Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Knowledge November - Day 26 - What the movies have learned me

Most of my lifetime has been spent watching American-made movies and television. A bit of British stuff has crept in at times and maybe some Canadian (without me really noticing) and a smidge of art-house sub-titled stuff, but mostly American.

Apart from being able to list more US presidents than Australian Prime Ministers, US movies have taught me many things about life over there that differs so greatly from my own.

Stuff like:

* When the hero or heroine returns back to their apartment, they never turn the light on, instead preferring to read by the street light streaming in through the window or when the fridge door is open. This love of darkness seems particularly prevalent to private investigators and forensics experts. Why examine some DNA or vital alien clue in a well lit laboratory when you can do it with a portable torch or a cigarette lighter?

* Likewise, they'll wearily sort through their mail, dump it on a table and listen to their answering machine. They'll have message after message on there, from syrupy voices saying 'Hey honey, how come you haven't called me?' to a couple of generic ones from their celluloid parents asking about their health. I'd be lucky to have more than two in an entire week that aren't just recordings of someone hanging up and not bothering to leave a message.

* Labor starts immediately. If a character is pregnant, her cervix will be ten centimetres dilated; waters splashed all over the shop and whatever strongly-worded argument she's engaged in will cease as the baby's head starts to emerge - all in the time it takes you to unwrap a Lindt ball. No 'count the minutes between the contractions, darling, the ante-natal teacher said they'll send us back home if it's more than five minutes' for these characters but BOOM - instant baby!

* Said babies, when they emerge two minutes later, look around three months old and smeared in red jelly. Otherwise they're gargantuans that would surely have the Guinness Book of Records staff popping over with a camera and a set of scales.

* Back at home, if a character offers you a drink, it will come from a bottle of scotch that's conveniently in the living room. As you do. If it's coffee they're offering, the receiver always says 'black' so that the star doesn't have to faff about finding milk, asking about sugar or sweetener and so forth. Tough luck if you don't fancy a neat Scotch or black coffee - "Erm, can I have a glass of water or a diet coke with some ice in it?"

* Sneezes are fatal, or at the very least require a hospital stay. There's no 'Gezundheit' or 'bless you, go get a tissue you pig' in the movies - it's a coma, bereaved rellies at the bedsite in tears, wasting away whilst still remaining heart-rendingly beautiful and all accompanied by a gorgeous string-laden soundtrack. Spilled bedpans, over-worked nurses and rooms of six patients or more separated by too-short curtains are only ever seen in UK-sad-sack films or dodgy comedies.

* Yanks luuurve their celery sticks, don't they? If a character is going to come home with a sack of groceries, it's in an old-fashioned brown paper bag (last seen in Australia in 1975) with a bunch of celery poking out the top. Apart from our rabbit getting a stick or two each week, the rest of ours tends to go all droopy and then slimy before it drips down the back of the fridge and ends up as a green puddle under the vege crisper bins.

* Whatever groceries are purchased on screen, they clearly get their money's worth. In any scene featuring a conversation over the dinner table, the all-American family has put out enough bowls of steaming vegetables (not celery), gravy, mashed potatoes and bread to feed a classroom of ravenous teenage boys. No removing the self-serve option or saving on how many dirty dishes are created by instead slopping a bit of stuff on a plate in the kitchen for these fictional families.

* Eating the food takes an eternity. The camera will show someone at the precise second the fork leaves their presumably full mouth and for the duration of the scene they'll be chewing that mouthful. Either they're eating Wrigleys for dinner or the actor is an anoxeric, lactose-intolerant, coeliac vegan who is praying that the scene will be wrapped in just one take.

* Ugly girls wear thick-rimmed glasses, pony tails and denim overalls. No acne scars, dented noses, bulging eyes, double-chins, warts or lumpy arses are evident. A mere pair of contact lenses and new threads sees them turn into hot swans who can sing, dance and entrance the high school hunk.

* If the characters are trick-or-treating or at a fancy dress party, none of the costumes are ever home made. They look more professionally put-together than anything appearing at the Myer Christmas Pageant; even if done by a 'loser' or nerd with a complete lack of social skills or available money to rent a good costume.

* Chiropractors and a decent nights' sleep aren't important exist in movieland. In the evenings, if people wish to talk to each other in bed, they'll have their necks virtually cricked at a cruel 95% angle by resting up on at least four pillows. Even when the bedside lamp is switched off, the pillows all stay in their stack of torture and curtains remain open with a huge moonbeam appearing across the face of the sleepers that seems brighter than the lamp ever was. In my room I need the blinds firmly shut, no more than one puffy pillow, the mouthguard inserted, one last loud honk into my hanky and the fan on before Mr Sandman is ready for a home visit.

