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High Times Presents: The 20th Cannabis Cup

High Def Home Entertainment // Unrated // August 5, 2008
List Price: $19.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Kurt Dahlke | posted August 13, 2008 | E-mail the Author
High Times Presents: The 20th Anniversary Cannabis Cup:
Ahh well, here's another one impossible to review in 'normal' terms. Or NORML terms, for those in the know. (NORML is an American lobbying group; the acronym stands for National Organization for the Reformation of Marijuana Laws.) At a bare hour in length, this High Times presentation does a great job of summarizing what the Cannabis Cup is all about, details some of the more interesting vagaries of the 20th edition of said competition, and will have pot-heads reaching for their bongs even before the disc leaves the case.

The Cannabis Cup is an Amsterdam-based (natch) competition started by High Times magazine (the premier source of periodical information on 'the kind') in 1987. Originally a small affair, the Cup has grown to icky-sticky proportions, featuring numerous categories and entrants. Seed company strains are judged, coffee shop strains are judged, counter-culture icons are inducted into a hall of fame, and folks come from around the world. At the 2007 20th anniversary cup, even about 50 Japanese attendees showed up from a country that's even more marijuana-repressive than the good old USA. In other words, pot's a big deal. I'll spare you my tirade about the silly repression of this plant - one that has proven medicinal benefits, is a fantastic industrial fiber, and is far less deleterious to the health than alcohol.

With the standard array of talking head (nyuk nyuk) interviews, exclusive looks at judging activities, footage from the ceremonies and much more, the documentary moves at a quick and enjoyable clip. It's as professionally assembled and entertaining as any other slick documentary - and funny, too. But it's all for a pretty select audience. No one knows how large the audience is, as most who toke won't admit it. I bet it's a lot larger than we think. Highlights (I just can't stop, sorry!) include footage from fests-past - my favorite being Skid Row singer Sebastian Bach rambling excitedly - and weird anecdotes, such as rapper Redman's questionable overindulgence of a powerful hash during judging. While packaging touts an exclusive Redman performance (about three couplets-worth of rhyming only) and other performances, the emphasis is less on the attractions and more on humanizing/ legitimizing the affair and covering as much ground as possible where judging standards are concerned.

For my salt, I can't even imagine making reasoned judgments after smoking dozens of strains of the most powerful weed you can imagine for hours on end. Nice work if you can get it, though. But really, pot is an immensely fetishized substance, with countless variations on accoutrements and smoking techniques, and this documentary, if nothing else, hammers that notion home. While internally-fronted faux entrants to the Cup (complete with total-giveaway actors pretending to be seed cultivators) and intricacies of voting systems are of some interest, what will really get Mary Jane's boy and girlfriends salivating are all the shots of herb, weed, dank, ganja, sweet leaf, buddha and the like that are on display. I'm not saying I know anything about this stuff, but when you see those judges pull buds the size of grapefruits out of their jars, you'll know on which side of the fence you sit. For potheads and the smoke-curious, it's a giddy celebration.


Coming through a smoky haze is a 1.78:1 ratio widescreen presentation that is not too shabby. Colors are rich and deep (especially green, which is emphasized as a design motif as well as the default color of choice) and the dark cloudy recesses of various coffee shop scenes are appropriately fulsome. Vintage clips vary in quality, contemporary interviews are crisp, however, and footage of various judging sessions is pretty impressive, with wisps of smoke rendered in exacting detail. Some coffee shop scenes and darker vistas shot on lesser-quality cameras suffer from graininess and a little heavy-handed noise reduction. Quality of certain scenes ranges from poor (not too many) to excellent, (most of the interviews) but the cumulative effect is one of a generally well-put-together presentation.

We'll assume this is a Dolby Digital Stereo presentation, no mention is made on the packaging. All dialog is intelligible, and the 'performances' shown (all brief, and more like background music) are acceptable. Balance between dialog and soundtrack music is pretty far off, with the music seeming quite loud in comparison to the spoken word.

A fat booklet with a map of Amsterdam coffee shops, a detailed accounting of the history of the Cannabis Cup, tips on judging pot and hash, huge pictures of the winning buds and hash-cakes, and copious advertisements for seed growers, growing tools and books makes the DVD weigh a ton. This stuff is all illegal, though, kids, so just keep dreaming. I've slagged the brevity of Redman performance clips in the doc, now in the extras we get the full 29-minute Redman Performance. Footage is sometimes shaky, rhyming is possibly all freestyle, (and there's another rapper chipping in) but if you're blazing, or just a Redman, fan, it's good sh*t. Next up is a 30-minute seminar, from the slate of attractions at the Cup, with Arjan, multiple winner at the cup and founder of The Greenhouse seed company. Listen well, los ilegales, for some serious wisdom. The Strain Gallery is a ten-image, self-navigated gallery with immense high-def pictures of the winning buds. Close those curtains, people! Speaking of closing curtains, the teasingest extra is a one-minute promo of the latest Miss High Times competition DVD held in Jamaica. If hot chicks taking bong-hits in bikinis turns you on ... Next is a weird eight-minute music video, the Solution World Tour with a light-hearted, funky selection of music played over scenes of the boys traveling the world, ostensibly on their way to the Cup. Meet Jorge is a two-and-a-half minute introduction to the man (in disguise) who among other things launched a thousand (times a thousand) closet and more-elaborate grow operations with his book Indoor Marijuana Horticulture. A Trailer for the DVD rounds out this hefty selection.

Final Thoughts:
It would be nice to not feel a need to be snickering and coy in reviewing such a DVD, but until we learn that personal responsibility is much more potent than legislation, we'll have to be content watching drunkies plow through schoolyards while stoners cower in fear of prison. It's those stoners who will get the most out of The 20th Anniversary Cannabis Cup. It's fast, funny, and has a good deal of information about the inner-workings of the competition, as well as a fair dinkum of philosophical musings. Plus, it has a boatload of the most amazing looking Mother Nature you'll find. At under and hour, it's a little light, but after about two minutes you'll be lighting up, (not that I advocate, support or encourage that) at which time that hour will seemingly stretch into three. Plus, there's over an hour of extras! If the sensi is your passion, this would be a good DVD to have on the shelf, so I'll say it is Recommended, (for weed-heads, straight folks might get a laugh with a rent) and I'll start listening for funny clicks on my phone line.

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