Sunday, January 01, 2012

Why are bad films so good on long flights?

Before making my recent 11-day pilgrimage* home, I was reminded of an airplane-travel phenomenon by my good friend Molly Knefel.  She and her awesome (now-not-then-recently-arrested-for-documenting-the-occupy-movement) brother, John, were on an episode of the podcast Ear Candy earlier this year, and shortly after hilariously discussing of the 'branding' of John and Molly†, the subject of romcoms was raised.
The Knefs on the 'cast.

One of the hosts mentioned having seen some terrible Sandra Bullock film on the plane, thereby exonerating himself of all responsibility in the viewing, a tactic that I have employed many-a-time.  Molly followed up with: "Romantic comedies are the best on airplanes...  I just watched 'He's [Just] Not That Into You'... I would never actually want to see that movie, but on an airplane, it's perfect, because it's just so stupid...."

The thing is, I watched 'He's Just Not That Into You' on a plane, which Molly goes on to accurately describe as a "parade [Or barrage? Or some awesome combination of those words] of gender stereotypes." I watched the whole thing.  I kind of hated myself, and I definitely hated every writer involved, all the stupid characters for making such absurd and contradictory decisions, and Ginnifer Goodwin for participating in such a shit show, but I watched the whole thing.  I could have been reading a book.

So why?  Why do we watch crap on airplanes?  I asked myself this question on the 19th of December, when I boarded my 10-hour flight home, and again when I selected 'Bad Teacher' as my first viewing choice on board.  'Bad Teacher'? I thought, Really, Anne?  Cameron Diaz?  You hate Cameron Diaz!  And I do, but Justin Timberlake can be funny, and I love Jason Segel, and he did totally rescue all the scenes in which he participated, but this doesn't change the fact that I do not enjoy watching Cameron Diaz on screen at all!  But I guess I do.  I chose to watch her over Kristin Wiig, Mya Rudolph and a crew of other hilarious women in 'Bridesmaids', which I've only seen once and totally merits a second viewing, especially in the context of my own sister having recently gotten engaged.

I'm pretty sure Cameron Diaz and Kate Hudson are my go-to, plane-only actresses; actresses whom, under any other circumstances, make me hate the industry for employing people like that rather than people like... well, me, but who seem to provide the perfect level of sedation/distraction on a long flight.

There are so many conveniently spliced together images of these ladies on the interwebs.

There are some films I haven't made it through, even given the strange alternate universe of movie-viewing in flight.  I could not stomach even the first half of 'Bride Wars'.  Apparently Kate Hudson plus themes of women's innate obsession with weddings -- the kind that overrides lifelong friendships -- was too much, despite my Diaz-Hudson rule.  I also started watching 'Horrible Bosses' on the same flight as 'Bad Teacher'.  I suffered through a good 20 minutes before conceding that my love for Jason Batemen, Jason Sudeikis, and Charlie Day could not possibly rescue the film from some of the worst writing ever spoken on screen, nor me from my mounting outrage that three such hilarious men chose to be involved in such crap.

I decided to follow up that particular disappointment with a film I felt more sure I would enjoy, so I watched 'Crazy, Stupid, Love' (whose title, by the way, evades my understanding with its two commas). Despite a sort of draggy middle section, I genuinely enjoyed it (duh: sexy/just-hasn't-found-the-right-woman-yet Ryan Gosling + inept but loveable Steve Carell + the student becomes the teacher plot line = heartwarming).  It was a departure from my usual choice to watch anything I wouldn't watch anywhere else, but I was pleased, and then I slept for the last leg of the flight.

I think watching a good film can be sort of emotionally exhausting, and maybe that's why I (we? can I speak for everyone here?) choose mostly not to watch them on planes.  I usually don't sleep well on flights, so the last thing I want is to arrive at my destination both shattered and distraught by images of the Holocaust, for instance.  I'm pretty sure they don't show 'Schindler's List' on planes.  Maybe that's why.  Also, I don't think good movies are done justice on a 6" screen.

I did go the light-hearted but well-made route with 'Midnight In Paris' on my return flight, but then I accidentally started watching 'Beginners', because I thought it was the terrible-looking Katherine Heigl/Josh Duhamel film I saw playing on someone else screen.  It was, of course, a rather serious film starring Ewan McGregor as a man whose recently-out father has just died, and I watched it because it was compelling, but I wrapped things up with 'Something Borrowed' (so Kate Hudsonly terrible) and 'Life As We Know It' (also awful and full of unbelievable character actions/transformations), which I had initially confused with 'Beginners', because I just could not put myself through something with subtitles or themes on the futility of marriage or life in general.  I wanted to arrive back in London with the emotional (if not physical) energy to go out New Year's Eve.

*Just a regular visit.  No actual pilgrims involved.
†If you don't know/follow the antics/comedy/insightful writings and broadcasts of John and Molly, you are missing out.