Since my early days as a Munchkin, I have loved watching movies of all genres (except dead-teenager flicks). I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I’ve viewed thousands of movies during my lifetime. Over this span I have come to realize that there are certain subjects and scenes that Hollywood almost always gets wrong, and I’m not quite sure of the reason. Moviemakers have access to expert technical advisors and loads of cash to hire the best consultants available. I’m guessing that these common errors are for dramatic effect and cinematic creativity, but sometimes they still irritate me. I present to you three typically mishandled and botched movie scenes that I’m sure you’ll recognize.
The first situation where moviemakers almost always get it wrong is when there is a violent storm at sea and a person is thrown overboard or a ship goes down with the crew. The very next scene receives the traditional treatment every time. As dawn breaks a drenched body or bodies are seen completely passed out on shore as the waves slap at their bare feet and wash over their frame. Suddenly there’s a violent cough as they lift their head to discover that they have somehow survived their nightmarish ordeal and they are still alive just inches away from a watery grave, apparently washed ashore in an unconscious state. The pesky problem being that if they passed out in the ocean they are DEAD! You cannot pass out in water and survive…you will always drown. If you do reach shore alive, you are certainly wide-awake and fully alert because you’ve been fighting for your stinking life in the ocean. You might be choking and puking up seaweed; however, you are probably more aware of what’s happening than anytime in your life. It’s no time to take a nap. Okay, for arguments sake let’s say you reach shore exhausted and need to collapse. Are you going to pass out two feet from the pounding waves and maybe be dragged back in? Nope, you are going to walk, stumble or crawl as far from the raging water as possible. Under no circumstance should a person just surviving a life-threatening ordeal at sea pass out the second they reach shore. It would be comparable to winning the Boston Marathon, passing out at the finish line, then waking up the next morning to discover you were the winner. It’s not going to happen; however, it always does…in movies.
One of my most irritating film mischaracterizations involves the hapless young man who is hopelessly in debt due to his out of control gambling addiction. Seems he can’t win a game and he owes the corpulent, sinister, cigar smoking bookie $100,000 and he’s a little short of greenbacks. If he doesn’t come up with the cash by tomorrow, he faces the grim prospect of two broken legs, the torching of his parents’ family bakery or being tossed off of the Golden Gate Bridge with cement shoes. Unfortunately, the poor sap has no job, no friends with cash and no prospects of paying the huge debt. How could this happen to him? It couldn’t! I’ve known more than a few bookies in my day and here’s a news flash—they are businessmen. As is the case with buying a new car, if you have no money and no way of making payments on the auto, you will own no new car. Would you loan a large chunk of money to the neighbor kid who is a derelict, high school dropout with a nose ring? Well, neither would a bookie. Oh, the goofy kid might get two or three hundred bucks in the hole; however he will not be allowed to bet on any games until he pays it off because he is a loser with no job! And if a degenerate gambler does wind up with a larger debt than he can pay, the bookie will put him on a payment plan because broken limbs are no substitute for cold hard cash. Their punishment is if they don’t pay they can’t play. The portrayal of bookies in movies could not be further from the truth. However, there’s nothing quite as exciting as two thugs taking a baseball bat to some wimpy kid’s legs because he owes more money than he’s earned in his entire life. Not authentic but entertaining.
Since I love a good action adventure flick, I give a slight pass to my final example of Hollywood distortion and over exaggeration. At some point during all thrilling, bloody gunfights where our hero is vastly outnumbered, he will out run a constant barrage of bullets, usually with glass shattering at his heels. Oh, and fret not, because the bad guys are terrible shots and if Arnold, Sylvester or Bruce do get hit, it will be only a flesh wound and he will be just fine in the next scene. Super studs heal well.
So, if you enjoy movies like I do, allow me to offer a little advice to make the experience more enjoyable. Don’t expect accuracy from movies, don’t get your history from movies, and suspend belief when entering a theater. Oh, and smuggle in your own popcorn and drinks, because the prices are obscene!