Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

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© 1987-2016
Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

Only in the movies

Last time I alluded to the fact that there are a number of things that regularly occur in (mainly, but not exclusively, Hollywood) movies that annoy me.

This is not an idea that originated with me. In fact, some time ago I received one of those humorous emails that seems to eventually get forwarded to anyone and everyone who has an email account (usually three or four times) that dealt with this phenomenon brilliantly. Unfortunately, I don’t seem to have a copy of this email in a place where I can get to it easily, but it was titled something like “Things We Would Never Know If We Didn’t Watch Movies.” It mentioned all those special laws of nature that seem to only operate in the film world, like how a man can be shot in the leg with a shotgun but fifteen minutes later sprint after the bad guys. You know, that sort of thing.

Some of these anomalies are too obvious to complain about. While a hero who can survive a hail of bullets is not very believable, how many of us want to see an action movie where the good guy gets mowed down in the very first scene? You suspend disbelief for some things in order to get into the spirit of the movie. I can live with that. What bothers me are the scenes that run so counter to my everyday experience that they distract me from paying attention to the film.

In my previous diatribe I focused on a particular pet peeve of mine: the fact that in many movies, against all logic, everyone in every country and on every planet seems to speak English. There are other annoyances, but I will focus on three others for now:

  • Keep your eyes on the road, please: This one really gets to me for some reason. How many times have we watched a movie or a television program that shows two people in the front seat of a car engaged in a deep conversation? No matter how many times I see this scene, my heart always stops as the driver delivers a monologue that seemingly lasts three or four minutes while never breaking eye contact with the passenger. I keep expecting a sudden crash or, better yet, for the driver to look forward, scream in panic, and then have a big crash. Sometimes it happens this way, but most of the time the driver gets away with only a casual glance at the road as he or she drives merrily along. I guess this bothers me because, by the time the scene is over, I realize I have spent all my mental faculties focusing on whether or not the car is going to crash and have totally missed the point of the conversation I was supposed to be listening to.

  • Waste not, want not: I didn’t grow up in the most lavish of lifestyles, so it bothers me to see food wasted. Even in a movie. And one thing I have learned is that in a film when two or more people sit down to a nice meal at home or a restaurant, the nicer and more elaborate the meal the more likely it is to go entirely to waste. I’m not talking about films that specifically have food as a theme, like Big Night. I’m referring to movie that are about relationships. I think I noticed this phenomenon first in the film Ordinary People. People would sit down to a lovely meal or maybe some drinks. Then someone would say the wrong thing and set someone else off and that person would have a big emotional outburst and stomp out, usually with one or more other people following along hoping to smooth things over. The food or the drinks was left behind, presumably to be thrown in the garbage. How sad. I am probably the only person in the audience who is not focused on the emotional turmoil of the characters and is, instead, screaming silently to myself, “The food! What about the food! You’re wasting all that lovely food!”

  • Keep the change: This pet peeve is more or less a follow-on to the previous one. When someone has an emotional outburst and stomps out of the restaurant and their friend/lover/relative follows after them, the second person usually throws a wad of cash onto the table as she or, usually, he leaves. For the next five minutes I am totally blanking out of the drama of the situation and, instead, wondering to myself, “So, did he know exactly how much money he was throwing on the table? Did he have the exact amount conveniently stashed in his pocket just in case he had to rush out? How did he know the exact amount? Did he calculate it while studying the menu? Did he correctly calculate the tax? Did he include a tip? Was it a generous tip? Or did he just throw all the cash he had at hand on the table, hoping it was enough but not, like, hundreds of dollars too much?” This also happens in taxicabs. A distraught character yells to the cabby to stop the car, he or, usually, she dashes out of the car and her companion throws at wad of cash at the driver and follows her. The same questions all apply, except sometimes we know that our hero has thrown significantly more than the required fare because we see the cabby’s eyes light up and he appreciatively says, “Hey, thanks!”

    Oh yeah, and if anybody happens to have that email about things we wouldn’t know if we didn’t watch movies, please send it to me. I really enjoy reading it, and no one has sent it to me for a couple of years.

    -S.L., 30 August 2001

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