In-flight movies an aviation hazard

Whenever I fly, I am aware that the movie I am watching on the tiny screen directly in front of me could be the very last film I ever watch. All things considered, I would prefer that this not be a Kate Beckinsale movie. I have never been entirely clear on how Ms Beckinsale got into the movie business, neither am I aware of any special skills she brings to the enterprise, other than that she seems to move her hair about as a diversionary tactic to draw attention away from her acting.

When it comes to the types of films I will watch while airborne or when confronting death, I do not have terribly high standards.
But I do have some. And Beckinsale movies do not meet them.

A few weeks ago I made a round-trip trek across the Atlantic, during which I watched eight of the 15 movies on offer (four, including the very engaging District 9 and the equally entertaining The Informant!, I had already seen).

Airline travel, particularly transatlantic flights, brings us face to face with the raw existential truths of life. Airlines these days showcase a genre one might describe as direct-to-troposphere films. Direct-to-troposphere films are usually films that were not hits, but could have been, or films starring Jennifer Aniston. Of the eight I watched, the one that absolutely stunned me was The Damned United. It was better than any other mainstream film I saw in 2009 and Michael Sheen’s performance surpassed that of any of the other candidates nominated for the best actor Oscar.

Jeff Bridges won an Oscar this year, largely because of a sotto voce decision in Hollywood to honour him with a lifetime achievement award. Crazy Heart, which was not on either of my flights, is a dull, poorly constructed motion picture that pales by comparison with Tender Mercies, the 1983 Robert Duvall vehicle it is distilled from. Moreover, Bridges, playing a loony army officer specialising in trippy forms of psychological warfare, is a whole lot more entertaining here than he is in Crazy Heart, as is George Clooney, who should have won the best actor award for Up in the Air, seeing that they weren’t going to give it to Sheen anyway.

All of these thoughts rumbled through my semi-comatose psyche as my plane wended its way across the Atlantic. Other thoughts, too: movies with names like Paranormal Activity don’t seem especially scary when you’re flying because flying itself is paranormal activity. And whenever I looked up, someone was watching a motion picture about a jumbo-sized black teenager with gigantic problems. On one side was The Blind Side, yet another film in which noble Caucasians lift pathetic African-Americans out of the slime. On the other side was Precious, a grim discourse on the dysfunctionality of the African-American family. Catching glimpses of these two films without the benefit of audio, I felt vindicated in my decision to abstain from seeing either of them during their commercial run.

By the time I landed in New York, I had seen every film on offer except Precious, The Blind Side and White-out. I was happy to get off the plane, because if the flight had lasted longer, I might have been seriously tempted to watch the Beckinsale movie, if only because she once lived with Sheen. There’s an old saying among seasoned travellers that if you fly often enough and far enough you will eventually have to watch a Beckinsale movie. Thank God I usually travel by car.—Guardian News & Media 2010