Friday, February 19, 2010

Travel Notes and Movie Reviews

I traveled from Tel Aviv to Cincinnati on three flights, with two hour stopovers between each flight.

First flight: Tel Aviv to Istanbul on Turkish Airlines. Ben Gurion Airport, one of the most secure airports in the world, did not make me take off my shoes and did not prevent me from passing through security with a 1/2 liter water bottle.

Second flight: Istanbul to JFK on Turkish Airlines. There is a special transfer desk for those traveling to the US, which includes two special check-ins: passport and additional security, in a cordoned off area of the airport (away from all the stores and other parts of the airport). No liquids allowed, shoes off, every bag opened, and everyone got a full body pat-down. I flew on a 777, and I, like many others on the flight, had an entire row of three seats to myself. It was a good flight.

Both flights cost me - total - $640, round trip.

Third flight: JFK to Cincinnati on Delta. I had to leave the airport terminal and check in to a different one. Once again, the security procedure, but no pat-down.

I had no check-in luggage for any of these flights. I had a carry-on, a laptop case, a belt pouch, and a coat with pockets. For one month of travel time. Every time I fly, I take less.

Movies

Bright Star: I had head good things about this, but ended up switching to something else after ten minutes. I probably would have enjoyed the intense parts that were supposed to come later in the movie.

All About Steve: boring and shallow, I switched to something else after ten minutes.

New York: I Love You: An excellent experience, essentially a sequel to Paris, Je T'aime (see my review).

The Invention of Lying: I have nothing personal against Ricky Gervais, but I haven't found any of his movies interesting. I'm usually not a stickler for "sense" in a movie, but I'm an old-school sci-fi aficionado, and this is essentially a sci-fi movie. In a world where no-one ever told a lie, the dialog in the movie (bold-faced rudeness, what people "really think") could never happen, because everyone's expectations would be entirely different. And a lot of what they said (such as "I'm sorry", when they weren't) was incompatible with the premise. And it still looked entirely predictable. Switched off after ten minutes.

Walk the Line: About Johnny and June Cash. Nice enough, but also kind of predictable and shallow; unfortunately suffers in comparison to the much better Ray, about Ray Charles. Good acting, but Reese Witherspoon, while professional and capable of delivering emotion and dialog, seems to be incapable of acting like anything other than Reese Witherspoon.

Joueuse (Queen to Play): About a maid who suddenly longs to play Chess. Kind of enjoyable, if you enjoy a lot of Chess matches and a blatantly metaphorical movie about a wife not getting her needs met by her husband. Mediocre cinematography and direction, and an unbelievable script mar the enjoyment.

So much for the airplane movies. Here are a few others:

Avatar 3D: A three-dimensional movie with two-dimensional characters and a one-dimensional plot. As far as sci-fi adventure movies go, it's derivative but ok. As far as movies go, it's really bad. It's the intersection of Pocahontas and Dances With Wolves (not the union; the intersection).

The 3D was impressive, and the world building "bug on every leaf" was lovely, of course. The usual action stuff, with effects. There's nothing else there. That's it. What a waste. Really, the 3D was wasted on this movie; when the action sequences began, my mind pretty much blanked out any 3D aspects to what I was looking at and reverted to standard 2D mental image. I could really only focus on the 3D when not much was happening on the screen. I think the 3D will have more of an effect for me in a romantic or dramatic movie.

District 9: While - like The Matrix - this was perhaps a little too focused on violence, this was a phenomenal movie. It's metaphor to the treatment of blacks by white was transparent, but that just made it better. The decision to use non-humans to represent the blacks was perfect; it forced us into the point of view of the racist white who sees blacks as non-human, something which can't work using any other genre. Brilliant sci-fi.
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