You could probably run into a lot of Hollywood stars hanging out in the lobby of the Charles Aidikoff Screening Room on Rodeo Drive in swanky Beverly Hills. After all, with the Academy Of Motion Pictures Arts And Sciences putting the kibosh on those in-home DVD Oscar-nomination viewings, private screening rooms like the Aidikoff will be popular places indeed over the next few months.
It’s a pretty rockin’ setup, what with the 33,000-watt sound system that exceeds all MPA recommendations, intimate 53-seat theater, and that certain je ne sais quoi that comes with the 90210 zip code.
No wonder the screening room’s Web site boasts that glitterati like Elizabeth Taylor, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Elizabeth Hurley, Kirk Douglas, Gregory Peck, and Tom Hanks have all whiled away the hours at the Aidikoff.
But I don’t know—the whole stargazing thing seems a bit much. It’s almost embarrassing to see those tour busses trolling down the streets, each of the passengers clutching their Star Maps to their chests as they crane to discern the “special from those just like you and me.
So imagine my surprise when I find myself in a full starstruck lockup sitting there in the Aidikoff as I watch a sneak screening of Billabong Odyssey, the new film dubbed the most ambitious surfing movie ever made.
There on the screen is Mike Parsons at Jaws, dropping into one of the biggest bombs of the 2002 Tow-In World Cup—the helicopter perspective zooming back just as it seems the whole ocean rears up on end. The deep bass roar of the lip impact rumbles in my chest.
And —holy shit! — sitting there in the seat next to mine is Snips himself, looking humble as ever as we watch him almost make it to the channel. “Jesus Christ, I murmur, “you are the man! And there it is — that thirty-second scene has turned me into one of the tour-bus masses, goggling at the idea that the low-key gent next to me was the same hero on the screen.
When the Billabong Odyssey program was announced in May 2001, there wasn’t a film deal in place. But by the time the Odyssey team had been assembled for their first meeting at Cape Disappointment in Washington, Billabong executives had weeded through the offers and had selected the film production company.
For the next two years that film crew followed Parsons, Brad Gerlach, Darryl Virostko, Shawn Barron, Ken Collins, Josh Loya, Ken Bradshaw, and others around the globe—from the rough-water rescue training sessions led by Brian Keaulana there in Washington to Mexico, Spain, France, California, Tahiti, Australia, and Hawai’i.
They came away with some amazing footage, including a Teahupo’o segment that squarely frames the dangers of that psycho reef-pass wave. The movie is a mix of personality and action. The bios provide needed background information on the tow teams, and the few moments of levity in the film—which is downright serious with hardly a yuck in sight. But it’s about tow-in surfing for crissakes, so that’s hardly a shocker.
While there are a few slower spots in the movie, it builds to a nice crescendo with the Jaws contest. The anxiety of the teams as they prepare to head out into that lineup — for the first time for most — comes through clearly, and the 35mm helicopter perspective provides the best big-wave surfing sequences I’ve ever seen.
Billabong Odyssey will be released in the U.S. by Arenaplex on November 7, but those at the Cold Water Classic can catch the “Santa Cruz Red Carpet Premiere on Friday, October 24 at 7:30pm at the Santa Cruz Signature Cinema 9 theatres.
When the Billabong Odyssey was announced, it seemed almost fanciful in its scale. It was certainly something that had never been tried before. Now, with the film “in the can as they say, you can see for yourself if the vision was met. I, for one, was starstruck.