Face it: In about ninety days, you'll be praying for winter.Brandon Marshall
Technically, figure skating season begins each year on July 1; armed with that knowledge, perhaps discussing ice skating movies in June doesn't seem so far-fetched. If you're a fan of shiny outfits and stunt doubles filmed from afar, you know any month is the right month for settling in with a box of wine and a good training montage.
This year, Colorado native, former competitive skater and screenwriter Maddison Bullock released her own homage to the sport with Ice: The Movie. Bullock, 25, has been skating for most of her life, mainly at rinks in Colorado Springs, Littleton and Winter Park.
Now a Los Angeles resident, she returned to Colorado to draw on her connections in the figure skating community to make her film at locations that included Fraser, Castle Rock, Monument and Winter Park. Hockey and figure skaters are both in front of and behind the camera, as Bullock wanted to avoid the use of stunt doubles entirely.
To that end, the crew went to "extraordinary lengths" to avoid the long shots, deliberately blurry images and ice sequences focusing exclusively on the double's skates that plague most skating films, including using a former hockey player as a cinematographer who skated after the actors while filming them on a home rig. And while some movie clichés make their way into the finished product (overbearing stage parents! full face of impeccably matte makeup during a workout! gruff Russian coach!), the result is a solidly entertaining movie that benefits from using obviously real skaters — and since there are only three good ice-skating movies, according to Bullock, her entry into the cinematic fray is a welcome one. You can check out the trailer below, and then keep reading for a highly objective, not-at-all biased ranking of all the ice-based movies I wasn't too drunk to remember. 10. Ice Angel (2000)
Somehow, figure skating royalty (Tara Lipinski, Rosalynn Sumners, Peter Carruthers, Elvis Stojko and — in what was surely the second-lowest point of her career — Nancy Kerrigan) was tapped to appear in this made-for-TV movie about a male hockey player vying for Olympic gold who perishes in a freak puck accident and is given a second chance when his soul inhabits the body of a female skater. Actress Nicholle Tom gamely attempts to channel the transformation of a man's man into a delicate flower of a figure skater with plenty of eye-rolling and an improbable Jersey accent, but her efforts are for naught in a movie that relies on gender stereotypes so ham-fisted they were never funny or entertaining. 9. The Cutting Edge: Going for the Gold (2006) It's almost never a good sign when the sequel to a beloved film arrives almost fifteen years later, and the first of three (!) sequels to 1992's The Cutting Edge is a prime case study. Even among the already hilarious genre, this effort stands out for all the wrong reasons. The cast, director and writers of the original film wisely stayed far away from this mess of a movie that attempts to convince viewers that not only did skaters Doug Dorsey and Kate Moseley stick it out for the long haul, but any guy wearing a puka shell necklace and inline skates is a viable sex symbol. Its only redeeming feature is the appearance of former world champion and Olympic gold medalist Oksana Baiul as an Olympic commentator — though sadly she didn't show up in maribou feathers for these fictional Games. 8. Youngblood (1986) Rob Lowe's eyeliner is the real star of the show in this coming-of-age movie that teaches viewers a boy doesn't become a man until he beats the shit out of his rivals. Also making appearances are the late, great Patrick Swayze (playing a goon just a year after he first donned a Confederate uniform for North and South, the miniseries that sparked a burning desire for historical knowledge in thirsty adolescent girls everywhere), Keanu Reeves, and the overwrought melodrama that can only spring from very pretty, very sweaty young men trapped by society's rigid expectations about masculinity and forced to channel their latent homosexual desires into handling hockey sticks. 7. A Snow Capped Christmas (2016) This Canadian movie was released in the U.S. as Falling for Christmas, so made-for-television aficionados shouldn't feel bad if they haven't heard of this cinematic meditation on sports psychology, career-ending injuries and, of course, the Christmas spirit. Combine one injured figure skater, a washed-up hockey player and single dad with poor child-naming skills (gawky preteen Chamonix is facing an uphill battle when it comes to roll calls, job applications and life in general), and a collection of poorly knitted pastel toques, and you've got this gem in which the main character gives up a promising career as a professional athlete to become a stepmom. Bonus points for the casting of Lisa Whelchel, whose every appearance on screen precedes a drunken rendition of The Facts of Life theme song from viewers (wait, was that just me?) 6. The Mighty Ducks (1992) A Washington Post review of this pee-wee underdog story claims the screenwriter "constructed the screenplay much as one would put together some of those particleboard bookcases from Ikea." Having recently assisted in the assembly of several chairs from the famed Swedish retailer, I can confirm the script is as flimsy as the finished furniture — though realistic in its central message that with enough money, even shitty teams can buy themselves a championship. There are some bright spots, though: Emilio Estevez's hair is charming in its early '90s floppiness, the gruff bartender is German (not Irish — way to play against stereotypes!) and Pacey Witter's big break paved the way for his later fame as Diane Kruger's bae.
