Tim Roxborogh on the joys of moaning about your holidays
Edited movies on planes
I can still remember the wide-eyed wonderment of the very first time I flew on a plane with screens in the seatbacks. It was the year 1996 and my mum and I were flying to Singapore and, as a 14-year old obsessed with television, this was the most outrageous technology. A TV! In the seatback! In Economy Class!
Life couldn't get much better, even despite that back then, the movies were still scheduled so everybody watched everything at the same time. It was the 90s and nobody knew any better. Watching what you want, when you want? Unless you were rich and had a VCR at home and were clever enough to figure out how to set the timer, that was the stuff of fantasy.
One of the movies Mum, me and the entire planeload of passengers saw that day was the then just released Richard Gere, Ed Norton and Laura Linney courtroom drama Primal Fear. Gere and Linney play lawyers, with a young Norton on trial for the murder of a sexually abusive priest. There was a rip-roaring twist at the end and while I can't speak for everyone on board flight whatever it was from Auckland to Singapore that day, Mum and I gave it the thumbs up.
"So good to see a movie like that with no swearing", said Mum, probably. Sure, I didn't diarise this conversation, but I distinctly recall both of us being surprised that such a non-family film didn't have a solitary dirty word. "You wouldn't read about it!" I said, probably.
"Probably", because in a wholesome non-sweary Presbyterian household like ours, swear words on TV usually meant a remote was reached for and the channel changed. No such issues with Primal Fear however, with Richard, Ed and Laura keeping things remarkable civil given, you know, a paedophilic priest, corrupt politicians and opposing hotshot lawyers who used to date each other.
About a decade later I saw the film again. Or should I say, for the first time. Of possibly no shock to anyone who's spent time in Southeast Asia, the Primal Fear as shown on the plane versus the Primal Fear that was in cinemas and later on DVD were far from one and the same. Indeed, a bit of research tells me there are almost 100 words in Primal Fear that were too spicy for the censors, with these either being dubbed over — "Shoot! What a tough case this is!" — or removed altogether.
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Sometimes when I'm flying I miss those restrictive days of everyone watching the same, censored film. Of late I find myself getting stressed out if I'm watching an onboard movie with a few love scenes. Are my neighbouring passengers judging me? Then there's the fear a love scene will arrive right during the meal service. Do I press pause as my tray is being delivered and hope it's not clear to the flight attendant they've interrupted during some horizontal folk-dancing? Or do I let the scene play out as my tin-foiled chicken dish is being lowered on to my lap? Shoot, it's a real dilemma guys.
Singapore and unfinished movies
On a slightly related note, I attended a function for Singapore Airlines a couple of weeks ago and the announcement that most grabbed my attention was that in the near future, if your Singapore Airlines plane lands with your having not finished your film, the next time you fly you'll be able to pick up where you left off.
Not being able to do this has infuriated me for years, especially when the clock is ticking on touchdown and it's similarly touch and go if the movie will finish in time. And then the pilot keeps interrupting things to tell you information of no interest to you: "Cabin crew, prepare for landing". Tell that to the cabin crew and don't pause my movie. Well, that stress will soon be a thing of the past and I'm sure other airlines will follow Singapore's lead. Just as long as you're comfortable knowing your viewing habits have been stored away, ready for next time.
Tim Roxborogh hosts Newstalk ZB's Weekend Collective and blogs at RoxboroghReport.com.