth Wescott—takes a helicopter to the peak of a never-before-traversed mountain. As the aerial camera pulls back and we see the three tiny figures about to fling themselves down a steeper- than-steep precipice, the point is clear: these people will do anything for a thrill. But this is only one part of the experience. The overriding emotion in Children of Winter is the sheer joy of being outdoors, of cross-cutting through "a 15-to-20-inch, 3 percent density dump," as one skier tells us, and of being part of a wide, welcoming community.
On Colorado's Crested Butte, we see the influence that baby-toting, fire-haired female skier Wendy Fischer has had on Rachael Burks, Gretta Eliassen, and Lynsey Dyer—three promising young skiers who look at Fischer with stars in their eyes. Nearby, on the flat streets of Leadville, citizens have organized an annual skijoring competition, in which brave-hearted skiers are towed behind a galloping horse to hit jumps and collect suspended rings. In Bend, Oregon, famed 1970s surfer Gerry Lopez trades Hawaiian pipelines for endless waves of snow on Mount Bachelor, while 15-year-old Ben Watts designs and builds enormous stunt jumps on the lower part of the slopes. Overseas, we're taken into the Austrian Alps, to Japan with mogul-hopper Jonny Mosely—who also narrates, his overawed tone not quite as entertaining as Warren Miller's curmudgeonly dry wit—and finally to Iceland, where three friends literally sail around the island, stopping to hike up whatever peak catches their eyes and then skiing back down to their rubber dinghy, tethered at the shore. To mix it up, a mountain biking segment shows us how many skiers spend the off- season, and we're also treated to a concert by Yukon Cornelius, a supergroup of sorts comprised of snow-addicted members of N.E.R.D., The Barenaked Ladies, Guster, and The Dave Matthews Band.
The excitement briefly turns to reverence during a tribute to fallen downhill icon Billy Poole, who died after he jumped off a cliff—a routine feat for the fearless skier—and smashed into a boulder. What the tribute doesn't mention, however, is that Poole's accident occurred while he was shooting a segment for Children of Winter, giving the film's Never Grow Old subtitle a chilling and uneasy resonance. Still, his fellow skiers celebrate his legacy, and we're granted some beautiful footage of Poole at his best, carving down mountainsides with impossible grace. "You could die here today," warns a sign at a ski resort in Silverton, Colorado, and while the message is unsettling, it's also a reminder that, for most hardcore skiers and snowboarders, the joy of speeding down a powder-covered mountain far outweighs the inherent dangers. And that joy is what Children of Winter is all about.
Warren Miller's Children of Winter Blu-ray, Video Quality
From the looks of it, Children of Winter was shot partially on both film and high definition video, and the documentary's 1080i/AVC-encoded transfer handles both sources with bunny- slope ease. There are a few soft shots scattered throughout, but the image is generally tight and crisp. Crystals of snow sparkle in the sun, wind-chapped faces show appropriately weathered skin texture, and the wide mountain vistas are true windows into a winter wonderland. While vast expanses of snow can be tricky for cinematographers—it's easy for white highlights to either get overblown or look much too dim—the picture's contrast is strong and stable, with deep blacks and a decent sense of pop and presence. Colors are strictly realistic—aside from some gritty black and white segments, there's no stylization here—and you can expect lots of bright primaries in the skiers' snowsuits. Noise levels peak expectedly during the darker scenes, but most of the time the image has a clean, uncluttered look, largely free of compression artifacts and other transfer- related troubles. Overall, Children of Winter isn't the most dazzling high definition sports documentary I've seen, but I have no real complaints.
Do note that since it was nearly impossible to capture in-motion screenshots in 1080i, all stills were captured in 720p and do not represent the full visual quality of this disc.
Warren Miller's Children of Winter Blu-ray, Audio Quality
On the audio end, Children of Winter sports a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track that doesn't really offer any downhill sonic thrills, but proves to be quite adept when it comes to blasting the film's rock-heavy soundtrack. The music is the highlight here, from the scuffed-up, overdriven rumble of Radiohead's "Bodysnatchers," to the epic avalanche of Icelandic band Sigur Ros' signature cello bow-on-guitar strings sound. All of it is dynamic and buoyant, with well-rounded bass, a solid middle presence, and crystalline highs. Music is bled constantly into the rear speakers to fill out the soundspace, but otherwise, the surround channels don't get much action when it comes to pans and other movements, a slight disappointment considering how much snow-shredding is happening on screen. Still, many of the sound effects—whether they were captured on location or foleyed in later, I can't quite tell—are realistic and detailed, especially the various crunches, sprays, and skids of skis cutting through powder or sliding across rough icy patches. The dialogue throughout is easy to understand, and the music usually drops in volume anytime Jonny Moseley starts to speak.
Warren Miller's Children of Winter Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The disc includes naught but a theatrical trailer for Children of Winter (1080i, 4:16), plus seventeen minutes of standard definition trailers for previous Warren Miller films.
Warren Miller's Children of Winter Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Now that the Winter Olympics are over and spring is quickly approaching, snow-starved skiers and snowboarders will have to find another way to slake their thirst for downhill adventure during the long summer months. Enter Children of Winter, a well-edited and wonderfully scored documentary that really does capture the elation of plowing through 20" powder with the wind against your face. This one will have you pining for the slopes. Recommended.
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