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Hooray for Hollywood (on Seatback Monitors)
February 19, 2015 -- The Oscars are Sunday, but I never watch the show. Why should I? I never see the nominated movies until they make it to an airline's in-flight entertainment system.
When you only see movies on IFEs, there's a pretty good chance you miss the endings. I've lost track of the number of films for which I have no closure. I mean, what happened with Young Joe and Old Joe in Looper? Beats me. What happened to Joey in War Horse? What happened to Joe Ransom's truck and loyal dog? I did see Blue Jasmine all the way through, but damned if I can remember a single thing that happened. That happens with a lot of Woody Allen flicks these days...
Another thing I've noticed about current-generation IFEs is that they really have a lot of stuff on them. Hundreds of movies. Thousands of TV shows. (I got through two seasons of How I Met Your Mother on one recent long-haul roundtrip.) Lots of music, too. K-pop, J-pop, hot funk, cool punk, old junk and, of course, stuff that's still rock and roll to me.
Even the combined current output of Hollywood and Bollywood can't fill the IFEs. Plug in all the French, German and Chinese stuff and there's still tons of space to fill. So the airlines and their IFE partners are recycling "classic" flicks and throwing them on the seatback systems, too. You know, the kind of films shown on Turner Classic Movies.
That's actually good for me because I've seen most of the classics. I even know how they end. (Spoiler alert: ET makes it home, but HAL doesn't.) I also can guide you to the ones you should be watching on your next flight.
So print this column and throw it in your carry-on bag. I think it's a pretty good tip sheet to 30 of the best flicks you'll find on the "classics" channel of the IFEs.
A young boy from Colorado (Orson Welles) goes East and misses the sled he left behind.
THE WIZARD OF OZ
A Kansas girl (Judy Garland) steals the red slippers of an influential woman in a colorful neighborhood and tries to avoid the consequences.
The problems of three little people (Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Heinreid) don't amount to a hill of beans during World War II.
GONE WITH THE WIND
The problems of three little people (Clark Gable, Vivian Lee, Leslie Howard) amount to a hill of beans during the Civil War.
MY FAIR LADY
A speech professor (Rex Harrison) and a London flower girl (Audrey Hepburn) agree to be each other's "plus one" at a society ball.
A Sicilian orphan (Marlon Brando) moves to New York, raises a family, makes friends and influences people.
THE GODFATHER PART II
The youngest son (Al Pacino) of a respected man inherits the family business and meets resistance from his father's business associates.
LAWRENCE OF ARABIA
A callow English Army officer (Peter O'Toole) survives World War I in the desert, but dies in a post-war motorcycle accident.
A fast-talking insurance salesman (Fred MacMurray) murders a California oilman and is eventually shot by the man's wife (Barbara Stanwyck).
A college graduate (Dustin Hoffman) returns home to California and eventually runs away with the daughter of his father's law partner.
IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE
Au unhappy banker (Jimmy Stewart) in a small town makes friends with the two guys who are the prototypes of Bert and Ernie from The Muppets.
THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI
During World War II, a determined British officer (Alec Guinness) and his soldiers build a huge railroad bridge in the Burmese jungle.
During the Cold War, an American soldier (Keenan Wynn) vandalizes a Coca-Cola machine so a British officer (Peter Sellers) can make a telephone call.
THE MALTESE FALCON
A San Francisco private eye (Humphrey Bogart) helps his squabbling clients find an old statue made of lead.
A sheriff in the Old West (Gary Cooper) marries the prettiest girl in town (Grace Kelly) and quits after she shoots a man from behind.
THE THIRD MAN
An unemployed novelist (Joseph Cotten) flies to post-war Vienna and woos the lover of his best friend (Orson Welles) from school.
A dim-witted Southern boy (Tom Hanks) outgrows his childhood illness and invests well, but continues to ride public transportation.
THE PHILADELPHIA STORY
A socialite (Cary Grant) woos his ex-wife (Katherine Hepburn) before her marriage to another man.
A nebbishy New York bureaucrat (Jack Lemmon) buys a new hat and falls in love with a perky elevator operator (Shirley MacLaine).
A nebbishy New York comedian (Woody Allen) with two failed marriages dates and loses a string of attractive women.
NORTH BY NORTHWEST
A 1950s New York ad man (Cary Grant) accused of murder escapes on a train and is seduced in the dining car by an attractive blonde (Eva Marie Saint).
RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK
An archaeology professor (Harrison Ford) armed only with a whip and a pistol thinks he can prevent the Nazis from finding the Ark of the Covenant.
THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE
A confused Korean war hero (Laurence Harvey) returns home and murders his mother (Angela Lansbury), stepfather, wife and father-in-law.
In the years between the World Wars, two small nations engage in a needless conflict caused by a wealthy socialite (Margaret Dumont) and her gigolo (Groucho Marx).
THE SOUND OF MUSIC
In the years between the World Wars, a widowed Austrian Navy officer (Christopher Plummer) seduces a novitiate (Julie Andrews) and together they turn his children into a singing troupe.
An unsuccessful screenwriter (William Holden) is found dead in the pool of a faded movie star (Gloria Swanson).
A boxer who was once a contender (Robert DeNiro) opens a nightclub in Miami and fights with his wife.
ON THE WATERFRONT
A boxer who could have been a contender (Marlon Brando) tries to get a job as a dock worker and fights with a mobster (Lee J. Cobb).
A boxer who never was a contender (Sylvester Stallone) hires an elderly trainer (Burgess Meredith) and loses the biggest fight of his career.
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD
The precocious daughter of a small-town lawyer (Gregory Peck) loses her dress and shoes and walks home barefoot wearing a Halloween costume.
MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON
An idealistic senator (James Stewart) launches a filibuster, but doesn't read Green Eggs and Ham on the senate floor.
A New York police officer flies to Los Angeles, tries an obscure cure for jet lag and learns that his estranged wife has changed her name.
A woman from Phoenix (Janet Leigh) leaves for California and makes a bad choice of roadside motels when she leaves the main highway.
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