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ABF Friday: Flying Home Edition!

I’m so old that I can remember when Republicans loved the auto-mobile industry.  They loved loved loved it and wanted to marry it.  Seriously: they even held their 1980 national convention in Detroit and drafted a platform that included the following:

Americans enjoy greater personal mobility than any other people on earth, largely as a result of the availability of automobiles and our modern highway system. Republicans reject the elitist notion that Americans must be forced out of their cars. Instead, we vigorously support the right of personal mobility and freedom as exemplified by the automobile and our modern highway system.

Yay to cars!  Yay to Detroit!  Yay to personal mobility and freedom!  But even more yay to the most important thing of all, namely, pissing off the DFHs and sweater-wearing wimps and elitist car-forcer-outers who wanted to cut back on our use of fossil fuels and build SUPERTRAINS.  On, Chrysler!  On, Buick!  On, Chevy and Caddy!  Ah, it was another time.  But you young’uns wouldn’t understand.

Sometimes I think Democrats should come out against gum disease, just to see if Arlen Specter or Jim Bunning will block appointments to the National Gum Disease Task Force and if Grover Norquist will form a Gingivitis Appreciation League to frustrate the efforts of the periodontal elitists and liberal PC oral hygienists who think they know what’s best for everyone.

But that’s not why I’m here today!  Today is Friday, and it is an iron law on this blog that some or most Fridays should be Arbitrary.  And so, without further ado:

On my way back from San Diego last month, I had what might have been my best in-flight experience ever.  I fell asleep the moment the plane started moving, of course, because that is what I do; sometimes I even miss the critical instructions about how to use a seat belt.  But when I awoke, I was 35,000 feet in the air and about six feet away from a screen showing the opening minutes of WALL-E.  “Holy Mother of Moloch,” I exclaimed, just a tad too loudly.  Frantically, I flipped through the airline magazine.  No, there was no indication that WALL-E would be shown on eastbound transcontinental flights in late November.  I do check these things, you see, partly because when I travel with Jamie, he wants to know about them even though he rarely wants to see the movie; and when we went to Omaha, he saw that the in-flight movie for westbound flights in early November was supposed to be WALL-E.  Unfortunately, our flight didn’t get the memo, and we wound up being treated to Kit Kittredge: An American Girl, which made Jamie say “?” and made me say “??” Still, Ms. Kittredge turned out to be preferable to Diminished Capacity, the eastbound in-flight movie.  I can’t give you reliable reviews of either film, since I was merely looking at them intermittently, in mild annoyance and with the sound off.  But it did appear to me that Diminished Capacity, despite being co-produced by Chicago’s famous Steppenwolf Theater and boasting a cast that includes Alan Alda, Matthew Broderick, and Virginia Madsen, culminates in a scene in which Matthew Broderick is being strangled to death by an evil sports-memorabilia dealer in a memorabilia show while all his friends look on in horror and do nothing except to keep stadium security away from the struggle.  OK, maybe it made sense with the sound on.  (Best line from a review: “Didn’t we invent film festivals so we could sequester all the star-studded ‘how I spent my summer vacation’ indie film projects and keep them out of our arthouses? Who let Diminished Capacity escape?”)

Now, it’s not as if I board a plane with high expectations of the in-flight movie.  On the contrary: there was a time, and it wasn’t so long ago (not as long ago as the era in which Republicans loved them some auto-mobiles), when it seemed to me that I had been subjected to every single Sandra Bullock movie ever released. Hope Floats, Practical Magic, Forces of Nature, 28 Days, Miss Congeniality—I kid you not, dear readers, I have seen them all.  Intermittently, in mild annoyance and with the sound off, but still.  No, wait, I might have put on the headphones for a bit of Practical Magic.  Self-indulgent aside (but self-indulgent compared to what? this is a blog, after all): my very favorite Long Airplane Trip story dates from 1999, right around the time of Peak Bullock, when I flew from Chicago to Brisbane for the first-ever meeting of the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes outside the U.S.  “Brisbane?” people said.  “That’s like going to the Denver of Australia.” But I didn’t care—I’d go to pretty much the anything of Australia.  I’m not picky.  Anyway, the LA-Sydney leg of the trip was fifteen hours, and during the flight they showed three movies, one of which was the aforementioned Forces of Nature.  Bullock!  Affleck!  Romantic comedy!  Your sickness bag is in the pocket of the seat in front of you!  But that wasn’t the worst part of the trip.  The worst part was that I was seated in the leftward three-seat section of the 3-5-3 jumbo-jet configuration next to a thirtyish woman and an uncontrollable squalling brat.  The uncontrollable squalling was bad enough, but what finally made the seating arrangement intolerable were the constant looks of reproach and disgust I was getting from fellow passengers and the entire crew of flight attendants: obviously, I was an impossibly icy father refusing to help his poor struggling wife with their difficult kid—indeed, indifferently reading a book and not so much as looking their way.  For a while I considered ripping a page from the back of the book, writing “NOT ACTUALLY MY FAMILY” with an arrow, and taping it to my chest, but I finally managed to find a place elsewhere in the cabin, where I could watch Forces of Nature intermittently, in mild annoyance and with the sound off unmolested by a squalling toddler and the visceral disapproval of my fellow beings.

Anyway, as many of you probably already know, WALL-E is brilliant.  It is brilliant moment to moment, and brilliant overall, right down to the brilliant final credits (really, the final credits are brilliant).  It is brilliant in minute gestures, and brilliant in great big sweep.  It even has a brilliant dance sequence (no, not the bit from Hello, Dolly!).  And best and weirdest of all, I had been seized, the previous evening, by the idea of watching the first twenty minutes of Silent Running on the YouTubes before turning in for the night, so all the Silent Running—WALL-E intertextuality was already humming in my head.  So I leaned back (not too far! I don’t like crushing the legs of my fellow passengers) and settled in for a truly rare treat—a smart, well-written, delightful in-flight movie.  Of course, the sensation of sitting in front of a screen with a few hundred other people and being ferried briskly through the air while watching humans sitting in front of screens being ferried briskly around a space station in Saturn orbit was a little weird, but what the hell.

So that’s today’s Arbitrary game: best and worst in-flight movies ever!  And may your weekend be one-hundred-percent Forces of Nature-free.

Posted by on 12/12 at 09:45 AM
  1. Best: Stranger Than Fiction was worth the re-watch on a plane. It would have been a real treat if I hadn’t already seen it.

    Worst: What, you want titles? Sad/glad to say, I don’t remember the movies that I found less compelling than the Sky Mall catalog. (There sure are a lot of ‘em, though.)

    Posted by Orange  on  12/12  at  11:46 AM
  2. We recently flew to Ireland and on the transcontinental flights, Continental now offers on-demand movies, which would be cool, if they offered anything but the latest Mummy sequel (seriously, a Mummy movie without Rachel Weisz is ahrdly worth the effort) and half a dozen random sit-com episodes. Though, they did offer a few epps of Mad Men, so it wasn’t all bad.

    Posted by Keith  on  12/12  at  12:28 PM
  3. From Europe to America: Titanic. Not only a bad movie, but a bad movie about a trans-Atlantic trip that ends in disaster.

    Posted by  on  12/12  at  12:32 PM
  4. Sorry that this isn’t part of the game, but I really wanted to comment that Wall-E is a fantastic movie, and even better is the fact that a number of conservative writers are outraged by the movie’s blatant liberal themes.  Themes such as 1) all Americans are fat, lazy, and watch too much TV and 2) at our current rate of consumption the entire world will eventually be filled with trash.  See


    for a sample.

    Posted by  on  12/12  at  12:50 PM
  5. It doesn’t really count, since it was on a bus and not a plane, but I took the Lucky Star from Boston to NYC last Thanksgiving, and the two movies they showed during the trip (Red Heat, and one of the Rush Hour films, I think) had bus crashes in them. I thought that showed fabulous judgement on their part.

    Posted by  on  12/12  at  12:58 PM
  6. Cincinnati to Dublin on Delta: a silent film of a little white airplane following a white line over Greenland. It was strangely compelling. So much so that when it was interrupted by a tedious twenty-somethings relationship drama starring nobody I recognized doing nothing I cared about against a backdrop of fall colors I felt a bit put out. Pretty leaves though.

    Posted by  on  12/12  at  01:01 PM
  7. Worst: What, you want titles? Sad/glad to say, I don’t remember the movies that I found less compelling than the Sky Mall catalog.

    Odd how that works, isn’t it?  I’ve tuned out dozens myself, but can only remember the real annoyances—the Bullocks mentioned above, Tin Cup, things like that.

    they did offer a few epps of Mad Men, so it wasn’t all bad

    Kewl.  For the longest time all I got was Everybody, No Really Everybody, Loves Raymond, And If You Don’t WTF Is The Matter With You, but now sometimes they’ll give us a 30 Rock.

    Titanic. Not only a bad movie, but a bad movie about a trans-Atlantic trip that ends in disaster.

    See Marita @ 5!  It would be so cool if a bus line would show Speed.  Speaking of Bullockiana.

    a number of conservative writers are outraged by the movie’s blatant liberal themes

    Yes, well, that’s what they do.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s Happy Feet, WALL-E, Brokeback Mountain, or the Lumière brothers’ footage of people leaving the factory—all they know is how to complain about How The Film Does Not Reinforce Conservative Values.  Oh, and how Hollywood conspires to marginalize their really really good ideas, like An American Carol.

    a silent film of a little white airplane following a white line over Greenland. It was strangely compelling.

    Isn’t it, though?  I could watch that for hours.  Except for the bit about how the air temp outside the plane is -60.  And the fact that it didn’t reinforce conservative values.

    Posted by  on  12/12  at  01:11 PM
  8. No fair!  I too have glanced at Hope Floats intermittently, in mild annoyance and with the sound off – but here you have taken all the Bullocks for yourself.  I suppose that’s your right, having suffered through all that mild annoyance.  Although I understand Forces of Nature has Maura Tierney in it (sigh).  Of course, it also has Ben Affleck in it (shudder).  Talk about approach-avoidance conflict!

    The little white airplane thing does indeed sound strangely compelling.  Even more so is wingnut wackaloonery about cultural matters.  Remember when they [e.g. the ever entertaining M. Medved] were over the moon about March of the Penguins (marital fidelity!  fortitude!  heterosexuality!) and incensed about Happy Feet (I forget why!  Something weird!  Teh gay no doubt!)?  I look forward to There’s Something About Penguins.

    Coincidentally, Roy E. has a great post on this phenomenon.  Nothing about S.B. though.

    Posted by Dave M  on  12/12  at  01:54 PM
  9. Oh, I see you mentioned Happy Feet.  Do you remember what the wingnuts’ deal was with it?  I’ve never glanced, etc., at that one.

