The Scene You Hate

A friend, having read my last post, asked if The Queen really objects to botanical inaccuracies in movies. Oh yes, yes indeed. And not just in motion pictures, either. If I’d known, in advance, that the TV show LOST would feature a bunch of people on a tropical island populated with temperate foliage, I never would have put it in my Netflix queue.

Of course, I’m just as bad when something I’m passionate about is misrepresented on film. Like games, for instance. I still break into hives whenever I think of the scene in Freaks and Geeks where the parents play the card game Pit, just the two of them.

But my all-time least favorite scene–one that appears in about every third film, seemingly–has to be this one:

The hero and the antagonist are playing chess, a game in which both are virtual grandmasters. It's a close fought match, and they banter while they play. Slowly, their moves--and their conversation--become more aggressive. Eventually they are openly hostile to one another, both on the board and off.

Then, victory. Smirking, the villain says something irrefutable to the hero, moves a bishop, and announces check.

For a long moment the two men lock eyes. Suddenly, the hero utters a devastating riposte, breaks eye contact just long enough to capture the bishop with his queen, and, with the slightest hint of a smile, declares checkmate. He rises from his chair and walks briskly away, leaving the loser to gawps at the board in amazement.

Yes, I understand that one grandmaster saying “I’m going to checkmate you in seven moves” followed by 23 straight minutes of the opponent staring at the board before replying, “ah, you are right–good game” lacks some of the “pizzazz” of the Hollywood version. But I still would rather sit through both episodes of Viva Laughlin, back-to-back, than endure this scene again.

What’s the scene you hate?

243 thoughts on “The Scene You Hate

  1. There’s a gun to somebody’s head, but he refuses to cooperate. “Click click,” says the gun, as its wielder pulls back the hammer. “Okay, I’ll do it!” yells the terrified man.

  2. Uh real chess games very, very rarely end with someone announcing mate in seven. Except for rare forced lines, nobody looks that far ahead. More likely ending is one person sac’ing a pawn and then not properly exploiting the tempo, or someone winding up with marginally more pressure on the g-file than the other. People who know chess can see how a slight edge can be turned into an inevitable win (and know if their opponent is capable of doing it), and quit when they see the slight edge.

  3. Oh, man these are all great.
    Being a geek, I can relate to so many of the tech/computer/geek related peeves.

    One thing that I used to see on CSI:Whatever it seems to have gotten better (geeks complained? a geek in a writer’s family?):

    when the techs are doing their fabulous video enhancements, zooming & pixelmashing on that Exclusive To The Crime Lab software, they do it all with the keyboard.
    No mouse.
    Not even a tablet.
    110% Keyboard Precision, baby.

    I found this list somewhere on the internets and though it covers some of what has already been mentioned, it has other good ones, too:

    1. Any PERMISSION DENIED has an OVERRIDE function.

    2. Complex calculations and loading of huge amounts of data will be accomplished in under three seconds. In the movies, modems transmit
    data at two gigabytes per second.

    3. When the power plant/missile site/whatever overheats, all the control panels will explode, as will the entire building.

    4. If you display a file on the screen and someone deletes the file, it also disappears from the screen. There are no ways to copy a backup file — and there are no undelete utilities.

    5. If a disk has got encrypted files, you are automatically asked for a password when you try to access it.

    6. No matter what kind of computer disk it is, it’ll be readable by any system you put it into. All application software is usable by all computer platforms.

    7. The more high-tech the equipment, the more buttons it has. However, everyone must have been highly trained, because the buttons aren’t labeled.

    8. Most computers, no matter how small, have reality-defying three-dimensional, real-time, photo-realistic animated graphics capability.

    9. Laptops, for some strange reason, always seem to have amazing real-time video phone capabilities and the performance of a CRAY.

    10. Whenever a character looks at a terminal, the image is so bright that it projects itself onto his/her face.

    11. Computers never crash during key, high-intensity activities. Humans
    operating computers never make mistakes under stress.

