7 Famous Movies That Got Tiny Details Absolutely Perfect
I've learned something doing these articles, and that's that good movies don't just happen. You can't just pluck a good film off a movie tree and eat it right there on the soft mossy ground of your mind, cinematic juices dripping off your chin and pooling in your lap. You have to forage deep into the jungles of your own psychosis, to uncover the lost city of Mu-Vee. You have to sacrifice days, weeks, even months of your life working and sweating on the Altar of Czin-Emakh in order to earn his good graces. Passing into the next realm, you must chant a blood oath to the ancient ones of Ceel-ah-Lude. You have to smear feces all over your face. Then, and only then, can you unleash your armies upon the frail and unknowing innocents, claiming their mortal souls as your own time-slaves.
Or you can do the following stuff, which is arguably crazier.
The Hobbit: Bilbo's Barely Glimpsed Contract Makes Perfect Sense
We've already covered how The Lord of the Rings trilogy put more effort into getting details of Tolkien's fictional fantasy world right than New Zealand puts into being a real country. But there's no way that detail carried over into the prequels, right? I mean, those movies couldn't be bothered to location scout when they could just green-screen stuff instead, and Peter Jackson maybe kinda probably spiritually died during the production, which is why for certain shots he just gave up and used a GoPro. Right? The whole production was just lazy as shit.
Well, no -- it turns out every bit as much care went into getting The Hobbit's details right as the original series. For example: Dwalin's tattoos ...
... are written in "real" Dwarvish (as in, the language Tolkien invented for his legendarium), and they read "Baruk Khazad! Khazad ai-menu!" or "Axes of the Dwarves, the Dwarves are upon you!" Which, according to The Return of the King's appendices, is an infamous Khuzdul (Dwarvish) battle cry. So it's the Dwarven equivalent of tattooing "Love" and "Hate" on your knuckles, which -- if I know my audience -- most of you have. Speaking of which, Bifur (the Dwarf with the ax in his head) speaks only in Dwarvish, due, presumably, to brain damage (and we know the Dwarves have a pretty solid understanding of neurology from the extended version of The Two Towers). Not crazy enough? Fine: let's talk about that contract Bilbo signs.
You know -- the one roughly 1/3 as awful as the one you signed with Verizon.
No one would've found out if Lord of the Rings geeks (do we have a word for ourselves yet? "Ringers"? No. Let's not do that one) hadn't meticulously screen-capped the movie and transcribed it, which is pretty crazy -- but not so crazy that no one anticipated this happening, since it turns out that the fake contract is actually a functioning legal document. James Daily, the lawyer over at Law and the Multiverse, went over the contract point by point and found out that, aside from some minor "drafting errors," it's totally sound. In fact, the biggest potential flaw would be that there's no clause specifying if the document exists under Shire law or Dwarven Kingdom law, which might create a "conflict of laws." But rather than being an error on the side of the filmmakers, that might have something to do with the fact that the contract was drafted by Thorin. And he's been too busy wandering the world and reclaiming his lost kingdom to brush up on his notes from Contracts class.
Dark Shadows: Johnny Depp Never Blinks or Reflects
I mean that literally -- not that he never "blinks" at ridiculous job offers or that he never "reflects" on the actor he's become.
Though he should.
Dark Shadows is both a movie about a vampire and the most realistic Johnny Depp movie ever, in that every female character he meets is trying to fuck him. Even Helena Bonham Carter's Dana Scully impression goes down on him after a half-hearted compliment. Isn't that weird? But the craziest part of this movie wasn't just that they gave Depp supernatural sexual magnetism while making him look like a 14-year-old who's sweated off most of his juggalo makeup; it was that they digitally removed every one of his blinks and reflections from the whole movie.
This is sorta tough to prove through pictures, but notice that he is
not being reflected in anything in this image.
This doesn't just mean that they cut around Depp's blinks and did a camera trick whenever he went by a mirror -- the FX team was dedicated to making sure he wasn't reflected in anything, which is "a gross use of our visual-effects budget," according to the VFX supervisor. Also, they set up an entire special unit of the visual effects team just for removing Depp-blinks.
Especially difficult since Depp sleep-walked through the entire production.
And in the end it totally paid off, because Dark Shadows is the most nuanced, heartfelt, and believable depiction of vampires ever to- honestly I could put anything here and you'd believe it, right? Nobody saw this movie except me. But right now, because of Dark Shadows, someone out there has "digital Depp-blink remover" on his resume. That's a hell of a legacy.
Das Boot: The Actors Were Imprisoned Indoors
Das Boot is a submarine war movie, and I know what you're thinking: "Woohoo! Sounds like a blast!" Hold your horses there, buddy. This isn't one of those fun, adventure war movies. This is one of the bummer war movies that ignores all the excitement and idle pleasures of war and instead chooses to focus on "the loss of innocence" and "human cost" or whatever. You know. Oscar bait.
