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Discussion point: good and bad inaccuracies in movies

Was it tough going cold turkey? Have you still not finished the cold turkey? To lighten the post-festivities hangover, may I suggest a little helping of the traditional New Year’s activity of passionate argument about trivia.

Which examples of factual inaccuracy in films annoyed you the most? And which film inaccuracies do you think were best justified by the requirements of runtime, drama or adherence to the Rule of Cool?

I welcome discussion of inaccuracies in the cinematic portrayal of history, of scientific and technical matters, of law, of war, and of common procedure in various types of human activity. However, restrain yourselves if possible from simply listing deviations from truth that merely arise from ignorance. A more interesting case for good or evil is those compressions, negations and exaggerations that were the deliberate choices of the filmmakers.

A somewhat-related post touching on some of the results of filmic inaccuracies is here.

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90 comments to Discussion point: good and bad inaccuracies in movies

  • rxc

    If I were to be oriented towards conspiracies, I might suggest that there is a bit of Orwellian social engineering involved in historic movies, especially regarding eras where there are no recordings of the actual facts or even scenes of the actual events. The media, both news-oriented and creative, has been pretty well captured by one particular thread of political thinking, so it would be natural to think that they try to move the society forward in the desired direction.

    In any case, there are likely no overt conspiracies; rather something more like a shared vision of the future that drives them all in the same direction, like a herd of animals or a flock of birds.

  • Paul Marks

    All recent films (as well as television programmes and plays and so on) about the post World War II American period assume that the people accused of being Communists were innocent.

    They were not innocent – they were guilty. And their conscious and deliberate aim was to murder tens of millions of people (as had already been done in the Soviet Union and was being done in China) and enslave the rest of the American, and general Western, population.

    The “goodies” of the media were “baddies” in real life. And the failure to really fight these collectivists led to them, eventually, gaining an iron grip on the “education system” of schools (including many private schools) and universities. This is the present situation.

    More generally nearly all films of the past assume that “Social Reform” (which the define as the government getting bigger and more interventionist) is a good-thing in Britain all other countries.

    Any opponent of ever more government Welfare State spending and regulations is shown as either stupid or evil (“selfish” – out to protect their ill gotten wealth) in nearly all films (and television shows and so on).

    As for the “Third World”.

    Again “independence movements” are shown as automatically good, and Western Empires automatically bad.

    And all rich people (big landowners, businessmen and so on) are shown as monsters (whose wealth is the cause of poverty) is nearly all films and shows that cover the “Third World” (and even in many films and shows that cover the West itself).

  • If I might veer a little off topic (perhaps)… Natalie would you include movie/TV adaptions of fiction? I think Jackson did a broadly good job with JRRT but a lot of “The Two Towers” was a mess. OK, some changes I think held water in the trilogy such as deleting the Barrow Downs and Tom Bombadil. The latter would have just confused most people.

    Secondly… Now I don’t know if this really matters but to you recall the kid’s TV show “Byker Grove”. I grew-up in the NE and the location shooting was all over the place. The cast would go round a corner and appear ten miles away! It got me thinking. I know it sounds minor and unless you knew the area you’d not notice but… If the BBC were prepared to tell such casual lies then…

    In a not unrelated thing I have noticed something from the press which stuns me. There are very few areas of human knowledge that I am verging on encyclopaedic but I am about aerial combat. The reporting of which in even the “quality press” since 9/11 etc is abysmal in factual howlers. This of course worries me because there are a great many areas I am not that au-fait with so what are they sneaking past me there.

    Of course some might argue the reason for all these misrepresentations is to tell the story and not get bogged-down in details. We all do this to a certain extent unless we tell very tedious anecdotes but still, still…

  • As to the “Rule of Cool”. I have no problem with the square/cube rule getting discarded or similar liberties with scaling in aerodynamics. (Or indeed with winged spaceships). As to FTL… Well, The Alcubierre drive doesn’t violate relativity. The exotic matter it needs is possibly (probably?) impossible and in any case the energy needed is phenomenal. Anyway, as a plot device it makes sense.

  • Snorri Godhi

    This is one of those questions to which answers will keep coming to mind for days, if not months.
    What comes to mind right now:

    * In the Heart of the Sea: comes to mind first because i saw it recently. What bothered me was the effort to make the story fit a narrative of vulgar Marxism (what Paul Marks calls cod Marxism). Still a very exciting adventure story, but we are not rating movies, we are rating inaccuracies, right?

    * The Matrix: the given explanation for why the machines keep humans in the Matrix is so inane, it amounts to gaslighting — especially because there was no need to give an explanation at all: why not just say: who knows?
    The explanation felt like a kick in the stomach, not just the first time that i heard it, but also the second. The movie seemed fake after that.
    (NB: of course, this is a scientific, not historical inaccuracy.)

    * JFK: excellent as a thriller, pernicious nonsense as history.

    A few movies which i have already torn apart in my IMDb reviews:
    * 1900
    * The Deer Hunter
    * Munich (actually quite enjoyable, apart from the flaws in character development.)

  • Phil B

    One of the reasons Das Boot (The Boat) was made in Germany and not Hollywood was that they liked the story that Lothar-Günther Buchheim produced but wanted it to appeal to American audiences.

    During preliminary discussions, Hollywood wanted a scene in which Waffen SS men (ground troops) were on the U-Boat and machine gunned American survivors in a lifeboat …

    Thankfully the people concerned walked away from the deal and made the film in Germany.

    However, as the vast majority of people get their view and knowledge of history from films, the audience would have undoubtedly believed that U-boats routinely carried ground troops and that lifeboats were routinely targetted by those EEEEEEEEEEEEVIL Nazis.

    Similarly the film U 571 depicting America capturing the first Enigma machine is so much bullshit. The British already had captured at least 3 by the time the Americans did so.

    It makes me wonder what other inaccuracies creep in to appeal to the American test audiences.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    NickM, things that have gone wrong with movie and TV adaptions of fiction is such a juicily enraging topic in its own right that I would suggest saving it for another discussion, provisionally entitled “Fictional Characters who should Sue Filmakers for Libel” I won’t actually set the dreaded Samizdata topic police on you if you do mention it, though. They are still resting after devouring the last malefactor.

