May 26, 2012

Frozen Planet: Review and Giveaway

If you haven't noticed, I like nature. So it's probably not surprising that I like the BBC's most recent nature documentary series Frozen Planet. Yes, like. Trying to avoid obnoxious adverbs and exclamation points here.

The truth is even if I was only ho-hum about the natural world, these carefully crafted episodes would have entranced me. Such. Gorgeous. Images. From massive glaciers to intimate animal videography to time-lapsed ice crystal formation, when watching the series it feels unfortunate to blink. And then there is Sir David Attenborough, the man behind the sage, spirited voice I've come to associate with the narration of these programs. It's a fantastic series. One I'll view many times over.

What differentiates Frozen Planet from its BBC predecessors like Blue Planet and Wild China is its dedication to the last true wilderness on earth. The Arctic and Antarctic are, as Attenborough says, "places of superlatives." In the dark months, the temperature in these polar regions can reach -70' F, resulting in improbable places for life, and yet millions and millions of migrating birds fill their beaches come summer and rear young on their cliffs. There are fish with bodies full of anti-freeze. Polar bears that walk in each other's footprints. Beautiful arctic poppies. Monstrous elephant seals. Ice sheets that move mountains, literally. And a woolly bear caterpillar that, because of the short growing season and its annual cocoon of ice, requires up to fourteen years of freezing and unfreezing--rising from the dead--to become a moth. Crazy stuff. In my opinion, the best kind.

During one episode, Attenborough mentions that the Antarctic ice cap contains 70% of the world's fresh water, and that once you reach the continent, you can travel 700 miles and see nothing but ice. Thankfully, we are at the doorstep of summer here in Minnesota, so that chilling fact does not make me shiver like it would if this were November. But even then, perhaps especially then--a blizzard raging out my window, the gusting wind carving stacks of snow into shapes both mysterious and beautiful--it is humbling, this Great Whiteness. Its delicate balance. All the ways that it is not just snow and cold.

Frozen Planet is wonderfully, stunningly, masterfully done. If you appreciate nature, you'll treasure this series. And use lots of exclamation points when the penguins waddle on.

34 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing all this. The images in the trailer were stunning.

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    1. Aren't they? The polar regions have never been super high on my list of places to visit (we DO live in Minnesota, after all), but... images like these? I could be convinced.

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  2. Very cool. There is nothing quite like those hi-def images and the british tones of attenborogh's voice. Also great idea for a father's day gift :) Count me in on the giveaway!

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    1. Great! Glad to have you here, David.

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  3. Emily:

    You know I'm a rare breed who doesn't watch TV; no cable, no satellite, etc. Now you've gone and enticed me to become a viewer again. This sounds absolutely remarkable.

    Any Narwhals?

    Richard

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    1. Interestingly enough, Richard, we don't have a TV either. We said goodbye to it four years ago and never looked back. Admittedly, we do enjoy movies on our laptop, BBC productions being a good number of them. So good news: you still don't have to put up with commercials.

      And narwhals? Oh, yes. Unicorns of the north!

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    2. Here I am! No teevee here, either - for two years now! Dumping it was a good decision. And yes, an occasional film on the computer is fine, especially since I've found myself much more intentional about what I watch.

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    3. Finding a bit of a pattern here. :) Is it our shared love of the outdoors, I wonder, or are natural-world lovers less inclined toward big and flashy and loud? If I were a sociologist...

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  4. Helena Raud

    I love the polar bear, they are just amazing and powerful animals. Also, I would love to get that movie, because I can't get it from anywhere in my country. :(

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    1. Hi Helena. If you love polar bears, you would be amazed by some of the shots the film makers captured. I'm sort of a sucker for the little cubs play-rolling down a snowy hill. :)

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  5. Emily, excellent, very well done, a wonderful review, matching the elegance of the reviewed.

    It's a shame you missed one of the few legitimate opportunities to use obnoxious adverbs though, said the obnoxious critic.

    @Richard, the DVD player is safe, but forget the cable and satellite, it's still a frozen wasteland, and it gets colder every week. Don't ask me how I know this!!

    What we really need is full time round the clock nothing but nature video channel, so that's what I'm working on right now, and I've already found a pro wordsmith to review it for you.

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    1. Thanks, Phil. And YES to the nature video channel. Sounds brilliant!

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  6. Hello Emily,
    We belong to that same rare breed as Richard; the ones without a TV.
    Even so, we have been mesmerized by 'The Blue Planet' and 'Planet Earth', and has watched it numerous times. I do think I love David Attenborough.
    Thank you ever so much for sharing 'Frozen Planet'.

    I remember reading that BBC was in Norway to film, maybe on Svalbard. Unfortunately, I had forgotten about it. Watching the trailer, gave me instant chicken skin and, well, even tears in my eyes.

    It is hard, quite impossible, to choose one animal. If I had to, I would go with the Nordic wolf, simply for the way it has been hunted down, leaving us with merely 30 animals. Luckily, the all live in the same area as us.

    Thank you for the opportunity, Emily
    Lilli
    x

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    1. Perhaps we should start an Attenborough fan club, although now that I think of it, I'm sure one already exists.

      As you might have noticed from my reply to Richard, my husband and I don't use a TV, either. We decided against it after we realized it was taking more of our time than we were comfortable with. And now we actually talk to each other. :) A good trade-off.

      You sound like the underdog's champion, Lilli. Good folk, you. Glad to have you here.

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  7. A great review of a great programme. There ae many things that are not great about being british anymore, but the BBC is one of the few things that is worth shouting about from the rooftops.

