Peter Shelton

Fear of Falling

Posted in At the Movies, Ski history, Watch columns by pshelton on May 19, 2011

Years ago, I had a great volunteer job over the Mountainfilm weekend: I would get up before the sun and lead anyone who wanted to go on a ski tour from Ophir to Telluride via East Bear Creek. The festival was smaller then. Just one theater – the Sheridan Opera House. And films were programed only in the evenings, so festivalgoers could get out and climb or ski during the day.

One crunchy, blue-snow morning in 1988, I found myself hiking with a solo festival guest, a powerfully built but shy seeming, somehow reticent young man named John Harlin III. (more…)

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The Oscar and the killer whale

Posted in At the Movies, Ski history, Watch columns by pshelton on March 10, 2010

It was nice to see Jeff Bridges win the best actor Oscar for Crazy Heart. He’s been at it a long time, with obvious relish and humor.

What’s not to love about The Dude in The Big Lebowski? (“Hey, careful, man, there’s a beverage here.”) As the late, great Pauline Kael said of Bridges’ style: “[he] may be the most natural and least self-conscious screen actor who has ever lived.”

I taught his older brother Beau how to ski at Bear Valley in California when Ellen and I were there in the early 1970s. The whole family hung out at Bear: Jeff, Beau, their actor father Lloyd. Jeff was the handsomer, more famous brother. He had already earned an Oscar nomination for The Last Picture Show in 1971. But I drew Beau, and that was cool. He made progress on skis. They were all regular folks.

Thanks to the small screen, Lloyd was the one, actually, who rocked my boat. I had worshipped him as Mike Nelson, the scuba-diving hero of Sea Hunt, which ran, in stark black-and-white, for three seasons from 1958 to 1961. Mike Nelson could dodge the zig-zag bullets fired at him from a boat above, and he could survive the bad guy cutting his air hose in a vicious underwater tango.

But the episode that is seared into my brain still was the one in which killer whales home in on a disabled dinghy. Those six-foot tall dorsal fins, like ink-black conning towers, gliding, with ultimate menace, and the outboard motor won’t start, the man’s arm pulling and pulling the cord. . .

This image came rushing back a couple of weeks ago when the captive killer whale, Tillikum, dragged a Sea World trainer underwater and drowned her. (more…)