What'd you do today? Flew to Singapore. Maybe it didn't take quite a full day, but if you count the time spent at the Minneapolis and Tokyo airports it was damn near twenty-four hours. Nineteen of that was pure flying time.
Time that was made a bit easier to bear by recent improvements in Northwest's in-flight entertainment offerings. No, they haven't replaced the flight attendants with Hooters gals. They have greatly expanded the choice of movies available for viewing and it now includes selections from various eras as well as the hits of today (if you consider "Must Love Dogs" a hit).
On the way to Tokyo, I watched a quirky 1947 film called Gentleman's Agreement, which starred Gregory Peck as a journalist who takes a new job and is tasked to write a piece about anti-Semitism. After struggling to come up with a killer angle, he finally decides to see what it's really like by pretending to be Jewish himself. Sort of "A Jew Like Me" if you will. He discovers what it's like to be "restricted" from exclusive resorts and have your kid come home crying after hearing ethnic slurs at school.
The movie's message is that the only way to combat anti-Semitism is for good people to not only be willing to stand up and publicly speak out against it, but also to practice what they preach in their private lives, which becomes a problem for some of the film's characters. There's really no way you could miss the message, since director Elia Kazan employs a pipe wrench to hammer you over the head with it again and again. It's not exactly a model of subtlety.
In many respects the movie comes across as dated. It definitely was made for that particular time (and even place with all the action taking place in and around New York City) and modern viewers would likely have difficulty relating. But it also is a good snapshot of that era and reveals interesting tidbits that mark that time. One that really stood out for me was when Peck's character comes forward near the end of the film and reveals to his coworkers that he is in fact not really Jewish. They react by saying something about being surprised to learn that he is a Christian. Apparently that was the extent of the choices available.
From Tokyo to Singapore I caught something almost completely different called Hustle & Flow:
A rap star from the Dirty South who is trying to make it in the hip hop world, he has to deal with many different types of people who try to bring him down, including strippers, baby's mama, and all the things that try to keep a player down. This is probably his last chance to make it, he is approaching his 40's, and his life is looking downhill.
As much as I deplore glorifying the culture that the film portrays, I gotta admit that this was actually a pretty good movie. Solid acting, well-developed characters, nice use of humor, and a story line that builds to a dramatic conclusion.
The nineteen hours spent in airplanes was also marred by the fact that I came down with a cold on Sunday, the day before my departure. I actually came through in fairly decent shape, although the symptoms definitely put a damper on the imbibing of booze, which is readily and freely available (almost pushed on you) on these flights.
The way they shuffle the food, snacks, and booze at you while you're sitting immobile for hours on end almost reminds me of one of those science fiction stories, where aliens fatten up their human captives on the way back to the home planet for a feast of epic proportions. If I find out that the motto of the Northwest flight attendants is "To Serve Man", I'm finding another way home.