    Posted by Dave M  on  12/12  at  01:58 PM
  10. On a JetBlue flight from NYC to Tampa last year, we were delayed almost 90 minutes, so they unlocked one of the premium movie channels to keep the other passengers happy.  The movie was “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer”.

    I had two paperbacks with me, but finished one in the airport waiting for the plane and the other one about halfway through the flight.  So I turned on the movie.

    It’s the most awful movie I’ve ever seen.  There was absolutely nothing redeeming about it; I finished watching it only in horrified fascination, waiting to see how many terrible moments it could pack into an hour and a half.

    The plot was insipid, the dialogued was hackneyed, and the actors were wooden.  For example, Sue Storm (cleverly re-interpreted as a wooden-faced moron) is annoyed because her wedding keeps getting interrupted by, like, totally having to save the world and stuff. 

    Even the product placement was terrible.  Mr. Fantastic’s flying car--which he apparently hand-built between scenes, because it’s introduced with no real lead-in or explanation--has a HEMI engine, complete with several Chevy trademark logos.

    I’m getting annoyed just remembering it.  Time to go watch something better, like paint drying…

    Posted by  on  12/12  at  02:03 PM
  11. In early 2005 I flew from the US to New Zealand.  They showed about eleventy-gajillion movies over the Pacific.  One of them was the Razzie-winning CATWOMAN starring Halle Berry.

    Putting a Panglossian spin on things, I thought it would be the Best Possible Movie Worlds.  If one is only going to glance intermittently at the screen, those intermittents might as well have Halle Berry in the Catsuit.  It would be a way to see Catwoman without seeing CATWOMAN.

    Unfortunately, I fell asleep and missed it. And then missed it again a month later coming back to the USA. So that might be the Best and Worst in-flight movie experience no matter how you slice it.

    Posted by  on  12/12  at  02:27 PM
  12. Both best and worst: Gosford Park. This was on a transAtlantic flight, before my wife and I had any children, so we were delighted to get to see a movie that was on our list but we hadn’t gotten to.


    It’s all quiet dialogue, and we were unable to hear a bloody thing over engine noise. It felt like a bad dream - how can this be happening? Can’t someone help us, or at least make it stop? No. So I got to watch it intermittently, in significant annoyance and with the sound effectively off.

    Posted by JRoth  on  12/12  at  02:44 PM
  13. My best and worst had one thing in common: Marlon Brando. I’m going back a ways.

    The worst. New York to Istanbul, c. 1981: The Formula with Marlon Brando, George C. Scott, and (I think) John Gielgud. A corporate-intrigue thriller, littered with red herrings stinking up the plot, involving the search for a secret formula (get it?) developed by the Nazis that converts some cheap and plentiful substance into gasoline. Ah, it’s in the hands of the evil oil companies! (Read: a stoopid, and tardy, response to the 70s oil crisis.) If that weren’t enough, the production values would make a dog laugh. Boom mics is every other scene, any sort of lapse in continuity you can imagine, etc etc etc. And, just for good measure, random scenes of large, vaguely threatening animals: crocs in the Berlin zoo, elephants wandering around at the end of WWII. The coffers of all three stars must have been low, and the taxes coming due on a Pacific island or the pay-to-play knighthood ante went up considerably. (To be honest, though, The Formula does contain one of the best incongruous lines of all time. George C steams into corporate mogul Marlon’s office to have it out. Mr. Mogul, a strand or two of hair plastered against his balding pate, looks up, picks up an ornate bowl from a side table, and asks, “Milk Dud?")

    The best. Frankfurt to New York, c. 1990, after a several hour delay spent drinking pils in an airport bar. The Freshman. Better known, I’m sure, so I won’t summarize but: Brando on ice skates! Maximilian Schell camping it up! Dueling portraits of Mussolini and Mona Lisa! And, most impressively, Bert Parks covering “Maggie’s Farm” and singing a version of that beauty pageant classic to a Komodo dragon! I seriously wondered if someone had spiked my beer in Frankfurt.

    Posted by  on  12/12  at  02:46 PM
  14. Best in-flight movie:  I usually carry enough back issues of magazines and a pile of books to last any flight, but the flights to and from Europe last year from the west coast are quite long, so, with a selection of movies to choose from, and time, really, to watch them all if I so wanted, I watched four (you can, thankfully, fast forward through them with the on demand movies). 

    The best was The Savages a very witty, brother (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and sister (Laura Linney) deal with dying dad story.  Lots of laugh out loud moments. Lots of touching moments. Some absentminded professor snarkiness, which amuses me.

    Unfortunately, the 20 something sitting next to me was watching one of those entertainment tv shows that was featuring something about the 100 best bodies in the media. He watched it on what must have been an endless repetitive loop for, I kid you not, several hours. I was distracted for the first few loops and then was just weirded out by his obsessiveness.

    Worst in-flight movie:  Possibly a former best body in the media, Nicholas Cage trying desperately to be Indiana Jones in National Book of Treasure.  I hit fast forward a lot.

    Posted by  on  12/12  at  02:53 PM
  15. Oh, I see you mentioned Happy Feet.  Do you remember what the wingnuts’ deal was with it?

    It was anti-religious, it suggested that humans were contributing to the degradation of the ecosphere, and the baby was Teh Gay.  Kind of a wingnut trifecta.

    Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

    Wow.  Just . . . wow.  I saw it on a rainy day on the outer banks of NC and holy shit, I didn’t think they could make movies that bad.  When the giant enlightened insects arrive, everyone involved with that film has some ‘splaining to do.

    And Catwoman!  I’m told that the movie is so bad it doesn’t even offer much in the way of Halle Berry in the catsuit.  Which, like the writing of Richard Cohen, is wrong in almost every way.

    But thank Ba’al for The Freshman.  Ken’s right—it just gets weirder and weirder and better and better until Bert Parks shows up and you’re pretty sure now that there’s acid in the water supply and it just hit.  Is the line “we know he likes to fricassee” (uttered by one of the feds about one of the suspects) in there, or did I hallucinate it?

    Posted by  on  12/12  at  02:56 PM
  16. As for worst, I, too travelled a lot during the Peak Bullocks Era, and saw (most of) Forces of Nature.  However, even with no sound, and trying to look away, I still think that The Lake House must have been even worse.

    It’s been so long since I’ve seen a good movie on a plane, that I actually can’t think of what it was… I’m a big fan of the multiple channels of free movies on international flights, though.  I’ll watch anything; Troy was just silly enough to be watchable and long enough to kill a good chunk of time that I was content to sit through it, and the ocean shots of Master and Commander (no sound) kept our two year old enthralled, so that’s gravy as far as I’m concerned.

    Posted by  on  12/12  at  03:38 PM
  17. My normally quiet, congenial 9 month old daughter was crying non-stop with a fever on a 9-hour flight from Ireland to Chicago.  Medicine did not work, pacifier, or even walking her around.  As I tried the walking, I started to notice very angry looks from the men as I walked down the aisles...not so much the women...when I turned around to come back up the aisle, I noticed they were all trying to watch a Britney Spears video and I was getting in their way!  Eww!  By the way, none of the men scowling at me was younger than 40.

    Posted by  on  12/12  at  04:08 PM
  18. With me it was the Lethal Weapon movies, on planes between Hawai’i and LA.  Gah!  The only good viewing experience I can think of on an airplane was being held on the tarmac (yes, a contradiction) so we could watch the end of The Drive, Elway’s famous football sequence in January 1987.

    Posted by Linkmeister  on  12/12  at  04:18 PM
  19. Best: Spider-Man 2 (the best of the three, though to be fair, I don’t get many flights that have in-flight movies).

    Worst: It was technically not a flight, but a 6-hour bus ride from Sao Paulo to Rio de Janeiro.  We got seated, and they started showing “Mission: Impossible 3.” (with no way to avoid the sound).  It mercifully ended finally, and I thought (after what felt like 6 hours), “thank god - there CAN’T be enough time to show a movie worse than THAT.”

    And then they showed “Armageddon.” In it’s entirety, aerosmith song and all. 

    I swear, I’ve had 15-hour flights to Brazil that felt shorter than that 6 hour bus ride.

    Posted by Mr. Trend  on  12/12  at  04:34 PM
  20. I noticed they were all trying to watch a Britney Spears video and I was getting in their way!  Eww!  By the way, none of the men scowling at me was younger than 40.

    I’m guessing you were on the special Bob Dole flight.

    And Mr. Trend, isn’t the Sao Paulo - Rio bus route the one that produces seven to eight catastrophic bus crashes every year?  You should be happy to have endured the MI-3—Armageddon double feature—and to have lived to tell the tale.

    Seriously, I caught part of Armageddon on a flight.  Truly mind-suckingly awful.  Someone ought to do a mashup of that and Deep Impact.

    Posted by  on  12/12  at  05:00 PM
  21. Worst, with a bullet: Norbit. It was on the overhead screens that everyone can see, and though I didn’t listen in, it was hard to ignore it for the dual reason of the impossibly beautiful Thandie Newton (who really ought to fire her agent), and the train-wreck badness of the film in which Eddie Murphy manages to egregiously offend black women and the obese, as well as anyone with a halfway developed sensibility.

    Best: Children of Men. Not the best venue to watch that masterpiece, but the film’s brilliance nevertheless came through ... and I immediately rented it upon landing at home.

    Posted by Chris in NF  on  12/12  at  05:30 PM
  22. As for Republicans and cars, I think they still believe in driving—or at least in believing while driving.

    As for moving pictures on moving vehicles, how about “The Fugitive,” dubbed into español, on a bus in México.  The Tommy Lee Jones “search every farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse and doghouse” speech was particularly interesting.

    Posted by Christian Anderson  on  12/12  at  06:37 PM
  23. That’s Just Wrong Dept: there is, I kid you not, a Criterion Collection issue of Armageddon (and The Rock too).  The sole forum thread at that link is entitled “Why!!!” (Rumor has it Bay paid them off.)

    Posted by Dave M  on  12/12  at  06:41 PM
  24. Worst is easy, if slightly off-category: overnight bus from Mexico City to Oaxaca 15 years back, with my beloved.  I’d paid extra for the fancy “ejecutivo” with comfy seats, but it turned out part of being a fancy bus was showing a movie, and the movie was Jaws 4 (as I google to check, the first entry says “The worst of the four Jaws movies by some considerable distance").  No headphones, so no opting-out of the auditory experience, and by this point in the Jaws franchise they were pretty much down to eatin’ people: our slumbers were forestalled every few minutes by hideous screaming.  Had Michael Caine in it; forget if he got eaten, but I think I’ve seen more than my share of his output aloft, especially the seminal 1980s work.