    12. (From Independence Day) No matter what kind of virus it is, any computer can be infected with it — even an alien spaceship’s computer — simply by
    running a virus upload program on a laptop.

    13. (From Jurassic Park) A custom system with millions of lines of code controlling a multimillion dollar theme park can be operated by a 13 year old who has seen a Unix system before. Seeing an operating system means you know how to run any application on that system, even custom apps.
    Note: What OS was it really running?
    (1) “These are super computers”. A CrayOS?
    (2) “Quicktime movie, Apple logo, trash can.” MacOS?
    (3) “Reboot. System ready. C:\” DOS?
    (4) “Hey, this is Unix. I know this” Unix?

    The computers in Jurassic Park were Cray supercomputers running the MacOS as a graphical shell of DOS all layered on top of a Unix base.

    14. You cannot stop a destructive program or virus by unplugging the computer. Presumably the virus has it’s own built-in power supply.

    15. You cannot stop a destructive program downloading onto your system by unplugging the phone line. You must figure out the mandatory “back door” all evil virus programmers put in.

    16. Computers only crash if a virus or a hacker is involved.

    17. All text must be at least 72 point.

    18. Word processors do not have an insert point.

    19. The only way to reboot is to shut off the main power to the building.

    20. Passwords can be guessed in three and exactly three tries. If you cannot guess the password in three tries, you must give up immediately.

    21. Any task or program can be executed by simply pressing Enter, no matter which program or window is in the foreground.

    22. All scanners, video cameras and digital cameras have a resolution of approximately 500 megapixels. Any image can be infinitely magnified with no pixelization.

    23. Security will not improve over time. Nonaffialiated personnel can take over a space ship without needing an account or access control.
    Corollary: Anyone can override access control lists in the future.

    24. All hackers wear black T-shirts or Hawaiian shirts.

    25. Incoming messages are displayed letter by letter. Email over the Internet works like telegraphs.

    26. Microsoft Windows doesn’t exist. Macintosh has a 75% market share.

    27. GUI operations, such as image selection and manipulation, can be handled easily and quickly via the keyboard.

  4. Certain actors use smoking as a way to eeeeeeeeee-mote and show that their character is either edgy or stressed out or both. But […] you can tell they don’t know the first thing about smoking. They fling the cigarette around like a crazy person

    Maybe they were coached by my philosophy professor. (Detailed description of the crazy old coot at my blog.)

  5. just thought of another one

    annoying overdone kissing scene:

    hero grabs heroine and forces a kiss on her. She *thinks* she doesn’t want to kiss him and vainly struggles, balling up her fists and getting in a couple of feeble pounds against his shoulder. but of course once she experiences a few moments of his magical kiss she can no longer resist and returns his passion.

    blech

  6. These are great!

    What kills me is how easy it is to infiltrate some place of work/evildoing. Sure, put on an appropriately colored jumpsuit and no one will know that you don’t belong there. Our hero and his supermodel sidekick grab a couple a spare coveralls and just waltz in. How many evil henchmen can there be? A couple dozen? And they’ve worked together in close quarters for several months. They would all recognize each other by sight. Especially if they’re all male and the stranger is a supermodel. I know if a supermodel suddenly showed up at my place of work, I would probably remember if I had seen her before in the weekly staff meeting or not.

    Also, our hero (I’m talking to you, Fugitive) goes into his former place of work and has free access as long as he hides his face from the three or four people who would recognize him. Hello! You’re a leading doctor in a hospital and you were convicted of murdering your wife. Everyone – nurses, lab assistants, orderlies – everyone is going to know your face. Wearing a janitor’s smock is not going to hide you!

  7. Ha! Totally agree with Hal’s observation. Knock out a soldier and put on his uniform – then no one looks twice at you. That one always bugged me.

  8. Hee hee! I love this thread!

    I hate the fake paper bags everyone always has their arms wrapped around, they don’t crinkle, or crease, or tear. I think they’re felt and I can’t pay attention to what is going on as I obsess about how the bag bulges because it’s material – some sort of stretchy brown felt, maybe. Just use the regular plastic grocery bags – it’s way more realistic anyway.

    I HATE fake smoking in movies – the worst is/was Killing Zoe where the main character is a chain smoker for two hours, who sucks furiously on his cigarettes but nary a wisp of smoke ever exits his mouth or nose. I’m not a smoker but I wanted to go up to the projectionist room and turn the whole thing off. Why bother portraying a smoker if you’re not going to smoke?

    I lived in Seattle when Singles was released and one of the characters is shown riding a bike to some restaurant from her neighborhood – the girl was teleporting all OVER Seattle in a completely random fashion to boot- the entire audience laughed out loud at how jumbled up all those locations were. That was fun.

  9. All the geography talk reminds me of the extremely distracting Chicago geography. It seems that the neighborhoods that people like to shoot in here are never next to each other. It’s best when walking. There are a lot of lakefront strolls that go for miles and miles.

    Even the extremely Chicago-knowledgable Jeff Garlin movie (“I Want Someone To Eat Cheese With”) had a scene where he meets Sarah Silverman in Lakeview, and they go for a five mile walk to Millenium Park, and then they go to buy underwear in Wicker Park, another five miles or so. He’s a fat man, and he’s not even breathing heavy.

    I spent most of the time watching ER trying to figure out where the hospital was.

    I know, it’s sort of a sickness. But it’s so distracting!

  10. I can’t stand the way that, as soon as someone drops unconscious, they’re given up for dead. It’s especially bad when they’re not dying from gaping wounds (e.g. Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale, who’d been pulled out of the water and was in a city with a hospital).

    Does no-one know mouth-to-mouth?

  11. It absolutely drives me crazy when an actor is riding a horse and his character is supposed to be a phenomenal rider but it is SO CLEAR that he has never been on a horse before, or that he just had a crash course an hour before. Horrible posture, the legs and feet are always turned way too far out, toes are pointed down at the ground — and the way they hold the reins! It’s horrible!

    And then, in some high-suspense “we have to stop that runaway train before everyone one it dies!” moment, they dramatically jerk the horse’s head around and I just wince at the damage that must be doing to the horse’s mouth. It drives me batshit insane. Hire an actor who knows how to ride!!!!

  12. Historical inaccuracies drive me nuts.

    Everafter: DaVinci supposedly having the Mona Lisa stolen when he was carrying it around all rolled up – It was painted on a BOARD, not so rolly. And DaVinci died in 1519, Utopia was written in 1515 in Latin and was not published in England in an English translation until 1551.
    I know it is a fantasy, but really – time travel wasn’t part of the fantasy as far as I noticed.

    And the person who mentioned birds. Moulin Rouge drove me nuts because when Kidman was singing to her caged bird – which was a Love Bird, the bird sang back with a lovely recording of a Canary.

  13. This irritates me to no end.

    WHY IS HOUSE DOING SURGERY? MORE IMPORTANTLY, IT’S EXTREMELY DANGEROUS PRE-NATAL SURGERY! House doesn’t even specialize in anything to do with babies!

  14. ————————————————-
    Movies that defeat their own premise. Minority Report is the worst example of this in cinematic history. The colour of the ball indicates whether a crime of premeditation or a crime of passion is about to happen. Crime of passion offers very little time to catch the guy before the dirty deed occurs, but one of premeditation allows for several days to pass, and two hours of chase scenes.

    So, what happens? Cruise’s character is pre-destined to commit a premeditated murder based on the colour of the ball that comes down early in the film. In the end, the crime he commits is one of passion.

    Oopsie.
    Posted by: Keith on December 20, 2007 8:07 AM
    ————————————————-

    While I agree that movies where the plot manages to break its own fictional rules are a pet peeve of mine, I can’t agree that ‘Minority Report’ is one of them. While Cruise’s character, had he gone through with the murder, would have been committing a crime of passion, there was plenty of premeditation in the setup that got him there.

