Planes, Trains and Automobiles

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Arriving at the Telluride Film Festival on a private jet, evidently, I had just missed Tom Cruise who had landed a few minutes earlier, in the previous slot.

We view time as continuous, but detailed jet scheduling uses a discrete-time model, with slots that tile the runway utilization. A typical model, like this one (for Raytheon, then FlightOptions, and NetJets) can ignore this detail, except in heavy-traffic regime (aka holidays), when additionally, customers are asked to reserve their jets 48 hours in advance (as against the usual 8 hours), no guarantees are made as to the time window of the flight, and sometimes, in an overcrowded situation, even diverted to a nearby landing strip (and then provided ground transportation).

But I was in for much better treats! Walking out of a coffee shop, in between movies, I ran into:

Forest Whitaker!

Premiering at Telluride that year:

The Last King of Scotland is historical drama film. Whitaker won Best Actor Academy Award. The film grossed over $48 million on a budget of $6 million.

The next day, at a group lunch in the park, sunny with clear blue skies, and gentle breeze, the film festival’s “surprise award” went to (a casually dressed in red T-shirt, blue jeans and sandals):

Penelope Cruz.

What are fun movies involving planes? A favorite is the opening pre-title sequence in Tomorrow Never Dies, with two fighter jets, going at it with each other after a game of chicken on the runway. Of course, Top Gun and Air Force One. (Worst? Snakes on a Plane.) Here is another plane movie (with Halle Berry): 

Executive Decision is an action thriller film, which grossed $122 million against a $55 million budget. Steven Seagal earned a Razzie Award nomination for Worst Supporting Actor for his performance in the film (lost to Marlon Brando for The Island of Dr. Moreau).

Fun movies about trains? Oh, there are so many, that I am sure I will inevitable miss mentioning many (most?) in my post if I attempted to be comprehensive. Let me discipline myself and limit to just a few sets. Starting with James Bond:

From Russia with Love. Casino Royale. Spectre.

And the pre-title opening, literally on a train, that closes with Naomie Harris (“Moneypenny“) pulling the trigger per Judy Dench (“M“) – Take the Bloody Shot!:

Skyfall is the twenty-third film in the James Bond series, grossing over $1.1 Billion, on a budget of about $200 million. It was very well received by critics and won two Academy Awards.


Hitchcock films?

The Lady Vanishes. Strangers on a Train. North by Northwest.

Agatha Christie?

 Murder on the Orient Express. Murder, She Said.

Let us get to Westerns next.

3:10 to Yuma. High Noon. 

Of course:

The Great Train Robbery. The Taking of Pelham One, Two, Three.

India-based movies:

Gandhi. Slumdog Millionaire. 


Silver Streak. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

Let me spotlight two that are near the very top of my enjoyable experience:

The Fugitive is an action thriller film, and was a critical and commercial success, grossing nearly $370 million against a $44 million budget. It was nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Picture; Tommy Lee Jones won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. It has come to be viewed as one of the greatest action films of the 1990s.

When I was admitted to IIT-Madras, we were living in Hyderabad, and my dad and I went for the obligatory “Orientation Day” in Madras (now Chennai). After a day of listening to really dull information about how my next four years were going to be as an undergraduate student, we decided to see if some “English” movie was playing in a nearby theater:

Von Ryan’s Express is a World War II adventure film. The screenplay concerns a group of Allied prisoners of war who conduct a daring escape by hijacking a freight train and fleeing through German-occupied Italy to Switzerland. Financially, it became one of Sinatra’s most successful films.

This movie also (obviously) has planes and automobiles, and is a:

“ripping adventure” that was “directed with amused panache by Robson, and helped no end by a fine cast…”, while the BBC described it as “a rattlingly exciting Second World War escape adventure, with a well-cast Frank Sinatra”.

It is unusual to study trains these days in OM. One of the fun papers considers inter-modal transportation, where we jointly modeled pricing and operations planning, for freight transport.

Of course:

Indiana Jones. Jason Bourne. Mission Impossible.

Now to automobiles. Again, there are so many fun films, and with extreme self-control, I will only mention one (and sneak in three more while doing so!). 

Diva is a thriller film. It is one of the early French films to let go of the realist mood of 1970s French cinema and return to a colourful, melodic style, later described as cinéma du look. Ebert also praised the film’s chase scene through the Paris metro, writing that it deserves ranking with the all-time classics, Raiders of the Lost ArkThe French Connection, and Bullitt.

Oscars 2021. I am hoping for something that is different from the disappointing predictability of Mank winning. I always root for Frances McDormand. Chadwick Boseman did a fine job. I sure hope Sacha Baron Cohen (or his film) wins for something, but will also be pleased with a win by Daniel Kaluuya. Much as I found the movie The White Tiger to be (surprisingly) watchable (and relieved that Priyanka Chopra did not grate), it is nowhere as enjoyable as the book that won the Booker Prize. Something for Tenet would be nice. April 25th it is.

1 comment

  1. I’ve seen 95 – 99% of those movies, including your 2021 mentions. Next time that you go to Telluride or Cannes or Sundance or Tribeca or … , bring me too.

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