    In the category of entertaining bad movies I have a soft spot for Armageddon, possibly the best men’s movie evar, and one that you can certainly follow via intermittent glances with the sound off.

    Posted by  on  12/12  at  09:21 PM
  25. To be arbitrary, I will relate my best (so far) inflight music moment.  Flying back to the US from Buenos Aires, the jazz channel included a duet between Count Basie and Oscar Peterson.  Now that was something.

    I took down the name of the album ("Satch and Josh") and did a little research.  Turns out they did at least five CDs together.  I borrowed some from the library (and copied them) and bought others.  Even found an EP they made together in 1954 and got a copy of that. 

    What a great gift.  I’ve since shared this music with friends and everybody smiles and taps their feet.  Great, great music that I probably wouldn’t have known about without the magic of inflight entertainment.

    Posted by gmoke  on  12/12  at  09:31 PM
  26. on a chinatown bus up to ny from dc one december they played that nicholas cage movie, 8mm, for the last two hours or so of the trip up.  nothing says enjoy the city over the holidays like watching a private investigator stumble around the rough and tumble world of sadomasochism, fit to nab him some snuff-film producers.

    Posted by  on  12/12  at  09:54 PM
  27. Sort of best was Trainspotting (one of those little personal screens, I doubt they would have selected it for the whole cabin), which I watched twice on the Sydney-LA leg of a Perth-Pittsburgh marathon (I guess better would have benn watching it on a train). Interestingly (in)appropriate was Almost Famous; I forget if they cut the whole plane trip or just the near-crash part, but it certainly left a hole in the plot. Worst was Man of the Year—watched, with sound, in a moment of weakness. Is Robin Williams the male Sandra Bullock of movie flightdom? (Actually I think it might be physically dangerous to be forced to sit through Bicentennial Man on a plane.)

    Posted by  on  12/12  at  09:58 PM
  28. And in the spirit of arbitrariness and movies:
    Q: What sad yet intriguing fact did I learn today (don’t ask how) about Ed Asner, Chris Elliot and Peter O’Toole?

    A: The fates have conspired to have all three of them appear in the recently released straight to video Christmas Cottage (listed as Home for Christmas at IMDB). It is apparently based on the events that led Thomas “Painter of Life” Kinkade to find his true calling. Could it be the SkyMall of in-flight movies some day?

    Posted by  on  12/12  at  10:11 PM
  29. Colin: My “no-opt-out” Mexican “ejecutivo” bus movie experience was on a trip to Oaxaca also.  Word to the wise…

    Posted by Christian Anderson  on  12/12  at  10:33 PM
  30. Best and worst, or Worst and best occurred on same flight.  Summer of 2007, we had just wrapped up the west coast swing of the tour in Portland spending most of Sunday night and Monday packing up the trucks.  Exhausted, we tried to sleep for a few hours before our Tuesday, 5 AM flight on US Air from Portland to Dallas (then supposedly to St Louis).  We are told, over western Idaho, that the in-flight movie had not been “loaded,” and that all they had to show us was trivia and infomericals (talk about SkyMall hell). 

    So the six of us rearranged our seating (convincing some people to switch seats) and pulled out our portable little theater system (large laptop, headphone distribution pod, etc. that we use in hotel rooms).  We had shot hours of digital video of our last few shows, and we got to be the very first to watch the raw footage of our very best work in all the years (yeah yeah, i know, total self-absorption). 

    We were so entertained and having such a great time, that other people wanted to see.  We asked the flight attendants if we could load up some of our DVDs.  Then we learned the awful truth of in-flight movies.  They are preloaded by ground crews and locked in the systems.  This supposedly prevents issues with members of the flight crews changing films on their own (really blatant censorship) and guarantees the payment of said royalties to producers (yada yada).  The attendants did let us do the next best thing, which was set up our external speaker/amps and show the footage at the rear of the plane.  This came in handy while we sat for 2 hours 50’ from the skybridge/jetway waiting to unload, because of a tornado warning in Dallas (now ground crews are allowed outside).  We entertained ourselves, the other passengers, and were rewarded with lots of free drinks.

    Posted by  on  12/12  at  11:10 PM
  31. Sometimes I think Democrats should come out against gum disease, just to see if Arlen Specter or Jim Bunning will block appointments to the National Gum Disease Task Force and if Grover Norquist will form a Gingivitis Appreciation League to frustrate the efforts of the periodontal elitists and liberal PC oral hygienists who think they know what’s best for everyone.

    Or advocate putting a minute amount of a chemical into the water to prevent tooth decay. Nah, that would probably just end badly.

    Posted by  on  12/13  at  01:25 AM
  32. And the fact that it didn’t reinforce conservative values.

    Following the White Line is the ONLY true conservative value.

    I did love WALL-E. I would have loved it more without the fat phobia. Though as fat phobia goes, it was fairly nuanced.

    Worst in-flight: Beaches. Shudder.

    CAPTCHA: “board,” as in “I desperately wanted to off-”

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  12/13  at  02:33 AM
  33. Several years ago I saw “The Full Monty” on a transatlantic flight. The scene at the end where they run away from the camera naked? Giant “CENSORED” bar. I laughed ‘til I stopped.

    I also once watched in dull horror at a broadcast TV (I think it was San Francisco’s then UPN affiliate) version of “Pulp Fiction”. I turned it on just at the Gimp scene. Basically, they edited it down to a couple of blurry stills with some washed out sound behind it. High-larious.