  • Snorri Godhi

    PS: Daredevil (2003). Again, this is no historical inaccuracy. The fact is, the Daredevil used to be one of my heroes, when i was barely a teenager. That was because he is an underdog. The movie version demonstrated that he is too much of an underdog to be believable.

  • OK, Natalie! That is a great post title BTW.

    Snorri,
    The Matrix – oh, yes! Almost like thermodynamics never happened…

    As to historical SNAFUs… “Braveheart” is a profound elephant in the room. U-571 is almost too easy a “dead in the water” target. “Gladiator” of course is all over the place historically. Of course things like “Troy” or “300” sort of straddle the fact/fiction thing which makes life complicated in the context.

    Now, this is also a fact/fiction thing (up to a point) but “Top Gun” has a howler at the core. The Top Gun academy is set-up to increase the USN’s A-A kill ratio from 3-1 (‘Nam) to over 10-1 (Korea). The final (real) dog-fight sees (I seem to recall) something like a 3-1 kill ratio. Oh, and all that,”Speak to me Goose!” stuff is nauseating. Maverick would have got himself slotted messing about like that.

    Snorri, I have to disagree with “JFK”. It is drivel on more levels than the Burj Dubai.

    And of course there is Al Gore’s movie-making…

  • Julie near Chicago

    Natalie, excellent Discussion Point. Thanks for the link to the 2011 discussion, despite that naturally I had to follow the links there, one of which was to the LvMI piece about the “myth of Thanksgiving,” which had a long list of comments with more links to follow. I often read the comments, if they’re not just more of A flaming B, at least to the bottom of the first load on the page. Anyway, the 2011 discussion was interesting. [This is often true of past Samiz. postings and discussions. :>) ]

    Also, props to all three commenters (Paul, NickM, rxc) so far.

    rxc: I tend to think you’re probably right about the majority of today’s tripe on film and in the “news” and so on — although what about JournoList? — some say “conspiracy,” some say No, just Great Minds in the same old rut — but if they were talking about how to put the required spin — ; but in the past at least, the CPUSA and fellow-travellers certainly deliberately pushed movies glorifying Communism. With things like Redford and The Motorcycle Diaries, I suppose it’s just R.R. being what he is….

    Nick: I finally got around to looking up “Continuity,” as in “the Continuity girl,” the other day. No doubt she got a good workout making Byker Grove, of which I’ve never heard. (We in the Provinces do suffer from a lack of quality entertainment….:( although we do have a couple of quite good symphony orchestras.)

    (I have an online pal on the West Coast — fear not, he is cootie-free — who I think is rather in agreement with your assessment of Hollywoodized matters military.)

    As a side note, let me say that I have no problem at all with the Dean Drive (as long as it knows its place), nor some little-known SF writer’s idea of a Crooked House. :>)

    By the way –the math prof at Union College, who posted the story for one of his classes, has a page that may be worth looking at. For example, he’s also posted Edwin A. Abbott’s Flatland, which I haven’t seen a copy of in the last 40 years. (Follow the link to either story, and delete all after /~dpvc/ from the URL for his Home Page at the College.)

    Paul: Usual kudos for being absolutely correct. And very much worth saying. And it goes on and on and on….

    Speaking of which, was The Incredibles really good? I tried it twice, but couldn’t make it past the first couple of frames.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Dear Friends,

    I listed by name those who had commented as of the time I started writing up my own comment. Subsequent commenters just missed the copy deadline. :>)

  • OK, Natalie! That is a great post title BTW.

    Snorri,
    The Matrix – oh, yes! Almost like thermodynamics never happened…

    As to historical SNAFUs… “Braveheart” is a profound elephant in the room. U-571 is almost too easy a “dead in the water” target. “Gladiator” of course is all over the place historically. Of course things like “Troy” or “300” sort of straddle the fact/fiction thing which makes life complicated in the context.

    Now, this is also a fact/fiction thing (up to a point) but “Top Gun” has a howler at the core. The Top Gun academy is set-up to increase the USN’s A-A kill ratio from 3-1 (‘Nam) to over 10-1 (Korea). The final (real) dog-fight sees (I seem to recall) something like a 3-1 kill ratio. Oh, and all that,”Speak to me Goose!” stuff is nauseating. Maverick would have got himself slotted messing about like that.

    Snorri, I have to disagree with “JFK”. It is drivel on more levels than the Burj Dubai.

    And of course there is Al Gore’s movie-making… And “The Da Vinci Code” which is spectacular nonsense playing very fast and loose with history.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Snorri Godhi, I read a few of your IMdB reviews with interest. I was struck by a recurring theme which I, too, have noticed in movies where history is messed about with too much – the way that putting in a glaring inaccuracy or inanity (particularly if it is done for the sake of some political agenda) often seems to suck much of the rest of the passion out of the movie. It’s as if by that act the filmmakers have lost their self-respect.

    An example is the Richard Curtis film The Boat That Rocked. Curtis couldn’t resist making the government minister who kills off pirate radio a stereotypical Tory. In real life it was Tony Benn. “Yeah, so?” I hear you all say. “It’s Richard Curtis, well known Labour Luvvie, whaddya expect?” Well, Curtis’ strong point has (sometimes) been affectionate observation of places and people. When he can’t bring himself to look squarely at a society where the opposition to the sex ‘n’ drugs ‘n’ rock ‘n’ roll of the pirate radio DJ’s came as much from the puritanical Left as from the puritanical Right, he loses the main quality that makes his stuff occasionally worth watching.

  • Natalie,
    I think rxc might be onto something with his “herd” idea. It is almost like the truth just doesn’t “feel right” rather than a deliberate, cynical lie. Of course this is arguably worse. The truly indoctrinated don’t know it.

  • Ellen

    Anything by Oliver Stone.

  • The 1944 biopic Wilson, starring Alexander Knox as the US President, utterly covers up Wilson’s racism. There’s one particularly humorous scene where he and his wife are serving coffee to soldiers about to head off to the Great War, in which Wilson declaims a speech about how the US military has soldiers from every race, by which is clearly meant every white ethnicity. There’s not a black soldier in the scene, and the military still wouldn’t be desegregated until three years after the movie was released.

