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WHEN MOVIES (AND TV) FORGET HOW LIFE WORKS

Movies aren’t always known for their realism, let’s be honest. Sure, we’ll always have the works of filmmakers like Mike Leigh and young, radical French directors to remind us how gritty and real our world can be, and there will never be a shortage of awards-bait true stories floating around, but movies are, fundamentally, about escapism. They’re there to entertain us, to draw us into a different world from the one in which we’re living and make us bask in the fantasy, however prominent or subtle it may be.

And if you really think about it, there are fantasy elements even in the most down-to-earth tales, because fantasy doesn’t simply translate to magic and goblins – it likewise denotes the very essence of the drama it’s portraying. A film based on a true story is still a fantasy, because the director is creating a fictitious world in which to entertain us.

And yet, does any of this really excuse why can’t cinema consistently grasp these simpler acts of life? I’m not talking about how Star Wars has sound in space or characters are always cocking that superfluous hammer on their pistols for dramatic effect: I mean those basic – even mundane – things, that most of us do every day. Things like…


Playing Video Games

Button bashing. Hollywood’s like your annoying friend you used to play video games with who would just resort to smashing the hell out of their controller when the game started to go against them. In reality, as anyone who’s ever played even half a game of Halo knows, there’s never a need to pulverize every button to oblivion (unless, perhaps, you’re playing Super Smash Bros, but even then it’s frowned upon).

Just take a look at this clip from Scrubs. What are they doing!?


Driving

If people drove in real life like they do in movies there wouldn’t be such a thing as a road trip or a quick run to the store: literally every single vehicle would be piled into the nearest tree, building and ditch lining the road.

It’s not the fake backgrounds that are the problem: it’s the wild overemphasis of the steering wheel’s function. About 90% of the time we use them to do a Rickon Stark (remain in a straight line and avoid hitting those aforementioned trees), not zig-zag around the road like bees. Most car scenes are shot on a stage as it’s too dangerous to recite lines and drive on an actual highway at the same time (and it’s much easier and quicker than blocking off an entire road), but what this means is that actors start to focus too much on their lines and forget how to drive a car.

The problem also derived from directors thinking an actor just holding the wheel steady wouldn’t look natural, but thankfully that idea has lost credence in recent years.


Ordering Drinks

How many times have you seen this: a character walks into a bar and orders a drink, or accepts the offer while in someone else’s house, only to leave a few minutes later without so much as having felt the condensation. Not only does this happen all the time, but it’s just plain rude.

And sure, you could argue that this isn’t technically ‘incorrect’ like the previous two, but I can’t help that it just bothers me. I mean, if you’re not going to drink something, don’t order it. Or if you must go elsewhere, take the drink with you. Maybe it’s just my fiscal prudence getting the better of me, but take a look at this clip from An Affair To Remember and tell me it’s a not a waste of good Champagne:


Sex/Kissing

Sex scenes are a staple of cinema, but it’s amazing how often movies fail to understand the anatomy of this very natural human act. Look, I understand we don’t want to sit around waiting for the characters to ‘get ready’ or wish for Nymphomaniac levels of sexual verisimilitude, but when two characters can get to it within a few seconds, often without even the decanting of clothes, I can’t help but squint my eyes in skepticism.

Kissing tends to be okay in movies now, but in Hollywood’s golden era, everyone was a victim of this odd habit. Like leaving untouched drinks, I suppose there isn’t technically a wrong way to kiss someone, but if there was it might just be this. As the music swells and the two characters finally admit how much they love each other, their faces suddenly become fused as one, as the pressure with which either of them are pushing their lips into the other borders on a hydraulic press. Anything of an unchaste nature was far more frowned upon back then, which explains to an extent why it literally tended to be lip-pressing as opposed to actual smooching.


Waking Up

Hollywood, pay attention: girls don’t go to sleep with makeup on (and if they did, they certainly wouldn’t wake up with it looking perfect). Neither do people wake up with perfect hair and bright eyes, whether it’s been a particularly tossy-turny night or not. If we’re lucky we maybe get one morning each year when our hair looks great the second it leaves the pillow – the rest of the time it’s something bordering on anarchy.

Who would have thought Frozen would be the film to get it right?


Recycled Scenes

This one is more of a technical oddity, but that doesn’t make it and less strange or frequent. It’s when a film shows us the same scene for a second time through some kind of flashback, but instead of using the take we saw previously, it cuts in a new one.

Take, for instance, the scene in Scream when Randy is describing the rules for surviving a horror movie during the party. There’s a camera spying on him with Gale Weathers’ cameraman watching from the van outside, but when we watch the scene again via a recording delayed by 30 seconds, it’s clearly a different take; he says the lines with different inflections. In this instance it’s particularly noticeable because the scenes are played out so close together.

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Another high-profile example can be found in Pulp Fiction. The moment Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer leap onto the table to rob the restaurant is played out twice – at the beginning and end – but the second time around, Amanda’s line is different.

So filmmakers, here’s a genuine question: what is up with this? It’s so odd, and I can’t think of any artistic reason to do it. Indeed, it makes you wonder whether anyone noticed, or they simply weren’t bothered – but it’s bothering to watch.

Not that I could say anything else bad about Scream or Pulp Fiction.


Let me know if I’ve missed any and I’ll add them.

  • Yeah the drinks thing really bothers me too.

  • partidario

    Very astute observations Eddy. I really enjoyed seeing these and I think you’re onto something. Filmmakers take note.

    • Eddy Gardiner

      Thanks 🙂

  • So. Much. This. I could not agree more. My husband and I get irked every time we see a cinematic depiction of people playing video games, because in addition to the aggressive button mashing you mentioned here, they always hold their arms straight out in front of their bodies. Which is literally how no one games.

    The food and drink one bothers me a lot, too. I recall Gilmore Girls being very bad about this, as one of the central locations was a diner, so the characters would walk in, sit down, order a burger, and literally leave after five minutes and one bite.

    And the sex one bothers me as well. I’m not even joking when I say that cinema gave me a very unrealistic understanding of sex growing up.

    • Eddy Gardiner

      Re: the sex thing, I think both movies and TV have a much greater influence in that department with young people than they realize. It should be looked at more closely.

      It’s also reassuring to know I’m not just being pedantic!

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