6 Myths About Famous Places You Believe (Thanks to Movies)
Even if you've never left your hometown, you have a mental picture of virtually every famous city in the world. That's what movies are for, right? You'll never go to Moscow, but you know what you'll find there -- huge buildings with onion-shaped roofs and lots of snow.
Well, we're sorry to say that Hollywood really doesn't seem to do all that much homework on some of these locations. That's why you may come away thinking ...
Washington, D.C., Has Skyscrapers
America's capital turns up in everything from political thrillers to alien invasion movies, yet very few movies are actually shot there. Usually they'll nab a few shots of the U.S. Capitol and then head to New York City (or if they're on a budget, Toronto) and fill in the blanks. Why not? Every city pretty much looks the same, right?
This is why movies get so many little things wrong about D.C. -- people who actually live there can chuckle when The Invasion showcases the capital's many nonexistent newspaper stands, or when Live Free or Die Hard sticks in tollbooths, which the city actually has none of. But, like we said, those are little things. When you're trying to pass off another city as Washington, D.C., it's better to focus on the bigger giveaways, like maybe the freaking skyline.
That's a shot of D.C. in the newest Die Hard film. See that big building there? How tall do you think that is? We're guessing about 30 floors. And next to it is a building with about 15 floors.
Here's the thing: There are no skyscrapers in D.C.
The highest commercial building in D.C. is One Franklin Square, which reaches a whopping ... 12 stories.
In fact, the highest anything in D.C. is the Washington Monument, followed by the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, which is only 329 feet tall.
The ratio of skyscrapers to dinosaurs is exactly the same.
And yet in Live Free or Die Hard ...
This picture is riddled with inaccuracies.
And it's not like Die Hard is the only one. Check out the view from Nicole Kidman's office in The Invasion.
Or go ahead and try to watch Enemy of the State, where they pretty much just take D.C. and mash it together with Baltimore:
Shoot him before he produces that Karate Kid remake!
Oh, and remember that scene in True Lies where the terrorist jumps from one building to the next after a chase around Georgetown?
There is nothing remotely resembling this building anywhere in D.C. Possibly sensing that someone from D.C. might actually see the movie at some point, James Cameron brilliantly added a blurry superimposed backdrop of the nation's capital in front of the Los Angeles Westin Bonaventure Hotel:
Yes, this is from the same man who has several Academy Award nominations for visual effects.
The Louvre Is a Dignified Resting Place for Masterpieces
If you've never been to the Louvre in Paris, you can still easily picture it in your head: vast, silent, looking the same as it would if you were visiting in the 13th century. Nothing but ancient art ...
... and ornate columns with marble floors.
Those shots are from The Da Vinci Code, and you see that the only modern bit of architecture is the glass pyramid outside:
But if you show up there, you're going to actually see this:
The crowds certainly don't take away from the structure itself. It's no wonder that when The Da Vinci Code was filmed there, the headlines didn't read that the movie was being shot in the Louvre -- they all read that the Louvre was allowing a movie to be shot there. It's a pretty big deal, and why wouldn't it be? The ornate, dignified building has so much history that when they proposed at the end of the film that the Holy Grail was hidden beneath the main entrance area, it actually seemed possible.
See, it makes sense, doesn't it? A resting place so majestic and dignified that ... wait, what the hell is that? It almost looks like the Apple logo there ...
What the fuck? Yes, that's an Apple store. At the entrance to the Louvre. Why? Because the entrance to the Louvre -- the sacred tomb that houses the sacred twist ending to the most popular novel of the past decade -- is a fucking mall.
At Le Carrousel du Louvre, which translates roughly into "The Large Rotating Machine of the Louvre," you can get just about anything you want -- from jewelry to furniture to a freaking Hertz rental car.
At the time of the shoot, the filmmakers didn't have to cover up the presence of an Apple store because it didn't exist yet. However, the filmmakers did have to cover up a Resonance music store, along with an Esprit fashion store, a chocolate shop and a goddamn Virgin Megastore. Suddenly the ending to that film becomes a whole lot more depressing when you're picturing Mary Magdalene entombed under a food court.
"She rests at last beneath the McCafe ..."
It's Always Winter in Moscow, and It's Always Sunny in Australia
Go ahead and try to think up a movie that takes place in Moscow that doesn't involve either a shitload of snow or cold, overcast skies that appear ready to dump a shitload of snow.
Makes you wonder how Mickey Rourke's character in Iron Man 2 got such a hard-core tan.
Now try to picture a movie set in Australia that doesn't show the vast, dry desert and blinding sun that you apparently find year-round everywhere in the country.
But it makes sense, right? Sure, Moscow must see the sun every now and then, but we've all seen GoldenEye. The whole goddamn country looks like this:
And the inhabited parts of Australia are pretty much the opposite:
The thing is, go ahead and switch those pictures around. What you're looking at in the second picture above is a beautiful summer day in Alexandrovsky Garden, which is right near the Kremlin in good ol' Moscow -- a city which, by the way, just broke its summer record with temperatures close to 100 degrees. In fact, it's pretty much on par with New York City as far as climate goes, though the figures are still out on the ratio of douchebags and misspelled graffiti per square block.
But the snow? That surely can't be Australia, can it?
The only thing missing is Crocodile Dundee making a snowman.
That's Canberra, Australia, which is just outside Sydney. And what you're seeing isn't all that unusual. In fact, Australia has something for everyone, from skiing ...
