Wednesday, November 28, 2007

10 Annoying Anachronisms In Modern Movies


One of the few flaws in NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (which if it's not the best film of the year - it'll do 'til the best film of the year gets here) set in 1980, is that a Carl's Jr. restaurant with a current day sign complete with cartoon smiley face star logo can be seen in the background.

Also a modern Domino's Pizza typeface on a storefront is clearly visible even in a night scene shoot-out. These don't truly distract from the action but they did take me out of the movie somewhat.

A lot of anachronisms in the movies are pretty forgivable. A car model not in line with the period portrayed can be overlooked, much use of music is more an artistic choice than a mistake per say (except when it blares from a radio like the 1971 song "American Pie" in a scene set in 1969 in BORN ON THE 4TH OF JULY), and a lot of clothing and slang can be dismissed. 

However there are those moments where a blatant disregard for correctness and consistency can really mar a movie. So let's take a look at: 

10 Annoying Anachronisms In Modern Movies 

1. A Ms. PacMan Machine in MAN ON THE MOON (Dir. Milos Foreman, 1999) The IMDb says of this Jim Carrey as Andy Kaufman misfire - "numerous anachronisms can be chalked up to artistic decisions; the film intentionally plays fast and loose with the timeline." Well that's fine and all but seeing a 1982 Ms. PacMan video game machine in a scene set in 1977 really took me out of the movie. I can accept the narrative decision to have the famous Carnegie Hall "milk and cookies" concert (pictured on the left) occur after Kaufman was diagnosed with cancer and presented as his big farewell but when an early 70's scene references "President Jimmy Carter" - odd jarring misplacements like that do this formulaic biopic no favors.

2. The Lake Wissota reference in TITANIC (Dir. James Cameron, 1997) Self proclaimed "king of the world" Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) tells Rose (Kate Winslet) at their first meeting this little revealing tidbit - "once when I was a kid me and my father were ice-fishing out on Lake Wissota..." As five million websites will tell you, Lake Wissota is a man-made reservoir which wasn't created until five years after the Titanic sank. James Cameron apparently acknowledged this goof at one point but then proclaimed himself "KING OF THE WORLD!!!" Sorry, couldn't resist that. 

3. The '70s Hippies in '50s Vegas in THE GODFATHER (Dir. Francis Ford Coppola, 1972) Very briefly and through a window behind Michael (Al Pacino) when he and his party get out of their car at the entrance to Fredo's (John Casale) hotel you can see a couple of young men with long hair and 70's attire. Coppola on the DVD commentary chimes in: "this was one of those really cheap second unit shots we did...I was very embarrassed by this because of in the background you see there's like hippie-looking guys that are not correct for period." Well played, Coppola. You win this round.


4. Post-it notes in ALMOST FAMOUS (Dir. Cameron Crowe, 2000) Actually there is a plethora of anachronisms in this movie that takes place in the early 70's - Chem-Lite glow sticks at concerts, albums that weren't released yet (like the Stones' "Get Your Ya-Ya's Out" and Joni Mitchell's "Blue") given prominent screen-time in a scene set in 1969 (pictured above), and 90's Pepsi cans abound but damnit the post-it note deal just irks me. They weren't around until the 80's and it just seemed too cute to have teenage Rolling Stone journalist William (Patrick Fuggit) surrounded by them in a hotel bathroom. Seems like this is pretty indicative of the liberties with his own life Crowe was talking in this semi-autobiography. 5. ANOTHER 48 HOURS Billboard in THE DOORS (Dir. Oliver Stone, 1991) Since most of Stone's movies are set in the 60's and the 70's I could do a whole post about the inaccurate elements and out of place objects but I'll spare you that (for now). I'll just say that for all the work that went into the mood and tone of the era in this bombastic biopic of rock star/poet wannabe Jim Morrison (played by Val Kilmer) the visibility of a billboard for a 1990 movie is just plain stupid. Actually truth be told most of what's in THE DOORS, accurate or not, is just plain stupid.


6. 1965 Canadian Flag Maple Leaf Logo in the 1930's in THE UNTOUCHABLES (Dir. Brian DePalma, 1987) As the site Whoops! Movie Goofs & Mistakes reports "The Canadians probably laughed their asses off when Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) made his first unsuccessful bust: The movie takes place in the 1930s and you can see boxes decorated with maple leaf logos. That logo was first seen 1965 when Canada introduced its flag." Yeah, well considering the reaction to DePalma's REDACTED these days, this 20 year old blunder should be the least of his worries. 