5. Miracle (2004) February 1980 was a simpler time: Captain & Tennille topped the charts, the answer to the question "I don't know, honey, do you want to get matching sweaters?" was always affirmative, and we as a nation believed that the outcome of a medal-round Olympic hockey match was not only a referendum on political systems but an event meriting divine intervention. Miracle harks back to those days, and you'd have to have a heart of ice not to be at least a little bit moved by Kurt Russell's polyester-and-plaid ensemble and inspirational locker room speeches (bowdlerized for the PG audience, who certainly would have been scandalized by coach Herb Brooks' actual admonition that "If you lose this game, you'll take it to your fucking graves. Your fucking graves.") 4. Slap Shot (1977) While Paul Newman helms the hapless Charleston Chiefs in this celebration of the chaos on ice that was hockey before the sport decided it needed to change its image, it's the gleefully anarchic hoodlums the Hanson brothers (and not the towheaded trio of crooners, kids) who steal the show with their unapologetic stupidity and thuggery in this sports comedy. Unlike the self-important (and only unintentionally entertaining) Youngblood, Newman and company fully embrace the absurdity of the setup in a championship game that's half striptease, half bloodbath. Add John Belushi, and it's Animal House on ice. 3. I, Tonya (2017)
Anyone who had a pulse in 1994 remembers the media's obsession with pitting Ice Princess against so-called Trailer Trash, and nearly a quarter-century later, Americans have descended so far into a morass of alternative facts that this biopic skews the fictionalized Tonya as the sympathetic anti-hero in a violent physical attack as Harding herself attends the Golden Globes. Regardless, I, Tonya is a fantastic movie — funny, dark, with great performances all around — that manages to sustain a sense of drama even though we already know about Harding's journey from rink to wrestling ring to red carpet. 2. Blades of Glory (2007)
Who doesn't love a movie that includes the line, "These guys put the bone in Zamboni"? No one, that's who — Bullock confirms that everyone in the skating community enjoys this spoof "even if they don't admit it." Will Ferrell and Jon Heder's lowbrow homage to everything that makes figure skating delightful (the costumes, the theatrics, the mesmerizing crotchwork) is one of the rare sports parodies that holds up a decade after its release, aided in no small measure by Craig T. Nelson's obvious commitment to method acting, as evidenced by his horrible, horrible onscreen hair. 1. The Cutting Edge (1992)
Was there ever any doubt about the film that would top this list? D.B. Sweeney, Moira Kelly and Roy Dotrice will forever live in cinematic history in this movie that ticks all the boxes in several genres: romantic comedies, sports and the 1990s. Frosty, frigid ice princess? Check. Washed up hockey player? Yep. Mutual antagonism that inevitably leads to sexual tension? For sure. Add a training montage, gruff Russian coach, Olympic competition, tragic misunderstandings and poor communication skills, frizzy hair, every camera trick in the book to hide that the leads can't do anything more than stand on ice, a championship-winning move and, of course, toe picks, and you've got yourself the most re-watchable ice skating movie of all time.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE...
Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.