Surprise post: Flawed moments in films

Even almost perfect movies can have flaws. Here are five that need fixes.

Obviously: SPOILERS, but I intentionally left the youngest film on the list at fifteen years old already, and I think most of them are well-enough known that I’m not spoiling anything by this point.

Now, I’m not talking about flawed films. Rather, I’m talking about generally amazing films that nonetheless have one little issue that could have been so easily fixed and would have much improved the film. A couple of them could probably even still be fixed, since they’d involve just a quick edit or a little audio remix. Others would be… more complicated.

With no further ado, then, here’s the list, in order by release date.

Victor/Victoria (1982)

Director Blake Edwards, like Mel Brooks, was ahead of his time in some ways, and one thing that they had in common was that they tended to include gay characters in their films. In fact, Brooks made the first Hollywood studio film, his remake of the Jack Benny vehicle To Be or Not to Be, to acknowledge that gay men had also been rounded up and killed by the Nazis.

Now Brooks’ gay characters tended to be campy, but they were also always sympathetic. Edwards had a few campy ones early on, but when we get to his movie 10, about a man having a mid-life crisis and dating a much younger woman, this is balanced by the protagonist’s best friend, who has come out as gay and had his own much younger boytoy.

Essentially, men are all the same, no matter their place on the Kinsey Scale.

Of course, Edwards’ gayest film is 1982’s musical Victor/Victoria, starring his wife and frequent leading lady Julie Andrews as starving singer Victoria Grant in Paris, who meets a just-fired but fabulous gay man, Toddy (Robert Preston).

When they can’t pay for their restaurant meal, she slips a roach into her salad, but it escapes and causes chaos. They flee, one thing leads to another, and Toddy hatches the idea of disguising Victoria as Count Victor Grazinski, a gay, Polish female impersonator.

As described in the film, Victoria is “a woman, pretending to be a man, pretending to be a woman,” and the comedy of manners/sex farce plot takes off from there. Coming into the mix is Chicago gangster King Marchand (James Garner), looking for new talent for his American clubs. He is immediately smitten by Victoria on stage, but then somewhat disturbed when he finds out that “she” is actually a man.

The plot goes back and forth from there, but the one flaw in the plotline is that Edwards actually allows Marchand to find out that “Victor” really is a woman by peeping into her bathroom and seeing the evidence before he takes her and Teddy out to a nightclub, where another brawl ensues.

Outside, he declares, “I don’t care if you really are a man,” and kisses her.

The problem here is that it’s so much stronger if he doesn’t really know, but he’s fallen so hard that he doesn’t care. It also builds up the character’s faith in being right even though he isn’t sure yet, so that the reveal can come as a catharsis and relief to him, as well as a bit of growth: He really would have been willing to be with Victor even if he did turn out to be a man.

Titanic (1997)

You all know the story of Jack and Rose, an “upstairs, downstairs” couple (more or less) on the maiden and last voyage of the Titanic.

She’s veddy upper class British, a top decks passenger engaged to a very wealthy man, rubbing elbows with the rich and famous in first class. He is a poor steerage passenger from Ireland, headed off to America looking for a better life.

They meet, they fall in love, they fuck in a car in cargo, and then the ship sinks.

I think you know where this one is probably going. That damn door in the water had room for them both and even if it didn’t and would have sunk, there was still enough crap floating around that they could have something in order to save both of them.

By the way, it was actually part of an ornate doorframe, and not the door, but it was still pretty big. People make the argument that it couldn’t hold both of them, but Mythbusters took on the challenge, and proved that Jack did not have to die.

What people forget is that Rose was wearing a lifejacket during that sequence, and the Mythbusters demonstrated that strapping that lifejacket to the bottom of the doorframe would give it the buoyancy it needed to balance and support them both while also keeping them mostly out of the icy waters of the North Atlantic.

Twenty years after the fact in an interview with The Independent, director James Cameron said the reason that Jack fit on the door was because the script said “Jack dies.” Then again, Cameron is kind of well-known for being a dick.

American Beauty (1999)

Although this film has been tainted in recent years by the actions of its leading man, Kevin Spacey, the work as a whole still stands up, and considering the arc of Spacey’s character, Lester Burnham, maybe his casting actually still works in an odd way.

This flaw comes in during the film, and it’s one of those character/plot errors that I never really saw being accounted for. One of Lester’s neighbors is Col. Frank Fitts (Chris Cooper) who lives with his disabled and near-catatonic wife and their son, Ricky (Wes Bentley).

Now, we find out along the way that Fitts collects (illegal) Nazi memorabilia, and that he’s also a dictator around the house. Previously, he had sent Ricky to military school and had him briefly institutionalized, but now that he’s home, he just has to submit a regular urine sample to his father to prove that he’s not on drugs.

Ricky gets around this by keeping a supply of clean samples locked up in a mini-freezer in his room, which does fool his father, but this brings up a kind of obvious question: Why hasn’t the Colonel questioned the freezer, or forced Ricky to open it? Even if it’s not stocked with pee, anything meeting with Col. Fitts’ disapproval could be in there — beer, liquor, a severed head or two, although he might not object to those.

On top of that, Ricky is a big time drug dealer, selling pot and hash and apparently dealing in large quantities. Now, I do know that there was some plausibly explanation for that staying secret, like he had a hidden vault or the like, but again, Fitts’ character has been drawn as so controlling and paranoid that he would probably insist on searching every inch of Ricky’s room.

And how he could ever miss the skunky smell coming from the room whenever Ricky tried to move product in or out was also a bit of a stretch, unless Ricky only did it when dad wasn’t around.

Dogma (1999)

You have to love a movie that has Matt Damon and Ben Affleck as two fallen angels, Alan Rickman as the genitalless Metatron, or Voice of God, Chris Rock as the Thirteenth Apostle Rufus, and George Carlin as an insanely corrupt and greedy Catholic Cardinal.

Surprisingly, a lot of the theology in it is actually sound, or so I’ve been told, even though it tends to deal with more esoteric things that didn’t exactly make it into Biblical canon but stayed firmly in apocrypha.

The plot around the Cardinal’s greed inadvertently setting up a situation in which the angels can set up a paradox that will destroy the universe. The Cardinal decrees that (for a small fee) anyone who passes through the doors of his church at a certain time will receive an immediate indulgence forgiving all of their sins, etc.

Since God has already banished them from heaven for all time, if they get back in, then they prove that God is either not all-powerful or not omnipotent or both. Boom, paradox.

By the time everyone winds up at the appointed place and time, God appears, and she is wonderfully played by Alanis Morrisette in complete silence, but her face is so expressive that she doesn’t need to say a word.

The angel Loki (Damon) becomes repentant. Meanwhile, his counterpart Bartleby (Affleck) does not, and takes to the skies slaughtering any humans he can get his hands on. God decides she has to do something about Bartleby, so she destroys him with her voice — formerly, she only spoke via the Metatron.

After the Metatron helpfully warns, “Anyone who isn’t dead or from another plane of existence would do well to cover their ears right about now.”

This is when God speaks to Bartleby and the flaw I’m talking about happens. in the film, God’s voice comes out as a bigger sound than it needed to be, complete with everything shaking and it goes on for a few seconds until Bartleby’s head explodes — but there was a better way to do it.

It would have been so much more effective if she had just whispered his name and it had had the same effect on him — demonstrating her real power, and how much worse it could have been if she’s spoken louder.

Night at the Museum (2006)

This is actually a sweet little film turned into a trilogy and based on a 1993 children’s picture book. Now, I have no idea whether the movie followed the book — as far as I can tell, its plot doesn’t include a lot of extra characters beyond the guard. But let’s put that aside and look at the big flaw in the movie.

Ben Stiller plays Larry Daley, a down-on-his luck entrepreneur coming very close to being evicted (again), as well as being alienated from his son after a divorce, especially because of his financial situation — although probably also especially because his ex-wife’s new fiancé is played by Paul Rudd.

In desperation, Daley takes a job as a nightwatchman at the Museum of Natural History. After being indoctrinated by the three recently downsized elderly guards (played by Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney, and Bill Cobbs), he’s left on his own only to discover that the exhibits come alive at night.

Hijinx ensure, with Daley increasingly unable to explain the state of the museum in the morning to his prissy boss, played by an uncharacteristically understated Ricky Gervais, until all hell finally breaks loose.

It turns out that the fired guards had decided to set their replacement up to look like a thief while stealing valuable artifacts on the last night they had access, using the exhibits coming to life as a distraction.

Of course, the big problem is that one of the artifacts they go after is the very one that causes all the exhibits to come to life in the first place.

Daley eventually rallies the exhibits to his side, manages to catch the bad guys and bring all the stolen stuff back and, because a lot of exhibits escaped onto the streets of New York during the fiasco and wound up on the news, inadvertently making it look like a brilliant publicity stunt as the faltering museum is jam-packed the next day, much to the delight of Daley’s boss.

But the inexplicable part: Although Daley captures the thieves with the help of his exhibit friends and while there most definitely were at least one (or fifty) official investigations, he does not turn them in and explain their plot, even though he knows all of it.

Rather, he forces them to work for him as night janitors in the museum, which makes absolutely no sense at all. They’ve already proven that the same force that brings the exhibit to life gives their beyond geriatric asses an extra “oomph” at night. They kicked Daley’s ass once, and they could easily do it again.

This really feels like it only happened because of the casting of beloved old-Hollywood actors in the roles, and no other reason.

But, come on — these dudes tried to pull off the crime of the century, pin it on Daley, and showed that they had absolutely no regard for the contents of the museum while Daley clearly did.

They also planted museum property at his place to help nail the idea that he was the thief.

So, yeah. The second the authorities came roaring up to the doors, sirens blaring — an that probably would have included borough, county, state, and federal officers — the only logical response by Daley would be, “Yeah, this started as an attempted robbery, and I’ve got the perps tied up. I’ll take you to them.”

Now that would have been a satisfying ending. Of course, the producers brought this larcenous trio back in the the third film, but that might not have been a problem if they’re done the right thing in the first.

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