    David Attenborough himself is becoming a sort of national institution, like Marks & Spencers or Earl Grey tea. I can recommend his recent interview on 'Desert Island Discs' which, for those of you not fortunate enough to have been born to the sound of BBC radio 4, is an interview programme based on the idea of choosing your 8 favourite tracks to be stranded with on a desert island. Hear the great man here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/features/desert-island-discs/castaway/2343cdda#b01b8yy0

    I don't need to be included in the give-away draw; I'd rather it went to someone less familiar with BBC natural history programmes

    best

    Ian

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    1. Hi Ian,

      As you said, I completely agree that the BBC is top-notch. I can't think of something they've put out that I haven't liked at least a little. I'd appreciate any film recommendations that you particularly enjoyed.

      And thanks for the heads up about Desert Island Discs! Great compliations. Great interview. Oh, that David. I hear that when the Discovery Channel aired Frozen Planet in the US, they actually used Alec Baldwin as narrator. Nothing against him, but I'm glad the episodes I reviewed utilized the master.

      Cheers!

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  8. Emily this sounds like my type of viewing. I never cease to in awe of Mother Nature and how she makes everything one universal creative effort!Thank you for visiting my blog! We Nature lovers seem to find one another! NIce to meet you!

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    1. One universal creative effort, indeed. I'm often in awe of the world, and very happy to connect with people who feel the same. :)

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  9. I'm a new follower and my favorite ice loving animals are polar bears.

    hewella1 at gmail dot com

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    1. Happy you found LoCW ,Ashley. Have you ever seen a polar bear in person, at a zoo or otherwise (if yes to the latter, I'd love to hear that story!)? I was amazed at how massive they are. Such impressive creatures.

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  10. Stunning. I have seen much of Planet Earth and some of The Blue Planet. The footage they obtain is beyond belief sometimes.

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    1. Agreed. That would be an amazing occupation, wouldn't it? Filming these animals and landscapes? If you liked PE and BP, you'd love this series, too.

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  11. It may not have been my best trip ever, but surely my best sailing trip ever was from Hawaii to Alaska, with a cruise of Glacier Bay. Of course it's not the arctic, but it was cold enough and icy enough that a steel cage around the sailboat's propeller was a necessity - just to keep out the ice.

    I'd never realized until that trip that ice is blue, or that whales can be friendly, or that the groaning of ice can sound as though the world itself is splitting apart.

    Not only that, we figured out that lemon meringue pie is possible at sea if you duct tape your whisk to the cordless drill and get after it. ;)

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    1. Linda, I don't know what to comment on first: the ice-preventative steel cage or the lemon meringue. :) Sounds like an incredible trip. Incredible! I don't know if I'll ever get to the polar regions, either, so Alaska seems like an ideal way to experience the kind of blue you describe.

      And thanks for the link below. I'm sure I learned about the movement of glaciers back in, oh, middle school, so this is a perfect time for a refresher!

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  12. I thought you might be interested in this. The folks of Blue Rapids, Kansas, just dedicated a glacier monument in their town. You'll note in the comments that Tom mentions the big rock in the middle of the monument was pushed down from Minnesota by the glaciers!

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    1. PS, dear tech-saavy shoreacres: How do you make an active link in a comments post? I should really know how to do that...

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  13. If these polar bears arrive in my mailbox, I will share them with dear friends who home school their children. I know the kids would just live this.

    As for my favorite ice-loving animal, I'd have to choose those crazy penguins.

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    1. Great idea. Kids would love these videos (big kids, included.) :)

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  14. I loved watching Frozen Planet on TV and it would be amazing to win the Blu-ray set. Actually I have loved all of the “Planet” series starting with Planet Earth. Frozen Planet reminded me how much I loved Planet Earth so I was super excited to find the whole Planet Earth series in the BBC America section of DishOnline.com. A few of my coworkers from Dish and I like to log on to watch Planet Earth on our lunch breaks. Maybe if I win the Blu-ray I will bring that in so we can watch Frozen Planet on our breaks when we finish the Planet Earth series.

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    1. Sounds like a great way to pass the time, Hunter. My husband and I have found that if we've had a stressful day, a clip or two of films like this are an almost instant stress reliever. Something about all that beauty, I think.

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  15. The beauty of these productions is that they reveal the true beauty of the Earth and remind us what a special place we have. The real hope, of course, is that it will help people understand that life, as we know it, is fragile and cannot withstand the pressure human activity has placed on our various ecosystems.

    Nice post!

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    1. Bill, this is actually something that Attenborough talks about in one of the episodes. That's why this particular series about the polar regions was so important for them to document now: it's disappearing. How crazy and sad to realize that some of this footage might never be able to be captured again, if things keep going in the way that they are. One possible effect of beautiful videography, then? A few more conservationists.

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  16. Many congratulations to the winners!
    Merely by knowing about 'The Frozen Planet', I feel like a winner too. Many thanks to you, Emily - and a happy, vibrant June.
    Lilli
    x

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  17. I'm trying to imagine traveling 700 miles and seeing nothing but ice... I find snowstorms mysterious and beautiful, too, and appreciate the change of seasons. It seems to be one of the benefits of living in this day and age, enjoying the videography of nature programs. Growing up with Jacques Cousteau and National Geographic specials viewed on a little TV, it's wonderful now to see the spectacular images of the natural world razor sharp on a high definition screen. Very thankful for nature photographers! Can't wait to see Frozen Planet!

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