    Posted by  on  12/13  at  05:18 AM
  34. You see what happens Larry! You see what happens when you find a stranger in the alps??

    Posted by  on  12/13  at  09:22 AM
  35. Jaws 4 (as I google to check, the first entry says “The worst of the four Jaws movies by some considerable distance”

    It’s not Jaws 4, Colin.  It’s even better:  Jaws:  The Revenge.  Say what you want about this truly dreadful movie, its tag line is deservedly famous:  this time it’s personal.

    I own it, you see.  It’s part of what we call Jamie’s “shark porn” collection.

    Is Robin Williams the male Sandra Bullock of movie flightdom?

    Yes.  He may also be his own poor man, though of course we would have to refer that question to The Poor Man Institute.

    You see what happens when you find a stranger in the alps??

    Wow, that’s kinda brilliant.  We should have a whole nother ABF Friday devoted just to high-larious dubbings.  I’ve always loved “witches!  witches from hell” and “fuh-get that” from the blowing-up-the-truck scene in Thelma and Louise.  But finding a stranger in the alps is truly inspired.

    I would have loved it more without the fat phobia. Though as fat phobia goes, it was fairly nuanced.

    It wasn’t fat!  It was bone loss!  Well, that and . . . uh, a lot of fat.  But at least they didn’t Photoshop a sammich into anybody’s hands.

    Posted by  on  12/13  at  11:07 AM
  36. the best and worst was that “mr. ripley” tripe with the young gerbils of the upperclass being killed off apparently by ‘young mr. ripley’—of course intermittently and mutely—and it was a nice enticing super-revenge film… sort of a lee child novel for a dfh (unless lee child novels are already revenge novels for dfhs...)

    on the other hand, it left me with a sort of bad brown acid befindlichkeit. but maybe that is the existentiale of all experiences of hurtling thru space 30,000 feet up in a metal tube staring at a 10” blockbustah.

    which reminds that ben stiller is also perfect for flight… perhaps he and bullock to australia… by themselves…

    Posted by neill  on  12/13  at  12:21 PM
  37. I know it’s now Saturday, but I still wanna play.

    The best movie-watching experiences I’ve had have all been on British Airways, where you get your own screen and a *huge* selection of excellent movies and television.  Last time I flew the now-defunct direct flight from Detroit to London, I watched The Namesake, discovered “How I Met Your Mother” and wondered why I hadn’t been watching this show all along, and watched multiple episodes of both the British and American versions of “The Office” and also “Extras,” none of which I watch at home because they all make my spouse too nervous.

    I generally avoid the bad movies and can’t really remember any specific ones, but I have to say that Northwest’s in-seat selections stink.  The best movie I’ve been able to watch on one of those flights is The Devil Wears Prada. Seriously, that’s the best Northwest selection I’ve seen.  Sad.

    The most *interesting* experience I’ve had was watching Kindergarten Cop on Air China.  It was in English with Chinese subtitles and I noticed that they didn’t subtitle the Pledge of Allegiance.

    Posted by Dr. Virago  on  12/13  at  01:02 PM
  38. I noticed that they didn’t subtitle the Pledge of Allegiance.

    It’s kind of a reverse Eskimo thing; the Chinese have no words at all for concepts like “libery”, justice”, “God” and “Republic”.

    Posted by  on  12/13  at  01:20 PM
  39. This does not fit the category perfectly, but I once took a group of students down to D.C. on a charter bus that had video capability. The students thought this a perfect opportunity to have an Adam Sandler film festival. It’s an 11 hour trip, the screens were unavoidable, and I could sleep only so long. By the time we reached our destination, my already dangerously low IQ had dipped precipitously. In fact, I dare to write this now only after the assurances from Obama that he will close GITMO and end the torture policy. I don’t want to be even indirectly responsible for the suffering of others.

    Posted by  on  12/13  at  02:05 PM
  40. I hardy ever fly--- especially not on flights which have actual movies on them.

    The C&J Trailways busses from Boston to NH show classic TV shows (with the sound only on headsets), like Burns & Allen and I Love Lucy in very crisp black and white.  Outstanding programming, although frankly I usually opt to read instead.

    Posted by Timothy Horrigan  on  12/13  at  02:27 PM
  41. Flight back to US from Heathrow.  I got split up from my two friends who did the backpacking Grand Tour with me, and we all settled in for the in-flight movie with Keanu Reeves and Charlize Theron.  I had to go look up the name.  Sweet November.  She dies of movie disease.  After the movie, I took off the headphones, got up and saw my friends several rows in front of me, one of them non-snarkily wiping away tears.  I looked at her in disbelief and said, apparently VERY loudly (headphones), “That was the worst freakin’ movie I’ve ever seen!” Whereupon the section around me applauded, and my friend was appalled.

    Posted by  on  12/13  at  05:15 PM
  42. I’m glad you enjoyed WALL-E, but for my money an in-flight film shouldn’t be too good.  After all, I can’t imagine a worse environment for really paying attention to a good flick than a bouncy, seatbelt-light-is-on-now-it’s-off-now-it’s-on-again flight where the -60 degree temp and the icy waters off the coast of Greenland are constantly, if only dimly, in the back of your mind.  Maybe your powers of concentration are just better than mine.

    All that to say, I thought Galaxy Quest was just the ticket for a Chicago-to-London jaunt back in the early 20-aughts.

    Posted by Lance  on  12/13  at  05:48 PM
  43. Like Marita, I have a bus movie memory: traveling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, watching a Thai-dubbed story about how Frozen Hitler was about to be thawed out and unleashed upon the world, a plot which could only be thwarted by the wise-cracking hero and his equally saucy capuchin monkey.  I’ve never been able to discover the title.

    Posted by  on  12/13  at  08:32 PM
  44. Worst in-flight movie: The recent “Speed Racer.” I tried to avoid looking at the screen but every time I did take my eyes off my book, I thought I’d go into an epileptic fit like those kids watching Pokemon episodes in Japan.

    Best in-flight movie: 2001’s “Rat Race” seemed to be on every flight during my one trip to Australia, incuding the one from Cairns to Sydney. For some reason, I never tired of Jon Lovitz being forced to go to the Barbie Museum by his whiny children, where it turns out the place is a neonazi tribute to Klaus Barbie. Too bad Jerry Zucker’s brother David is the neocon behind “An American Carol.”

    Worst Mexican bus movie experience: “Terminator 3” just after the Gropinator had been elected governor of California, and “Bad Boys 2,” both in full-blast sound so there was no escaping it.

    Posted by sfmike  on  12/13  at  08:38 PM
  45. Best: Tristram Shandy: one of those fancy European airlines.

    Also, Stranger Than Fiction was also excellent, especially for Dustin Hoffman quoting Calvino, to whom the movie obviously had a certain debt.

    All my Mexican bus experiences have been horrible, but as I recall, they were showing Richie Rich as my stomach was recovering from a long night of la turista.

    Posted by  on  12/13  at  11:45 PM
  46. When I fly it’s usually the red eye from San Francisco to Newark. Most of the time I try to sleep, so I see bits of movies as I nod off. The last Mission Impossible movie looked really stupid, but since I didn’t pay for the headphones the dialogue may have been pure poetry.

    I did pay for the headphones for “Becoming Jane”, about Jane Austen, but I couldn’t hear much of the dialogue over the engine roar and, again, I was dozing off, so I just gave up following the plot and kind of invented one of my own as I slipped in and out of consciousness. That was a really good movie.

    Posted by Bob In Pacifca  on  12/14  at  12:09 AM
  47. I’m glad you enjoyed WALL-E, but for my money an in-flight film shouldn’t be too good.

    Point taken.  It helps, of course, that the first 30 or 40 minutes of WALL-E have no dialogue.

    And yeah, I should have included buses right from the start.  Eleven hours of Adam Sandler?  I think Chris has the dubious distinction of winning the thread.  But Tim @ 40, you say you bring a book on the bus?  Is that still legal?  No, I know it’s possible—I started reading The Corrections on the State College-Harrisburg bus a couple of years ago.  By the time the trip was over I had finally gotten through the bit about the alarm.

    Posted by  on  12/14  at  10:55 AM
  48. I don’t fly all that often and can only remember two in-flight movies, Hotel Rwanda and some poetic Chinese martial arts flick that had a big bamboo forest in it and ended, I believe, in the snow. I liked both of them, though the seat-back screen was a little, well, little.

    If they showed Presto when they showed WALL•E, Michael, well, you probably missed it when you were nodding off. It was way cool, classic Warner Brothers redone in 3D CGI. Second for second I liked it more than WALL•E.

    Posted by  on  12/14  at  01:23 PM
  49. Ah, British Airways, with your on-demand selection from the US to Heathrow and from Heathrow to Delhi!  You beat the pants off the single-movie-in-rotation of Continental’s awful, awful Newark to Delhi flight.

    Forgettable films: Something About Winn-Dixie, and August Rush.  Both thankfully silent.

    And I agree with whoever pointed out that Nobody Likes Raymond.

    Posted by  on  12/14  at  03:11 PM
  50. For the record, and not to hog the thread, I saw the second Fantastic Four abomination in Brazil with friends, who pointed out the only redeeming feature: CGI.  For that, the movie theater was full.  And all the talentless actors in it don’t deserve SAG cards.

    Posted by  on  12/14  at  03:15 PM
  51. First of all, I’ve been telling anyone who will listen that the end credits of WALL*E are a totally brilliant and worth the price of the movie alone.  Best pop song from P.Gabriel in ages, too.

    That said, remember when in-flight movies posed almost insurmountable technical problems from lighting the projector to getting the sound to work or changing cartridges at the right moment or keeping the big folding screen from flopping around mid-way?  So my vote for the worst inflight movie goes to the eastbound Honolulu to LAX film I saw in 1973 in which the sound was a full second behind the image.  Title long forgotten.

    Posted by  on  12/14  at  06:00 PM
  52. Attention, Sandra Bullock In-Flight Movie Non-Fan Club members: Stay tuned next fall for another fine film in the Bullock oeuvre. In All About Steve, she plays a quirky crossword constructor who falls for a CNN cameraman and stalks him. She wears red boots in it. Are the red boots a red herring? Schedule a flight next fall and find out.

    As real-life crosswordy women, a friend and I answered the plea for help from the set designer. The designer mailed us disposable cameras to document the sort of clutter that real-life crosswordy women live with. (I’ll bet you $10 that Sandra Bullock’s character’s home will be far more orderly.) I’m going to hell for facilitating Bullockiana, aren’t I?

    (captcha: yes)

    Posted by Orange  on  12/15  at  12:25 AM
  53. Worst: The Hand That Rocks the Cradle. Awful movie to watch in a confined space.  Das Boot, by comparison, was an amazing experience in a cramped theater.
    Best: Romeo & Juliet. Ok, not really, but I was 5 and Olivia Hussey wasn’t a bad diversion while flying 3,000 miles to Calif.

    Posted by  on  12/15  at  12:10 PM
  54. I don’t know if this qualifies as best or worse: The Sixth Sense on the overhead video monitors on an overseas flight.  I was glad my young child slept through the whole thing because I did NOT want to deal with the nightmares! Absolute worst? Something with Bugs Bunny and basketball players.

    Posted by Joanna  on  12/15  at  12:30 PM
  55. Best and worst: Kung Fu Mahjong. It’s basically a cheap knock-off of Shaolin Soccer, starring the old couple from Kung Fu Hustle, but set in the world of, um, competitive kung fu mahjong. One of the few films that’s definitely best watched on a plane (or very, very stoned).

    I have to say, in-flight entertainment has become quite decent since they introduced those on-demand machines. There’s usually enough choice to last even a transatlantic flight watching good movies and TV programmes. That said, they almost all do that really annoying thing of showing one episode from several series instead lots of a single programme. It’s understandable, but I’d still rather take a chance and potentially have 12 hours of enjoyment rather than definitely have 1 hour and no more.

    Posted by  on  12/15  at  02:56 PM
  56. Best:  In America.  What an extraordinary film, in any venue.

    Second best:  All of Me. 

    Third best:  Toy Story.

    Fun moment:  when the flight attendant came over to make sure I was okay during the Pink Panther (2006) scene where Clouseau (Steve Martin) embraces Chief Inspector Dreyfus (Kevin Kline) and breaks his fountain pen, so that an ink stain slowly spreads over the oblivious Dreyfus’s spotless white shirt.  It’s not possible to fall out of an airplane seat when your seat belt is on, but I came close.

    Posted by  on  12/15  at  04:46 PM
  57. OK, I got a well-above-average triple bill on Air France last Feb. from Paris to DC.  1. Gone Baby Gone (a poor relation to Mystic River, but Amy Ryan was compelling); 2. Michael Clayton (second viewing, first was big screen); and 3. some French sex farce (Monsieur thinks Madame is fooling around, which she actually (and surprisingly--this is France, right?) isn’t, etc.).  But, in all fairness, this shouldn’t really count b/c AF, and probably other “flagship” airlines, gives you about 30 movies to choose from on a transatlantic flight.

    Posted by  on  12/15  at  10:00 PM
  58. What’s more fun than an in-flight movie? Why tossing a shoe at Bush. Have at it:


    Posted by  on  12/16  at  08:46 AM
  59. Love him? Hate him? How do YOU feel about our soon to be former President?  Take part in a chance to immortalize your views in book form by visiting http://goodbyegeorgew.com/ and letting your opinion be read!

    Check out the following article about http://goodbyegeorgew.com/:


    With the whole world watching the Obama transition kick in it’s easy to forget about the outgoing warmongerer-in-chief who rode to political power on his daddy’s coat-tails.  Without so much as winning the popular vote the first time around George W. Bush took the White House in 2000.  In 2004 he stayed the course for a second term thanks to classic Klan-style intimidation tactics in battleground states that squeaked the Bush /Cheney team back in for a total eight years on Pennsylvania Avenue.  Surprisingly enough some semblance of Planet Earth survived and in retrospect we will miss the factual misstatements and grammatical blunders of the Presidential Poster boy for “No Child Left Behind” education.

    Before he leaves office U.S. citizens and people form around the world are finally getting their chance to tell President Bush what they think.  The new website http://www.goodbyegeorgew.com is building the democracy that the Bush Administration has worked so hard to erode.  While welcoming sarcasm it is providing a general forum to write to the soon-to-be-unemployed President and give him your candid opinion by speaking out.

    Letters are actively being sought to put the democracy and free speech back into America despite the hard work of the Homeland security team to eradicate it forever.

    Of course this Goodbye George W. site comes replete with great political memorabilia on sale for the “historical” collectors.  But what caught my attention is that the founder, Kate Wheeler, who I recently spoke with, is not making a hard sell on her goods but is more interested in putting the participation back into democracy and American politics.

    This farewell to Bush will later be published into an e-book so anyone leaving their comments will be a part of this historic catharsis and collector’s item in itself.

    I hope that the incoming President will get a hint from this as well and seek his own avenues to stay in touch with the opinion of the people that he was elected to represent.  Once in office it wouldn’t be a shock if he gives his ears principally to the likes of Citigroup and J.P. Morgan, who were among the 10 biggest donors to the Obama campaign, (despite his “no strings attached campaign” propaganda).

    The real change America needs is a White House and Government that listen to the people and http://www.goodbyegeorgew.com is a step in the right direction.  It gives ordinary space for people to send our opinions to Washington.  Of course, in this case, we’re giving our opinion to the man who is packing his bags (hallelujah), but it’s a good start on bringing back real democracy.

    Anyone interested in setting a new course for democracy in this country should click over to this website and write their own heartfelt send off to the man who stole the presidency and steered a course into the diplomatic dark ages.

    Posted by Kyle  on  12/16  at  12:34 PM
  60. Donnie Darko.

    No joke.

    Yeah, that Donnie Darko, where the fuselage falls off the plane and crashes into the kid’s house.

    I think that was Boston-Seattle, or possibly Newark-London.

    Posted by  on  12/19  at  10:10 PM





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