Thursday, August 04, 2005

Devil in the Cinematic Details

While pundits and business reporters debate the latent causes for declining box office receipts, my own particular gripe with current releases has been over continuity and plain-old details. Nothing shouts "low-budget" or amateur as much as the jumbo jet flying over a shootout in the Old West. It just doesn't belong there, and professional movie makers should know better.

So I was a bit surprised to have that same "gotcha" moment last weekend when I went to see the latest David Roos film Happy Endings, which recieved high marks during the recent LA Film Festival. Two key scenes take place in Phoenix, yet for those who have visited the lower half of the Grand Canyon State, the terrain is unrecognizeable. Phoenix is flat - but in the movie verdant suburban hillsides abound with homes that look more like 1970's era construction in the San Fernando Valley than Southwest bungalows. A further hint that the crew wasn't on top of things was in the choice of license plates. If you see the movie (which I recommend), take a look at the cars in "Phoenix" - they all have California license plates!

I had a similar experience with Funny Ha-Ha, which was being screened in the Los Angeles area a couple months ago. One scene really got to me - a college professor in Boston hires the lead character as a research assistant. On the back of his office door was his academic cap and gown! (I've never seen that in all my years of academia, apart from graduation day - even then, most full professors just rent the stuff for the day.) And, to rub salt in the reality wound, on his desk was a rotary telephone! Since phones are university property, virtually all campuses of higher education chucked those out shortly after R11 phone jacks became standard. What was the director thinking?!

So, for the true cinemaphiles out there, it's not just plot, character development, and dialog that make you itch in your seat.