Yes, it’s early but we’re ready for snow
Classic song lyrics tell of “dashing through the snow” or of “frightful weather outside,” but the bottom line often means so many feet of white stuff that you can’t leave your quarters unless someone shovels a pathway.
Other dangers of blizzard type snowfalls: the flat roofs of buildings may sag, you can’t drive anywhere as the vehicle slides off the solid ice covered roadway or the tires just spin, and did I mention cold?
While the ice and snow looks pretty in sunlight, when Jack Frost dips below freezing and a strong wind accompanies the precipitation, a parka, gloves, toboggan, boots and multiple layers of clothing ensure that you will not freeze to death while building a snowman or joyously singing carols.
Certain parts of West Virginia (like ski resorts) welcome many feet of accumulation, but the state’s few major cities cross their fingers that they have enough salt to melt the ice so workers and students can travel.
Films concerning blizzards, skiing and snow do not stick within the more noteworthy (and written about) holiday season favorites. Many of them do contain brisk snowfalls in their backgrounds — next time you watch “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “White Christmas,” “Bishop’s Wife,” or any of those Dickens “Christmas Carol” Scrooge re-makes notice that the weatherman has been cooperatively providing beautiful white drifts and lots of fields untouched by anything but the flakes that have fallen.
Want to rent a movie that sends cold chills down your spine and convinces viewers that a cup of hot chocolate would be cool? Here are some movies that do not fit the “holiday” mode, but they feature lots of cold snowy winds blowing in their settings.
Yes, both Superman and Batman have dealt with white stuff. The Man of Steel has his Fortress of Solitude in the Artic and in “Superman II” (1980) he takes a bundled up Lois Lane there for a visit. Batman and Robin slip and slide in Gotham City in the 1992 “Batman Returns” which features the not so happy footed Penguin as the villain.
Veering just to the right of “superhero,” super spy 007, James Bond, has often battled the elements, usually with a beautiful woman nearby. Actually, creator Ian Fleming had a thing for skiing, which became incorporated beginning with the Swiss Alps Mountain chase from “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (1969), and including some helpful gadgets like a ski pole modified to fire .30 caliber rounds from a four shot magazine for a ski chase (“Spy Who Loved Me”), a wrecked piece of a snowmobile becomes a snowboard (“A View to a Kill”), snowmobiles with aircraft propellers and a ski jacket that inflates into an sealed escape sphere (“The World Is Not Enough”) and the Aston Martin/cello case chase (“Quantum of Solace”) .
Since 9/11, “The Towering Inferno” has achieved signatory status for the genre of flicks where a little soap opera, heroics and an impending catastrophe bind a group of strangers together to live or die. Although “Inferno” has its guests in their black-tie best, the plot doesn’t have one scene of what became a World Trade Center (and terror drill) skill — female professions descending the hundred floors in their best and highest heeled shoes.
Kicking them off, not an option, due to the heat, glass, and falling debris, so a real-life obstacle course downward likely was a torturous test. Ironically, one of the first ’70s disaster films was “Airport,” which won Helen Hayes a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as a stowaway on a Manhattan jet plagued by both a Chicago blizzard and a bomb.
On the other hand, winter disasters mean warm clothing, especially when it’s not expected. You might question how everyone survives the polar reversal of “The Day After Tomorrow,” where Jake Gyllenhaal and friends survive by burning books in the New York Public Library to maintain warmth.
However, few blizzard survival catastrophes have been given big screen treatment — filmmakers prefer floods, earthquakes and heat (all perfect scenarios for characters to either wear wet tight fitting clothes or shed excess apparel).
Ken Ross, editor of “The Republican,” has determined that lack of a disaster blizzard film stems from “snow bring(ing) smiles to children’s faces. Snow makes the world a more beautiful, happier place.” He adds, “You sure wouldn’t know that by watching any local newscast. If two inches of snow fall, you’d think the area was overrun by Godzilla by the-sky-is-falling, overreacting weathercasters.”
Instead, directors tend to favor trapped by the snow comedy or romance as they have adolescents trashing an airport (“Unaccompanied Minors”), a nightmare drive for Steve Martin and John Candy due to a cancelled flight (“Planes Trains and Automobiles”) or the Griswald’s celebrating the season (“National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”).
Two modern holiday treats have “snow” in the setting — “A Christmas Story,” (1983) set in Cleveland and concerns Ralphie’s obsession with a Red Ryder BB gun and “Home Alone” (1990), in which eight year old Macaulay Culkin is accidentally left behind, has the slam dunk combination of John Hughes and Chris Columbus for producer and director. Columbus wrote the snowy headland main street offbeat thriller, “Gremlins.”
Whether snowboarding or skiing, the difference matters not.
