Wednesday, 22 May 2013

In-flight Movies Redux

My affection for transatlantic in-flight movies is two-fold. They serve a useful purpose in alleviating the boredom of flying, especially westbound when sleep is unlikely -- although my ideal way to fly would be to nod off just as the flight becomes airborne and to wake a minute or two before landing. Secondly they give me the opportunity to catch up on unseen recent films, especially Oscar-winners and nominees, before they drift down to satellite showings. Mind you as I have written before, one doesn't really 'see' films on a plane -- both the miniature screen and the often inaudible sound mean that one really needs to 'see' the films a second time if they have anything at all to recommend them. Still, in-flight viewing serves as a taster and I soon know whether indeed they should receive a more traditional second view in due course.

Having said this, I will probably re-view all five (yes, five!) movies I sort of saw on the two legs of my trip -- although only one of them (despite received honours) really grabbed me as being something rather special. So here goes my report with only the sketchiest of reviews:

Argo: I can just about understand how this flick, directed by and starring Ben Affleck, grabbed the high ground at the last Academy Awards. No doubt the Academy voters were influenced by some sort of 'feel good' factor at Uncle Sam's being able to pull the wool over those evil Iranian eyes, with an ingenious plot to free the six Americans who had sought refuge at the Canadian Embassy during the 1980 hostage crisis. Constructed as a combination history lesson and suspenseful thriller, the film mainly holds one's attention. However, I think that it may eventually be relegated to the ranks of those movies that people wonder 'How in the world was that ever voted the best film of its year?' In twenty years time it may seem no better a movie than 1953's dreary winner "The Greatest Show on Earth". Nor really a great classic

Silver Linings Playbook: To me this felt like another severely over-hyped film, audience-pleasing and reasonably well-acted by its ensemble cast, however little more than a minor trifle. As the recently released patient from a mental hospital, Bradley Cooper gives a believably nuanced performance, and he possibly deserved an Oscar nod more than his flavour-of-the-month co-star Jennifer Lawrence, who actually won best actress. I found her whiny voice abrasive and her persona neither charming nor winning. However it was good to see a powerful yet restrained (for once) turn from Robert DeNiro as Cooper's Dad.

Untouchable: After the above two films I had just about given up on the plane's sound system and I watched this French charmer without earphones, relying on the subtitles for coherence. So I definitely need to watch it again, especially since I thought it was the best of the five by a long chalk. Francois Clozet gives a terrific performance as the wheelchair-bound aesthete who finds a whole new meaning to life in the hands of his African carer, Omar Sy. There is more to savour than art and music; there's also women and weed! Rumour has it that there may be an American re-make with Dustin Hoffman hamming it up -- and no doubt someone horrendous like Chris Tucker in the black role. Let's keep our fingers crossed that this will not happen. Force yourselves, folks, to embrace films in other languages...

The Sessions: I had heard good things of this movie about a sex therapist helping an iron-lung patient to lose his virginity. It was remarkably good, although not necessarily a film that demands multiple viewings Helen Hunt gives a brave, Oscar-nominated performance as the therapist, spending much of the film in full-frontal nudity. Nearly 50 when the film was shot, her body is in remarkable shape, while her face is strangely botox-frozen, giving a peculiar dichotomy to the role. John Hawkes is sensational as the paralyzed poet with a sense of humour and it is his performance that really deserved unreceived kudos. William H. Macy is also on top-form as Hawkes' sympathetic parish priest. All in all, a very moving and superior low-budget effort

Flight: I can't say that I really saw much of this movie as I drifted in and out of some needed and pointless-to-resist sleep, but it does seem another winner for Denzil Washington. The film marks a welcome return to live-action features for director Robert Zemeckis after his so-so stop-motion efforts of the last decade. Washington plays an addicted personality (booze and coke) who just happens to be an ace passenger pilot and who manages to prevent a major disaster, despite being high as a kite while high in the air. What becomes of him and the truth as the facts emerge is the dilemma that powers this film, although the ending is a wee bit too tidy. He is strongly supported by Don Cheadle, Bruce Greenwood, John Goodman, and if I'm not mistaken his first 'white' love interest in the shape of Kelly Reilly -- something I've heard he resisted in his earlier films. It's a blockbuster performance which continues to define his position amongst the top talents of his generation, although I must confess to admiring him more than actually liking him.    
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