Friday, February 20, 2009

Feelin' Scrapple-y

It's that time of year: February, the longest short month of the year. Winter's hunkered down hard, the nights come early and cold, and summer's still oh-so-far away.

A good time to hunker down yourself: crack open a beer, warm up by the woodstove, and spark up ... whatever takes you to where ever you wanna be. And then turn on the TV and fire up a movie.

If your February therapy includes that kind of night for you, I'd like suggest a movie suited perfectly to all those mountain-town moods and needs and hankerings: serve yourself up a heaping of Scrapple.

Scrapple has been called everything from "Babe on Acid" to "A ski bum's version of Easy Rider." In a review I myself wrote when the film came out ten years ago, I sang its dirt-bag praises:
Scrapple [is] a great success of an independent film. The greatest success, though, from the point of view of someone who has witnessed several ski towns sink into the sewer hole of "resort" success (and what is a resort but a place offering a "lifestyle," but with enough modern comforts so you can have the style without the demands of the life once required to live there?) is that it gives a needed reminder for us mountain-town folks of why we live here, what it's really all about, and what the real value of small towns and our tribal subculture is. And still can be.
Filmed in Telluride (and employing back alleys to look like pre-resort Telluride), Scrapple unfolds through the course of one ski-town summer as the main character, Al Dean (played by writer and producer Geoffry Hanson, in a big, beautiful '70s afro) struggles to acquire a house to get his Vietnam-vet brother (Dan Earnshaw) out of a VA hospital. To do this, Dean takes on a variety of mountain-town occupations, from house painting to drug dealing -- particularly taking orders for a mysterious mystical Tibetan concoction called "Temple Balls" that he is sure will yield him his economic jackpot (so to speak).

Meanwhile some other entertaining and classic ski-town plot twists unfold:
  • In a greased-pig contest, one of Al Dean's roommates wins Scrapple the pig, which he and his shack-mates decide to fatten through the summer for an end-of-summer pig roast;
  • bandanna-headed motorcycle-riding stud Tom (Buck Simmonds) wrestles with both the death of his girlfriend (a subplot that casts a dark light on the mountain-town drug culture) and his new-found attraction to her best friend, Beth (Ryan Massey);
  • and the the sleazy developer (is that redundant?) as he wheedles a new airport to transform the town of Ajax (a thinly fictionalized early Telluride) into a major resort. (I think it was Woody Allen who once said, the scariest words in the English language are "it's terminal." In Western ski towns, it's the developer's line: "We have all the necessary ingredients to make Ajax the destination resort in North America.")
And through it all, Scrapple the porker lumbers along in and out of the plots, on his way toward enlightenment and transformation into "the Dharma Pig."

It all makes for a fun, funny, and festive '70's kinda ride.

And all this also makes Scrapple the Big Wednesday, the surfer culture epic, of ski-bum life -- except that rather than highlighting the skiing (there's only a few minutes of skiing in the entire film) Scrapple fictionalizes but truthfully captures the "bumming" part of the culture -- that real Rocky Mountain lifestyle built around accumulating joy rather than money.

As Errol McNamara, the obligatory ski-town Aussie and philosophizing bartender in the film, says of how he arrived in Ajax: "Life is just way too short to end up at 60 with a gold watch and a pension. Headed out looking for Nirvana. This might not be it, but the back yard's not too bad."

So as you're riding out those caFebruary mountain-town cabin-fever blahs, remember why you do it. And, for a night, anyway, let Scrapple be your guide.

Here's a scene from the film where Scrapple transmorgifies from mere bacon to enlightened Dharma Pig:

Scrapple also delivers an outstanding soundtrack that drives many of the scenes, featuring happy-hippie greats old and new, from J.J. Cale to Jonathan Edwards' classic "Shanty," to some great stuff from Taj Mahal, Widespread Panic, and Sam Bush.

Learn more and purchase Scrapple and the soundtrack here.

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