    Sorry, but there aren’t too many book/story adaptations I like, so I’ll defend the ones I do. :)

  15. The Boy and his Companion Animal face each other on The Border between wilderness and civilization. Although they are dedicated friends, it is time to part. The Companion Animal stares at The Boy in confusion. Tears stream down The Boy’s cheeks as he shouts “go on! get out of here! run away! I hate you!” driving The Companion Animal out into the wild. As they part, each crosses their own respective bridge into adulthood.

  16. Entire movies about cheerleading, and the main character lacks any semblance of athletic skill. Problems include:

    -they’re always surrounded by a national champ squad that’s been practicing together eight hours a day for two years, so the contrast is even worse;
    -said national champ squad is forced into odd, unattractive, repetitive dance moves because it’s all the star can manage;
    -the star is in the middle of every routine when someone that bad would be pushed to the farthest back corner;
    -they’re the climber in the mounts, even though they’re so uncoordinated they’d likely snap their necks and injure everyone below them as they crashed to the earth.

    Kirsten Dunst in Bring it On, Kristy Swanson in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the movie), as well as Sarah Michelle Gellar in Buffy the TV show. Not, not, not athletic gals. Watching “Heros” is blissful because Hayden Panettiere could clearly do a backflip if called upon.

  17. The Ben Affleck scenes. (Ba-dump!)

    Also, any- ANY scene where a kid (possibly working for the government, possibly working for the bad guys, possibly a rogue hacker) can literally do anything with his little laptop. He can reroute flights, shut down the power grid, hack into any communications system, crash satellites into sportscars- anything. Usually this takes only a minute or two of wisecracking to complete, with the actor fluttering their fingers over the keyboard like they just had their nails painted and are trying to speed the drying. This sets my teeth on edge.

    Similarly, any of the crime “science” on any of those CSI shows; they’re just so idiotic. I can’t be in the same room with a television showing that crap.

    Art thieves in heist movies who cut valuable masterworks out of frames with switchblades and roll them up into portable tubes. Ugh. Stupid.

    There are probably hundreds of other examples.

  18. I’ll second vox8 and the hatred of historical inaccuracies, but especially in, say, historical films. Mel Gibson’s Braveheart implies that William Wallace was involved with Princess Isabelle, wife of the future Edward II, and even that Wallace may have been the true father of Isabelle’s son.

    Alas, the historical Isabelle was 9 years old and still living in France when Wallace was executed, which makes that rather tricky.

    As a medievalist, anything that mucks up the Middle Ages, either by buying into long-time preconceptions or by ignoring reality completely, makes me crazy. I was in agony during Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood, and not just because of Costner’s abysmal British accent (can he PLEASE just stick to playing athletes??). Bad enough that Costner dissed Errol Flynn’s vastly superior version by saying his cast wouldn’t be pracing around in tights (despite contemporary manuscript illuminations indicating that that’s exactly what he and his men would have been wearing), but in one scene he confronts long-hostile Will Scarlett and actually says, “Why do you hate me? Did I harm you in some former life?”

    Not exactly what a good Anglo-Saxon Christian home from the Crusades would be likely to say, as Christianity isn’t big on the metempsychosis.

  19. Karen, thanks for bringing up the Kevin Costner Robin Hood. I used to hang out at Renaissance Faires with a bunch of period archery enthusiasts, so that was the group I was with when I saw that movie in the theatre the first – and only! – time. I remember chuckling our way through, but the scene that stuck in my mind as particularly badly edited was one where there was a crucial arrow shot that needed to sever a rope about to hang somebody. A shot of the arrow seen from the side, flying through the air, with the background whizzing by and the arrow spinning, just as it should. Cut to a shot down the shaft of the arrow from the back, looking towards the target, arrow not spinning at all. Cut back and forth a few times to really grind in this continuity error. Leave the archers in the audience weeping with mirth.

    The other bit I remember about the language, was when Costner vaults over a wall of the castle (subtle, that) and the Christian Slater guy goes, “Fuck me, he made it!” Period word, yes. Usage, NO.

