This day has been a long time coming. Airbnbs requested, Google images scoured, currency exchanged, tours booked. You have packed your bags, renewed your passport, submitted visa applications, and printed your boarding pass. Your carry on items are stowed and your tray table and seatback are in their full, upright positions. Hopefully, if you’re a nervous flier, like me, an Ativan has been ingested. There is just one more decision to make. Of the utmost importance. What movies will you watch on that tiny low definition screen in front of you?
As of late, I’ve been engaged in a hot and heavy affair with travel. Is this what they call wanderlust? But film is my first love. I suppose it was predestined. At the very least, my parents’ doing. Before “Madison” became a top-five name throughout the first eight years of the aughts, there was Splash (1984). In the film, Tom Hanks’ character made a joke about the chosen moniker (from a New York City street sign) of a free-spirited mermaid portrayed by Daryl Hannah. That following summer, I, along with my undying love of movies, was born, christened with the same name as this supernatural cinematic heroine.
My predilection for international travel and film and literature inevitably got me thinking about inflight entertainment. How rarely we find ourselves burdened and blessed with twelve uninterrupted, restrained, unoccupied hours. How transatlantic air travel brings with it the promise of your destination and a limited selection of movies intended for the big screen. How your interaction with a movie can change over time, circumstance, and cruising altitude. For me, almost nothing can compare to the joy felt when a movie I always meant to see but somehow missed in the theater is available. How can one be critical under such serendipitous circumstances? You undoubtedly give your first screener on a long flight to some exotic locale a more generous reception, perhaps unable to separate the picture from the adventure that awaits. How jitters and wanderlust create a powerful elixir immunizing an otherwise mediocre feature film against grievances that would, under normal circumstances, plague a far superior one. Or perhaps you start with an old favorite, taking the opportunity to luxuriate in the familiar dialogue and developments. And don’t even get me started on the state of exhaustion and melancholy one feels upon boarding the trip home. A trip that no matter the travel time (or sometimes quite literally time travel) always feels so much longer. Of course your excitement or melancholy must inform your viewing selection. Does your mood cloud your otherwise impeccable judgment? Will the sweet and all but forgotten Danny Collins be forever mingled with the reluctant return to your real life?
The experience of watching an inflight movie is a study in contradictions. There occurs an intimacy with the work, brought on by a combination of complete isolation and total exposure. The cabin lights may be dimmed, but your inflight entertainment decisions are laid out for all to see. You are likely watching something different than your seat mates. The experience is not the shared one provided by a theater. You are inhibited – too afraid or embarrassed to laugh or cry. Any outward showing of emotion misconstrued, taken out of context. I love to look around at my fellow passengers, their faces illuminated by the screens in front of them. I am curious to see what film they chose to watch or book to read. I sit in silent judgment. I strategically make my list, skipping the subtitles, dozing during musicals, saving the best for the way back.
My intention is to offer a travelogue peppered with journal entries, tips, tour and museum recommendations, and outdated inflight entertainment reviews. A chronicle of where I have been and what media I chose to consume en route. In that limbo where journey is indistinguishable from destination. Where critic meets creator. For, dear reader, we are each the stars of our story. I can only hope to provide the occasional welcomed word of advice and/or inspire you to add that previously overlooked film or destination to your queue.
With that, I shall embark.