I love This American Life. This week’s episode is called “Tough Room,” and it has four stories about people who have to face and try to somehow persuade or ingratiate themselves with highly critical and skeptical crowds.
But the last story of the episode is exactly the opposite. It’s about an audience member who is exceptionally susceptible to what is in front of him. GQ’s Brett Martin tells about his experience as someone who never fails to cry at a movie on an airplane, even those that are dumb, cheesy, or just plain awful. And he finds a group of others who experience the exact same phenomenon.
Most movies are selected by viewers for their entertainment value. The one thing everyone in a movie theater has in common is that everyone wants to be there enough to get out of the house and pay for a ticket. But airplane movies are chosen for a captive audience who have nothing in common except that they all want to go to the same city. And the airline’s primary goal is to keep everyone calm. So they tend to be bland films chosen not for artistic quality but for being as unobjectionable as possible. You generally won’t see heart-rending drama or pulse-pounding thrillers on a plane. You’ll see a comedies and romantic comedies.
And that is why it is fascinating to hear Martin talk about how he cried in “Sweet Home Alabama.” All four times he saw it. It isn’t that he’s a big softie. He doesn’t cry in the circumstances most people do. And he isn’t afraid of flying. There’s just something about being on a plane. He talks to other people who are coping with this newly characterized plane movie crying syndrome, and, because I see so many middle-range movies, I found the list of films that sparked their tears and sometimes sobs very funny.
Abraham Lincoln was born 201 years ago today. This film, directed by John Ford and starring Henry Fonda, is an appealing look at his early law practice and his tragic romance with Ann Rutledge. Particularly exciting and moving are the scenes in the courtroom as Lincoln defends two brothers charged with murder. Both have refused to talk about what happened, each thinking he is protecting the other, and Lincoln has to find a way to prove their innocence.
I am deeply honored to be one of the participants in selecting the winners of the Black Reel Awards and very proud of the winners we chose this year.
Night Catches Us | Magnolia
Tanya Hamilton – Night Catches Us
Anthony Mackie – Night Catches Us
Kerry Washington – Night Catches Us
Outstanding Supporting Actor
Wesley Snipes – Brooklyn’s Finest
Outstanding Supporting Actress
Phylicia Rashad – For Colored Girls
The Roots – Night Catches Us
Shine (John Legend) – Waiting for Superman
For Colored Girls | Lionsgate
Outstanding Breakthrough Performance
Tessa Thompson – For Colored Girls
Outstanding Feature Documentary
Waiting for Superman
Preacher’s Kid | Warner Bros.
Outstanding Independent Short
Katrina’s Son | Ya’ke
Outstanding Independent Documentary
For the Best and For the Onion
Outstanding Television Documentary
If God is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise
The New York Times has a rare behind the scenes look at Pixar: