Monday, July 18, 2011

The Terminal

This is the My Hometown Blogathon, the first WSW theme week doubling as a blogathon. The goal is discussing movies set in one's hometown, or at the very least, the general area of one's birth. All this week I'll write about movies set in my home borough of Queens. Check back on July 23 for a list of participating bloggers in this blogathon.

The Terminal
last seen online via YouTube

Whenever I think of Queens I inevitably think of airplanes. I've lived in both the northern and southern parts of the New York borough, and seeing airplanes fly overhead all the time has become such a regular part of my life that living without it, as I did when I lived in Ohio, seems odd. I don't claim to be any kind of expert on airports, though - it's not like I fly a great deal.

I grew up in East Elmhurst, near LaGuardia Airport. It's a quiet little residential neighborhood. I lived practically walking distance from LaGuardia, so I quickly learned to get used to the sight of airplanes flying overhead - very closely, I might add. There's a city bus down my old street that goes to LaGuardia, and I would take it to junior high school (unless I felt like walking, which I often did). Also down my street there were rent-a-car services at one end and several hotels on the other end. Hotels were a common sight, as you might imagine.

Often times, the planes would fly so low that you felt like you could reach out and touch the wheels. The roaring sound the planes made would herald their arrival and reverberate long after they departed. It would scare me a little bit when I was very young, walking to elementary school for the first time. They seemed not unlike giant birds of prey, swooping down to claim an unexpected victim.

I never gave much thought about where they were going. I was content just doing stuff like trying to ride my older sister's three-speed bike (and failing), playing video games at the corner candy store, and playing with the neighborhood kids. Serious thought about travel didn't come until I was much older. Travel to me was a trip to Fifth Avenue in Manhattan with my mother on a Saturday.

Living near JFK Airport is a quite different experience. I'm high above in an apartment building, for one thing, so the planes don't look quite so intimidating. They don't fly anywhere near as low, either. I do have a great view of JFK and the surrounding neighborhood from out of my window, however. 

Strangely enough, the last time I flew anywhere, I left out of LaGuardia. I was going to California in 2007 and my departure was delayed a day due to heavy rain. My seat was all the way in the back, which made me really nervous for some reason. Plus I didn't like having to look at the wing of the plane instead of open sky. But what can you do? At least I didn't have to go through quite as much post-9-11 security hassle as others have in more recent years.

I know that Steven Spielberg had JFK re-created in a huge hangar for The Terminal. I doubt complete verisimilitude was a big issue; it looks like a modern airport, and that's what's important. If anyone complained as to how they didn't get it 100% right, then they obviously missed the point. 

I remember not liking the movie a great deal when I first saw it. I think I like it more for the craft - the challenge of making this huge airport replica and making it look completely real, not to mention Tom Hanks wrapping his vocal cords around that Eastern European accent - than anything else. The plot has a Capra-esque feel to it - you never doubt things will turn out okay in the end even though Hanks' character is stuck in that terminal. It adds up to a light diversion for Hanks and Spielberg. (I was pleased to recognize Zoe Saldana in this movie, and how ironic is it that her character is a Trekkie?)

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