[Over the next four weeks, we will be giving out awards to some of our favorite new snowboarding movies. This is Part 1 of the series. Be sure to place your pick for your favorite films on our Fan Voting page.]
Snowboard movies, like snowboarding itself, run the full spectrum of aesthetic quality, technicality and possibility. On the one hand you have grand, sweeping, multimillion-dollar epics like "The Art of FLIGHT" shot in exotic, faraway locations that many of us will never get to go to, featuring a level of riding that most of us will achieve only in our dreams. And that's the point -- movies like this are for the wanderlust-obsessed dreamers, the international vagabonds, and the hard-core backcountry pow hunters among us.On the other end of the spectrum you have gritty, low-budget movies like Think Thank's "Ransack Rebellion" and Peep Show's "Winter Wars" featuring riding that most of us will never have the guts to step to, but is easier to imagine doing because it's shot in backyard locations that we see around us every day. Movies like this are for the hard-core shreds, the dirtbag truck dwellers, and the kids who move to mountain towns with 100 bucks in their pockets, pack into sketchy, overcrowded apartments, and work crappy jobs that barely pay enough to make ends meet, just so they can snowboard every day.
You have to have both, because all these movies together tell the full story of snowboarding. But outside of our little world the big-time movies are the ones that get all the accolades. This award is the balance. There are a lot of crews out there trying to make something out of nothing, putting together movies with very little money and a whole lot of heart. The most impressive of all of them are the women of Peep Show.
Though there are some backcountry elements here, courtesy of "best female" fan-vote nominee Annie Boulanger and Hana Beaman, most of the shredding in this movie is of the urban variety. And no, the level of rail-trick technicality here is not as high as it is in some of the "all-dude" urban-focused snowboard flicks. But you know what? I'm not going to bomb drop off of two-story buildings, or gap to roof slide or nose-press down high-consequence handrails anytime soon, and neither are you. It doesn't have to be Jed Anderson-level crazy to be inspiring to watch.
There is often a big disconnect between the images of women that you see in magazine ads -- some have termed them "Skittle-color" snowboarders -- and what you see with your eyes when mixed-gender snowboard posses roll by you on the hill and in the streets. What makes "Winter Wars" so great is that, in showing the trials and tribulations of this particular crew of tough-as-nails ladies, it feels almost as much like a documentary as it does a snowboard movie.
It beautifully achieves the Peep Show mission statement that, "We are not filmmakers who snowboard, we are snowboarders who film." And it masterfully combines cover-the-mouth-while-screaming-"Oh my God" moments of gnarliness with a kind of smoothed-out film-grain otherworldliness vibe that is distinctly feminine, while at the same time being very raw, and incredibly real. If a young Sofia Coppola made a snowboard movie, it might look and feel like this.
The best thing about this movie, however, is some little girl somewhere is going to see it and think, "I can do that," and when she does it, she's going to do it better. This is how progression happens, and putting an uncompromising vision out into the world that's going to push the next generation definitely deserves its own reward.