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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Northwest
Northwest
Plexifilm // Unrated // July 8, 2003
List Price: $24.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by David Blair | posted July 31, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie

Northwest's creators, Coan Nichols and Rick Charnoski repeatedly remind us that the northwest has some of the best skate parks in the world, and after seeing them on this DVD, I'd have to agree with them. And unlike their last gritty film Fruit of the Vine, Northwest attempts to concentrate more on the melancholy philosophy of skateboarding, rather than its rich historical account.

Northwest is a very laid-back skate video. There's not much narration, there's not much energy, and there's not much information to be learned. There are, however, lots of skating action in some of the best skate parks the great northwest has to offer. We're taken to the legendary under bridge Burnside Skate Park in Portland, OR, the magnificent curvy setup on Orcas Island, WA, the small quaint park in the podunk town of Donald, OR, a wicked out-of-the-way pool somewhere in Western Montana, to the deliciously deep and wickedly creative park in Hailey ID.

There are tons of skaters in this movie, but they all remain mostly anonymous throughout the feature. It's as if the filmmakers opted for a more spiritually calming experience, rather than a first-hand informational description. And while this may have been the point, it ends up being slightly boring as a result.

The film stresses the significance of skateboarders building their own parks, but it doesn't go into detail about the work and artistry that these finished creations demand. It also fails to adequately inform us just how significant these famous northwest parks are to them, and the skating community.

Like Fruit of the Vine, Northwest is shot entirely in Super 8. This makes for an excruciatingly grainy, and blurry movie. And to top it off, 99 percent of it is in black and white - no doubt used for effect, but the effect was greatly overdone. Some scenes are so blurry and off colored, they almost look to benefit from a 50-cent pair of 3-D glasses. While it may look cool from time to time, it quickly starts to hurt the eyes, and makes the viewer sleepy.

As someone who grew up and lives in the northwest, I could appreciate the scenery and heritage that skateboarding has built in this great corner of the country, but Northwest left me wanting more. I wanted to see more parks, and more footage of them being built. I wanted more description about their history, and more detail about what it takes to build them. And I wanted to see some footage in color. Seeing how the northwest is such a beautiful place, it's a pity we were denied its full visual splendor.

If you're a hardcore northwest skateboarder, than you'll want to buy this disc no matter what the reviews, but if you're a casual enthusiast, this one might be best to rent. I look forward to more artistic skating films from Nichols and Charnoski, but also look forward to some advancement in their film techniques as well.


The DVD

Video:
Northwest is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1. The video is horribly grainy and blurry, but that was the intention of the directors. As far as I can tell, the video transfer itself seems to be fairly decent, but it's hard to know for sure because of the unpleasant looking source material. There's more scratches and film blemish present than there are stars in the sky, but that's all part of the effect. And as the transfer itself may be fine, the finished product leaves the viewer yearning for color, and clarity.

Audio:
Here we get a standard Dolby Digital 2.0 track. There's not a whole lot of narration to go along with this DVD, but the dialogue that is here tends to be quiet and hard to hear. The volume must be raised above reference levels to assure you can hear everything that's said, but watch out when the music kicks back on. The local artists that provide music to this disc are wonderful, and fit the flow of the visuals perfectly. That's still one of the best aspects to skate videos - the music. So overall this is a below average sounding disc, that could have benefited from raising the overdub volume.

Extras:
There are several short clips of footage that are included as special features. Some are outtakes, some are extraneous footage taken throughout the filming, some are funny scenes from visits at skate parks, and some are pretty useless to watch. There all fairly short, so it's no hassle to glance at them all to find the ones you feel worthy.


Final Thoughts:
Northwest is a short film -just over 40 minutes long - and is sort of disappointing. But like Fruit of the Vine, I enjoyed its gritty honesty, but just wished it could have been longer and more informative. You won't learn much from this video, but you might get the urge to come skate some of the legendary parks we have here in the great northwest. Rent It

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