Things that totally ruin the suspension of disbelief in a movie

Okay, I just wanted to get out a few of my movie pet peeves that really ruin a particular scene or whatever. Hopefully I can come up with two, but I’m mainly focusing on things that really make you think, “Oh please…”

I just finished watching Ghostbusters. This was a time when smoking cigarettes in movies was still okay. It was even a FAMILY film! But I digress. Dan Aykroyd smokes a cigarette on several occasions and I can’t help but notice he’s not a real smoker! He doesn’t take a drag. It just seems like someone trying to smoke a cigarette to look cool. He looks like a teenager trying his first cigarette! I HATE it when actors do it! Either learn how to smoke a cigarette (probably not advisable) or don’t do it at all!

Which reminds me in operation Swordfish. It was a one-off scene, granted, but there’s a point where Hally Berry shows up to Hugh Jackman’s trailer and finds him shooting golf balls off his roof. In a macho, sort-of-way, we are supposed to see how cool she is when she knocks it way up in the air: a perfect shot. Now, I’m no golf expert, but I’ve seen enough to know her swing was god-awful. It just makes me think…Oh, please!

Next thing: Beeping COMPUTERS! Can you imagine how annoying it would be if your computer made a sound everytime you downloaded something? Or pushed a button? Microsoft seems to think that was cool, when they put that stupid click in IE 6, but oh god, is it awful. Secondly, knowing a good bit about computers is a bad thing too. What about in EVERY single movie.

“All we have is this security camera footage.”
“Okay, well let’s blow it up to get the number on the license plate”

Then you see some square appear on the area which is to be the boundary of the blown up image…It shows up, as blurry as it should be.

“Enhancing the image”

Then you get a high-rez image that couldn’t be taken from the original image! That data simply isn’t there!

What about Office Space? Their computer scenes when he uploads the virus seem okay. But when he tries to turn it off, it shows a DOS prompt! It’s obviously a Mac from the screens!

Finally, bad X accents. It is usually most noticable when it is your regional accent. Why the hell can’t people get a good Southern accent? They go to some dialect coach in Hollywood who teaches them the South Carolina antebellum plantation accent.

Jeffrey Wigand’s attorney in the Insider (the guy who played that motorcycle guy in Animal House) has a bit of a problem with that. I feel that the only good ones are the exception.

The good ones I can see? Well, I’ve heard from most brits that Brad Pitt in Snatch did a good one. But Brad Pitt is a good actor, so it’s not surprising.

Mathew McConaughey in a time to kill did an okay job. Although I couldn’t understand why everyone was sweating in that film. It’s hot in MS, but we have AC. Finally all three of the protagonists in Oh Brother Where Art thou did a great job. Clooney’s character was from Kentucky, so I’ll take his word that it was well researched. But the other two from Mississippi were good, especially John Tuturo.

If I can think of more, please tell me. But I think actors need to spend a bit more time with these things that yank you right out of the film.

Ooh, and this doesn’t fit with the rest of it, but I always HATE it when they say, “We’ve got 30 seconds before the base blows up!” And it take much longer. I can see this as a good thing to parody in a film. “We’ve got ten seconds to do x,y,z and get out!” Then you see them doing it and it takes about 45 seconds or so. After they cheer narrowly escaping the blast, one of the character looks at his watch saying, “Boy, that really seemed like a lot longer than ten seconds, didn’t it?” Then another character gives off some crap explanation, leaving the first one sitting in silence with a confused look on his face…I could see this in futurama, without a doubt.

All I can say is that I’m right there with you on every topic! Especially the faux smoker. Especially the phony golfer. Especially the shitty Southern Accent. Especially the “enhanced image.” And the beeping computer.

And how you get a dial tone when the other guy hangs up the phone.

Tires screeching on dirt and gravel. Thunder Road (Mitchum, late 50’s) is almost a comedy because of that.

Blatant continuity errors, like a glass going from full to empty to half full, and moving all around the table as POV shots are edited. There’s even one movie (Pretty Woman, I believe) where the actors run through an almost total costume change in the same clutch scene. I can’t believe they let these obvious things stay in when the movie is supposed to be dramatic. It really helps comedies, though.

Another thing ripe for parody! I’m thinking of an airplane-type movie. Have a scene that is riddled with these continuity errors. Like a cigar changing to a cigarette, etc. Almost like the wayne’s world scene where they talk about not selling out with corporate sponsorships.

There’s a lot of breaking the forth-wall scenes like this in Arrested Development. I remember a scene where Tobias is asked to turn in documents for the film, “The Prosecution (!)” When Michael asks why they need this stuff, tobias says, “For set dressing, silly! These guys are focused on every little detail!” As he does this he reaches into an empty cupboard which contains a starbucks-style coffe cup only.

In Point Break the cop and the gangleader holding a conversation while freefalling,it would be like sticking your head out and facing forward of a train window at 120 mph and having a chat with someone doing the same thing from another one of the trains windows.

Real life sometimes inadvertently intrudes, despite any intentions on the part of the filmmakers. For instance, the death of an actor: like watching John Wayne light his cigarette, in almost any movie he’s in, tends to break my disbelieft with the, “Aw, shit, he died from that.” Or inflation: watching a film like IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD where the characters are going apeshit for $100,000… a ton of money when the film was made, but today, divided seven or eight ways, doesn’t seem like a lot of motivation.

Very true. And prices for stuff like gas and milk and bread and cigarettes and beer. Car models when it’s supposed to be “present day” (I never have understood this convention when it’s obvious that if the movie outlasts that year’s awards it’s likely to be seen again sometime in the future – at which point “present day” will automatically trigger a “yeah, right” reaction) or cell phones or computers or even clothing and hair styles. Imagine flat tops and ducktails or afros passing for “present day.”

