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Life is NOT an Action Movie, Part II
by Spotlight Mike

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More Porky Pig than James Earl Jones

More Porky Pig than James Earl Jones

After writing about all the dumb things I'd like to do (but not really), I started thinking about all the dumb things audiences are expected to accept in movies today. These are the things that, if you tried them, well, let's just say things don't always turn out the way they do in the movies. One of the best examples of Action Movie Meeting Reality was the 1993 Arnold Schwarzenegger flop, The LAST ACTION HERO, where Ah-nuld discovers that "flesh wounds" can kill you, you can cut yourself when you break a window, and that people won't just drop what they're doing "to do the right thing." Let's look at a few:

Diction: How many of us, even on our best days, can talk without uttering a single "Uh," or "y'know," and just in general, speak as though every word was scripted out. Even professionals paid hundreds of thousands of dollars as lecturers have pregnant pauses to gather their thoughts during their hundreds-of-thousand-dollar speeches. Wouldn't it be great if everything you said was the right thing to say at the right time to say it, and exactly as you meant it? It just ain't so!

Perception: If, in the astronomically small chance that you're being followed in a car, could you glance out your rear view mirror and instantly recognize a sinister car following you? In the rain? In the dark of night? The tried and true "three left turns" that you're supposed to do when suspected of someone is tailing you doesn't really hold up either, as one single car, in this tailing scenario, never really happens. It just ain't so!

Physics: How many times have you seen, in a desperate hostage situation, where the hero buckles up their seat belt, then slams the car into a tree or a utility pole, hurling the bad guy through the windshield. Automobile Safety Glass is
Just Bend with your Knees....

Just Bend with your Knees....
designed for precisely this situation. When safety glass is compromised, it cracks, but it does not shatter. There's more of a chance that your adversary would break their neck smashing against the windshield, provided they can cleanly navigate over the dashboard and into the windshield. It just ain't so!

Super-Strength: The average manhole cover weighs about a hundred pounds. Yet, women, little boys, even Chris Tucker manages to easily slide over, or lift off these things that are specifically designed to withstand the weight of a fully-loaded 18-wheeler on a routine basis. That, added to the fact that manhole covers are pounded into the asphalt by constant traffic, removing them takes equally heavy machinery. It just ain't so!

Sterility: Anyone who lives in a house with a forced-air ventilation system, or even owns an air conditioner, knows how filthy the filters and the vents can get, even if you clean them on a routine basis. Yet, we're expected to believe that when the hero is crawling through a building's ventilation system, the air ducts are so clean you could do surgery in them. It just ain't so!

Geography: Never live in a city where movie filming is done. A person could get whiplash from the huge leaps of distances traveled in impossibly short times by the characters.

In the 1981, John Travolta in the Brian DePalma thriller BLOW OUT, filmed on location in Philadelphia, our hero, after smashing though the display window of the then-John Wanamaker department store (side note: The Wanamaker Building, converted into Macy's Center City in 2010, was also used in the
I'm Okay - It's Just a Flesh Wound

I'm Okay - It's Just a Flesh Wound
comedy-fantasy MANNEQUIN and the sequel MANNEQUIN 2) (Second Side Note: the window panes in the store were so thick, that they were replaced with candy glass so that Travolta wouldn't smash up the jeep he was driving), ran on foot over 13 city blocks to save Karen Allen, who at that precise time, was about to be murdered by John Lithgow on the Philadelphia Riverfront. That means Travolta ran over a mile and a three quarters in a little over a minute. Not too shabby for a non-Kenyan!

And while we're on the subject on my hometown, Rocky Balboa was apparently in better shape at the beginning of the movie than he realized. In the scene where he does his first run just before dawn, he ran from Northeast Philly (the elevated trains run above Northeast and West Philly - judging from the housing, it looked more like the Northeast - I could be wrong on this item, but either location is a formidable distance), to the Delaware Waterfront, approximately 5-6 miles away, then ran through the Italian Market, which is on the other side of the city, and up the steps of the Art Museum, another 5-6 mile distance. So in the hour or two before dawn, Rocky ran the length and breadth of Philadelphia, and in considerably less time it would take to actually drive that distance. It just ain't so!

Then there are the little things: finding a super-convenient parking space, hopping out of a cab without paying, or throwing the cabby the exact amount of fare needed - plus tip, catching a bus or a subway just in the nick of time, immediately spotting your date in a crowded dinner party (In DAREDEVIL, Matt Murdock
Just Once Around the City......

Just Once Around the City......
spots Electra clear across a crowded ballroom - and he's blind!), having an Olympic-sized dinner table for that party, instantly cracking access codes to any super-secret facility; the list goes on and on. Granted, these people in these movies are supposed to be extraordinary. And the reasons for these leaps of faith is that if reality were to interfere with the entertainment, every movie would be a day-long event, or there would be massive time leaps in the storylines, but C'mon!

Movies are funny things. Some, even with the most mundane acts, really test your "Suspension of Disbelief" quotient. If you were to tell someone that you could pull a man apart with your bare hands, or stand toe-to-toe with a champion boxer and take every single blow (punching your opponents' fist with your face), shrug off a gunshot, or even just stumbling across THE key clue to a puzzle no one has been able to figure out for centuries, you'd be laughed out of your inner circle. BUT - show it in Technicolor and Stereophonic Sound, and they lap it up like Mother's Milk.

They've just shown to you, after all - it must be true.

Of course, I could be wrong!


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Nov 17, 2010 11:56 PM
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Hilarious, but Totally True! You hit the nail on the head with this one. Great job!
Mike Thomas
Nov 18, 2010 12:27 AM
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Thanks Crystal! I enjoy your columns also. I like your unique perspective on issues,especially your questions.

Nov 25, 2010 8:45 AM
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Then they wouldn't be movies, would they? Very informative column as usual. Thanks, Mike

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I Could Be Wrong
Every other Wednesday

Until I find my footing, I'd like to vent on the state of today's movies. I will occasionally praise a movie that piques my fancy. But it's a whole lot more fun railing against a person's work who makes more money on a single project than I would make if I lived 500 years. Oh, I will usually make observations on movies rather than films. The difference? Films are critically acclaimed, while movies are just darned good fun.

Other Columns
Other columns by Spotlight Mike:

Adventures in WonderCon

In Praise of the Movie Producer

The Life of a Film Reviewer



All Columns

Spotlight Mike
Born in the Fifties with an extreme phobia for movies in general, I became obsessed with movies when I broke that phobia with the first movie I actually enjoyed, “The Ten Commandments.” I particularly like the kind of movie where you can put your brain on hold. I get enough reality and drama in my everyday life; I refuse to pay someone to subject me to the same.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Spotlight Mike by clicking here.

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