Tuesday, September 28, 2010

For Tanya Livingston and Gwen Meighen

Airport is a movie about an evil old hag named Ada Quonsett who thinks she can get away with being a fuckin’ criminal because she’s old. Fuck this bitch. Everyone else falls for it, and even Burt Lancaster is won over by this piece of shit but you know who won’t play her fuckin’ game? Jean Seberg, that’s who. She plays the character of Tanya Livingston, and as far as I’m concerned, I owe this fictional broad a drink, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The titular airport is the fictional Lincoln International and we cut between different characters and their various going-ons during one particularly rough snowstorm. Burt Lancaster runs the show, because when you look like Burt Lancaster, you don’t need credentials, they just give you the fuckin’ airport manager position because you obviously know how to run shit. At the beginning of the movie, some hotshot pilot tried to pull some shit on the runway during landing and ends up getting his plane stuck in the snow, so Lancaster calls up George Kennedy (who was busy macking on his wife, proving that some people, you just don’t ever want to see getting remotely intimate) and tells him to get his ass over to the airport to find a way to move that fuckin’ plane so it’s not hogging up all that precious landing space.

Dean Martin plays a pilot who also happens to be Lancaster’s brother-in-law and is it me or will there never be bona-fide 100% cool motherfuckers like Dean Martin anymore? Like super cool. I don’t think it’s possible, you have all these perpetrators and wannabes who call themselves cool but they’re not. They made human beings different back then, we’re all pussies now, even the supposedly cool people of today are fuckin’ douchebags compared to the cool people of Yesterday. Anyway, Dino is married but this is 1969/70 we’re talking about so he’s got a hot little stewardess on the side played by Jacqueline Bisset. They have a nice little moment where he’s trying to get some from her at her apartment even though they have to be on a plane in 15 minutes; they’re using some of the most awesome/lame/obvious double entendres and I love them for it.

I don’t remember seeing a single male stewardess in this movie, probably because they didn’t invent the term “flight attendant" yet. Goddamn, the past was a beautiful thing at least in the fantasized romanticized version of the past I have playing in my head; pretty young ladies in their short skirts walking up and down the aisle asking you politely -- politely! -- if they can get you something to drink, or if you’d like a pillow and a blanket (which means they want to go to bed with you, of course).  Now I get nothing but the Steven Slater types on my flights. Here’s something sad -- every time it looks like I’m going to get some dude bank teller at the bank, I always pretend I forgot something in my wallet and let the person behind me pass through. Then guess what has two thumbs, suddenly found his bank card, and is now walking up to the anonymous pretty girl bank teller? This guy!

Jean Seberg plays Lancaster’s assistant, and I want to Purple Rose of Cairo/Last Action Hero my way into her life and ask for her hand in marriage for the way she dealt with that Quonsett bitch. OK, so this is where I started, right? The old lady was caught trying to stowaway on a flight, and they bring her down to talk to Seberg and get a well-deserved shaming and dressing down. Mrs. Quonsett then happily -- happily! -- admits to always pulling this kinda shit, not just on this airline, but others as well.

Quonsett thinks she has an excuse, talking about how she wants to see her daughter but can’t afford the ticket because she only has social security and her late husband’s small pension to live on, and for a second my heart was slightly bleeding for her. But then she goes on about how she pulls this breaking-the-law shit and will continue to do so because she knows she can get away with it. It wouldn’t look good for the public relations if they prosecuted a little old lady for trying to see her daughter. I swear, she even fuckin’ smiles and looks all proud-like about it. The balls on this fuckin’ lady. The BALLS.

I love when people use poverty as an excuse to pull some shit. I have a friend who I think the world of, but this fuckin’ guy has happily admitted to never tipping at bars or clubs because he can barely afford to get in the clubs/bars and drink. He figures, Hey, at least I’m paying for the drinks and cover charge and they should be happy that I’m bringing some kind of business to the establishment. I bet you he would be among the people cheering and laughing along with Ada Quonsett. Well, you know what bro? Go hang with your old broad friend. I’m going to be hanging here with the lovely Tanya Livingston, played by the chick from Breathless.

There is an annoyance/borderline-anger in Mrs. Livingston as she’s dealing with Quonsett, and I loved her for it, because it showed that I wasn’t the only one feeling that way, especially since the movie is obviously on the old lady’s side. They play goofy “She’s incorrigible!” music every time she’s around and even the movie trailer calls her “huggable” and I guess they’re right because I want to hug Mrs. Quonsett around the neck with my hands. Why are we supposed to cheer this bitch? Her sociopathic ability to not give a fuck about STEALING is shared by the kind of con artists who make their livings ripping off little old ladies who resemble Quonsett.

I also never got into the whole Ain’t-It-Cute-When-Old-People-Do-Crazy-Things? deal you see in movies; it’s seems like a lame way to get laughs when they show an old lady swearing or kicking ass or being super-horny. This, by the way, is why a show like The Golden Girls is a goddamn miracle, because that shit managed to always be funny even though it had all the old lady shit I hate in movies. Maybe it’s because it was a sitcom and not a relatively serious movie and in some hidden discriminatory way I hold movies to a higher standard? I hope not, that's an asshole stance. Speaking of The Golden Girls, I’m a Betty White fan and while I’m aware of her resurgence in pop-culture, I haven’t seen The Proposal or the SNL episode or that television show she’s on, so all I can say is Good For Her and if they’re giving her lame shit to do, fine, as long as she’s making some cash and people are digging on her. Meanwhile, the only thing I want to dig for Ada Quonsett is a fuckin’ grave.

