The Brancatelli File



December 27, 2001 -- 'Tis the season for shoe bombers and long security lines, but most frequent flyers I know couldn't give a fa-la-la-la-la about all that stuff now. After all, we're most likely at home, off the road, and blissfully free of business-travel commitments until well after the New Year.

This ever-so-brief intermezzo in our frequent flying gives us the time to do so many things: Clean out our laptop bag, introduce ourselves around the water cooler at the office, and maybe even take a loved one out to dinner without checking our watch to see if we've still got time to get to the airport. We might even do "real" stuff: Duck our heads into a museum, take our kids ice skating, or fill our that form from human resources that was due last June.

By this time next Thursday, of course, we'll all be bored to tears. Because, truth to tell, we business travelers can only handle so much normalcy. After a couple of days of decompressing and readjusting, we're forced to admit a basic truth about our lives: Frequent flyers fly. That's what we do. For us, the only thing worse than being a business traveler is not being one.

So what do we do with all this free time until we get back on the road next year? Well, I watch movies about business travel. Trust me on this one. When you've got a few extra hours during this down time, hop on over to the video store and pick up one or more of these celluloid representations of the life we lead. You'll be surprised how much better they'll make you feel.

The V.I.P.s
This 1963 British flick might be the most absurd movie ever made, but that's why it's so wonderful. An all-star cast (Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Louis Jourdan, Rod Taylor, Orson Welles, Margaret Rutherford, Maggie Smith and David Frost) is thrown into a VIP lounge at Heathrow Airport to wait out a long flight delay. Everything about the movie is bizarre: the fashions, the acting, the plot lines and the depictions of business and business travel. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll make fun of Elizabeth Taylor's clothes--and then you'll wonder why your life on the road isn't nearly so glamorous!

North By Northwest
The 1959 Hitchcock classic is best known for the remarkable scene where Cary Grant is chased through a field by a crop-dusting plane and the dazzling climax atop Mount Rushmore. But check out the business-travel action: Grant at the Oak Bar at New York's Plaza Hotel; Grant and Leo G. Carroll at Midway Airport, when it was Chicago's only airport; and Grant in a battle of wits with the front-desk clerk at Chicago's Ambassador Hotel. And don't miss the scenes on the New York-to-Chicago train. You'll wonder how come you've never met anyone as gorgeous as Eva Marie Saint or Cary Grant on a flight.

No Highway In The Sky
Another British import, this time from 1951, with a multi-national cast led by James Stewart, Marlene Dietrich and Glynis Johns. Stewart is Stewart--bumbling, befuddled, distracted, lovable and heroic--and he saves the day by bucking the establishment over the safety of an important new passenger plane. Johns plays the quintessential 1950s stewardess who falls in love with him, moves in with him and then organizes him. Corny, charming, and weirdly compelling.

Only You
Seven years after he struck gold with Moonstruck, producer-director Norman Jewison essentially tried to remake the movie in Italy. The result, 1994's Only You, is a clunker. But there are hilarious, if hokey, scenes at the Pittsburgh and Rome airports, a nice set piece involving the concierge at the Hotel Danieli in Venice, and gorgeous scenery shot in and around Le Sirenuse hotel in Positano on the Amalfi Coast. The payoff involves a no-nonsense (and previously unseen) business traveler who solves the entire dilemma of the 109-minute movie in about 30 seconds as he's rushing to catch a flight.

Grosse Point Blank
This may be the best movie you've never seen. It was in and out of the theaters so fast in 1997 that I'm not sure it even made the in-flight movie rotations. It is dark and disturbing--after all, it's about a hit man (John Cusack) going back to his 10-year high-school reunion in search of his life and a lost love (Minnie Driver)--yet it is also a laugh-out-loud comedy. What's it got to do with business travel? Watch how Cusack plays his character, especially in the hotel-room scenes, and then tell me he isn't playing a stressed-out business traveler. And pay particular attention to Joan Cusack in the tiny but extraordinary role of the back-at-the-office assistant who keeps her frequent-flying boss on track and on schedule.

Lastly, we come to Planes, Trains and Automobiles, a life-on-the-road comedy starring John Candy and Steve Martin. Business travelers tell me it's hilarious. In fact, my frequent-flying brother-in-law gave me a copy of the movie last Christmas and demanded I watch it.

Unfortunately, I've been flying a lot lately and haven't gotten around to seeing it. Maybe this weekend…

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