There is not a lot to do for eight hours on that sardine can known as an airplane, unless you choose to: 1) eat several bad meals; 2) bring your own entertainment; 3) bring a small child, in which case entertainment is the least of your worries, or 4) watch some of the small screen films on the small screen in the back of the head rest in front of you. I chose 4), and was actually pleasantly surprised, more so with Hitchcock, than with Hyde Park on the Hudson. In regard to the latter, Bill Murray is excellent as FDR, but it’s an FDR you don’t much want to like— FDR the philanderer and exploiter of women, with full knowledge of his wife, even including his cousin Daisy. Laura Linney is a fantastic actress (see e.g. her role as Abigail Adams in the John Adams mini-series), but she is not given enough chance to prove herself in this film, even though she is the narrator of the film’s action. The story is meant to be about the visit of the King and Queen of England (yes that King— the stutterer, the King’s Speech king) to Hyde Park to meet with Roosevelt. The austensible purpose of the trip is to grease the wheels of getting America’s help with the coming war with Germany. Bill Murray deserved an Oscar nomination for this film, but the film itself is disjointed, and the subject matter that is emphasized is sordid.
Of more substance, and with better acting and more good actors is Hitchcock. Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren are A list actors, and Scarlet Johansson is good as well, playing the role of Janet Leigh in Psycho. The story line is this— after numerous successes, on both TV and on the silver screen, and having just come off a big success with North by Northwest, Hitchcock wanted to do something dramatically different. He wanted to do a chilling horror film. In short he wanted to do the novel Psycho about Norman Bates and the Bates motel. Alas, the censors found it too shocking, and major studios were dubious it would appeal. Little did they understand the lurking voyeuristic nature of Americans, who do indeed like to be scared to death…. say by murder in a shower. And so it was that Hitchcock had to fund the filming himself, mortgaging his and his wife Alma’s house. Hopkins and Mirren are masterful in this film, and Hopkins certainly nails the quirky nature of Hitchcock’s personality, which comes through very clearly in his films. Hopkins even mastered the speech patterns of Hitch… not to mention his corpulant frame.
Both of these films are short and to the point, but the one I really loved was the Hitchcock. Sadly the man never won an Oscar either for his many fine films, or as an director. He was given a lifetime achievement award in 1979, but this is more of an apology for earlier oversights frankly. He was a creative genius and deserved better from his peers.