Sunday, December 5, 2010

Movie Sunday: Airplane!

Image from here

I was originally going to do a different stupid movie this week, but two things happened to change my plan. First, Leslie Nielson died, and I heard him say, I am serious ... and don't call me Shirley, about a hundred times.  But what really did it was that one of my former students dropped by while Airplane! was playing on AMC, and I realized that he had actually never seen it. In fact, while he said he had heard of it, he really had no idea what it was about. And this is one of the cooler kids, who knows a lot about old music, vintage TV, and delivers Holy Grail quotes on a regular basis.*

I tried to explain it as "an old movie full of stupid jokes, but that's not important right now," which cracked me up, but didn't really seem to help him at all.

Airplane! is like an encyclopedia of comedy. From slapstick to satire, it has examples of practically everything, though it admittedly tends toward the lower forms. But while explaining it to my friend, I was reminded of the time it was made, and the string of disaster movies that made Airplane! the Scary Movie of its time. I guess Leslie Nielson owed the revival of his career to Irwin Allen, at least indirectly.

That was another small irony of this movie. Airport, Towering Inferno, Airport 75, Earthquake, Airport 77, and all the rest, gave washed up old actors -- the kind who today would show up on Dancing with the Stars -- one more role to pay the rent for another couple of years. But Airplane! gave several washed up old dramatic actors, most notably Nielson and Lloyd Bridges, new careers in comedy, at least for a while. As dumb as it was, it really was a phenomenon. This is the sort of thing that's hard to explain to a 22 year-old.

So if you haven't seen it in a while -- or God forbid, ever -- indulge your drinking problem and watch it. You may be amazed at how many of the old jokes you know came from this movie.

* Your idea of what constitutes a cool kid may vary. But we are talking about computer science majors, here.


  1. ya-HOOOOO! My number one, two and three favorite movie of all time! i'd be right there with you, preaching the gospel of "Airplane!" to the young and unitiated.

    i often find kindred spirits in boring meetings when i can work in a toss off line from the movie during discussions...

  2. I've never been an Airplane! person. Makes my dad want to cry, because it's in his top ten. But I've always been more of a Mel Brooks spoof fan as opposed to a Jim Abrahams spoof fan. The tones are drastically different.

  3. @daisyfae: You can tell a lot about a person dropping movie lines.

    @rassles: It's case by case for me. I'll take most Mel Brooks over Airplane! any day, but I can't even sit through Spaceballs.

  4. Aw, I liked Spaceballs.

    I've only seen Airplane once, and I definitely thought it was funny, but I wouldn't put on my top films list or anything.

    I'm actually surprised that I don't drop as many movie lines talking to you as I do in conversation with others. Well, that's not true - I used to drop movie lines all the time, but I eased off for the most part because I got really tired of people looking at me funny and me having to say, "Nevermind, it's from a movie."

    I do love it when people I know get my movie quotes, especially from (relatively) obscure stuff. Like when I talk about my dislike of escalators and I say, "What?! Escalators are dangerous - I've seen Mallrats!" If the other person says, "That kid is on the escalator again!", I know we're meant to be friends.

    And I can pretty much recite the entirety of Holy Grail (at least the importance scenes), among other movies which don't give me nearly as much street cred. Well, I guess that depends on who you're talking to. Like your definition of a cool kid. :)

    If you ever see me with my sisters, we have been known to hold entire conversations in movie lines. It's rather sad, actually, now that I think about it. But it makes us laugh.

    This was a really long comment. Sorry for that.

  5. "I speak jive."

    Classic movie - classic lines only old nerds like us can love.

    BTW we watched 'Young Frankenstein' only last Saturday. Meant to get around to it Halloween, but you know...