  • Dr. Toboggan

    Snorri Godhi – re: the Matrix:

    Supposedly the writers originally had the machines using human brains for cloud computing or something like that – the below video uses the phrase “neural network” – but the studio thought it was too esoteric a concept for audiences in 1999.

    But more interesting than that is this theory – click here if you’ve got 15 minutes to spare – that the “real world” in the film must’ve been part of the Matrix, since the stated explanation was so nonsensical. (A corollary of that is that it’s Agent Smith who’s really The One.)

    —————–

    As for inaccurate films, other commenters have already zeroed in on some frustrating errors, so let me offer a case where I think the errors are forgivable: Cool Runnings. I forget the details, but supposedly that film is total bullshit from beginning to end – but who cares? It’s a near-perfect fable. In the grand scheme of things, I’m sure the lie has been much better for the world than the truth. It’s only the goddamn Jamaican bobsled team after all, it doesn’t matter what really happened. Right?

  • Tedd

    Can someone give some examples of violations of the square-cube law in film? Are we talking about giant insects and that sort of thing, or are there more common examples?

  • RRS

    We can be grateful that we have not yet had Huxley’s “Feelies.”

  • Phl B

    Tedd,

    Giant ants in the 1954 film Them! (the exclamation mark is part of the title) featured Giant ants.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Them!

    The Attack of the 50 foot Woman (in “sexy” panty girdle too) is another that doesn’t succeed.

    I suppose Godzilla would be a candidate but for REAL “this is biomechanically impossible” Avatar is as good as you’d get – though the weight of ET’s head on his pencil neck would result in a broken neck in eart type gravity.

  • Tedd,
    Well, giant insects are an obvious one although insects also have issues with breathing if “super-sized”. This is why they had enormous dragonflies in the Carboniferous – the atmosphere was denser and had much more oxygen. Other than that… Things just don’t scale. You cannot have a mouse the size of an elephant or vice versa. Of course this is different for aquatic critters hence blue whales and such.

  • OK, Tedd,
    “Attack of the 50ft Women”. “Sleeper”, anything with giant livestock or vegetables (to an extent on the former). Up to a point reality has pushed the bar here. Look at a standard modern turkey shuffling about.

  • Sorry I wrote that before I saw PhlB (PhilB?)’s comment on the “50′ Women”. As to ET. He starts “dying” partly due to gravity. It is more explicit in the novel. Godzilla – yes, of course which reminds me that almost all images (over the ages) of dragons are totally unflyable.

    PS. I meant “later” not “former” in comment above.

  • By which I mean “latter”.

  • Mr Ed

    of course which reminds me that almost all images (over the ages) of dragons are totally unflyable.

    Depends, what if the hot gases aren’t coming out of the mouth but the other end?

  • Stonyground

    It always bugs me when the wrong kind of sound effect is dubbed on for motorcycles. Big twins go blatt blatt blatt, two strokes go rasp rasp rasp, multis go voom voom voom, it’s really not that difficult. Why not just start the thing up, record the sound it makes and use that?

  • I remember tearing Syriana apart when it came out. I still enjoy re-reading that.

  • Stony,
    I suspect what it is that people have expectations of what something ought to sound like. This does not make it so of course but once you get used to the SFX then…

  • llamas

    @ Natalie Solent, who wrote:

    ‘An example is the Richard Curtis film The Boat That Rocked. Curtis couldn’t resist making the government minister who kills off pirate radio a stereotypical Tory. In real life it was Tony Benn. “Yeah, so?” I hear you all say. “It’s Richard Curtis, well known Labour Luvvie, whaddya expect?” Well, Curtis’ strong point has (sometimes) been affectionate observation of places and people. When he can’t bring himself to look squarely at a society where the opposition to the sex ‘n’ drugs ‘n’ rock ‘n’ roll of the pirate radio DJ’s came as much from the puritanical Left as from the puritanical Right, he loses the main quality that makes his stuff occasionally worth watching.’

    Not to quibble or anything, but I don’t believe that the reason that Tony Benn tried (and failed) to kill off ‘pirate’ radio had anything to do with being ‘puritanical’. There’s wasn’t too much ‘sex ‘n’ drugs ‘n’ rock’n’roll’ about the radio pirates anyway. What made Tony Benn try and suppress the pirates was the threat they posed to the ‘establishment’ broadcaster (the BBC) and its reliable base of political support and propaganda for the center-Left. Listening statistics showed that the pirates had created a huge market of listeners who were not consuming any BBC output at all, IOW, a vast audience of voters who were not consuming the uniquely-British style of monopoly soft-Socialist message that was already the norm at the BBC. That was what could not be tolerated. This mindset continued clear through the 1990s, when Labour bitterly opposed the passage of the Broadcasting Act, which somewhat-loosened the Stalinist regulation of broadcasting in the UK. They didn’t give a cr*p about corrupting the morals of the listening audience, they cared about losing the grip of the political establishment on the highly-regulated content put out by the BBC and the later broadcast regulators that were laughably styled as ‘Independent’.

    Regarding detail inaccuracies in movies, the one that always irks me is/are the ubiquitous firearms mistakes. Revolvers with silencers, SA weapons being used DA, historically-impossible weapons, ASF. I always notice and appreciate when this is done right.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Lee Moore

    A bit off topic, but I watched “Trading Places” again the other day, and for the first time noticed that the Dukes had a matching set of Nixon and Reagan photographs on their desk. Not “inaccurate” as its pure fiction, but a nice bit of lefty snark snuck in there for fun.

    And one “accuracy” I noted watching “Goldfinger” again over the holidays. The gold bar Bond is given to tempt Goldfinger is said to be worth “five thousand pounds.” I found it hard to believe it could have been worth that little, so I worked it out. And 5000 pounds is just what it would have been worth in the early 1960s. But now ? A little under 300,000 pounds. Inflation much ?

  • CaptDMO

    Lies, outright LIES?
    ANY movie where cars are racing/chasing/skidding to a halt on dirt roads, with the sound of tires squealing on pavement at every turn. Those “magic” 200 shot “western” revolvers that can expertly “wing” a target at 100 feet, from the hip. “Gangster” revolvers with a silencer screwed on the front of the barrel.
    And of course, the sound of explosions/weapons fire in space.
    I have no specific citations at hand, but the collaborative censorship/supervision by (pre war)NAZI “political advisors” to Hollywood, that films may be allowed to “play” in the German market etc., comes to mind.

