Some people hate long-haul flights.
I don’t. I embrace the opportunity to strap myself in to an enclosed space for hour after hour. The options are limited, so the distractions of daily life are eliminated.
Get stuck into that book that has been gathering dust on your bedside table for months. Read up on all the exciting stuff you can do when you touch down in a new destination. Listen to some tunes. Talk to someone. Or just think.
But best of all, check out the movies that you can watch on demand, on the personal screen a couple of feet in front of your decompressing face.
How original, beautifully acted and darkly humorous Martin McDonagh’s cinematic masterpiece is. Frances McDormand must be odds-on favourite for the Best Actress Oscar, and as good as Sam Rockwell is as stupid, violent deputy Dixon, I hope Woody Harrelson gets the Best Supporting Actor nod as vilified, cancer-riddled police Chief William Willoughby.
Battle of the Sexes didn’t compare with Three Billboards, but it was an entertaining way to spend a couple of hours after dinner, and knowing that my land-based insomnia wasn’t going to disappear in the air.
It captures 1973 uncannily well, the year when Billie Jean King played ageing hustler Bobby Riggs in a symbolic tennis match, at the same time as she fought to discover her own sexuality. The ever brilliant Emma Stone looks uncannily like BJK, and Steve Carell is surprisingly good as feckless opportunist Riggs.
Still sleep wouldn’t come, so I stumbled across an engagingly dry comedy with Ben Stiller on a road trip to check out colleges in Boston with his son. Brad runs his own not-for-profit organisation, has a happy, comfortable home life but feels he has missed out, compared with his own high-achieving college friends. And now his son Troy is going to fly into the stratosphere too….
Turns out this charming and poignant film is called Brad’s Status. Sadly, I don’t know how things end up for Brad, as we landed back at Gatwick before the credits rolled . I was tempted to ask the crew if they could do another couple of circuits around the south of England…..
On the way down to Cape Town, the stand-out movie on offer was The Big Sick. In this charming clash-of-cultures comedy, a Pakistan-born stand-up comedian living in the USA falls in love with a very American student. Emily succumbs to a mystery illness, and Kumail has to navigate his way through families, faith and friendships.
With no sign of sleep things got Stronger, the true story of Jeff Bauman, who lost both legs while watching his girlfriend near the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon. Jake Gyllenhaal plays the inspirational Everyman, fighting battles with his girlfriend and blue-collar family whilst putting on a brave face to the outside world.
And just as I thought I would pull my earplugs out and close the aching eyes, I stumbled across the full-length film version of previously televised series The Trip to Spain.
I have been obsessed with The Trip, since its original incarnation in the north of England back in 2010. Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon visit six posh restaurants, to review them for a newspaper. Beautifully filmed on location, the real story is the competitive friendship between the two stars, each addressing life and their respective careers in very different ways.
The beauty of the format is that you’re unsure how much is real and how much is feigned. You get to watch a documentary, a drama, comedy, and a food and travel program all at the same time. And then it improved again on The Trip to Italy, with incredible scenery, mouthwatering food, the introduction of interesting peripheral characters and more uncannily good impressions of famous people by both Coogan and Brydon, each convinced theirs is better.
The Trip to Spain was a trip too far when watching the episodic TV version, but on the big screen – well, actually a tiny mid-air one – it seemed to flow much better. Muy bien, amigos.
Where next, I wonder? Perhaps fate will have me watching The Trip to Australia just as we fly over Alice Springs en route to Sydney….