TBT: Hiking in the Cascades (2009)

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The first Thursday in September is here at our doorsteps and here I am with my hands in my pockets in terms of coming up with a new concept for TBT. Well, actually, I’m feeling a little itch to do something different. I’ve been toying with the notion of promoting this video that I made for a long time now and I feel like the timing’s right now. It’s been approximately five years since I was first taken out to Seattle, Washington with my dad (who now lives there) and shown an entirely new world of outdoors adventures I couldn’t have pictured in my head if I had tried. My trip was in August of 2009. . .so, this is a bit past the month-date itself but I feel it should still count. 🙂 There’s a second impetus for my posting this today. I unfortunately got wind of the passing of one of my English professors from the University of Tennessee today. Even more sadly the event had actually happened some time ago and I had not known until today. I consider Steve Sparks one of my mentors from the university, as well as incredible inspiration for me to keep up my pursuit of writing. He was also a gentle soul and widely-respected by his peers at the university. He was one of the first to give me feedback on this blog so I’d like to honor him by posting 

Today’s food for thought: Hiking in the Cascades

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The edit below features some footage I collected from the Seattle area from the five days I spent there with my dad. I had a very basic idea of just documenting the whole thing and waiting until getting back to Knoxville later to sort through what I had and see if there was anything worth doing, but I became too excited and threw something together while I was still there. (Please be kind, this is edited together with the experience of someone using iMovie and Garage Band. haha!)

We spent most of our time in the Cascade Mountain Range hiking and tiring ourselves out on some massive elevation gain, and when weather didn’t cooperate at times we sought to do other things. Like explore waterfalls that were in town. Because waterfalls indeed just pop up all over towns in the northern Seattle area (those who are familiar with Bothell at all know what’s up).

I also happened to be in the right place at the right time for a Sounders game, and that was just an absolutely crazy experience. You want to hear a passionate fan base? You don’t need to go to Europe. Fly to Seattle and cheer on their boys from the MLS, holy crap. I didn’t get too much media around that event as it was just nice to sip on some beers with dad and then force our way back into the mass exodus flooding the streets in neon greens and blues, all bound for one purpose, one place: Century Link Field.

On another rest day away from the jaggedness of the Cascades we ventured into the city and we checked out the incredible Paul Allen-funded Experience Music Project (EMP) Museum downtown. An overwhelming amount of music and film collections were to be discovered inside, and honestly there was just too much stuff to take in so my photo sessions had to be brief. They were also kinda blurry and dark, so I apologize but here are some of the things that stood out to me:

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The infamous Guitar Tower. Two stories tall.

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Probably one of the worst photos of Alien you’ll see. . . I was too afraid to get near it.

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All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: Tom Little

Watermark

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Release: Friday, April 4, 2014 (limited)

[Theater]

I’ve never had to pee so bad in a movie in all of my natural life. . . .

Not that I would miss much if I were to step out to find the bathroom. With hindsight, I could even take my time in my quest, perhaps stopping in to say hey to some people in an adjacent theater. I could mingle with other theatergoers, or distract and annoy them just for a few minutes — just enough time to allow me to forget what I myself had come to see.

This is the kind of light fare where I could be out goofing around like this for a solid 20 minutes and then be able to get right back to my seat, refocus, and get back into it without feeling the slightest bit confused or disoriented. I don’t want to call the subject matter on display trivial; it’s certainly anything but that. However, what documentaries lack — environmental documentaries, especially — in being able to take dramatic license, they tend to make up for with a strong human element, a perspective that engages from the get-go. It usually comes packaged in the form of interviews, a spoken narrative, a focus on groups of people changing over time, or any combination of all the above.

The problem with Watermark is that it lacks this human element. It quite literally and almost exclusively features dramatized shots of water captured in its many shapes, forms and quantities, with only but a few of these moments actually involving human interaction. The set-up makes for a pretty picture, but an emotionless story. In fact, the extensive opening shot, an admittedly powerful wide shot of a massive dam release in China, is a microcosm for the emotional journey about to be undertaken. If this one scene doesn’t catch interest, it’s likely that most of what comes next won’t, either. The question is posed — “how do we shape water, and how does water shape us?” — and this film from Jennifer Baichwal attempts to set out answering this by juxtaposing shots of bodies of water with mankind’s interaction with it. Too bad man doesn’t factor in more.

We are firstly introduced to a Mexican woman living near the Colorado River Delta, a harsh crop of land so dry it literally makes one regret the choice to buy popcorn (whoever buys popcorn for documentaries ought to be slapped, anyway); cracking slabs of brown plate-like dirt bemoan the likely many, many years of water’s absence. This scene is a beautiful contrast to the film’s deafening roar of an opening. In fact, there’s not a lot to disagree with relative to the film’s construction or the way it looks. Watermark is quite competent in both of those regards. But the face time we get with conflicted individuals such as the aforementioned woman feels all too brief and fleeting.

Beyond the arid delta plains, we travel far and wide to many a foreign and exotic location where relationships between humans and water are in varying degrees strained. Highlights include the windswept, almost alien world that is the Greenland Ice Sheet, where scientists are drilling kilometers deep into the ice to extract measurements. (Ice is really, really cool, by the way. I think ice is nice.) From there we visit India, and stop in during the annual Kumbh Mela bath in the Ganges River — a mass gathering of some 30 million people during which souls are cleansed and purified in the waters; we also visit one of the most massive structures on Earth — the Xiluodu Dam, a whopping 937-foot-tall arch dam, one piece in a larger project impacting the Jinsha River.

Watermark leads us away from these tense battlegrounds — where usually man wins and water loses — by trotting us out to the isolated regions of the Canadian Rocky watershed, a beautiful crop of North America where it’s feasible to go days without crossing another human being. Here, water is sparkling and looks drinkable. If you haven’t been on the verge of wetting yourself by now, this positively drool-worthy sequence probably will take care of you. Okay, so maybe it’s a lie that there’s no drama involved here. The drama stems from whether or not you can make it through this in one sitting. Whether you can clench those knees together for well over half an hour. Whether you can hold it. . . . .hold it. . .

. . . hold it. . .

You’ll have to forgive me for hardly taking a thing seriously at this point; Watermark disappointingly amounts to little more than a Discovery Channel special, and something seemingly more appropriately filed in the scientific record than packaged as a theatrical release. I blame my lack of focus on keeping things serious here because the film likewise did not seem enthused on talking about people; it seemed more interested in letting water do all of its talking. It wanted to dismiss me, so I feel compelled to dismiss it.

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2-5Recommendation: Jennifer Baichwal’s story and Edward Burtynsky’s cinematography combine to form a nature documentary that’s guilty of talking to itself and failing to leave an emotional impact. Its not intended to be a sensational movie nor is it meant to suggest that its time to panic about our lack of conservation of water just yet (though for some places it might be that time), and yet it’s difficult to believe that feeling as though you’re waking up from a nap come the end credits is the desired effect. It takes more than a lot of pretty pictures to tell a strong story.

Rated: PG

Running Time: 92 mins.

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com