  • This thread reminds me of a trivia board I read about Band of Brothers. They paid incredible attention to the uniform details, right down to obtaining the original molds for some of the badges and casting a new set. As llamas says, I appreciate it when people go to such efforts to get the details right.

  • Mr Ed

    It all comes down to the lack of the ability to suspend your disbelief. It reminds me of the time I was talking to a rather PC in-law (child of an eminent sociologist) about cross-racial casting of actors as relatives (e.g. a white child of two Asian actors) and how it could appear as being rather contrived to make a PC point.

    I was told “It’s no problem, you just suspend your disbelief“.

    I responded ‘Ah yes, like in a sociology lecture.‘.

    We have avoided those topics since.

  • Laird

    One thing which always bugs me is when explosions in space result in a horizontal ring, rather than a more-or-less uniform expansion in all directions. Interestingly, Star Wars (the original) got it both right and wrong in the same movie.

    Mr Ed, in Tremors 3 they did in fact have creatures which flew by expelling gasses from “the other end”. The characters in that movie referred to them as “ass blasters“.

  • David Graeme

    Following up on Tim Newman, just above, and llamas, the film The Long Duel (1967) starred Yul Brynner as the noble tribal chief, Trevor Howard as the upright and sympathetic British colonel, and Harry Andrews as the martinet who saw all tribesmen as The Enemy (it takes place on the Northwest Frontier in some undefined pre-WW2 period). Pretty standard stuff, and not very notable, but the most clueless thing I remember was that Harry Andrews’ medal ribbons kept changing order, from one scene to the next: first we see him wearing a DSO and then an MC, then inexplicably an MC followed by a DSO, and then something else. Weird.

  • the most clueless thing I remember was that Harry Andrews’ medal ribbons kept changing order, from one scene to the next: first we see him wearing a DSO and then an MC, then inexplicably an MC followed by a DSO, and then something else. Weird.

    He was a cumper!

  • Mr Ed

    Coming back to the Enigma film issue, here is a BBC article about the genuine article, the then 19-year old Sub-Lieutenant David Balme RN.

    And Laird, that is a truly awesome clip, how you find the time to delve so deeply into the oeuvre is a tribute to your organisational skills. Might not the ring in space be plasma caught in a magnetic field?

  • Sam Duncan

    “Secondly… Now I don’t know if this really matters but to you recall the kid’s TV show “Byker Grove”. I grew-up in the NE and the location shooting was all over the place. The cast would go round a corner and appear ten miles away! It got me thinking. I know it sounds minor and unless you knew the area you’d not notice but… If the BBC were prepared to tell such casual lies then…”

    That happens in virtually everything. I first noticed it in Taggart. You’d see them walk round a corner in Maryhill (where the show was supposed to be set), and turn up at the Police office in Partick. Then they’d go inside into a room that overlooked George Square. And the pub in the early series was obviously much bigger inside than it was outside, like the TARDIS. I’d put that all down to artistic licence, really, but it is annoying when you know the locations.

    “An example is the Richard Curtis film The Boat That Rocked. Curtis couldn’t resist making the government minister who kills off pirate radio a stereotypical Tory. In real life it was Tony Benn.”

    If it weren’t for that howler, it would be a great free-market parable. Anyone might think Curtis had an agenda…

    “Can someone give some examples of violations of the square-cube law in film?”

    “…almost all images (over the ages) of dragons are totally unflyable.”

    “It always bugs me when the wrong kind of sound effect is dubbed on for motorcycles.”

    “Regarding detail inaccuracies in movies, the one that always irks me is/are the ubiquitous firearms mistakes.”

    “ANY movie where cars are racing/chasing/skidding to a halt on dirt roads, with the sound of tires squealing on pavement at every turn. Those “magic” 200 shot “western” revolvers that can expertly “wing” a target at 100 feet, from the hip. “Gangster” revolvers with a silencer screwed on the front of the barrel.”

    I’m just going to leave this link here. You can all thank me later.

  • Laird,
    I’m not so sure about the rings. Mr Ed’s suggestion is possible but almost any anisotropy or maybe angular momentum in the exploding thing could do it. certainly if it is seen spreading a long way from the hypocentre.

  • Mr Pants

    When I was growing up, it seemed as though most American films were about the little guy sticking one over to the big faceless empire. Everything, from all those Clint Eastwood westerns down to kids films like Flight of the Navigator, Short Circuit and any of my own personal favourites the Indiana Jones films, left the viewer in no doubt that the rebels were the goodies. Ever since 9/11 and the rise of Al Qaida and Isis the rebels have been out of favour somewhat.

  • llamas

    @ Tim Newman re Band of Brothers – I understand Mr Hanks is a WW2 history buff and demands historical accuracy down to the smallest detail, dating back to his efforts in ‘Saving Private Ryan’.

    I have the super-deluxe-all-access DVD set of BoB and have watched the whole thing through 3 or 4 times. I can only recall one firearms hardware error in the whole thing, and that one is so egregious it almost makes me wonder whether it is a deliberate McGuffin. There’s plenty of continuity and script errors and so forth, but the equipment appears to be spot-on.

    Regarding SubLt Balme and the capture of the Enigma machine from U110 – not a lot of people realize that he and his party were put aboard the abandoned U110 in a whaler launched from the destroyer HMS Bulldog.

    Which then left to pursue an attack on another U-boat.

    For 6 hours.

    In the middle of the North Atlantic.

    U110 was down by the stern with decks awash when his party went aboard. It had been forced to surface by prolonged depth-charge attacks, which had rendered it unmanouverable and uncontrollable in all 3 planes, which is why it was abandoned by its crew. U-boats were known to have built-in scuttling charges and he had no way to know whether these had been activated or whether the sea-cocks had been opened. The U-boat’s batteries had been contaminated with sea water and there was every chance that all would be poisoned inside her by chlorine gas.

    Yet he and his party amassed a vast haul of secret materials from U110, of which the Enigma machine was an important but by no means the only part, and got it all safely back aboard Bulldog when it came back for him and took U110 under tow. He even found time to trouser the U-boat captain’s dress cover, as well as his issue binoculars.

