The Stept crew assault urban features with such incredible style and finesse and there’s such a sense of dedication to their art that you forget that Weight is all urban with only a few touches of park and back country skiing. There’s no big mountain, there are no heli shots, no tree skiing and yet this film is riveting. The tone, the pacing all draws you in to the Stept world. The single-minded devotion to nailing the trick and getting the shot is compelling and eminently re-watchable. Yes, that means you’re going to hit replay again and again. Weight is 39 of the most perfectly filled ski movie minutes you could ask for.
Because of the focus on urban skiing, Weight becomes a clear example of how urban skiers are the new graffiti artists of their time. Their canvas is the city, just like the brilliant artists of the 80s, the Keith Harings, the Futura 2000s and the Richard Hambletons, except here, their medium isn’t spray paint, it’s film and their visions are recorded and available forever (hopefully). Their art reclaims the city environment in ways never really imagined by the city dwellers who make their every day way past the hand rails, the ledges, the buildings and the oil tanks of their surroundings. Like skate-boarders before them, their vision of what can be done in their environment is entirely new, completely refreshing, and to be honest somewhat terrifying. The crashes that can and do occur and more than cringe- inducing. You just know that the X-Rays and the MRI pictures are going to be complete horror-shows. But the danger and the pain, while an ever-present reality in skiing, is an aside here. What’s on offer in Weight is the grace and the athletic form, yes, the steez, as these skiers refashion these urban settings into massive ski parks.
Shea Flynn leads off the attack in a segment with such dynamic edits that you feel like you’re in the octagon taking blows to the head from Manny Pacquiaro. Flynn skis with huge power as he smartly muscles through some exquisite urban carving. He makes a host of thrilling moves look easy until you see the crash sequence and then you better understand what he’s up against in setting up some of his tricks and how high his skill level is to be able to pull them off. Likewise, Clayton Vila has several eyeball-popping moves including the DVD’s cover shot jibbing over a street light. Cam Riley gives another “Mr. Intense” tantrum like he did in this year’s Poor Boyz movie The Grand Bizarre. If that’s what it takes to deliver great ski sequences, well, I’ll accept it. But if skiing massive rails doesn’t kill him, the brain aneurism brought on by the next fevered blow-up will. Sean Jordan nails some ridiculously intense features showing he’s name to watch from now on. Between regular Dew tour appearances and good movie segments like this, Jordan could be a sponsor’s dream. Including appearances by Parker White and Alex Martini, Weight possesses one of the smoothest skiing casts of rising talent out there.
Ironically, it was disaster that led to Weight’s ultimate triumph as a movie. Having been hit by injuries, Nick Martini took over more of the directing duties and Cam Riley took over more of the editing chores. Both skiers were able to deliver excellent sequences for Weight but their real achievement is to be seen in the directing and the editing, especially the editing in my mind. Martini and Riley along with brother Alex Martini and Matt Stauble have set up some banger shots to take into the editing suite where Clayton Vila gets in on the slicing and dicing action too. The sequences slip and slide, slow down and jump forward with all the bursting energy of the skiers themselves. The resulting style of the film matches the style of skiing in a visually arresting mix. Topping it all off, is the choice of the music. You figure you’d get a whole lot of hip hop and dance hall to soundtrack the gangster jibbing moves of an urban skiing crew like Stept and while there’s a touch of that in tracks like Jah Cure’s “Like I See It” (in Shea Flynn’s sequence) and The Roots’ “Rising Down” (in Sean Jordan’s scenes) what really adds an unexpected dimension is the use of minor key, introspective tracks like Devotcha’s “How It Ends” (in the opening sequence) and My Morning Jacket’s “Victory Dance” (in the segment at Breckenridge) and Purity Ring’s “Lofticries” (on Alex Martini’s back country trip). The vibe added there is less about testosterone-fueled daredevilry and more about straight-up guts and determination. Those styles of tracks add a more timeless element to the production and one that will age well into the future.
Winner of the Best Jib Movie (this was their first year in the pro category) at the 2011 International Freeski Film Festival, things are looking good for the future of the Stept crew. Catch this one. By Mark “The Attorney General” Quail