YouTube HOF: Polar Vortices
The Grantland HQ may be located in sunny, 70 degree Los Angeles, but we feel you, rest of the country. Polar Vortices are no joke, at least from what we’ve seen on some slideshows today. In solidarity with your subzero struggle, we’ve collected some heartwarming clips of frozen desolation to get you through the freeze.
Jamie Stewart, “Idiot With a Tripod”
netw3rk: It’s simultaneously inspiring and terrifying when you realize just how many talented human beings there are in the world, toiling away in anonymity, just waiting for dumb luck or a confluence of upper-atmosphere pressure systems to provide an opportunity to showcase their skills to a wider audience. In this case the opportunity was provided by the 2010 nor’easter* that struck the East Coast just after Christmas. The storm caught New York City — distracted in the post-holidays/pre–New Year’s interregnum — completely unaware. Jamie Stewart, a local cinematographer, used the storm as a backdrop for his camera skills, crafting the above short film, which eventually found its way to Roger Ebert, who championed it for an Academy Award.
*My hypothesis for the origin to the old-timey name “nor’easter”: whalers and seamen of the 18th and 19th century, lacking front teeth due to poor hygiene and a diet deficient in basic vitamins, had trouble making the “th” sound, and the pronunciation stuck.
Planet Earth: Ice Worlds
Emily Yoshida: I don’t want to brag, but polar destruction is kind of my thing. When Discovery started airing the BBC’s mid-aughts reason-to-buy-an-HD-TV documentary series Planet Earth, I took one look at the episode list and knew exactly what I’d be watching first (and what my Facebook profile pic would be for half a year). And while I’m way more of a fan of the arctic than the antarctic (too cutesy), the male emperor penguins in winter has to be the one sequence that stuck with me most from the installment. They may have shown this eerily organized survival phenomenon in The March of the Penguins (I wouldn’t know; again, too cutesy), but Sigourney Weaver’s narration (it was David Attenborough in the original British version, because we Americans can only handle brutal nature facts as delivered by Ripley) has some great, chilling moments, especially when taken out of context. “Exhausted but famished, the females return to the ocean.” “To survive, they must generate their own heat … by huddling.” “An unparalleled display of sharing.” ICE WORLDS!
The Day After Tomorrow
Holly Anderson: To those who would deny Roland Emmerich’s place among the shiniest pillars of American cinema: Consider The Day After Tomorrow, in which freakish winter storms paralyze all parts of the globe outside spitting distance of the equator, and its most audacious sequence, in which stranded quiz bowl contestant Jake Gyllenhaal ventures out on snowshoes over the now-frozen surface of the tsunami that engulfed New York City, to reach a Russian ship that drifted up the streets of Manhattan and became trapped in the ice, to search the ship for medicine for his crush and quiz bowl teammate Emmy Rossum, only to be menaced by wolves who have escaped their cages at the Central Park Zoo and ventured out onto the ice to hunt.
Buried Alive in an Avalanche
Katie Baker: The claustrophobics among us are probably wise to avoid this one: a harrowing helmet-cam video of a guy caught in, and then buried under, an avalanche. After being tossed and turned as if by the ocean, skiier Kristoffer Carlsson is ultimately immobilized in a world of frigid semi-darkness — stuck for five minutes before (spoiler alert, lest you thought I’d be here posting snuff films) being excavated by his skiing pals. Scariest environment imaginable, that’s all you had to say. Scariest environment imaginable.
Tess Lynch: I hope everyone is warm and safe, thinking ambitiously and architecturally like this guy: “I mean, check this out. I mean, it’s not every day you get two stories on one igloo.”
Charles P. Pierce: Whenever it’s a dark, dank, drizzly November in my soul, I don’t go to fucking New Bedford to kill whales. I cue up Bill Forsyth’s Local Hero, which inevitably makes me smile. Here, with Mark Knopfler’s otherworldly score playing in the background, we have the eruption of the Aurora Borealis over the village of Furness, where everyone’s already sockless at the local ceilidh. The astronomical phenomenon is explained in scientific detail by Jenny Seagrove, who may or may not be a mermaid, to the guy who’s the new Doctor Who, and it’s smilingly admired by Denis Lawton, the only guy besides the obvious stars who was in all three of the original Star Wars movies. Meanwhile, Peter Riegert gives a tipsy Gus Johnson–ish play-by-play — “OH, IT JUST WENT RED ALL OVER!” — to Burt Lancaster as his sky-maddened boss back in Houston. (And I will maintain unto death that, as Felix Happer, Lancaster is lampooning his General James Mattoon Scott from Seven Days in May, which may mean that I’ve seen too many goddamn movies.) The music keeps winding and winding through the whole thing, and there aren’t three pieces of popular culture that make me happier than this film and, ah, bugger it, I meant to say cheerio.
Zach Dionne: I grew up in Maine, where your whole life is a polar vortex for about five months every year. You lose your childhood to driveway-shoveling, you earn PhDs in sledding and TV-watching, and you grow up to find yourself commuting through a slippery hellstorm every few weeks. I’m happy you’ve visited and that you love Bar Harbor and Acadia and everything, but this video — this point-of-view account of what it’s like to sit behind the wheel as your knuckles turn as white as the abandoned world around you — is my Maine.
Southern California Arctic Nightmare Coldscape Freezeballs City of Ice
Mark Lisanti: Let me tell you a weather story:
I saw my breath once at night. I called 911 and told them a gang of microscopic freeze-elves were stealing my soul, gasp by terrified gasp, as I frantically waved at the dissipating clouds floating before my face, trying to stuff my essence back in before it was all gone.
They sent 14 police cars. They shouted that I should go back into the safety of the house, urging me to take the fur-lined designer emergency parka they dangled from the end of a very long rescue pole. I could not see their breath because they wore insulated soul-catchers on their faces. They had been through this before, they had never lost a citizen to the elves, they promised. The spotlight from the circling chopper was disorienting, but I believed them. The megaphones gave their voices an unexpected warmth.
The dog finally finished his business and I went back inside.
PS: The air conditioning in the office is turned up too high and there is nothing we can do about it.
PPS: Here is a cell phone video of the ordeal: