Hyper-Travel Hardie’s In-Flight Movie Awards: and the winner is…

View from above

View from above

I also dabble in film, and am threatening to specialize in it, so welcome the opportunity to organize my own private little Oscars ceremony. For me as an inveterate and veteran traveler, that can only mean one thing (cue drum roll): the in-flight entertainment awards. I figure one long flight per year is just about enough to keep tabs on Hollywood’s finest.

Now I don’t pretend to have the broad vision (pun) nor country smarts of the legendary Joe Bob Briggs of drive-in movie fame. Nor do I pretend for a minute that in-flight movies constitute the ad hoc genre that drive-in movies once did, creating its own star directors and actors in the process, e.g. Roger Corman et al.

Nor will it ever, though tapes then DVD’s have been taking up the slack for the last decade or two, and the Web is certainly grist for the mill, so stay tuned. Car back seats aren’t what they used to be, anyway (been trying to get this crick out of my neck for forty years now, damn Volkswagen)…

It's always sunny up here

It’s always sunny up here

But the real treat of in-flight movies (re: captive audience syndrome) is the promise of something undiscovered, some little treasure lying buried at the bottom of the click-screen. For me a few days ago that was ‘Bad Words’, the recent movie starring and directed by Jason Bateman (yes, him), about a 40-year-old scamming his way into the national spelling bee contests on a loophole—and winning.

As a former local spelling-bee champ myself, this was a treat, not so much for the absurd premise of the film as much as the absurd premises of the event itself. I mean: a contest that consists of spelling words correctly? (Sound of lip-farts in French) Yeah, right… The plot is unimportant. It’s funny.

What’s important is the news that ‘antidisestablishmentarianism’ is still the must-learn word for any serious contender, then as now, though its competitor words have far surpassed the obligatory ‘pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis’ that was de rigueur then. Bateman is characteristically irreverent and the script is a perfect vehicle for his adolescent style of humor—which he proceeds to inflict upon his right-hand dude, whom he nicknames ‘Slum Dog’. Teased enough, yet?

Copping a snooze in the airport

Copping a snooze in the airport

Me? Well, my career was cut short right at its sweet spot, c.1967, when a black girl also qualified for the Rankin County Spelling Bee, down yonder in Mississippi. Well, you can bet that caused a furor. (Zen koan: What is the sound of one world-view crashing?) I’m not sure what the problem was, maybe she spelled it ‘negro’ and they spelled it ‘nigra’, but bottom line: they called the whole thing off. My career and subsequent fame died in its infancy. Many times I’ve wondered how my life might have been different if only…

Oh yeah, which reminds me: ‘Twelve Years a Slave’ was brilliant and ‘American Hustle’ was great. ‘Nebraska’ was deeply satisfying on many levels and ‘Gravity’ was not. Alfonso Cuaron sold out big time—for big bucks—on that one, though there were obvious clues he would, and could. This is not the same guy who once did ‘Children of Men’, much less ‘Y Tu Mama Tambien’. Special effects, my ass…

‘Dallas Buyers’ Club’ was not on the menu, unfortunately, and ‘Noah’ was: a ripping good yarn. Religio-critics say it wasn’t Biblical enough, but how would they know? Sitting on their plush sofas in their plush parlors, reading a Book, and watching tens of thousands of Central American kids flooding the borders, they see a border problem. I see the Bible… But I didn’t see ‘Grand Budapest Hotel’ boo hoo. Book a long flight within the next week or two and that is what you’ll likely get, plus ‘Winter’s Tale’ and some cartoons, too.  Enjoy.