Talk about first-world problems.
The movie begins with a team of idealistic, youthful sailors going off to be the heroes of World War II, and ends with a group of broken men returning home, wondering what they've lost. And when director Wolfgang Petersen decided that he wanted to explore the depths of human suffering and the darkness of the human soul or whatever, god, Wolfgang, cheer up, he decided that rather than simply trusting the ability of his actors to convey the spectrum of human suffering, he'd make it easier for them by filming the underwater parts chronologically. Over the course of a year.
Without letting his actors go outside.
The idea was to make sure the pallor of their skin and sense of crushing despair in their eyes reflected what an actual submarine crew would go through, but the craziest part of this isn't that Petersen did it -- it's that no one, in any of the videos I've found, seems to realize how crazy this is. Peterson just casually mentions that his actors weren't allowed to see the sun, with the kind of nonchalance normally reserved for picking between Skittles and M&M's. For perspective, they let prisoners in lockdown see the sun. Real-life murderers are allowed to frolic free in a comforting, cool breeze for at least an hour a day. The cast of Das Boot wasn't.
But I'm not faulting the guy, because the movie's super great and human lives are only worth so much, ya know? Maybe if Wolfgang had enforced similar rules on Air Force One and The Perfect Storm, we'd have way more classic Wolfgang movies.
My Cousin Vinny: One of the Most Accurate Courtroom Movies Ever
We've mentioned before that movies don't seem capable of getting the legal system right, and it's easy to see why. Most of lawyering is paperwork and crazy jargon that they insist is Latin even though we all know they're just making it up as they go (seriously. We all know. Drop the act and quit embarrassing yourselves). But there is one movie that manages to get legal issues almost totally accurate, and it's not the one you'd expect. Unless you read the title of this entry, in which case you already know it's My Cousin Vinny.
And when I say "gets it accurate" I'm not just talking about little details from the procedure (though those are pretty on-point), I'm talking about the fact that the movie contains some seriously excellent lawyering, so much so that law professors actually use the movie in their curriculum. When Lane Smith (the prosecuting lawyer) describes the crime in his opening statements, he "varies his pace and modulation," he sticks to "concrete terms," and never uses the defendants' names -- all excellent prosecution techniques. Later, Vinny shows off his cross-examination skills by picking apart Mr. Crane's view of the crime -- he mentions each obstruction in his view one at a time, lingering on the details. In fact, aside from a minor quibble (Pesci couldn't really represent both defendants, but that's excusable as a storytelling technique), the biggest problem with the movie is when the prosecutor discloses evidence to Vinny -- not because that's not how the law works but because few courts follow the law that carefully.
That's right: Their depiction of the South is too sympathetic.
One error (it's unlikely that Marisa Tomei's surprise expert witness testimony would've been admitted in 1992) actually turned out to be prescient: A year after the movie was released, the Supreme Court changed the rules surrounding how expert witnesses are admitted, making it retroactively near-perfect.
My Cousin Vinny's script is so good that it could've gotten away with as much screwball bullshit as they wanted in the courtroom, but instead it nails trial procedure so well that a network of legal blogs did a 20th anniversary tribute to the movie back in 2012. So next time a lazy screenwriter tries to spice up his lawyer movie with Jack Nicholsonian screaming at a jar of crime-scene semen, just remember: it is possible to do better.
The LEGO Movie: Accurate to the Toys, Down to the Wear and Tear
We're dealing with a movie about LEGOs; who would have ever thought that would work? I wanna say that the most fun I've had with LEGOs past age 13 was picking them out of my vacuum cleaner, but the reality is that I once spent 45 minutes staring at a LEGO Death Star in the LEGO Store whispering, "Someday," to myself. In the end, I bought a car instead but, hey, it was tough. Also, this movie more or less kicked ass -- at least partly because of the detail. Turns out that not only is everything in the movie possible to re-create with actual, real LEGOs (provided you're willing to spend upwards of $5,000 or, if you're smart, buy your goddamn LEGOs at a yard sale) but the LEGOs were carefully rendered to re-create the look of well-loved toys.
Even though the movie is digital, each piece was rendered with the finger-smudge marks and wear and tear that the piece would probably suffer. This is most obvious with Charlie Day's 1980s spaceman character, who looks exactly like every 1980s LEGO spaceman that anyone ever owned.
Maybe I'm giving away my age here, but I'm 100 percent positive that they came this way.
And hey, remember how I said the movie was CGI? Not totally true: Not only did they use real LEGO backgrounds for many scenes, they scanned actual LEGO pieces to use as models to re-create stop-motion as closely as possible. Then, they actually animated the credits sequence using stop-motion.
