Flight/Life of Pi

flight-poster-domesticNow that the year of the snake is upon us, I feel that it is timely to turn to the zodiac to answer all our questions about the remaining nominated films before the Academy Awards are presented. (Also, I watched Anaconda this weekend – best snake movie ever!)

The four elements that organize the zodiac signs are Air, Fire, Earth and Water. We will combine the first two, Air and Fire, because that is essentially what the movie Flight is about – the plane starts out in the Air and ends up in a field on Fire (hey, I guess that covers Earth, too!) The crash sequence guarantees that this film will not be shown on your next United cross-country trip. This is what an emergency landing looks like in your nightmares. All but six people survive, and that is due to the skill and grace under pressure of the pilot, the fabulous Whip Whitaker.

Except that he’s not so fabulous, having been on a binge the night before and needing a few lines of coke to wake himself up before he heads to the flight deck, then mixing himself a screwdriver as he talks to the cabin full of passengers. The plane crash is due to mechanical error and the pilot is lauded as a hero, until it comes out that he was stoned out of his mind.

Denzel Washington is amazing in the role of the junkie pilot, ricocheting between complete despair as he realizes what he has done to his career to the utterly confident arrogance that the drugs give him. No one does cocky like Denzel, and it was wonderful to watch him in this performance. The film is more about facing down your demons than the actual plane crash and turns into an interesting ethical situation as the lawyers try to save his career.

The plane crash sequence is not only terrifying but nausea-inducing as Whip turns the plane upside down in order to pull it out of a dive. It doesn’t last very long, but the after effects will leave you jittery far into the film. Maybe mix a nice vodka and orange juice to calm your nerves.

life_of_piFrom there we move fluidly into Water and the Life of Pi, which takes place almost exclusively on an ocean. In a rowboat. With a tiger. This film comes from a book that has been around for a while but was considered unfilmable because it takes place … well, see above. But director Ang Lee was able to take the seemingly impossible and create one of the most magical films I have ever seen. The CGI technology has progressed to the point that you truly believed that there was a sopping wet, extremely angry and horrifyingly seasick tiger in that rowboat.

The first twenty minutes of the film are too long and less successful than the book, as young Pi searches for God and tries to understand the world. His family is local zoo keepers who are forced to relocate, and it is their ship full of animals that goes down, leaving him and a few other unfortunate beasts in the lone lifeboat that survives.

The sequences on the water are spectacular and hallucinatory in 3D, as Pi tries to figure out how to survive on a tiny boat that also has a tiger in it. The imagery is gorgeous and I would have enjoyed a lot more of it if I hadn’t had my eyes closed tightly and my fist shoved in my mouth.

Life has been fairly uneventful here at flicksthatmakemesick for the last year – handheld cameras seem to have gone out of vogue and Hollywood has been a much steadier place than it used to be. Life of Pi isn’t handheld, but most of it takes place on water — water that goes up and down, up and down, until the tiger isn’t the only one who’s feeling a little queasy and so nauseous that it makes you want to bite the head off the hyena sitting next to you. The end of the film is surprising and leaves you with something to think about, although mostly I wanted a couple of Advil and some ginger ale. To appreciate the full effect, make sure you see this one in 3D, and bring some Visine with you as well.

Barf Bag Rating for Flight: THREE BAGS for the crash sequence.
Barf Bag Rating for Life of Pi: FOUR BAGS for the middle section on water.Three bags

Four Bags

Coming Next: The final two Best Movie nominees and a downloadable flicksthatmakemesick Academy Award ballot!

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