By Brad Desmond on September 10, 2011
(Ed. note: With Wyoming snowboard star Travis Rice bringing big air to the Big Apple this week, we asked former Jackson resident/DJ/shredder turned NYU grad student/hipster Brad Desmond for a report. Besides studying the music biz, Brad writes about music and other topics on his blog, My Sunday Sweater.)
When I first watched Brain Farm’s That’s It That’s All at its Jackson Hole premiere in 2008, I was blown away. And not just because I won the raffle twice (Quiksilver coat and belt), but because it was clear that Brain Farm was breaking new ground in the world of ski porn. As my chest vibrated with the soundtrack’s bass and pupils dilated to take in the scope of IMAX/Planet Earth-quality cinematography, I was surprised to feel something other than the usual image-induced stoke. That desire to run to the nearest chairlift was there, however matched by a sense of awe and wonder that I had yet to experience from an action sports film.
Naturally my excitement for Brain Farm’s follow-up built as The Art of Flight began to garner media hype last winter. I was even more excited when I found out the film’s world premiere would take place in New York City, a place I recently migrated to from Jackson. But this excitement fizzled when the show quickly sold out (I guess I took the Jackson habit of last-minute ticket buying with me). A quick look on Craigslist revealed tickets selling between $50 and $100 (retail was $20, plus Ticketmaster fees). It was clear that whatever marketing Brain Farm, Quiksilver and Red Bull were doing was paying off.
Undeterred, I made my way uptown Wednesday night in the rain to see what I could do about a ticket. As it turned out, I was not the only one with this plan. 74th and Broadway was turned into a small circus, some mashup between the base area of the world superpipe championship and a proper Hollywood premiere. Beside the Beacon Theater marquee, whose digital screen projected images from the film’s trailer, was a red carpet surrounded by media. Behind this on the street was a line of Red Bull cars and a DJ trailer from which a few of the athletes gave out tickets in exchange for mild humiliation or feats of strength (pushup contest, who can give T. Rice a wedgie).
I managed to find an extra ticket without performing either of these, and headed inside with just enough time to take in the beautiful interior of the Beacon and strange assortment of athletes, industry people, a handful of celebrities, confused New York socialite types, and a lot of people like me, who I think just wanted to see the movie.
On the way in I spotted Travis Rice holding court on the red carpet. It was cool to see this familiar face from Jackson, who I always found friendly, in his moment, celebrating the achievement of this film and a milestone in an exceptional career. It’s easy to be cynical when we see these people, who get paid to do the same thing we love to do, on a pedestal or red carpet. But after seeing the film, it’s clear to me that the pomp and spectacle were well deserved, considering the time, effort and significant financial investment that went into attempting to push the adventure sports medium forward. And that’s exactly what this film does.
So about the film: I don’t want to talk too much about the details, as I am not a critic and I don’t want to spoil it for you before the Jackson Hole premiere (Sept. 24 at Center for the Arts). All I’ll say is that I’ve never seen anything of this scope before in a ski movie. I’m not even sure where it fits into its genre. The slow-motion shots, brought to you by Brain Farm’s arsenal of the highest-tech equipment, give the film a sense of syrupy wonder, a reality where gravity can be manipulated to allow the athletes to effortlessly impress us.
But what’s so incredible is when the action speeds back up and you realize this isn’t The Matrix — these athletes have actually pushed their sport that far out, and these filmmakers have honed their craft to the extent that, taken together, the two make the real seem utterly dream based. To experience this on a big screen in a theater with great sound (this former KHOL music director gives the soundtrack two thumbs up) is an experience that can’t be underestimated, and I found well worth the cost of admission. It’s clear that the work that went into this movie, by the filmmakers, athletes, investors and more, was worth celebrating on a New York scale.