Master and Commander: Period Appropriate Everything
Master and Commander is a mostly forgettable 2000s Russell Crowe flick about a British ship being chased by a French ship in a battle for whatever. The crown, probably. Look, the plot here isn't important -- what is important is the costumes and hairstyles.
That's right. This article just got fabulous.
Check it out, fools: The sailors in this movie wear wool caps, because wool was the absolute best thing to wear sailing back then, as it would absorb the water and then hold it close to your body, where it would turn warm and insulate you against the wind and -- you don't care. Fine. But the wool caps were all hand-stitched by a Welsh woman who has been knitting seaman's caps since the 1700s! Wait, I misread that: Her family has been knitting them since the 1700s. That makes way more sense.
The rest of the costumes were designed and then artificially aged specifically according to what the sailor's job was. Jack Aubrey's scars were carefully researched and reflect actual injuries sea captains of the era would have had. According to an episode of Smithsonian Channel's The Real Story (by the way, Smithsonian? Props for not calling your series on the historical accuracy of movies The Reel Story), the surgeries performed in the movie are all period-appropriate and totally accurate -- they had a 19th-century-surgery expert who trained the actors how to, say, drill a man's skull open exactly the way they'd actually do it.
Then there's the makeup, which was also carefully constructed. By the end of production, they had glued over 400 pounds of hair to the actors' heads and faces. Presumably not all at once.
The World's End: Concludes the Cornetto Trilogy
With the (previously mentioned) Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz behind it, The World's End marks the third (and final) chapter in the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy: Each of these movies features a different flavor of Cornetto and is about a different part of growing up. Shaun of the Dead is about the stress that comes with finding a job and settling down ("I want to do new things, and I want you to want to want to do it too!"); Hot Fuzz is about learning not to take your job too seriously ("You don't know how to switch off!"); and The World's End is about coming to terms with your age and place in the world (more on that in a second). But it wasn't until World's End that all these movies made sense as a trilogy.
Let's back up. All three of these movies have had heavy foreshadowing: Shaun sets up the whole story with Nick's drinks, while Hot Fuzz's third act is just the second act, only with shooting this time. At the beginning of World's End, we get a montage of Gary King's memory of "The Golden Mile," where we see a younger version of the film's characters going on an adventure. At first, the foreshadowing is pretty blatant: Some shots are re-created almost perfectly later in the movie:
And, of course, the names of the Bars foreshadow what happens in them: "The Cross Hands" is where they get into a fight, "The Famous Cock" is where Gary King is still banned (on account of what a famous cock he is) and so on. So far, this is exactly what you'd expect from Edgar Wright -- but the difference here is that, as the intro montage goes on, the foreshadowing starts to get a bit fuzzy. First, it lies about who starts the big fight in The Cross Hands: In the foreshadowing, someone accidentally spills a drink on Andy, but in the real film, Andy loses his shit and knocks Martin Freeman's head off with a bar stool.
Kinda like when your drunk friend says "he totally shoved me!" when in reality he knocked the guy's head off with a barstool.
And then, of course, the foreshadowing ends before Gary ever gets to The World's End -- because he never learned his lesson that night. Basically, the foreshadowing gets fuzzier as the characters get drunker. And by the end of the story, the "foreshadowing" (or memory) has drawn a complete "blank."
But wait! There's more: The protagonist (Simon Pegg) in all three of these movies completely fails to learn the story's lesson: In Shaun, the lazy slacker Shaun, who insists on spending his life in a pub, has by the end of the story convinced his girlfriend to adopt his lazy lifestyle with him -- even though his stupid plans got all their friends killed. In Hot Fuzz, Nicholas Angel is a stubbornly by-the-books cop who rejects the pop culture image of police work ("No, I have never fired my gun in the air and gone 'ahhhh'"). But after defeating the image-obsessed secret society that was murdering everyone in the town of Sandford, he becomes the quintessential movie cop, responding to "some hippie-types messing with the recycling bins at the supermarket" by throwing on his sirens and stomping on the gas pedal. Sure, he might not be as evil as the Illuminati-esque Neighborhood watch, but I sure as shit wouldn't want to be those hippie-types. And finally, World's End brings the idea to its logical conclusion: Gary King refuses to accept the trappings of adult life so stubbornly that he literally brings about the end of adult life as we know it. The consequences of each film have steadily ratcheted up until the idealism of the irresponsible slackers at the center of each story literally ends the world.
Now there's a fucking moral for you.
JF Sargent is an editor and columnist for Cracked with a new column here every Tuesday. He's on Twitter and Facebook because they let anybody do that these days.
For more from Sarge, check out 4 Movie Heroes Everyone Pretends Aren't Psychopaths and 6 Movies That Are Shockingly Different When You're Not High. You can also follow him on Twitter and check out his Facebook.
Now when the hell are we going to get a LEGO Women of NASA movie?!
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