Friday, November 19, 2010


The story of Aron Ralston is a real-life thriller. An experienced young rock-climber and "canyoneer" from Colorado, Ralston was on an impromptu weekend trek into the remote Utah outback in April, 2003, when a freak accident left him stranded at the bottom of a deep crevice with his right hand pinned between the rockface and an immovable boulder. As the days wore on, hallucinating, and at the end of his single thermos of water, Ralston had to make an impossible decision: lose his arm or lose his life.

A lone man immobilized in a narrow crevice for five days may not sound like promising material for a moving picture. But trust inventive filmmaker Danny Boyle to ramp up the suspense and make something wildly kinetic out of Ralston's harrowing experience in 127 Hours…aided enormously by the charismatic James Franco in the starring role, capturing not only Ralston's up-for-anything cockiness, but his stoic resolve as well. (Read more)

Santa Cruzans interested in learning more about Ralston are in luck. For the next few Fridays, Community TV will be rebroadcasting a 2004 appearance by the real-life Ralston at Bookshop Santa Cruz. A year after his (literally) do-or-die moment in Blue John Canyon, near Moab, Utah, Ralston was on a book tour to promote his non-fiction memoir, "Between a Rock and a Hard Place." When he came to BSC, intrepid local videographer Peter McGettigan recorded the event.

Live, in front of an audience, Aron Ralston is quite the showman. It's said that when Charles Dickens was on tour, he thrilled audiences with his dramatic readings of sensational scenes like the murder of Nancy in Oliver Twist. Ralston takes it to another level: a funny, articulate speaker, he never reads a passage from his book at all. Instead, he re-enacts the story of his hike into the canyon, and his five fateful days trapped in the crevice. We know how it all comes out—he's standing there right in front of us—yet we are breathless with suspense the whole time.

Indeed, there's almost something shamanistic in his ritual storytelling. His performance is harrowing, emotional, wryly self-deprecating, and definitely not for the squeamish. (When he warns that three people have fainted during the course of his recitation at other bookstores, believe it!) He's also an impressive motivational speaker, spreading the gospel that we ordinary humans have the courage to do extraordinary things, encouraging each of us to confront whatever personal boulder is creating an impasse in our own lives.

Catch his act for the next few Fridays at 7 p.m. on "Book TV," (local cable channel Comcast 25/Charter 71) and streaming at Community TV.)

(Here's a self-portrait of the real-life Ralston back in 2001)

I waited until after I saw 127 Hours before I watched the Ralston video, and it's interesting to compare the two. The filmmakers replicate his outfit and gear perfectly, right down to the headphones, and Franco captures the engaging, devil-may-care chutzpah of the younger Ralston. Lots of scenes in the movie (including dreams and hallucinations) that might have been artistic invention figure in Ralston's real-life talk, as well. (Not so surprising, I guess, as Ralston was a consultant on the film.) But it's interesting that the most climactic moment in Ralston's presentation, and his greatest epiphany (let's just say it has to do with a decision he makes regarding the bones in his dying arm) is not actually in the movie—at least, I don't remember it. Director Boyle must have thought there was no way to explain to the audience what was going on in Ralston's head, and so preferred to—er—cut to the chase. No matter; the movie is plenty exciting as it is.


And speaking of Community TV, let's hear it for Peter McGettigan, the unofficial archivist-laureate of Santa Cruz pop culture. Name a concert, festival, art opening, public affairs meeting, or anything else going on at any given moment in Santa Cruz, and chances are Peter's there, recording it for posterity. Not everything Peter shoots makes it onto the air, but it's the principle of the thing—Peter hates to miss an event! In the meantime, he's amassing quite an archive of local events online.

Among the most recent additions to Peters online archive is a video of the First Annual Morton Marcus Poetry Reading a few weeks back, at the Cabrillo Recital Hall. Robert Hass was the featured poet, with Joseph Stroud, Stephen Kessler, and emcee Gary Young all reading from Mort's just-released final book, "The Dark Figure In the Doorway: Last Poems."

Of course, nobody can read Mort's poems with as much vigor, drama and music as Mort did himself. Still, it was an impressive launch for an exciting new local poetry event. If you missed it, check it out online at Community TV.

No comments:

Post a Comment