“Hot Dog” represents the typical ski resort sex romp — Harken Banks, Squirrel Murphy, Rudi Garmisch and Shannon Tweed — head downhill then into hot tubs. Others, “Ski Patrol,” “Ski School,” “Frost Bite,” “Out Cold,” “Winter Break” and “Dumb & Dumber” all are formula ski booty calls.
“Better Off Dead” has suicide prone John Cusack skiing the K-12 after meeting a French girlfriend. For serious skiing, look for Gene Hackman and Robert Redford’s “Downhill Racer.”
INCIDENTAL TO PLOT
Although “Cliffhanger” has Sly Stallone climbing the Rocky Mountains for the fruits from a heist, the film itself never impressed me.
On the other hand, “Snow Falling on Cedars” has the shame of Japanese Americans surviving at snowy camps, but the weather is unrelated to the murder trial.
Similarly, “Lost Horizon” has its Shangri-La in the white-capped mountains and “Insomnia” is set in a darkened snowy Alaska, but again the murder investigation trumps the temperatures. The same Alaskan darkness is pivotal in the vampire thriller, “30 Days of Night,” where the undead descend on a small town.
Mountain rescue fares best in “Vertical Limit” (2000) where Chris O’Donnell and Robin Tunney tread 26,000 feet up where the snowfall is secondary to the altitude and other uncontrollable elements.
Here in alphabetical order are an assortment of dramatic, horror and science fiction films in which the new fallen snow plays an un-credited supporting role:
? A SIMPLE PLAN (1998) — Four Minnesotan citizens find $4 million dollars in lost gang money. Instead of turning it in, they hide it in snowdrifts and wait for a spring thaw.
? DEAD SNOW (2009) — Drinking, sledding and shagging at a Norwegian cabin medical students see ghosts of Nazis who committed WWII chainsaw wielding atrocities against the snowy terrain.
? DOCTOR ZHIVAGO (1965) — Legendary David Lean directs Omar Sharf, Julie Christie, Rod Steiger and Geraldine Chaplin in the story of a Russian poet/doctor who falls for the wife of a political activist during the Bolshevik Revolution.
• EMPIRE STRIKES BACK — The 1980 “Star Wars” entry has the Rebels fighting the Empire on the Planet Hoth cover by snow and ice. Recommended.
• FARGO (1996) — Filmed in Minnesota and North Dakota, it’s the story of a fake kidnapping gone amiss. The accents make the movie. Recommended.
• GORKY PARK (1983) — William Hurt, Lee Marvin and Brian Dennehy transverse the cold snowy streets and catacombs of Moscow attempting to solve a triple murder. The conspiracy leads to the highest levels of government. Recommended.
• GROUNDHOG DAY (1993) — Arriving in Punxsutawney, Pa., the weatherman played by Bill Murray would prefer to be somewhere else. He won’t be traveling anytime soon, as the groundhog is destined to see his shadow and winter snows continue. By a twist of fate, Murray’s hit a twilight zone, as he keeps waking up and it’s the start of a new Groundhog Day.
• ICE STATION ZEBRA (1968) — During the Cold War, the crew of a U.S. nuclear sub is sent to the North Pole to rescue men at a weather station. However, once they get to Santa Claus Land, they discover more dangers than polar icecaps and polar bears — dangers that if not contained could set off a third world war. Recommended.
• MISERY (1990) — James Caan plays a very unfortunate best selling writer who loses control of his car in a Colorado blizzard. Kathy Bates, who claims to be his greatest fan, rescues him. She wants him to stay and stay and write and write. To ensure both, Ms. Bates keeps Caan imprisoned at her cabin.
• SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (1984) — For the nomination of sickest/blackest Christmas themed flick, a teen raised at an orphanage by an abusive Mother Superior, grows up and dons a Santa suit and does the same thing that Freddie, Jason, Michael and Jigsaw have done.
• SNOW DAY (2000) — Chevy Chase, Chris Elliott and Jean Smart star in a flick about students hijacking a plow to keep the schools closed.
• THE LION THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE (2005) — First of the Narnia series, during WWII , three kids slip through a portal to another world filled with lots of snow.
• THE SHINING (1980) — During the winter season a family resides in the isolated Overlook Hotel that has no phone lines after a brutal storm. That leaves them to the mercy of ghostly apparitions at the snow-covered maze. Recommended.
• THE THING — (1951; 1982) Set in Antarctica, a research team discovers a violent entity during a brutal blizzard at their camp.
Editor’s Note: Often, Hollywood adds a snowy plot to coincide with a November/December release date. However, a brief look at the Thanksgiving and Christmas treats 2010 do not appear to have any snowy plots. Both “Harry Potter” and the “Narnia” series often have cold weather as an incidental, but, for now, it looks like no “Polar Express” setting to remind us that it’s cold outside.
Contact Tony at firstname.lastname@example.org