Sunday, October 4, 2015
"Hey, That Chair Moved!"--Continuity Errors In Movies
In my last post I discussed ROOM 237. One of the main points in this feature was that the continuity errors in Stanley Kubrick's THE SHINING were not just mistakes--they had some sort of "meaning". I wasn't all that impressed with that argument, but I was surprised to learn about some of the errors in THE SHINING, especially the fact that some of them are rather blatant.
I've never been very good at catching continuity errors and gaffes in movies and TV shows. The main reason is simple--I'm actually trying to pay attention to the story. I realize that in the 21st Century that concept is a bit difficult to grasp. I've always felt that if you are watching a movie and you are constantly picking out mistakes and flubs, the movie must be really bad or really boring, or....you are not watching what you are supposed to be watching.
If you are reading this you probably know someone who is good at the "catching flubs" game. You know what type of person I'm talking about--the person who will start jumping up and down whenever they spot a "mistake". The mistake is usually so minor that 99.5% of all viewers would never notice it, but the flub spotter invariably acts as if he or she has discovered a giant horde of lost Nazi gold.
These flub spotters also like to brag about their findings, as if their special talent makes them more clever than the talent involved in making the film. I've come to find that those who are flub spotters are usually not true film buffs. A film buff is concerned about more important things than if a scratch on an actor's arm moved half an inch between scenes.
If you are someone who appreciates film, you know that watching something with a flub spotter is a painful experience--almost as painful as viewing a movie with someone who has no imagination. ("That looks fake!!" Well, guess what, genius....movies are fake.) Knowing about film flubs, in my opinion, doesn't give you some sort of secret knowledge...it just helps ruin the suspension of disbelief.
I'll give you an example. Last year a woman and I were watching VERTIGO on Blu-ray. During one of the scenes in Scotty's apartment, my lady friend said, "His TV is in a different place than before!" Now, I've seen VERTIGO dozens of times, enough times that I almost know it frame by frame. I never noticed that Scotty's TV moved--and quite frankly, I didn't want to know that it moved. This information did not impress me--it annoyed me, because I know that the next time I watch VERTIGO, I'll be keeping an eye on the TV set. And that does nothing to help my appreciation for the film.
There are hundreds of web sites dedicated to pointing out movie flubs. I've never been on them, because...what's the point? Finding out movie flubs is kind of like finding out how stage magic ticks are done. You may feel smarter for having this knowledge, but it also severely lessens whatever entertainment value you might get.
Just about every time a big blockbuster movie comes out, an article will appear on the internet detailing the "many flubs" in the picture. These articles seem to suggest that because there are mistakes, the big blockbuster movie isn't as great as people think it is. Fact is, if you had enough time on your hands, you could go through any movie and pick out numerous errors. Movies are made by human beings, and human beings makes mistakes. The bigger and more expensive the movie, the more people will be hired to work on it. Some productions have a crew member list running into the thousands. The more people that are involved, the more chances there are of an error. This doesn't mean the movie is bad, or sloppily made. The original STAR WARS had mistakes, THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy has mistakes--does that take away from the greatness of the product?
A person who watches a movie just to pick out mistakes is like a person reading a novel for the sole purpose of finding incorrect sentence structure. I realize that some movie errors are so obvious you can't help but notice them--such as the urban legend of all those supposed sword & sandal epics that have extras wearing wristwatches. But if you come out of a theater and the only thing that is on your mind is a continuity gaffe, you're not seeing the forest for the trees. It takes creativity and imagination to make films--and I believe it takes creativity and imagination to appreciate them as well.