Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Reality in Fiction

The Hurt Locker won the Oscar for best picture, so I decided I ought to see it. Went out and rented the DVD and I'm glad I only rented it (for free, thank you Red Box promo code)

The problem was the absolute lack of reality in a film that so desperately wanted to be taken serious. IF this was a standard action movie I could forgive the stunts, the macho "I'm gonna do it my way" B.S., but this was a serious film, that thought it had a message.

Let's not quibble over I knew who was going to die in the first 60 seconds, or the protagonists relationship with the boy selling DVD's or any number of things I knew were going to happen due to stereotypical writing. My problem is the lack of respect for reality in fiction, when it is what you are claiming you do.

Nearly every character broke protocol in nearly every single situation in the film. It would be reality if somebody did once in a while-but every single character all the time? I sincerely hope people don't watch this film and think-that's how it is-because our service men are not that stupid.

Spoiler Alert
Case in point. The three lead characters are out detonating ordinance and coming back to base come upon a number of men dressed as Iraqi fighters. Typical yelling and threats (They leave the safety of their vehicle to approach a numerically superior foe!?!) Then in a classic Dan Brown tell-oh guess what its a Brit, played by RaLph Fiennes, (yes pronounce the L please) Gee why didn't he just say he was on their side in the first place? because he had to do the weak, false tension stunt that DB always does=poor writing no matter how many books he sells.

Then they are hit by Sniper fire. RaLph dies, his Barret 50 cal sniper rifle is resting where it was when the sniper zeroed in and killed him. What do our heroes do but take the SAME position and attempt to return fire. The Idiots didn't move!?! The greenest troops ever would know to change positions, but these guys stay in the same place. Then when they have problems with their ammo they still stay silhouetted on the top of the hill-while another guy cleans the ammo.

By now the sniper should have killed them 10 times over-but he doesn't. And of course when they are ready, they kill him-ridiculous. I lost all sense of reality and could not take the Hurt Locker seriously. This is not a film that is going to stand the ages like so many other Oscar winning films in the past.

In contrast, Inglorious Basterds, was not supposed to be taken as reality, it was
obvious to anyone that it was exaggerated historical fiction. While entertaining, messages subtle as brass knuckles were seeded within that gave a greater depth to what could at first glance be viewed simply as a horrific and violent war movie. Such as, the irony of branding people, laughing at what we ought not-specifically when the crowd around you does. And in a Tarantino film, people die when they are supposed too.

Revenge as in any Tarantino project is always a prime motivation but so is vengeance which is not quite the same thing. The human drama involved lent an aspect of reality that Hurt Locker sorely lacked.

So all in all, the blatantly fictitious piece struck me as more real.


M. Gray said...

Yeah, after David Farland's praise of Inglorious Bastards I wanted to see it. Maybe I'll skip Hurt Locker after reading your review.

KarenG said...

I didn't watch the Oscars, thus saving myself so much time and brain melt, and now I don't have to go see the winners. Because you just told the truth behind all the stupid Hollywood hype. I'll go rent Confessions of a Shopaholic instead lol!

L.A. DeVaul said...

Loved the Hurt Locker. I don't know anything about army protocal etc, and I was able to ignore the unrealistic bits. Silouetted on the hill top in the exact same position? They changed I thought, they wouldn't stay in the same position. That would be silly.

I guess I have gotten so used to cheap hollywood writing tricks that I don't expect much more.

Quentin Tarantino on the other hand, he is not the same as Hollywood. He goes over their heads. People don't get him. Dusk til Dawn, for example, no one liked it, they said it was stupid. But I thought it was hilarious. I was laughing for days after.

I have stopped watching his movies however, because there is soooooooooooooo much R ratedness that my tender sensitivities cringe.

Anyway, that's my two cents. Just thought I'd share.

David J. West said...

Mary-I was unimpressed to say the least.

Karen-Confessions of a Shopaholic is better? Than other brain melt?

L.A.-I promise they didn't change positions they stayed in the same spot the whole time-ANY sniper already zeroed in on that position couldn't have asked for an easier opportunity to kill them.

And that's just one of many many unrealistic inaccuracies.

Yes tender sensibliities don't have a lot of options anymore.

Voidwalker said...

So, that'd be a 2-guns-down for The Hurt Locker huh? I don't catch movies anymore like I used to (not enough time lately) but when I do, I definitely don't want to waste it on a bad one. Thanks for shedding some light on this one.

David J. West said...

Void-I honestly don't catch a lot of new movies either.

Hurt Locker and Inglourious Basterds are about the only 2 Oscar nods I did see.

CKHB said...

I loved Hurt Locker because of the character development... or lack thereof. (Spoiler alert.)