Remember when cell phones used to look like those walkie talkies in WWII movies? There’s a crazy TV show called “Trigger Happy” (may be BBC) where this guy screams into a cell phone the size of a phone booth. But that’s a different question.


Anytime I hear the nokia tune, I instintively expect to hear that.

“I’m in an Art museum. WHAT!!!..NO, IT’S RUBBISH!!!”

My favorite true-to-life computer movie would have to be sneakers, although they do use the “enhancing” trick a few times.

You nailed the “Trigger Happy” bit, and those ringtones, along with the ones CTU uses on 24, are like fingernails on chalkboards for me.

I need to watch Sneakers again. River Phoenix and Dan Aykroyd and Redford are all I can remember about it without heading over to IMDB to refresh memory.

The actor in X-Files who played “Cigarette Smoking Man” had at one time been a smoker, so apparently he used some kind of herbal cigarettes to avoid becoming re-addicted. Probably other actors should follow suit, though they’d still be advised to watch a real smoker and see how it’s done.

Wow, I wish I were in your position. It’s a great film to rewatch. I remember seeing it as a youngster, and I didn’t really get all that was going on. It’s quite a hard film to follow if you can’t remember exactly what happens. It’s a GREAT film. I really love it.

As for herbal cigarettes? Well, I can’t imagine that they’d be good for you, but probably not addictive. Does anyone use these to quit? I can see interspersing an herbal here and there until you are on them entirely. Then it seems that quitting would be a purely psychological problem, and less of a physiological one. Although for me it’s always been a psychological problem first, and physiological problem second. Although I always get kicked in the ass by nicotine withdrawal too.

But Dan Akryoyd’s smoking was the worst. He’d put it in his lips, light it, and draw the slightest amount of smoke in his mouth and just let it seep out. Smoking is bad, no need to deny that, but if you’re going to try to play a convincing smoker in a film, either get it right or don’t do it at all. It’s the same with preparing for any part of a role. Hally Berry’s golf shot could have used some work too. Plus it’s a film! They could have had a little coaching and taken the best take. Although they might have done it already, as I remember the editing there to be highly disjointed.

555- phone numbers. Heck, any mention of phone numbers, because even if they cover it up, or go the distance and buy a real phone number, it takes me out of the movie for a moment while I think “Oh, at least they covered up the 555- bit…”

For me, NOTHING beats the 555 phone numbers. I absolutely can’t stand it when they have a 555 number in a movie (which is pretty much any time a number is said or dialed.)

The Departed was one of the only movies I’ve seen with non-555 numbers in it. Weirdly, though, towards the end there is one 555 number even though there are normal numbers in the movie too. Why did they have to go and do that? It shit all over the suspension of disbelief.

Are there other major movies with non-555 numbers in them?

Edit: Rodgers01, I can’t believe we were both typing this at the exact same time. Weird.

Bruce Almighty, though it was changed to a 555 # for the DVD release because the unfortunate person who owned the number displayed in the theatrical release received thousands of callers wanting to talk to God.

To go off-topic for a bit, I wouldn’t say Ghostbusters was a family film, per se- even though it was rated PG, there were jokes about menstruation, getting laid, and men without dicks; not to mention a subplot about two people having sex in order to summon a demon (not shown, but implied). Although I guess you could get away with more in a PG film in those days- it’s still pretty surprising to see Beetlejuice knock over a tree, shout “nice fuckin’ model!” and grab his crotch, for example.

Unfortunate persons. There were problems in various area codes. At least one was a church.

Two other films which had real phone numbers (in these cases, purchased by the studios beforehand)- Sneakers (which led to a fake phone message from two people who said hello to all you fans of the film( and The Incredibles (which gave you a link to a special website).

The solution is obvious. Hollywood needs to contact the powers that be to commission a new prefix (is it called a prefix?) that sounds normal. I’m sure there are tons out there. But then we’d lose a million numbers too. Who cares!?! We’ll just tack on another digit when we have to.

Or invent a new number: one episode of Futurama featured a character who gave Fry her phone number. It was a believable number without a 555 prefix, except one of the digits was a Greek lambda.

As usual Futurama, has done it before…and very well

It ruins it for me when someone’s wearing noticeable makeup at times when she couldn’t or shouldn’t be. It really distracts me to think, “who wears lipstick to bed?” or “where did she get that eyeshadow in the desert?”

While I’m on the topic it also really bothers me when someone in a movie has a zit and they’ve put makeup on it and yet I can still see the zit there. In Bridget Jones the Edge of Reason Renee Zellweger has a zit on her chin in a whole bunch of scenes and that’s all I can remember about the movie. I spent the whole time thinking that it doesn’t seem fair that a zit be immortalized in that fashion. And for some reason Brian Depalma is the king of photographing zits. All his movies are about people with blackheads as far as I can determine. I don’t really know why it makes me focus on the actor instead of the character and messes with my head. If the actor has a scar, then it’s no problem and I thing the character has a scar. But with a zit it just makes me think, “oh Scarlett Johansson must have been self conscious about all those bumps on her cheek.”

I always thought this was intentional. Just like the story takes place in an amalgam of American suburbia (note the US. flag license plates on the cars), the computers were a weird hybrid of Mac and DOS computers.

The DOS prompt is not the only evidence of this; there are DOS elements within the Mac-like interface (such as DOS paths…the floppy drive is A:), and it’s obvious that someone went to the effort to blend the two.