  20. I love this one:
    According to film and television, everyone living in the Southeat United States is an ill-bred, racist jackass. Or a semi-retarded good old boy. Or a Salt-of-the-earth farmer. Or a drunken deer-hunting redneck. And so on ad infinitum. The Dukes of Hazzard did little to improve this stereotype.

    We actually do have museums, universities, hospitals, laboratories, law firms, and a variety of the other industries and businesses one might find in any major metropolitain area (which we also have), peopled by appropriately educated professionals from around the country and indeed the world. Yet somehow everytime someone has to visit their uncle “in Alabama”, he will invariably be portrayed as a shotgun-toting, bearded and beer-stained Son of the Soil, living in a screened-in one room shack in the depths of the swamp with his two loyal hound-dogs (named “Slick” and “Do-Right”) and his illegal moonshine distillery.

  21. Years ago I started calling it “location fiction” when the consecutive outdoor sets are miles apart. Sort of like science fiction; some parts right and the rest are just plain made up… (Some famous ones: In “When Harry Met Sally”, they are driving away from university to go to NYC, but the road they are on takes them right back to the school. Also, I believe the bridge the Blues Brothers nearly drove off in their chase around “Chicago” is in Milwaukee.)

    I laugh at all the computer “results” screens like DNA, fingerprints flashing until one matches and city maps of crime targets. They really are animated/powerpoint shows/CGI movies. Also the FBI profiles that show on jumbotrons in the conference rooms – they can pull up slick backgrounds on suspects with one click.

  22. Ok, another opera one, that really ticks opera-lovers off:

    … to see the stylus
    placed on a 78 in 1938 and then hear Jussi Bjorling and Victoria de los
    Angeles from 1956 was a little strange …
    the film: Atonement

  23. Actually, it was some “Location Fiction” that finally turned me off “Gray’s Anatomy.” The preposterous location quandary of this “Seattle Grace Hospital:” It’s in someplace where it rains much more heavily than anywhere in Seattle. It has plenty of parking, yet, as seen from a helicopter, is next to the Space Needle. (They filmed the building of their local ABC network affiliate, Fisher Plaza, just as Alias did in its final season.) They encountered a ferry accident and dismounted their ambulance and stared directly out towards the water… about 6 blocks away from the ferry dock. (heck, they call it a “Ferry boat.” It’s a ferry, okay?)

    But the final straw, among all my many beefs wiht that show, was the main character driving to work– it showed her coming out of the Beacon tunnel heading eastbound on the I-90 bridge. In short, she was probably in the wrong end of downtown, and certainly headed away from Seattle.

  24. Frankly, I think a few these nits are excusable in service of the story (trying) to be told.

    But take “The Pretender”. Please.

    Ignoring the fact that I found the lead actor an amazingly unconvincing uber-smart confidence man, I watched an episode and they cut to the Evil Org™’s HQ on the coast of Delaware. Which, okay — pretty shot. I don’t remember a beach like that off of Delaware, but my memory sucks, so that gets a pass.

    But then they cut to the 34th-floor subbasement.

    If you’re going to build that deep, why the hell Delaware? Even maintaining a simple one-floor basement in the middle of the state is a major headache, much less once you’re spitting-distance from the shoreline.

    No wonder these guys were responsible for creating the worlds most inane genius.

  25. Any movie where the actor/actress has to play guitar and couldn’t be bothered to learn the 3 chords or even, maybe, play them on the beat. Or strum on time. Come on! guitar is easy!

    Bad piano playing doesn’t phase me, but I thoroughly appreciate it when an actress LEARNS to play something very difficult for the part. (or learns to play piano for a part. See Helena Bonham Carter in “Room with a View”)

    My mother is a lab technologist and takes blood. Any time we watch the first X-Men movie, she has to look away when Gene Gray is taking Wolverine’s blood, because she isn’t holding the needle steady, and she’s not hitting a vein.

    Also, it’s true: in house, the DOCTORS do the LAB WORK. pffffffft.

  26. I second Daniel’s comments about the military. I love blatant uniform inaccuracies and magic grenades. Magic grenades are the ones that can blow up a house! I never got to throw a grenade like that in the Army. Also, the having time to throw the grenade back scene. Always a favorite.