    I’m not sure that that quality of sang-froid is in quite-such generous supply today as it was back then. Great big brass ones he must have had.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Laird

    Mr Ed, it helps to know what you’re looking for! But as to your speculation about plasma caught in a magnetic field, I’ll leave that one to the physicists here.

    It was surprisingly difficult to find a good clip of the Tremors 3 ass blasters. Here’s the best I could find (it’s at around 0:30 of the clip).

  • embutler

    What is Water Circulation? – YouTube

    just a short video..
    a little problem with salt water
    where was their editors??
    pretty girl anyway..

  • Bod

    The one (among oh so many) that tickles me is “The Warriors”, which for those who never saw it, was the story of a somewhat effective street gang from Coney Island, Brooklyn, trying to get home thru’ hostile territory after another charismatic gang leader’s attempt at creating the “Street Gang League of Nations” at a huge gathering of gangs up north near Woodlawn – I presume it was meant to be Van Cortlandt Park

    Using primarily the subway system, they survive a number of improbable rumbles, and while their progress southward is plausible, the locations all appear out of sequence and a few in broadly nonsensical places.

    Of course, this could all be attributed to a combination of post-prod editing rather than playing fast and loose with location shoots, but the result is still a headscratcher.


  • @ Tim Newman re Band of Brothers – I understand Mr Hanks is a WW2 history buff and demands historical accuracy down to the smallest detail, dating back to his efforts in ‘Saving Private Ryan’.

    That leaves me at a loss to explain how bad Saving Private Ryan was, then. Having done so well to recreate the beach landings, we then had Tom Hanks as an allegedly veteran captain having so little control over his squad that they start pointing guns at each other’s heads while they argue over what to do with a prisoner, FFS!

  • Rich Rostrom

    Bod: The Warriors is a modernized retelling of Xenophon’s Anabasis. Xenophon recounted the adventures of a force of Greek mercenaries trapped in Persia after their employer, a would-be usurper named Cyrus, was murdered. The Greeks then fought their way to the Greek colony of Trebizond on the Black Sea.

    In the movie, some of the “Warriors” gang have “Greek” names (Ajax, Cleon). They are drawn to the Bronx for a conclave summoned by would-be gang emperor “Cyrus”. After Cyrus is murdered, they must fight their way back to their seafront home turf.

    On the subject of “good inaccuracies”.

    In Glory, about the 54th Massachusetts Infantry in the American Civil War… The final charge of the 54th is to the south with the ocean on the left, but in fact it was north with the ocean on the right. The filmmakers used a preserved ACW fort for the location, but the only suitable one faces the wrong direction. It’s still a great scene.

    In The Great Escape… American prisoners participate in the actual breakout. In fact all the Americans were transferred to a separate camp a few weeks earlier. But they did help plan the breakout and dig the tunnels, and it would have gutted the narrative to yank a bunch of characters out for no particular reason.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    In some of the Bond films, 007 wears a full Royal Navy Commander uniform (three gold bands on the jacket and shoulder) but in the books he is a Commander, Royal Naval Reserve. The uniform is different. Minor detail, but for some reason this is annoying.

    I’ll get a life now.

  • A commenter has already mentioned Oliver Stone’s ‘JFK’. It also has _un_intentional errors: errors of pure ignorance. In one scene, a source talks about how the phone system in Dallas went down for an hour after the assassination – which the film presents as very sinister, indicative of planned conspiracy. Anyone who understands how phone systems work, especially back then, knows on the contrary that if it had _not_ gone down, _that_ would have been suspicious.

    Several years of my life were spent working on phone company software. A crucial task is reserving actual resources as late as possible and failing calls that can’t complete (e.g. because the far end is tied up) as early as possible. This is done by algorithms optimised for normal conditions. These systems are not perfect today and were even less so then. An advertiser in Bristol once brought down the phone network by asking people to phone in for a great deal during a small time segment and not making proper phone arrangements. 15 calls to one number completed and a million more tied up the entire network as they prevented each other from completing.

    Anyone who understood this would know that after the assassination, with huge numbers suddenly trying to phone out of Dallas or phone into it, the phone service would get tied up in knots for a while. And anyone who does not understand it should not make films about conspiracy theories – or anything else complicated.

    There are deliberate twistings of history in JFK and many another PC film. But don’t forget the errors these people make because they know so much less than they think.

  • Stonyground

    Oh yes, the great escape, where Steve McQueen encountered a German despatch rider riding a post war Triumph rather than a wartime BMW.

  • Andrew Duffin

    Annoyance #1: The way ALL WWII films show that in every situation, at every stage, the Americans won everything and achieved everything. Case in point – at the end of “Life is Beautiful” (otherwise a great movie!), the Auschwitz-type camp is liberated by a bloody American, and what’s more, he climbs out of a tank with a perfectly clean “floppy” long haircut. Christ on a bike. The RUSSIANS liberated Auschwitz, and anyway NOBODY climbed out of a tank with clean hair. Ever.

    Annoyance #2: Any film involving sailing ships always shows them proceeding steadily (sometimes at speed) across a completely flat ocean. Note to producers: (a) sailing ships need wind, and (b) wind produces waves. Always. OK guys, got that?

  • While we’re at it, in Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves the party lands at the white cliffs of Dover, say they’ll be in Nottingham in 20 minutes, and they go via Hadrian’s Wall.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Another one from Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves: the scene where Azeem, Robin’s Moorish sidekick, whips out a telescope, to the wonder of Robin. Take that, Galileo!

    (Morgan Freeman and Kevin Costner actually play the scene with excellent comic timing, so maybe it should come under my allowance for Rule of Cool, or its sub-trope Rule of Funny. But the political correctness of it all bugs me.)

  • MHelme

    The role of the Canadians and Brits in Affleck’s Argo was pretty much incorrectly represented

  • The Jannie

    With me it’s British railway engines. The characters leave – usually London – behind a wrong loco of one company and are then seen en route pulled by a different loco which never worked where they’re supposed to be. They then arrive at their destination behind the original or yet another wrong ‘un. If they go abroad, they’re often dragged round Europe by ancient footage of British locos.

    My anorak’s fine, thank you very much.

  • Tim,
    I had exactly the same thoughts about Robin Hood though everything about that movie was blanked by the scene where Marian watches Costner’s arse.

  • Okay, from the Mel Gibson Hall of Shame:

    1.) Braveheart: William Wallace rebelled against the English King Edward. He was captured and executed for treason. Those are the only two things that are historically correct in Braveheart. Everything, and I mean everything else in the movie, from prima nocte to mass executions, never happened.

    2.) The Patriot: Not content with making a villain out of Col. Tavington (he wasn’t), Gibson had to create a Revolutionary War “Oradour-Sur-Glane” atrocity (herding civilians into a church, then setting the building on fire). The Patriot remains one of only two movies I have ever walked out of before the end (Caddyshack II the other).

    Gibson has always had it in for the Brits (Australian upbringing, no doubt), and I was frankly amazed that he didn’t turn The Passion of the Christ into a screed against British colonialism. That, and his appalling anti-Semitism make him a “never watch again” actor and director for me.

  • Part Deux:

    3. Six-shooters that hold thirteen cartridges. My wife refuses to watch any Western movies with me because I start counting the shots, loudly, when the count reaches five. The otherwise-excellent Tombstone is a classic in this genre.

    4. To paraphrase some smart guy: everything Oliver Stone has ever filmed, including the title and credits, is a total lie.

    5. Saving Private Ryan: I’ve watched the opening beach sequence of this movie about a dozen times, the rest of the movie twice, because while the director took enormous pains to capture the historical details accurately (uniforms, firearms, etc), all the rest is complete and utter bullshit, from the tactics used to the “climactic” final battle scenes. I watched the movie for the second time with a bunch of vets (Korea and WWII), and after the Omaha Beach scene (which was received in total silence), the rest of the movie’s dialogue and action was drowned by the audience’s laughter and catcalls. (My favorites: “Just blow the fucking bridge and shoot the Kraut engineers from the opposite bank, you moron!” and “For Christ’s sake, get below the skyline, you idiots!” on the march from the beach. Also, when what seems like an entire regiment is being held up by a German sniper in a village: “Where the hell are the mortars and artillery? Just blow the asshole to pieces!”)

  • john

    It’s been a long time since I saw that Robin Hood movie, and I only watched it once (for good reasons…) so I may be mistaken, but isn’t that the one where they make arrow heads and sword blades by *casting* iron or steel in the woods? Maybe, just maybe, if you were masochistic and had an interest in the charcoal concession you could make arrowheads that way… but swords? No, certainly not with the metallurgy of the time.

    I’ve also seen a couple of movies featuring blacksmiths pulling bits of metal out of the forge (usually a sword or horseshoe) which is actually burning and then hammering on it. Better to just throw it away. Burnt iron — at least the surface and ends depending — is pretty much useless, especially steel.

  • Mike Giles

    About The Patriot. The Revolutionary War in the South was particularly brutal, since it mainly consisted of fights between opposing partisan bands of Patriots and Loyalists. Often there were actually few, to no, Regular British troops present and the fighting consisted of settling old scores. BTW, I assume you’re talking about Col. Tarleton, and to Americans he was considered a butcher, leading to the term “Tarleton’s Quarter”, which meant no mercy.

  • Tarleton it was. Chalk my misnomer up to age and don’t-give-a-shit.

  • Phil B

    I agree with Andrew Duffin (5 January 12-36). I’m waiting with baited breath for a film about how the Americans won the battle of Britain andsaved EngerlandLand for the Limeys using North American P51D Mustangs in 1939 … yes, I know, the date is wrong but so is the whole premise.

    If anyone is old enough to recall watching The Rat Patrol, an American TV series that had the Americans in the role of the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) and the SAS winning the war single handedly using jeeps and long distance penetration of the German rear areas.

    The Americans landed in North Africa in November 1942 and they did not encounter the German forces until February 1943 at the Battle of Kasserine Pass where they were handed their backsides on a silver platter by the Afrika Korps and the Italian Centauro Armoured Division.

    Floowing protests from the Special Forces associations and the public, the series was pulled. Common sense for once prevailed.

  • Lee Moore

    K du T :To paraphrase some smart guy: everything Oliver Stone has ever filmed, including the title and credits, is a total lie.

    I think you’re probably referring to a smart gal called Mary McCarthy who accurately summarised Lilian Hellman’s contribution to letters thus :

    “Every word she writes is a lie—including ‘and’ and ‘the.’ ”

    I wonder if Ms Hellman and Mr Stone are in any way related ?

  • Snorri Godhi

    Natalie: Thank you for the words of appreciation of my IMDb reviews. It is true that i am very critical of politically motivated distortions, but i try to criticize the distortions, not the politics. For instance, what bothered me in Munich and Clockwork Orange was the psychology, not the politics — though the two are hard to separate in Clockwork Orange.
    (I am also very critical of some non-politically motivated distortions.)
    Sorry but i have not seen The Boat That Rocked.

    BTW no inaccuracies that seem justified come to mind, but i can think of plenty of forgivable inaccuracies, eg the hilarious pseudoscience in Horror Express. I guess it partly depends on whether i can resume suspension of disbelief; that is, assuming i notice the inaccuracy in the first place.

    Sorry about the late reply, which is partly to blame on a rerun of Gotham, season 1, 3 episodes/day this week. I have noticed a few inaccuracies today on Gotham, including people rolling down stairs with no visible damage. That did not spoil my enjoyment.

  • Rich Rostrom

    Phil B @January 5, 2016 at 9:26 pm: The Americans landed in North Africa in November 1942 and they did not encounter the German forces until February 1943 at the Battle of Kasserine Pass…

    American troops were in action against the Axis on 25 November 1942. 1st Battalion of 1st Armored Regiment was part of Blade Force, a predominantly British task group advancing through northern Tunisia toward Tunis. On 26 November they defeated German tanks at Chougui Pass near Tebourba. Other U.S. forces were attached to 11th Brigade Group, in action further south. U.S. forces continued in action through December and January. They were a major part of the Allied attempt to rush into Tunis and Bizerte in December. For instance, on 22-26 December, US 18th RCT and the Coldstream Guards attacked Longstop Hill, but were driven back.

  • Andrew Duffin

    Robin Hood Prince of Thieves gets a free pass imho because of the absolutely wonderful one-liners from Alan Rickman (some of them improvised on the stop I have heard). Who could possibly complain about anything at all in a movie that contains such crackers as “Why with a spoon, cousin? Because it hurts more, you fool!”, or “No more merciful hangings – and cancel Christmas!”, or “You – my room, ten o’clock – and you, half past ten, and bring a friend!”

  • Andrew Duffin

    The SPOT. Improvised on the spot. Sorry.

  • Rob Fisher

    Re-watching True Lies with my wife (who hadn’t seen it, so I had to fix that) and was mostly grinning, remembering how good it is. Motorcycle vs. horse chase inside a hotel: cool. Jumping across an 8 lane highway to the roof of a neigbouring building: stretching incredulity too far.

    Also I am watching Fury, a Brad Pitt film about tanks. I am starting to think that recent WWII movies in general *exaggerate* the level of violence. It’s all mass slaughter; only one tank surviving an entire battle; a man on fire shooting himself. Descriptions of battles in history books tend to have lower casualty rates, lots more moving under covering fire, retreating and surrendering, taking of prisoners. Maybe they are compressing the violence into smaller spaces and timespans. Or maybe it really was that bad. I am not sure.

  • JohnK

    Niall:

    I concede to your knowledge of telephone networks, and that there is a reasonable explanation for the Dallas network going down on 22/11/63. Nonetheless it did happen, so you cannot blame Stone for putting it in his film.

    Anyone is free to criticise errors in “JFK”, there must be some after all, but the script writer went to great lengths to establish his facts, even publishing a book listing his sources. But if the basis of your criticism is that you do not believe President Kennedy was assassinated by a military cabal, I do not think that is a valid criticism. However, one error which does annoy me is that Jim Garrison, although DA for New Orleans, was not a Southerner, and did not talk with the accent Kevin Costner gave him. Again, this does not mean that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin.

    As to Stone’s other work, I quite enjoyed “Platoon”, the final battle scene especially, though other parts of it may or may not have been rubbish. At least he had been in Vietnam himself. I also enjoyed “Wall Street”, though perhaps not in the way the director intended. Greed is, for want of a better term, good.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Rob Fisher
    January 6, 2016 at 1:33 pm
    I am starting to think that recent WWII movies in general *exaggerate* the level of violence.

    A Bridge too far was that way: one shot, one blood-curdling scream. IIRC, the actual ratio was something like 45,000 shots per casualty.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Rob Fisher, True Lies: A classic of its kind, indeed. A Favorite. Next time you and your wife watch, please let me know. I will spring for the popcorn. :>)

    One smallish gripe: If you can’t tell after 800 years of marriage that the other half of the sketch is your husband (or wife), baby, you’ve got a problem.

    On the other hand: HARRIERS RULE !!!

  • Julie near Chicago

    Speaking of Rickman and Robin Hood, I have seen exactly one Robin Hood movie, whose title I’ve forgotten; but it must be the one mentioned again, because Rickman was in it as the Evil Sheriff of Nottingham.

    I thought Rickman was terrible in it, because as the Evil S. he couldn’t keep a straight face. I thought Rickman was delightful in it, because as the Evil S. he couldn’t keep a straight face. :>)))!!!

    Terrible acting, but he made the movie, which I thoroughly enjoyed — and as I sit typing this, my face hurts all over again because of Rickma–er, the Eeeeevil S. of N.

  • Snorri Godhi

    I am starting to think that recent WWII movies in general *exaggerate* the level of violence.

    That reminds me of The Untouchables. That goes under the rubric of “justifiable inaccuracies”: the entire movie is a travesty of what actually happened, but to be honest it’s much more exciting that the truth. Not that it was not interesting to find out the truth, from Eliot Ness’ book.

    Somewhat off topic: just got my daily dose of Gotham, and i am struck by the parallels to Game of Thrones. In particular, in the 7th episode, the Penguin talks much like Littlefinger: once you know what motivates people, you know the way to kill them.

  • JohnK

    Snorri:

    My problem with “The Untouchables” was that I couldn’t be motivated to cheer for the “good guys” who were trying to stop people having a drink.

  • JohnK (6 above at time of writing), if the scriptwriter in Stone’s JFK had gone to any lengths, let alone “great lengths” to establish their facts, they would have discovered the point I made – that the phone n/w going down was to be expected (indeed, that its not doing so would have been suspicious). A short talk with a competent phone engineer would have told them. To make this an item in the film while not thinking “how could that be done?” and then deciding to have five minutes conversation with someone who knew phone systems, and so learning that it was to be expected, says plenty about the great lengths the scriptwriter did _not_ go to.

    (I am charitably assuming the failure was one of ignorance and indolence. It is of course possible that the scriptwriter did do some research, discovered the issue, then realised that such a howler compromised the overall plausibility of a significant witness in the film, so left it unchallenged on the assumption that enough of the audience wouldn’t know any better whereas the film would be hard to rewrite without that witness. But my guess is it was ignorance and indolence.)

  • JohnK

    Niall:

    I would not like to fixate overly about the Dallas phone network on 22/11/63. The film portrays it going down, which it did, and suggests it was part of the plot, which it may or may not have been. Your explanation may well be correct, but we do not know, and the film did not invent a fact.

    As I have said, the film “JFK” is perhaps the only one ever to have had a book published outlining where its facts come from. There is some artistic licence: for instance, the character “X” was based on two people, neither of whom met Jim Garrison in Washington as depicted in the film, but the message “X” is shown giving Garrison is what he was told by his two informants. In other respects, “JFK” brought to the attention of the public facts which were little known, such as National Security Action Memorandum 273, drafted before President Kennedy was assassinated, which reversed his entire Vietnam policy, and which President Johnson signed in his first days in office.

    One of the great results of “JFK” was the establishment of the Asassination Records Review Board, in response to public indignation that most records about the assassination were sealed for 75 years. I don’t think many films can have had such a positive result in freeing up information the government had not wanted to share. I would give kudos to Oliver Stone for that, whatever I might think of his views on Hugo Chavez.

  • PapayaSF

    A good inaccuracy: nobody in the movies ever has to try to find a parking space. Even if they are headed to court, they will park in front of the courthouse steps. Because who wants to watch them find a spot somewhere else and walk the rest of the way?