7. A Jet Crosses The Background of CLEOPATRA (Dir. Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1963) This I've never seen - it's listed as a "goof" on IMDb's entry for the film. Likewise in their entry for THE TEN COMMANDMENTS they state: "Anachronism - Moses on top of the large rock with a watch on." Without a recent viewings of these films I can only say that these seem like an urban myths. No other source online collaborates either - in fact most sites only list that a crowd member in THE TEN COMMANDMENTS appears to be wearing a watch but this is disputed as well. I guess, in a BIG FISH kind of way, I'm siding with the myth on this one because I don't see either making my Netflix queue anytime soon. 

8. '80s Geography imposed on 1936 Maps In RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (Dir. Steven Speilberg, 1981) In a nice almost comic book touch we are shown Indiana Jones's (Harrison Ford) plane routes with lines imposed on a screen filling map. Unfortunately it imposes the geography of the early 80's into a 30's world. Thailand, which was called Siam at the time, is seen as is Jordan which was known as Transjordan until 1949. There is also a globe in Indy's classroom that depicts various countries of Africa that didn't exist in 1936. Ah-ha! This undisputed action movie classic isn't historically accurate! Like anyone will care though - I mean even I admit this is nit-picking. Oh yeah, according to the IMDb "in 1936, no aircraft were able to travel such distances with having to stop for refueling." How about that nit I just picked? 

9. A Rent-A-Center In BOOGIE NIGHTS (Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson, 1997) Late in the film a "Rent-A-Center" is clearly visible in the background. Actually that's a pretty minor one - the film has lots of other anachronisms that are pretty forgivable and not really annoying but I wanted a excuse to bring up the brilliant BOOGIE NIGHTS and say I'm really looking forward to nit-picking Anderson's upcoming THERE WILL BE BLOOD for period piece mistakes so stay tuned.


10. Registered Pedophiles Weren't Required To Notify Neighbors In 1991 in THE BIG LEBOWSKI (Dir. Joel Coen, 1997) This one kind of hurts - the law wasn't implemented in California until 1996 so for one of the most memorable bit part roles in a Coen Bros. movie, John Turturro as Jesus Quintana was going through inaccurate actions when he went door to door informing his neighbors. I guess I can let it slide - it is one of the all time great movies. No amount of incorrect for the period cars or bowling balls can change that. Whew! Well that's enough nit picking for now. I know there's a lot of annoying anachronisms I missed so you know where you can put them! In the comments below, of course. 

More later...

8 comments:

Justine said...

I haven't seen the Canadian flag one, but it would have made me laugh. I'm usually terrible about these things though, I never notice them. The closest I came to being pulled out of something because of this was an episode of That 70s Show when they went to Canada, and on the map Nunavut was a seperate territory and labeled as Nunavut... which is way off base.

OKonheim said...

That as an interesting post, Dan.

As someone who studied the geography of Africa, I'm surprised the producers didn't catch that.

Also, maybe, Turturo's character was ordered by a judge to do that, even if the law didn't state that at the time

TOR Hershman said...

Hey, Dan, howz about this YouTube flick

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z7iQRFP_e90

Stay on groovin' safari,
Tor

Anonymous said...

The idea that Eddie and the Cruisers record "Seaon in Hell (Fire Suite)" a year and a half before "Tomorrow Never Knows" comes out really pulls me out of that film, man.

Ruby said...

What about American Gangster? That thing was full of language that self-respecting black folks would never have used in the 1960s.

Andrew Glazebrook said...

Some good anachronisms there !!

Anonymous said...

How about the scene in Goodfellas with the caption "1963 - Idylwild Airport" with Ray Liotta and Joe Pesci leaning against the back of a '65 Chevy ?

John said...

You should have a listen to the commentaries on the Director's cut (a far better version) of 'Almost Famous'. All the out-of-period records in William's sister's collection were deliberate and very personal references for Cameron Crowe. And the famous post-it notes? If you actually look with your eyes instead of your smart-ass, you'll see they are folded squares of the yellow legal pad William is writing on. Take care spotting those trains!