  27. Dick Deadeye….of course you have lawyers in the South. They ain’t no fancy, big-city lawyers, but galdarnit, it seems to them… (cue unbuttoning of seersucker suit and hooking of thumbs beneath red suspenders.)

    Although, I can’t agree with all of y’all who see red on the location switching. I can’t blame filmakers for not being able to afford/get a permit to shut down, say, 5th and Broadway just because the direction the characters were walking in would in reality lead to the Flatiron Building.

  28. Here’s a few of mine.

    Zippers in period films. (Clash of the Titans, I’m talking about you).

    Birds that are clearly geographically out of place eg. a film set in 18th century Nepal having Sulfur-Crested Cockatoos (an Australian bird) flying around.

    Explosions! That are filmed in slow motion for dramatic effect and take 30 seconds for the blast to go three metres.

    And news broadcasts that pertain to whatever the protagonist is doing at that moment – even if it is not a topic that would typically be covered by TV news. And the anchor gives every tiny little bit of detail we need to piece the plot together later.

  29. The location fiction stuff gets me too!

    The new seasons of Dr Who were shot in Cardiff and London. The broadcasts started just after I moved from Cardiff to London, so seeing people run down a street in Cardiff then turn a corner onto Parliment Square *really* confused me!

  30. I grind my teeth at just about any scene where Hollywood throws around technical terms without knowing what they mean. I almost had to get false teeth after the movie Hackers.

  31. I don’t care if it IS just me’n Frankie here, I’m getting in on this (us Hudson County rezzes are on a different schedule, apparently).

    Syringes. My God, people, just ask a nurse how they’re used. If you’re drawing blood or giving an intravenous shot, you’ve gotta go in just a few degrees shy of parallel to the vein, you can’t just jab. (I think this point was made in a comment about “X-Men,” but I’m not sure, and even if it was, it bears repeating since nobody EVER gets it right).

    Pets. Look, the whole point of ’em is, they bond with their owners. Cats, okay, the aloofness goes with the popular image, so just get one that won’t scratch the actors, but dogs? I don’t care how much you think the dog “looks” the part; if it clearly doesn’t give a shit about its “master,” it shouldn’t be in the movie. Full disclosure: this was what I found offensive in a movie about mutant cannibals with a graphic rape scene, so my sensibilities are a little particular.

    Stretching the definition a little, but I hate hate hate the following resolution:

    Hero and villain are fighting to the death. Hero gets upper hand. Hero is about to kill villain, but decides to show mercy, even though villain wouold never offer same. As hero walks away, villain pulls out a gun or something, and now hero has no choice but to kill villain, thus establishing hero’s moral superiority while not denying bloodthirsty audience its catharsis.

    I’ve seen this so many times, and it’s just so cheap and ugly. If “Hook” weren’t the worst movie ever made, the ending would’ve ruined it.

    I would like to invite this entire thread over for a technothriller marathon. And possibly mass marriage.

  32. This, right here, this…the entire best part of “The Scene You Hate” thread:

    “I would like to invite this entire thread over for a technothriller marathon. And possibly mass marriage.”

    Thank you.

  33. This, right here, this…the entire best part of “The Scene You Hate” thread:

    “I would like to invite this entire thread over for a technothriller marathon. And possibly mass marriage.”

    Thank you.

  34. Greg wrote:

    13. (From Jurassic Park) A custom system with millions of lines of code controlling a multimillion dollar theme park can be operated by a 13 year old who has seen a Unix system before. Seeing an operating system means you know how to run any application on that system, even custom apps.
    Note: What OS was it really running?
    (1) “These are super computers”. A CrayOS?
    (2) “Quicktime movie, Apple logo, trash can.” MacOS?
    (3) “Reboot. System ready. C:\” DOS?
    (4) “Hey, this is Unix. I know this” Unix?

    The computers in Jurassic Park were Cray supercomputers running the MacOS as a graphical shell of DOS all layered on top of a Unix base.

