An Evening With Warren Miller

At the age of 86, Warren Miller is long retired from the company he sold, which still produces ski movies bearing his name. (The latest, ...Like There's No Tomorrow, plays McCaw Hall Friday and Saturday.) Now living up in the San Juans, with a ski home in Montana, Miller ventures down tonight for a reception, a Q&A with local journalist Neal Thompson, and a screening (at 6 p.m.) of one of his favorite movies, the 1981 comedy The Gods Must Be Crazy. What's the connection to his own filmmaking? "The art of storytelling is reduced to its ultimate simplicity in that film," explains Miller (no relation to me). The tale of a Kalahari bushman whose community is disrupted by an empty Coke bottle tossed from a plane is full of slapstick and pratfalls, just like Miller's own ski movies, which he began making in 1949. "I grew up in the Depression," he says, "when people really wanted to laugh. Someone falling off a chairlift—you feel better knowing you're not so dumb as to have ever done that yourself." Indeed, part of the charm to Miller's old ski movies, drolly narrated by the director, is the incidental humor—the refusal to take a leisure sport seriously. "There's really a fun side to a pothole in a parking lot splashing mud every time a car drives through," says Miller. (For examples, note that Woodsky's in Fremont will be running old-school Warren Miller ski movies from 6-8 p.m. the prior Thursday.) One reason he sold the enterprise, he recalls, was being told in the '90s that "ski films should not be funny." In his same spirit, no one would ever mistake The Gods Must Be Crazy for anthropology, and you can expect Miller to laugh loudest at its innocent gags. (Ticket includes reception, hors d'oeuvres, and no-host bar.) BRIAN MILLER

Sun., Nov. 20, 5 p.m., 2011

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