Thursday, November 13, 2014

Do logic problems ruin a good movie?

Most of the time, I would say yes. It often takes you right out of the film if there’s something so implausible or ridiculous that you notice it at the time. This is especially true in mysteries or thrillers. Once you throw your hands up and say “this could never happen” you’re done. Or you say, “None of this would be happening if he just called her” you’re also done.

As a comedy writer, must of my time is spent working on story. Not jokes. Stories are what hold the audiences’ attention. And the backbone of storytelling is logic. Do the stories make sense? Would these characters really do that? Many times I’ll admit I come up with what I think would be a real cool story or scene and then think, “Okay, so how do I get to it? How do I justify it?” A cool scene is no good if the audience doesn’t buy it. And all too often it’s a bitch to find that justification that truly makes sense. Characters aren’t doing things just because we writers say they should.

Sometimes we’ll hit a point where there’s a small logic problem and we’ll try to determine if it’s small enough to be undetected. Going through four steps to justify it would detract from the narrative. So our choice is to either hope we get away with it or change it if we feel it’ll become apparent. Alfred Hitchcock had a great expression for these camouflaged logic lapses. “Ice box logic.” Someone sees a movie, enjoys it, and later that night goes down to the kitchen to get a snack and when he’s rummaging through the ice box (remember Hitchcock coined this many years ago when there were ice boxes) something occurs to him and he says, “Hey, wait a minute. Martha wasn’t at the train station. How could she know the train was going to be late?” But if it didn’t detract from his experience of watching the movie it’s livable. So there are times we’ll claim “ice box logic” when someone in the room points out a certain snag.

All that said, there are also movies where the logic flaws are blatant and major and audiences still don't care. THE BIG SLEEP from the ‘40s leaps to mind. Based on a Raymond Chandler novel, it’s a great old detective mystery with Bogart at his best donning the trench coat. But you can’t follow it. It’s impossible. William Faulkner did a pass, got so confused he called Chandler himself to explain certain moves. Chandler said he was happy to clear up any vague moments. Faulkner began laying out the issues. The conversation went something like this:

FAULKNER: Who killed Regan?

CHANDLER: That would be Geiger.

FAULKNER: But Geiger was already dead before Regan was killed.

CHANDLER: He was?

FAULKNER: Yeah.

CHANDLER: Hmmm. Then I don’t know. You're on your own.

Even Raymond Chandler couldn’t follow his own story. But Howard Hawks directed it with such speed and flair and you enjoy the movie immensely even though you are (literally) in the dark.

That’s kind of how I am with ORPHAN BLACK the second season. I just now assume everyone is a bad guy and kick back.

Another movie where no one seemed to be bothered by a story hole was John Hughes’ brilliant FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF. Well… one person was bothered. My partner, David Isaacs. We were in the Fox commissary shortly after the movie was released having lunch with a producer. Matthew Broderick came into the room, spotted the producer, and came over to our table. He and the producer were friends. Matthew sat down to join us for a few minutes. David casually asked how he got on the float. Ferris, you’ll recall, somehow gets on a float during a big parade in Chicago and has an amazing production number lip-syncing “Twist & Shout.” Matthew got pissed. “What difference does it make?” he asked. David continued to dig a hole for himself by saying he didn’t understand how someone could just commandeer a float during a parade and get marching bands to fall in line, etc. This pissed off Matthew even more, who kept saying, “Who gives a shit? It worked.”

In this case, Matthew Broderick was right. I suppose you could justify it by saying his character was such an operator that he could pull off anything, but it didn’t matter. It was such an infectious feel-good sequence audiences were willing to overlook any logistical issues.

But as a writer, it’s a risky way to go. And my question is: As the actor, why didn’t Matthew Broderick ask that question? Or he did and got the same answer from John Hughes.

90 comments:

SarahB said...

Ever since I saw the episode of The Good Wife when Alicia allows a cop to search her car without a warrant or probable cause, I have not been able to take her seriously as a lawyer. Even I know that you never give permission for a search.

McAlvie said...

good post! I think a lot of it depends on what kind of show or movie it is. With FBDO, most of it was highly implausible, really, but it isn't a movie you are supposed to take seriously - it's fluff. It's FUN. I remember when Grisham's legal thriller, The Firm first hit the shelves and a young attorney friend complained that it wasn't realistic. I replied that this was probably why it was shelved as FICTION.

The term I use for books and movies like this is "swashbuckler." It refers to any overly romanticised telling of a story that still entertains. Because in fiction, whether it's a book, movie, or tv show, that's the main goal: entertainment. If they've done that and at least kept to the spirit of their premise, I can forgive the flaws, because they delivered the promised x number of hours of entertainment.

Kyle said...

There was a line in the LAVERNE AND SHIRLEY theme song -- "There is nothing we won't try. Never heard the word impossible." -- that a writer friend used to insist should have been rewritten as, "There is no plot we won't try. Never heard the word improbable."

welcometosherwood said...

Logic holes frequently ruin movies for me, and, sadly, there seem to more and more of them. This is especially true of science fiction films. The filmmakers seem to expect their audience to be stupid, or not to care. For example, Prometheus from a few years ago. They have spectacular robot technology, but all the human "scientists" rush off the spacecraft into a mysterious alien structure where, predictably, they stir up powers they don't understand, and almost everyone is slaughtered. In fact, with the robot technology they have, why do they send humans on this mission in the first place?

Matt said...

I disagree with DAvid, Ferris Bueller had no plot holes.

Ferris Bueller was the mythical character where nothing ever went wrong. He was a "Righteous Dude."

If he walked up to the float and climbed on, it would have worked. That was the mythology they were building.

That scene was important to build the character, I just think David didn't get the movie.

John Lenin said...

A blog post on logic problems and no reference to "Interstellar"? I thought you would go on about nothing else.

Matt said...

Being one of those people who spends a lot of time in movies and TV shows making "now, wait just a minute, how did she..." objections to plot holes and lapses of logic, I understand where David was coming from. There are a lot of people, though, who, can live with plot holes and lapses of logic as long as they're enjoying what they're watching.

peabody nobis said...

I think Matt is correct- Bueller could have done pretty much anything in that movie. Nothing he did in the movie was really plausible; most adults just aren't that stupid. Plus, I think comedies, in general, get a pass on plot holes more than dramas.
The most recent show to make me throw my hands up is "Under The Dome". My wife and I managed to watch the entire first season without me throwing my remote at the TV, but we only got a couple of episodes into season 2 before my eyes started rolling. It just took the concept of 'plot holes' to a whole different level.

Darth Weasel said...

My brothers and I have a running joke. Think the conclusion to Iron Man III..."I know it is ridiculous to say this in a movie where a man in an iron suit flies around taking falls that would kill him, yet is uninjured...but what just happened is unbelievable".

As long as a movie/tv show etc has internal logic it is fine, even if objectively speaking it is implausible/ridiculous/impossible.
But when it violates its own internal logic...the "world building" contradicts itself...such as an invulnerable guy withstanding being blown up inside a suit, taking repulsor ray blasts to the chest/head etc and being just fine, but then taking one swing from Pepper he is dead? Internal logic violated. Within the context of the movie it was stupid.

I am fine with the logic hole of iron super hero suits, but not the violation within the artificial laws of the Iron Suit movie of those artificial laws.

That is kind of the breaking point. It is why a movie like the Truman Show worked...as ridiculous as it was, it kept an internal logic.

Thanks for all the work you do, KL, I read pretty regularly, seldom comment. But your work is noticed and enjoyed and thought you should hear that from time to time.

Scooter Schechtman said...

Instead of my patented Enraged Rant on Ferris Bueller I'll recount a story on "Big Bang Theory" that tickled me: when Sheldon's girlfriend pointed out that Indiana Jones' character is unnecessary to the "Ark" movie because plot events happen just fine without him.Classic Comedic Chagrin from Sheldon youbetcha.

The Omnipotent Q said...

I would add "Escape From The Planet of the Apes." Apes return from the future to dominate, but how they returned made absolutely ZERO sense to the storyline. Supposedly they found Taylor's ship and returned through space in it. Only, the ship sank in a lake as the original "Planet of the Apes" began. "We're here to stay" as Charlton Heston famously said. Now we are supposed to believe apes found the ship in the lake, got all the water out, were able to launch it, and were intelligent enough to fly it back in time. The writers absolutely treated the fans like idiots with that nonsense. I will only watch the original two films in the series.

Hamid said...

It still makes me laugh that in The Lost World: Jurassic Park, a T-Rex is stomping through a suburb and no one wakes up except a little girl who sees him drinking from the swimming pool out back. Because when you have a gigantic dinosaur wandering through a street, it of course won't make much sound.

Anonymous said...

The parade float wasn't incongruous with the core logic of the movie. It was explicitly stated numerous times that everything works out for Ferris. He gets to do with anything he wants to. As if he were some kind of wizard.
Also, by that time, everyone in the audience was full onboard with the character, so pushing the boundaries of his wizardry was exactly what we wanted.
He was like a teen Christ figure. You really want to talk shit about how he can walk on water? I don't. I just want to see him do it, while waving to me.
He's fuckin' Ferris Bueller!! Wake up, and grow a brain!!

- Save Ferris

Chris Lansdown said...

But it was Carmen who killed Regan. And Geiger was killed during the events of the book, while Regan was killed like a month before the book started...

HikenFan said...

Ken:

This has nothing to do with today's post, but I thought you might be interested.

GREAT MOMENTS IN PRESCIENCE

From kenlevine.blogspot.com (7/18/13):

"In the Best Comedy category GIRLS got nominated again. I think of all those times I got shot down at CHEERS for pitching forced anal sex and now I feel vindicated.... Expect Mindy Kaling to be sodomized next year."

From Vulture.com (10/21/14):

"Mindy Kaling Talks About Filming Broadcast TV’s First Anal-Sex Scene on The Mindy Project"

HikenFan said...

