Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Silent movies on airplanes

I can't sleep on airplanes. Try as I might, I can never do more than drop off for a ten-minute nap. This poses a problem on ten-hour trans-Pacific flights, like the one I was on yesterday.

So how did I spend the time? I finished one of the four books I started in Japan a couple of weeks ago (more on which later). I listened to my iPod until the battery was almost dead. And I watched in-flight movies with the sound off.

Another thing I can't do on an airplane is commit to a movie. If it's worth seeing, I want to hold out for better viewing conditions than a miniscule screen, bad color, cropped frame, tinny sound, and constant interruptions. And if it's not worth seeing, it's not worth turning off the iPod for.

This time around it was romantic comedies back to back to back to back. Coincidence that I was just thinking about this genre the other day.

First up was Valentine's Day, starring Julia Roberts and and and and. This kind of ensemble cast thing can be fun: I liked Love, Actually, and some other examples I can't remember - in fact they're usually forgettable, but at least pleasant. This one I couldn't quite tell about, but what I did notice was that according to it, LA is a place inhabited mostly by blonde women with heart-shaped faces. There are some Asians, but they're mostly gardeners (the guy that owns the flower shop); some Latinos, but they're mostly laborers (the guy who delivers for the flower shop); some blacks, but they're mostly entertainers... I don't usually try to harp on this kind of thing, but with the sound off it really stood out.

Next up was When in Rome. We had kind of wanted to see this one, because we have such fond memories of Kristen Bell from Veronica Mars, but this wasn't that. In fact, of the four movies I saw on the plane this one worked best with the sound off. I felt like I was watching a silent movie - in other words I think I got everything I needed to. I could lip-read the few lines of dialogue that were essential, and everything else I could guess from situation and body language... Which is, I'd submit, either high praise for the movie, or pretty damning criticism. Take your pick.

The funnest was Leap Year, starring Amy Adams and Her Hair. Adams is a tremendously winning actress, cute as a button, and she does have nice hair: bouncy, sheeny, perfect for a Clairol commercial. I spent the whole movie just gazing at it. Which was its own reward: at first I was laughing because in every scene she has a completely different hairdo. And her hair is always perfectly styled, no matter how disheveled she's supposed to look. Then I realized that she had different hair in every shot. Clearly what happened is that the hairdresser rushed in between takes to re-coiff her, and the continuity editor never noticed that in one take her hair is tucked behind her left shoulder, and in another it's hanging down in front of her left shoulder. Once you notice it, you can't stop watching - it happens in scene after her scene. Quite amusing.

The last was 500 Days of Summer, which I should have liked if for no other reason than that it starred a brunette rather than a blonde - this, I think, is part of what marks it as Indie in its sensibilities. This, and the fact that the main characters look like five-year-olds dressed by parents with literature degrees. I was not in the mood for precious by this point, so I turned my attention to the iPod.

1974 Dead, 2010 Dylan, and Clarence White-era Byrds. Now that's entertainment.

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