    Um … WRONG. This was an example of a movie doing something right for a change. The computers were high-end Silicon Graphics boxes, running Irix, SGI’s flavor of Unix. The rotating cubes in the GUI were a standard option of the OS, glitzy but pretty much useless. The machines were “borderline” supercomputers — not Crays, but more powerful than most machines that cost less than a million bucks at the time … and they were the machines that rendered the SFX for the movie. Product placement for nerds.

  35. I’m cutting and pasting this one from “Jeff’s movie reviews” page from “The Great Radio Tiki Experiment” (www.radiotiki.com)
    This was from a list Jeff made of movie observations:

    The Hangar
    This is an apparent commentary on the weakness of the airline industry. Whenever a group of con men, toughs, race car modifiers, whatever needs a place to hide out, plot, work, whatever, there is always an empty airplane hangar which can be taken over and completely equipped in the span of an afternoon.

    original list at:
    http://www.chrispy.net/%7Etoast/glossary.html

    “YGFR”

  36. I hate it when they show settlement conferences, etc. with both parties in the same room. After working for a divorce law firm for almost three years, I can tell you that both parties are ALWAYS separated into different rooms (at least in family law), to avoid precisely the kind of emotional drama fallout that having everyone in one room causes. Sure, realism doesn’t fly in Hollywood, but this always irks me.

    And my boyfriend can’t handle when any sort of computer or device interaction results in tons of incoherent beeping noises. Minimize a window? Beep boop BEEP. Type in a search query and hit “send”, and it sounds like freakin’ R2D2. He always points it out.

    And thanks to the 11-foot projector screen image we have, we always pause on written materials (like a newspaper, or a screenshot of a character’s email) and point out inconsistencies: the email address being hotmail.com and “hotmail.biz” in the same scene; Craigslist.info (kid you not), and newspapers with totally fake gibberish that some idiot prop intern came up with, that might have news stories from last year, or another state entirely. Or just nonsense text. Or sometimes that Latin excerpt everyone uses to test WordPress. Either way, funny/annoying. ‘Tis the curse of the giant screen, I suppose.

    Oh, and being a linguist, I also hate when characters like Sydney on Alias pass for native speakers when they blurt out a painful bastardization of whatever the target language is, and all the Russian security guards are like “No sweat, she’s totally one of us, right bro?” (Except in Russian, and also, in their heads. But still.) I realize there’s no way they could effectively teach perfect pronunciation to someone in that kind of role, but it still makes my skin crawl to hear the awful linguistic slaughter that occurs.

    ‘Kay, thanks, Matthew. Your blog post turned me into an uptight nit-picking nerd (or revealed me as one, anyway). And I will never be able to watch a chess scene calmly again. Well done!

  37. Non-musical actors who can’t mime. Even when they’re conducting.

    When someone fires a shotgun and the momentum of the slug hitting the target blows the guy off his feet, but the recoil doesn’t knock the shooter off HIS feet.

    The way poison gas always has to be visible. And if the hero gets a lungful but survives, he never ever dies a lingering death the next day or even has his performance impaired.

    And why, when people in films look through binoculars, do they see a view shaped like two overlapping circles? If they used them properly they’d see one circle.

    And films that confuse encryption with password protaction, like Sneakers. A universal decrypter would be cool for reading secret files, but wouldn’t get you access to an air traffic control system or the FBI’s database.

  38. when vast amounts of money are being transferred online between bank accounts, you see one account draining of money and the other filling up- like the accounts are glasses of water.

  39. One thing that makes me crazy doesn’t involve any kind of expert knowledge – but they still always get it insanely wrong. Everyone went to high school, but every movie (except John Hughes) shows a bizarre prom with a bizarrely cool band and all of the kids have choreographed dance numbers. The guys look like they are in Fame – doing pirouettes with their elbows out, often there are groups all doing the same dance. Watch “Never Been Kissed” if you can. That’s the worst one I’ve seen lately. The popular girls also do a choreographed dance at a nightclub and then everyone applauds.

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