... to tropical rain forests.
The only thing missing is Mel Gibson swinging on a vine. And threatening to kill his wife.
So why does Hollywood show only one major city surrounded by a freaking wasteland? To be fair, there is a whole lot of desert in Australia. Though hardly anyone actually lives there -- why would they? Imagine if every film that took place in America completely ignored the coasts. That's pretty much what Hollywood decided to do with Australia. All of the cities are on the coasts.
Take Kangaroo Jack, a film that completely revolutionized the "please kill me" genre. The heroes need to get to the town of Alice Springs, which is in Northern Territory, Australia -- pretty much in the dead center of the desert. They begin their journey by flying into Sydney and renting a jeep to start their adventure, because even though Sydney is more than a day's drive from Alice Springs, it is clearly the only international airport in Australia. After a drive through nothingness, they arrive at the city, only to find more nothingness:
It's so dry here that even the architecture can't grow.
Why would anyone actually live somewhere like that? The answer is, they wouldn't. Which is why Alice Springs actually looks like this:
Which admittedly looks like the fake neighborhood that exploded around Indiana Jones.
The Pyramids at Giza Are Deserted, Majestic and Accessible
Remember that movie The Bucket List? The Joker and Lucius Fox are dying of some kind of old-person disease, and luckily for them, one of them happens to be stupid rich, so they go romping around the globe for one last kick before they get stuffed in a casket. One of the things on their list has them hanging out on one of the pyramids. Looking over the landscape of old tombs, they decide that they have witnessed something majestic.
"Check this shit out."
That's how we like the pyramids -- the last wonder of the world sticking out from a deserted and endless sandbox that, if we are lucky enough to visit first-hand, can be scaled and explored. Along with, of course, the thousands upon thousands of other people attempting to do the exact same goddamn thing every day.
Not to mention the hundreds of local merchants and the array of buses that bring thousands of people to and from Cairo, which, by the way, is like right next door.
Oh, and did we mention the security and the admittance fees? Sure, Morgan Freeman can climb the pyramid, but only so many feet up and only after he pays out the ass for it.
His bucket list apparently includes transients and a gate.
If you decide to visit, be prepared. Almost every modern account of the pyramids from your average tourist has at least one story of being pestered by a merchant or being overwhelmed by a huge crowd. It's like Disney, only with fewer water fountains.
Miami Has a Famous Sign
There is a chance that you are not even aware of the Miami sign, so here is a shot of it from Bad Boys:
And here it is again in Bad Boys II, because Michael Bay is nothing if not subtle:
Aaaand here it is again in Transporter 2:
Again with a plane -- in this case a plane that crashes into it. And again, it's shot from the same unrevealing angle. So one would assume that there's an airport somewhere nearby, right? Or maybe a bus station? Something that would require a sign to remind everyone what city they just arrived in? Well, in actuality, the sign isn't in Miami at all -- it doesn't exist.
Go ahead and Google "Miami sign." Seriously, go do it right now. If you did, you probably found this picture of it:
That would be the 50-by-15-foot prop sign made by the company Set by Design -- which when contacted about it told us that it was made for the film Transporter 2 and was based on no actual sign in Miami.
This is disturbing for two reasons: First, the prop sign there isn't the same sign that's in Bad Boys or Bad Boys II, which you can tell by just looking at them (notice the font alone). In fact, all three signs are different, meaning someone built at least three versions of this imaginary sign. The second reason is that these two franchises were not even made under the same directors, writers or production companies, which means there are at least two people in the world who couldn't think of a way to establish that their film was taking place in Miami other than literally writing it out in big letters, via a fake landmark.
Mexico Is Just Like the Wild West
Films like Desperado, From Dusk Till Dawn, The Way of the Gun and Once Upon a Time in Mexico have given us all that same fantasy: Rob a bank, hightail it down to Mexico and live the rest of your days resting in a wooden chair drinking tequila under a sombrero in a town that looks something like this:
Yep. Living the good life.
Suddenly, some pissed-off drug lord you ripped off shows up, and a full-blown firefight erupts -- swarms of old ladies covered in knit blankets cry out in Spanish while crossing themselves and running into one of the four churches in sight. After a long and grueling battle, the drug lord is dead, and you move on to the next town, a traveling honorable gunman who will draw only when he has to.
Turns out that you are actually on the back lot of Universal Studios Hollywood, because no freaking town in Mexico actually looks like that anymore.
See, when you actually go to Mexico City, you can't help but notice that the buildings not only are not a series of tan churches (in fact, Mexico has at most 7,000 churches, while the U.S. has around 450,000) but also seem like they came from the future.
And as you may remember, there were not a lot of gunfights on The Jetsons.
There are no banditos running around raping and pillaging -- in fact, the U.S. has twice as much rape and about 20 times more theft. Not to mention roughly four times as many overall crimes, so, you know, go America. If you were on the run from the law and rolled down to have a barroom knife fight with Danny Trejo, the cops would arrest the shit out of you. Then they'd send you right back to the U.S. to be tried and jailed, because Mexico is actually nowhere close to being a safe place for American criminals.
Obviously we're not trying to say that there is no crime in Mexico -- it certainly has its share of drug-related violence. It's just not a lawless action-movie free-for-all.
Although we'd like to think that Enrique Iglesias carries around a rocket launcher, just in case.
David Bell is a freelance writer and video editor.
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