Category: Movies

April 22, 2007

24 Solo Premiere

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24 Solo Premiere Photo Gallery

Director Jason Berry's film 24 Solo (web site) shows that no matter how extreme your sport is, there's someone out there taking it to the next level. 24 Solo focuses on the MTB discipline that makes others cringe: the 24 hour solo race. Chris Eatough had dominated his sport through six consecutive World Titles, so naturally the film picks up as Eatough attempts to acheive the Armstrongian mark of seven.

The Eatoughs red carpet entranceI don't know much about the world of mountain biking -- most of what I learned is from Berry's previous film, Off Road to Athens. But I couldn't pass up an opportunity to see cyclists in pain, so Al, Jill, and I all went to the premiere in Monterey during Sea Otter. We were treated to red-carpet entrances by the film's stars and makers. There were also plenty of other professional MTBers in attendance, including Alison Dunlap and Sam Shultz. Shultz and his family were seated behind us, so Al took advantage and plied Shultz for advice on how to race the sandy downhill section of the Sea Otter XC course -- don't use the front brakes, lift up the front end lightly, and use the rear brake as a rudder if you need to.

Eatough signing posters The film's other star Film makers

The first part of the film follows Eatough and his team manager Jon Posner through their training and early season races, including in far-off China. It also splices in interviews with fellow 24-hour competitors, Gary Fisher, Alison Dunlap, and others, all to establish the two important facts about the film: 24-hour racing is insane and Chris Eatough is really good. The DVD packaging features the quote, "This sport is so hard, you can't do it for a paycheck" (John Stamstad). This part of the film is fun, entertaining, and light, but the film really is about the race.

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Copiously shot with an array of cameras, including a poor soul who had to follow with helmet cam, the film delivers with its coverage of the 24 Hours of Adrenalin 2005 World Solo Championships. After establishing that there really wasn't any equal to Eatough, the film was blessed with the sudden entrance of Craig Gordon from Australia. The new antagonist injected a new level of intensity and tension in the film that makes the race worth watching start to finish.

Seeing as most of what I know about mountain biking is from Berry's Off Road to Athens and 24 Solo, I am only left with those two films to compare. I prefer Off Road to Athens as there is more story to tell: 8 cyclists competing for the US Olympic Team across an entire season. 24 Solo was about one rider and one race. Both tell a great story and I'm happy that my goodie bag contained DVD copies of both for repeat enjoyment.

For those of you who have seen the film, you can read the cyclingnews summary of the race (PS: I hear the promoters are trying to get Craig Gordon back for a rematch).

24 Solo Premiere Photo Gallery

March 15, 2007

Nasu 2

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honeyfields sent me a link to the Nasu 2 trailer, which is apparently a new film coming out by Studio Ghibli (of Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke fame). It features riders from teams like 'Saico' and 'Lampo' racing in anime glory. Now I need to track down a copy of Nasu 1: Summer in Andalusia.

March 11, 2006

Movie: Wired to Win

posterWired to Win features the best cycling footage I have ever seen. Shot with four cameras mounted on motorcycles, lifts, and helicopters, the IMAX footage is unparalled. From shots that put you right in the peloton to shots that soar over the French Alps and Pyrenees, you are overwhelmed with the awesomeness of the Tour de France. Despite all this footage, however, this is not a movie about the Tour de France or even cycling. The focus of the film is a series of 3-D educational clips about the function of the human brain and how it copes with sensory input and adversity.

The producers of the film were lucky because they choose the 2003 Tour de France, which was one of the most exciting in recent memory: the Stage 1 crash that hobbled riders like Tyler Hamilton and film-focus Jimmy Casper, Beloki's horrific crash on descent in Stage 9, Armstrong's musette crash in Stage 15, Hamilton's solo Stage 16 victory with broken collarbone, Ullrich's crash in the final Stage 19 time trial that clinched Armstrong's fifth consecutive victory, and Baden Cooke's nudging of Robbie McEwen for the sprint jersey on the final stage in Paris. There were plenty of stories with which the producers would choose to weave a narrative about how the brain deals with adversity in order to win.

The producers chose to focus on Francaise des Jeux riders Jimmy Casper and Baden Cooke. Immediately following the footage fo the Stage 1 crash, we get to see Jimmy Casper being stuck into an MRI machine to scan for brain injury -- a perfect segue into an 3-D model of the brain explaining how fMRIs can show us where different functions of our brain are located. Casper's story is later mined for a clip showing how the brain deals with pain as we see Casper struggle to stay in the Tour de France after his crash.

I had a little trouble with these 3D brain clips, especially ones that flew you through fields of neurons firing. Seen at an IMAX scale, the appearance of flying through the brain translated into an actual sensation of flying in my body. I had to close my eyes after several of these clips in order to keep my dinner down.

There is a tension in the film with respect to Tyler Hamilton. Hamilton was originally the focus of the film, but after his blood doping conviction the film was recut to focus on the Francaise des Jeux riders. There are still some shots that showcase Hamilton, but there is no narrator pointing out the bandages for the broken collarbone, there is no mention of Hamilton's name whatsoever. Given the focus on Jimmy Casper's injury in the exact same accident as Hamilton's and Casper's eventual abandon several stages later, it would have been a great narrative complement to Caspar's story in the film. Unfortunately, Hamilton's later conviction took what would have been a great story of battling adversity and muddied it with the red flag of doping.