  • jsallison

    Leone’s pasta westerns. In non shooting scenes the actors have cap and ball pistols in the holsters with metallic cartridges in the belt loops. In shooting scenes they use cartridge firing pistols. Believe I read somewhere that that was done for on set safety reasons, but it still sticks out. Another, sound effects in vacuum. 2001 & Firefly/Serenity got it right, pretty much everyone else, not so much.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Sound effects in vacuum are a big annoyance. The worst was Armageddon (1998). A relatively minor annoyance are artificial-gravity systems on even the smallest spaceships, such as the escape pod in Alien. As someone remarked, these systems seem to work even when everything else on the ship has failed.

    Recently, there have been 3 space movies with inaccuracies that stand out only because everything else is so accurate: Gravity, Interstellar, and The Martian.

    What bothers me about Interstellar, is when they land on Miller’s planet. There is supposed to be such a strong gravitational field (from the nearby black hole) that it causes time to slow down by a factor of over 60 thousands; but when they land, they move around pretty much like on Earth. Perhaps someone here can explain why i am wrong to be bothered?

  • Winger

    In “Where Eagles Dare”, Clint Eastwood’s character, rappels (abseils/slides down a rope in the sitting position) in the dead of winter without benefit of hand protection. This is later overshadowed by his firing a 300 round magazine MP38 in each hand. And then there’s the non-existent Nazi helicopter.

    The best part was in the beginning when each member of the team got their mission briefing in the door of the aircraft as they jumped. After they were gone, Mary Ure was let out of the loo in back to be rigged and briefed by R. Burton. And yet they all managed to land within 100 meters of each other. Nice.

    I was once at a camp where we all practiced the above disciples. We had our own, uh, personally acquired/redistributed copies of that movie and “The Green Berets” (which we wore). They were shown as comedies enhanced by inhibition suppressants and shouting. A special prize was given for anyone spotting a new malapropism.

    Regarding “Saving Private Ryan”, T. Hanks may insist on accuracy in material things but there’s no substitute for experience in military/leadership matters. He should have left the radar station alone and followed his orders. The business about the general’s glider is crap too. The actual officer was killed because he was sitting in his jeep on landing, bounced up and hit his head on a beam. There’s others but don’t get me started – oh, too late. The oldest Airborne captain and the fattest sergeant are just a skim of the surface.

  • PeterT

    I presume time seemed normal to everybody on the planet, but the filmmakers decided to speed the footage up for the benefit of Earth based viewers??

  • PapayaSF

    Winger: Yes, that movie was a personal favorite to a high school buddy and me. We were amused that one of the officers seemed to be wearing a submarine captain’s insignia, and (IIRC) one old youngish guy had a pin representing 20 years in the Nazi Party.

    But the Nazis did have some helicopters, so the movie having one was only a stretch, not a total inaccuracy.

  • Snorri Godhi, re your question, “What bothers me about Interstellar, is when they land on Miller’s planet. There is supposed to be such a strong gravitational field (from the nearby black hole) that it causes time to slow down by a factor of over 60 thousands; but when they land, they move around pretty much like on Earth. Perhaps someone here can explain why i am wrong to be bothered?”:

    The theory of relativity says that everything looks normal where you are; the curvature of space time is observed over an area, not at a point. If the viewing camera is also on Miller’s planet 🙂 – logically implied – then it’s in the same time and all will look normal. This possible problem area is tidal effects – they need to be weak enough that people can walk around without noticing them, let alone being torn apart by them. For a time ratio of 60,000, the planet needs to be very close to the hole’s Schwarzschild radius, so that radius has to be large.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Niall: yes, of course what bothered me is the lack of noticeable tidal effects **on the astronauts**. I did notice a huge tidal wave, but no effect on the astronauts.

    BTW there was a short story by Arthur Clarke about a spaceship torn apart by tidal waves, when they unwittingly get too close to a neutron star.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Snorri, don’t recall ever having read the Clarke story. Do you remember the title?

  • Tranio

    Watched Zulu the other night, the film where Michael Caine made his film debut. Where are all the wounded Zulus? Hundreds were cut down by the bullets of the British from their single shot rifles. The surgeons were only patching up the whites.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Julie: the title is Neutron Tide. I reread it last night after writing my comment: it’s only 2 pages long. The science is presumably solid, but it’s played for laughs.
    Spoiler ahead: a rescue mission finds that the only identifiable relic from the spaceship is a star-mangled spanner.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Oh, Snorri, that’s awful! *E-E-E-EWWW!* Mr. Clarke shoulda been ashamed of hisself. :>)))!!!

    The guys who used to write real SF were often punny funsters. Fredric Brown, for instance, who wrote a great long shaggy-dog story (good one, worth all the hair on the couch) so he could finish it with pun. (Anyway, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)

    Title: “Placet is a Crazy Place.”

    And, thanks for the title to the Clarke story. Maybe it’s in one of my anthologies. –Nope, but I can get it on eBay. Hm.

  • JohnK

    Winger:

    What always amused me about “Where Eagles Dare” was the “Broadsword/Danny Boy” conversation on the radio, as if World War II commandos could have communicated by voice and in clear, but I suppose an encoded Morse transmission would not have been quite so cinematic.

  • JohnK

    Tranio:

    I am not nearly as compassionate as you. I am more annoyed that the British officers are using Webley MkVI revolvers, which were only adopted in 1915. The Martini-Henrys used by the troops are about right, but there cannot have been enough to go round, because some had to use Long Lee Enfield rifles instead.

    In the film “Waterloo”, which I think was filmed in Crimea, many of the “muskets” are played by Mosin-Nagant rifles, which works quite well, as they are very long and have a spike bayonet, so from a distance look quite realistic.

  • Laird

    FWIW, there is now (since 2008) a group, the Science and Entertainment Exchange, which puts together filmmakers and real scientists to make the science “plausible-ish”. They even have a “hotline” to call: 844-NEED-SCI. It’s a free service, funded by the National Academy of Sciences. There’s an article about it in today’s Wall Street Journal (unfortunately behind a paywall). So there’s no longer any excuse for Han Solo mistaking “parsec” for a unit of time (even though they did repeat that egregious error in the latest Star Wars movie).