Airport was based on a best-selling book, and this was back at a time when the majority of people still read, so we’re talking a shitload of books were sold the world over. I looked up a review that pointed out a big problem with the film adaptation was that there was no surprise since you knew what was going to happen. I don’t get that, because that’s the case with most adaptations and besides, I never read the book, so most of this movie came as a surprise to me anyway. The only thing I could see coming was part of the subplot about a dude trying to sneak an attache case bomb onto the plane (ah, remember when 9/11 was just 3 numbers used to dial for emergencies?), and that was because I saw Airplane II: The Sequel, where they were poking fun at that.

Of course, the guy trying to sneak a bomb onto a flight is named Guerrero; these assholes are always trying to give raza the short end of the stick. Even worse/weirder is that the guy who plays him, Van Heflin, looks about as much a Guerrero as Cameron looks about as much a Diaz. Wait. Ah, I see. I take it all back. In fact, there’s a scene where that evil Quonsett points out that this fat Irishman looks like a fat Irishman, not a Guerrero. He explains that it’s an ancestral thing from long ago, the same way Johnny Rico and Dizzy Flores from Starship Troopers look like clean-cut all-Americans. By the way, “all-American” is just a nice way of saying Absolutely White With No Traces Of Race Contamination. When people go on about how some dude grew up with an all-American upbringing or some shit like that, it means he’s clean and white and untainted by the savagery that has already infected the coasts. Word.

Maureen Stapleton plays Guerrero’s wife and gives my favorite performance in the movie. She has a scene where she’s watching a plane take off and you can see just about the entire world go out from under her, yet she does her best to keep a lid on it. She cries and tears roll down her face, but I got the sense that she absolutely wasn't going to lose her shit completely in public, even though she absolutely wanted to. It takes her all the strength she has left just to remain standing up, and maybe it would’ve been better for her to just let it the fuck out, then maybe all that pain and anguish wouldn’t have had the chance to eat her up from the inside. I felt bad for her character, really bad.

I also feel bad for Tanya Livingston because she was so alone in how she felt about that fuckin’ Quonsett. If only I was able to be there for her; I’d show up in my fuckin’ late 60’s business wear, smoking my 32nd cigarette of the evening. I know how you feel, baby, I know. I’d ask her if she wanted to talk about it at the Commander’s Club, over cocktails and steak dinners, because that’s how people rolled back then. Cocktails and steak every fuckin’ night, people! In my dreams, at least! In my dreams when I sleep!

I guess compared to today’s standards, one could call this movie slow, but I didn’t find that the case at all. I mean, yeah, nothing serious happens until an hour in or so, but I was always into it. The soap-opera melodrama between characters was fun to watch, and at the very least it was just a trip to watch how different shit was in ‘69/‘70; the fashions, the interior design of the airport and the airplane, people smoking wherever the fuck they wanted, every man is wearing a suit and tie, and every woman is wearing a skirt and stockings. Think about that -- people dressed up to go on a flight. If I could get away with it, I’d wear a fuckin’ suit everyday and the only reason I don’t is because I hardly leave the house, I’ve no reason to wear a suit alone at home, I’m not that sad. But I really enjoyed this movie, I was entertained for all 136 minutes and maybe it was a good idea to watch a movie that takes place during a snowstorm on such a warm night.

Some people consider this the first “disaster” movie because it was made in ‘69, came out in ‘70, it features an all-star cast, and George Kennedy is in it telling people what to do, so I can see why they’d lump it in with stuff like Earthquake and The Towering Inferno and The Poseidon Adventure (with Ernest Borgnine as George Kennedy) and all those other movies, but I can’t quite agree. It’s more like the proto-model for what would become the disaster movie of the 70’s, it’s more of a “crisis” movie, or better yet, a “headache” movie because it’s all about these different headaches being brought Lancaster’s way on just another night on the job.

Yup, Lancaster's got a lot of shit to deal with and if it’s not the plane stuck on the runway, it’s the protestors picketing for the closing of a runway that is too close to their homes, or it’s the constant phone calls from his socialite wife giving him shit for working a job with crazy hours and not having time for her or especially his children, or it’s dealing with this stowaway bitch, or (the biggest headache of all) it’s the possibility that there’s a guy on a plane with a bomb. It’s a good thing his assistant is easy on the eyes. Have I mentioned that I was a tad smitten with the Tanya Livingston character, partially because of her refusal to fall for some old lady’s shenanigans and partially because she’s played by Jean Seberg (who I like with either super-short hair or super big hair)? Well, I am. I’m also smitten with the Jacqueline Bisset stewardess character and I wish there was another Airport that focused on both ladies where they’d tell all the old lady grifters to go fuck themselves.  Case in point, this beautiful scene: