As a lifelong fan of TV and movies, and as someone who spent over 35 years working in the entertainment industry, I have become highly aware of the tricks of the trade. Some of them are just little things that you’ve probably seen many times, but they either never bothered you or you didn’t even notice them. For me, they are idiosyncratic pet peeves that Hollywood has been getting away with for years. And I think it’s time to call them out. For instance…
The words, “A true story” at the beginning of a movie do not mean the same thing as “Based on a true story,” which allows them to take more liberties with the facts. Which is not the same as “Inspired by a true story,” which means they made a lot of this shit up. Which is not the same as “Inspired by actual events,” which means there may be no truth in it at all. At this rate, it won’t be long before we start seeing disclaimers like, “Based on a vicious rumor” or “This might have happened. We really don’t know.”
Did it ever bother you how, in a lot of gunfights in Hollywood movies, the bullets never seem to penetrate everyday objects like they should? In every Western, when there’s a shoot-out in a saloon, the go-to move for any halfway decent gunfighter is to flip the table over and duck behind it while shooting back. Like that’s going to protect him. Since when does a thin wooden tabletop stop bullets? Or in more modern movies when the hero dives behind a sofa while the bad guy unloads his machine gun into it and we see feathers flying everywhere. Since when can pillows stop bullets? They must have ordered bullet-proof cushions with this couch in the big shoot-out scene at the end of True Romance.
How come people never say, “Good-bye” in movies, after they end a phone conversation and before they hang up? They just say things like, “I have to go now” or “I’ll see you there” and then they abruptly hang up. It’s very rude. How does the person on the other end know the conversation is over? Do they just awkwardly wait for the dial tone and then think, that rude bastard hung up on me without saying good-bye again? Try that in real life sometime and see how it goes. We’re so conditioned to say good-bye, it’s difficult not to. And yet, we never seem to notice in movies when they don’t.
Did you ever notice how, when the camera is shooting through the windshield of a car, they often remove the rearview mirror in the center? This is done so they can shoot from any angle without obstructing the faces of the actors inside. I probably never would have noticed this if it weren’t for the fact that they sometimes leave that little black dot on the windshield where the mirror used to be attached, which makes it obvious that it’s missing. With all the amazing special effects they can do in movies these days, you’d think they could figure out how to get that pesky dot off. Like in this picture below; see that little black dot over Laurence Fishburne’s left shoulder?
It was fine when marketing campaigns started using the copy line, “From the Director of…” to let audiences know that they could expect the same creative quality and sensibility from the filmmaker. And I get why we would want to know when it’s “From the Writer of…” so that we’d know the story or dialogue might be similar to something else we liked of theirs. But when they started advertising it was “From the Executive Producer of…” I think they went a little too far. Oh, you mean they guy who invested his money in it? Why would I give a shit about him? And it really lost all meaning when they started using the line, “From the Studio that brought you…” I mean really, what’s next? “From the State where they shot…”? “From the Country that allowed…”? “From the Planet that created…”?
In a lot of period piece movies, you can often tell when the movie was made by the character’s hairstyles. The haircuts are often more reflective of when the film was produced than the time the story was set. You can currently watch a TV show about Vikings where many of the characters have cropped buzz cuts or man buns, or you can watch westerns from the ’70s where the cowboys all have blow-dried, layered shag cuts, or King Arthur movies from the ’50s where apparently all the knights of the round table wore DA’s with grease in their hair.
You know how every time someone gets knocked out with chloroform in a handkerchief in a movie, they always pass out cold within a few seconds? Well, it doesn’t really work that way. It actually happens very slowly. It could take several long minutes before taking effect, giving the victim lots of time to struggle and possibly break free. Don’t ask me how I know this.
Does it ever bother you how long fight scenes last in a lot of action movies? Have you ever been in a real bare-knuckle fist fight? They don’t usually go on for very long. Usually, one good punch to the head and most guys are down and out. But in the movies, two tough guys can punch the crap out of each other, crash through windows, and beat each other silly with metal objects for several minutes and barely be bruised when they’re done. Here’s a good example of what I’m talking about.
These are just a few of Hollywood’s little tricks of the trade that we never really think about but, on some level, we all know they’re doing and we just accept. But now that I’ve pointed them out, they might start to stand out and they might start to bother you or you might just think they’re funny. Either way, you’ll probably never look at movies the same way again.