Monday, October 27, 2008

Belief Unsuspended

The suspension of disbelief is a theory that describes how a person will willingly accept far fetched or the impossible as true in order to be entertained. It's how you can believe that a human could interact with a cartoon in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

For someone who works in the film industry, the suspension of disbelief can be a hard thing to find. I'll never forget working on my first show in Vicksburg, MS. I had gone to see some movie with producer Mark Wolper (son of David, mini-series king) and his then - girlfriend (now, big time producer) Mary McLaglen. I was getting into the movie when the lead character walked out of L.A. landmark, Pink's Hotdogs (see fifth photo here). The camera did a fantastic boom shot up La Brea Avenue as it zoomed in to reveal the actor putting coins in a pay phone. Mary and Mark simultaneously started spewing coke and choking on popcorn. By way of explanation, they said in unison, "That pay phone doesn't exist."

That's all it took for me. I couldn't wait for that movie to be over.

And while I see tons of movies and watch way more television than I care to admit, there are certain things that send me over the edge and screaming for the door.

1) Complete and Utter Contradiction - This makes me think that the writers of this drivel assumes we are all stupid. I blogged about The Unit the other day. The thing that happened on last Sunday's show that drove me nuts occurred as a drug lord and his men walked into a lab. The drug lord did not know that instead of top scientists, his lab was being run by an the elite military unit, aka the good guys. As he enters, the drug lord starts to light a cigarette and one of the good guys screams and grabs his lighter.

"No, these chemicals are highly flammable. You'll blow us all to bits."

But not 45 seconds later, the same character lit up a blow torch to show the drug lord what they were working on!!!

Now obviously, the first bit of action was to put the drug dealers on guard with their guns to add tension to the scene but with the blowtorch coming on so close afterwards... I have to wonder, does The Unit even have a continuity person on staff??? ARGH!

2) Does Anybody Pay Their Electric Bill??? I blame The X Files for this one but every show and movie seems to do the same thing. A good guy walks into a room and searches it with a flashlight. Every time I see this, I want to stick my hand through that proverbial fourth wall and turn the damn switch on!

But again, the flashlight adds tension...Can't somebody think of an original way to add tension and turn on the lights?

3) Trace That Line! This one has driven me nuts since I was a child. My mother worked for the phone company on one of her jobs was trap and trace. Even back in the 70s, I knew that the minute someone dialed a number with a trap on it, the phone company knew instantly where the call came from. Does anyone remember what the old phone bills looked like back when they billed for every call? Do you really think they waited for two minutes before knowing what number to bill? No, they knew it the second you dialed.

My mom always explained to me that the police and FBI didn't want the bad guys to know how easy it was to trace a number. This had me bewildered. I mean, if I could figure it out and I was a kid, just how dumb were these bad guys???

OK, so 30 years ago, maybe people didn't think about such things but why, why are there still scenes like this in movies today??? We all have caller i.d. Are the bad guys still that dumb?

4) Girly Cops - I understand it's good film making to have a pretty girl with the hero cop but why do they have to make her so darn girly? I've known plenty of female cops. They never wear their hair down or in a ponytail... it gives their opponent an advantage in a fight. And they never wear high heels on the job. Would you want to chase a bad guy in high heels? Well, maybe if you only had to run 10 feet before someone yelled, "Cut!"

5) Girly Girlfriends - If I had a significant other and he were getting the tar beat out of him, I know I wouldn't stand there squealing. I would grab a lamp and swing. Without fail, I know all of my friends would too. They clearly need to hire some more female writers.

6) The Hose Down - This is a fact of film making there is no way around. Asphalt photographs a weird gray. Have you ever taken a photo of your street? Every thing in the photo looks fine but the street will look weird and unnatural. It has to do with the way the asphalt absorbs light.

The solution is to wet down the street to make it photograph darker. Have you ever noticed the streets in films are always wet? That's why. When I budget for a film, if they are outside and there's a street or a parking lot visible, I bid for a water truck.

But still, there's nothing like a wet street to say to me, "A film crew was here."

7) Doesn't Anybody Have a Guest Room? Why is it when one character has to sleep at another's house, someone is always on the couch? Same thing with married couples fighting...couch. I find this strange. I've owned a guest bed since my first apartment! And what's even funnier, is they'll often show an outside shot of the house and it will be HUGE. What's in those other rooms? Seriously, a seventeen room house and you have one bed???

I understand from the writer's point of view, it's easier to have the two characters run into each other in the night if one is in a "public" room. But couldn't they both get the munchies at the same time??? Or one hears a noise and actually wakes the other up? Or both need to use the ONLY bathroom in that seventeen room house at the same time? Com'on! A little creativity, please!!! ARGH!


Anonymous said...

Oh, yeah, I know what you mean. When a character wants to take a shower and you know that they're gonna get the living daylights scared out of them, they turn on the water and let the shower run for minutes while they gaze at their reflection in the mirror over the sink; slowly shuck their clothes; answer the phone, etc. before returning to the shower. Hello? water costs money, and it doesn't take ten minutes for a shower to heat up-usually in those scenes, the steam starts to build almost as soon as they turn the water on.

I agree about the darkness-yeah, flashlights are tension-building, but it drives me nuts they don't even look for a light switch. Besides, if a bad guy is hiding, the flashlight beam gives him a perfect target-the cop or investigator won't know what hit them.

And when a character wakes up suddenly from a nightmare, they're always on their backs, so they can sit bolt upright. When I wake up from a nightmare, I'm on my side and lift my head off the pillow. I can't remember ever sitting bolt upright when waking up from a nightmare.

I could go on and on... grr.

Linda@VS said...

This is funny stuff! Everything you wrote makes so much sense, and yet I never thought about most of it. Spell me g-u-l-l-i-b-l-e.