There's plenty more out there - the busty girl who always ventures into scary and dark situations is always dressed in a skimpy singlet and sexy shorts and never the neck-to-knee towelling bathroom and aqua blue crocs that I wear and baddies always treat even their friends and henchmen badly and are even worse when it comes to accurately aiming or shooting their guns at any of the goodies. Everyone's phone number starts with 555 but they rarely say 'goodbye' when they hang up, and the astonishing news event that shapes the course of their lives is always running at the exact moment they decide to switch on the tv.

What have US movies taught you?


franzy said...

Kath, I hope you will forgive me for what I am about to do. I am envious of your writing career and the opportunities you have bravely and cleverly forged for yourself, so I have always attempted to hide this from you.
That said, I couldn't let this post go by without showing you, nay, subjecting to the following website.
Goodbye, fair Melbournian friend. See you in a few years when you rehab from

franzy said...

Hee hee. I know I'm supposed to be working, but I thought you would also enjoy this groundbreaking skit about coughing and sneezing in the movies:

Kath Lockett said...

Franzy, the site is too big, too complicated, too too.... what name are you contributing under?

And LOVE this clip - her disgust at letting him 'do' her at the end is gorgeous!

Notice that I didn't go into movie sex scenes - the L shaped sheet (only covers his groin but right up to her neck), the way clothes automatically peel off; her full face of make up when the wake up together in the morning....

River said...

I love American movies and series shows. I love to sit there watching and ranting about how much food is wasted at those groaning tables full of dishes. Especially the breakfast scenes where everyone has cereal, juice, pancakes, coffee, toast, bacon, the whole works, but nobody eats more than one bite before taking a sip of juice then dashing for the school bus or leaving for work. Then there's the water issue. They go into the ensuite (everyone has one), turn on the shower then wander into the bedroom or dressing area to select clothes etc before actually showering, while hundreds of litres go down the drain. In song and dance shows, absolutely everyone knows all the dance moves even the out-of-towner who just stopped for a breakfast muffin and gets caught up in the street dance. Then there's the fights or muggings or anything "dirty" where the heroine aleays comes up off the ground looking like she just stepped out of a salon. All the characters, rich or poor, have super shiny hair cut in the latest styles, all the girls have eyelashes 3 inches long, they go to bed wearing bras and full makeup, and get up in the morning with unsmudged eyes and so cheerily perky I want to throttle them. Plus they all have perfect teeth. The "good guys" are all expert marksmen, often taking down the "baddies" with only one shot, (how unrealistic), and in the forensics shows I love, no-one wears coverup gear when collecting evidence or wading through blood spatter, it's all designer clothes and low necklines. And why do so many have an unexpected rich relative who always comes to the rescue in the nick of time in times of financial hardship? No-one in movie land ever spends more than half a day job searching before the perfect job lands right in their lap, it's always their dream job and they rise to the top of their chosen career ladder in a week or two. I should stop now and give someone else a go.

Louise Bowers said...

American movies make me want to puke most of the time so I try and avoid them. I hate violence and everything else is just blatant porn because the crackhead violence screen writer if away sick. I did however used to query why after the passionate love scene the gentleman caller gets up and puts his belted trousers on WITH NO UNDERPANTS. He either leaves them as a calling card (porn writer at work here) or is busy crime fighter (violence writer back from leave) and doesn't have time to wear them. Eeeuuww.

Baino said...

You forgot that as soon as the black muscly guy in the jungle thanks God, he gets pulverised. This could be me. I actually talk through the impossibilities of movies in front of my children. . Why does the girl going into the basement never put on the light, Why does the detective have one of those little LED torches in broad daylight? How come they never have panda eyes and bad breath in the morning? I could go on but I think we're of the same mind!

ashleigh said...

Kath - what about everyone having the impossibly cute immaculate house (unless its a grungy apartment with grease stained wall near the door and light switch). And even when they work 37 hours a day they still have time for huge dinners, children, and rushing here and there between things in HUGE cars. Where are the $ supposed to come from to support these indulgences? And how come nobody EVER goes to the loo? They do in british movies but in US movies it must be some kind of taboo thing. Poo, wee and farts are simply not permitted by good wholesome types. One wonders how they survive like that... osmosis?

River - GOLD. I could never do better than that rant. Thanks, that's given me a smile for the day.

Lorna - make me want to puke - yes - agree. Not sure about the porn references but there are certainly many things where the writers are just off in la-la land.

Baino - Doesn't EVERYONE carry a little LED torch?

Helen said...

All so true.

Yanks luuurve their celery sticks, don't they? If a character is going to come home with a sack of groceries, it's in an old-fashioned brown paper bag (last seen in Australia in 1975) with a bunch of celery poking out the top.

Let me introduce you to the strange and creepy world of James Lileks - no, I mean Art Frahm, although James Lileks is strange and creepy also - The convergence of underpants, gravity, and celery.

Rowe said...

Everything is so perrrrrfect in Hollywood, aint it. No wonder many of them (celebrities) are fucked up. Their lives are NOT like in the movies they make and they can't handle that truth. Matter of fact, I can't handle it, either. My life is not perfect, boo hoo hoo.