The "hero" was a rotten leader. He was a rotten team player. He was a rotten husband and dad. He had one amazing skill set, and was an adrenaline junkie. He DIDN'T GET BETTER. I thought that was fascinating, and I'm sad that the lack of reality would distract anyone from that storyline.

As we briefly talked about on Twitter, I felt that lack of reality destroyed Up In The Air for me. The main character is someone who is on the road (in the air) for the vast majority of each year. His job is his life. Then some new girl shows up in the office and threatens all that with the promise of lowering company costs by cutting down on travel and using teleconferencing instead. He takes young girl into the field to show her why his way is right, hers is wrong.

Whoever wrote the screenplay (my traveling husband loved the book) has apparently NEVER BEEN IN THIS KIND OF BUSINESS. They showed airplane interiors that were supposed to be domestic flights, except that those amenities are only on international flights. They showed airport amenities that don't exist at those airports. The movie was basically a paid advertisement for American Airlines, Hertz, and Hilton, with characters talking about how "loyalty matters" when in fact no one who travels that much gives a damn which brand they're using. They know that hotels/car rental services/airlines vary in quality depending where you are: the Hilton may be awesome in City A, but you surely want the Sheraton instead in City B. They don't carry around all their frequent flyer/membership cards because that's extra weight, and anyway a secretary should be in charge of getting those numbers into the reservations, not the traveler.

And on, and on. No junior employee would get to pitch an idea that made such enormous changes to a company's way of business, she'd be told to shut up and make some copies. (And, it's not like they need a hot new intern to tell them that TELECONFERENCING exists.) No professional shows up to an airport with a non-rolling suitcase anymore. The main character's "secrets" to easy and speedy travel were either not secrets at all (who doesn't know that the family with infants will take longer to get through security than the single businessman?) or they were FALSE (no, "Asians" don't all travel a certain way).

My husband and I switched to a different movie after the scene where the young girl breaks down crying because her boyfriend dumped her... and the main character sits down with her to have a heart-to-heart. THIS DOES NOT HAPPEN IN BUSINESS. The George Clooney character should have told her to get to a bathroom, clean herself up, calm down, and stop embarrassing herself and everyone around her, not to mention lowering the glass ceiling for all professional women who might hope to follow her. (Other people apparently loved this scene, and I'd like someone to explain to me why.)

Okay, obviously this has been upsetting me for a while, but I feel like I'm the only one who sees the obvious with that movie. As you said, it was supposed to be realistic, not parody, yet it was completely disconnected from the way that real world works. And so, for me, it fell flat on its face.

CKHB said...

Oh, and my husband and I don't know much about proper military protocol, but we still wondered about that moment of silhouette during the sniper scene. (Why aren't they, you know, DEAD NOW?) Since that's not a big issue for us, we were able to forget it a scene later.

However, since my husband was a business traveler and LOVED the reality of the book, we couldn't get past the mistakes in UITA.

David J. West said...

Carrie-I think we are saying the same thing about different movies because of our differeing backgrounds.

I truly wouldn't know the things you're saying about UITA because I have not travelled for business nearly that much-(I have driven cross country 10 times as much as I have flown)

So the unrealistic elements of Hurt Locker poked me in the eyes just like UITA did for you.

I completely get what you are saying about Renner's one talent and his adrenaline fix-but it just couldn't outshine his other attributes.

And I have to laugh about the "loyalty matters" thing-yeah right. Everybody hunts for the best deals and I know darn well that restaraunt in city A is good while the same chain in city B is bad. Calling it a commercial for Hertz, AA and Hilton cracks me up-because they probably did bankroll the production.

Cool if the book was better-but as is usually the case, the book always beats the movie-darn few exceptions to that rule. Perhaps that ought to be a blog post.

Thanks for the indepth feedback, Carrie.

arlee bird said...

I concede on some of the unrealistic actions of the characters in Hurt Locker, but over all I found the movie to have a very realistic feel to it, which was part of my disappointment for me. I felt that the film was greatly lacking in story and at times felt more like a docudrama. Some of the scenes were very well created, but they lacked viewer involvement or empathy. In retrospect, I feel a little better now about the film than I did right after I finished watching it. Bottom line is I was disappointed in the film and not sure that it deserved the accolades that it received.

KarenG said...

90 minute brain melt with no commercials as opposed to 4 hours with ads every 5 minutes.

David J. West said...

Lee-I certainly don't think the movie was horrible, but I don't believe it deserved the Oscar when it had so many things wrong. My point was IF you do a docudrama piece it should hold up to reality and Hurt Locker doesn't.

Karen-are you saying you need commercials for breaks?

TerryLynnJohnson said...

I did think this movie was horrible. I was appaled it won. Yes, to everything you said about it and Inglorious Bastards.

David J. West said...

Thanks Terry, I didn't see it until the day after the Oscars and am frankly surprised it won.