Corrected second link for previous post:

"Mindy Kaling Talks About Filming Broadcast TV’s First Anal-Sex Scene on The Mindy Project"

Adam said...

He was like a teen Christ figure.

Whoever's supplying your weed is giving you way stronger stuff than I've been getting.

HikenFan said...

Roger Ebert made a good point about CASABLANCA on the DVD Commentary:

The entire movie rests on a gaping plot hole. The priceless "Letters of Transit" signed by Charles De Gaulle? They wouldn't have guaranteed anyone's safety.

Charles De Gaulle's signature meant nothing to Hitler or the Nazis. The moment Victor Lazlo tried to present them as a "Get Out Of Jail Free" card, he would have been arrested or shot.

Duck Blood Soup said...

I was in satellite operations for 15 years and the movie "Gravity" drove me nuts. The only reason I didn't mutter "bullshit, that's impossible" every 5 minutes was because my wife was enjoying the film.

Lemonesque said...

This makes me think of "Looper" the entire premise of which was that several hitmen were hired to kill victims sent back from the future to a designated time and place, and eventually one of the victims would be their future selves. The film is the story of what happens when one of the hitmen lets his future self escape. The massive logic hole being that if they just sent the hitmen from the future to be killed *by one of the many hitmen who wasn't their younger self* they could have avoided all this... well, entire film. Pity, as I really liked the writer-director's first film, and also the cast.

MikeK.Pa. said...

After Bill Persky weighed in the other day, I decided to check out the videos he and his partner Sam Denoff did for the Emmy Archives. Recommended viewing for anyone who wants to learn the art of comedy writing. (http://www.emmytvlegends.org/interviews/people/sam-denoff )

In one of Sam's interviews (there are 9 30-minute tapes, so brew a pot of coffee before watching), he said he learned two lessons from "The Dick Van Dyke Show" creator Carl Reiner (another interview that should be mandatory viewing): 1) Never have your character do anything you wouldn't do; and 2) The best comedy comes out of reality.

VP81955 said...

I'm still ticked off when I see the "Bueller" Beatles' "Twist And Shout" at a ballpark. If I wanted "Twist And Shout" with horns, I'd listen to the Isley Brothers' original.

thesamechris said...

Avatar: Why don't they just dig a tunnel and mine this mineral from below?

HikenFan said...

MikeK.Pa:

If you're going to watch the Denoff, Persky, and Reiner interviews, try to catch the Sheldon Leonard interview.

It's fantastic.

DAT said...

One take on Ferris is that he doesn't exist and is really Cameron's alter ego:

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/06/why-ferris-bueller-never-existed/327276/

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

What's wrong with me when I get pissed to hear explosions in space movies (no air...and no sound in space), yet when I watched in Blues Brothers, a car falling thousands of feet after supposedly driving off an unfinished highway bridge...I think, "Well, that's fine."

I'm certifiable.

Hamid said...

Forgot another gem - SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE, in which Nuclear Man kidnaps the Mariel Hemingway character and flies into outer space, where she has no problem breathing. Not so much lack of logic, though. I think the title of an article about that scene sums it up: "The Profound Philosophical Depth Of The Shittiest Scene In Superman IV".
http://io9.com/5902648/the-profound-philosophical-depth-of-the-shittiest-scene-in-superman-iv

Brian Phillips said...

Internal logic-busters for me are personal flashback scenes. If I see a graphic that says, "2 days earlier", I can safely assume I will see what happens two days ago. I tend to forget what I was wearing, but never mind. If a CHARACTER says something to the effect of, "This is how it happened...", more times than not, there will be a scene that the character doing the recalling will not appear.

I've always wanted to write a scene like this where the recalling party is not present in the flashback and this is the exchange:

Person 1: Blahblahblah...
Person 2: Mum-mumum
Listener (VO): This part doesn't make any sense.
Narrator (VO): I'm sorry, I wasn't in the room.

Has it destroyed my enjoyment of an episode of a show? No, but it sticks out like anachronistic music (i.e., "The Playboy Club" had characters watching Ike and Tina Turner perform a song that was released nine years after the scene took place. I'll begrudge a year or two but NINE?)

Chris said...

Stan Laurel once said something to the effect that audiences are willing to suspend belief so long as you're faithful to the level of reality you've established.

Anonymous said...

Hey Ken,

This subject hits home with one of my all time favorite discussions I have with one of my friends and his Dad. We're all movie/TV fans so we joke all the time about this. Our number 1 compare/contrast is Harrison Ford in "Air Force One". His Dad always says "The President would never directly fight terrorists! He's not kicking them in the face and then saying 'Get off my plane!' " We counter with "How does Chewbacca fly the Millennium Falcon with all that hair betweens his fingers?" He just shrugs his shoulders
--LL

Pat Quinn said...

The "Say a Little Prayer" scene in "My Best Friend's Wedding" is another example. It's an absurd musical number in the middle of an otherwise realistic movie (realistic as far as rom-coms go).

I remember "Ferris Bueller"'s scene. It was done well enough to not take you out of the mood... although I was thinking "how did he do that" ... I was already smiling at the performance enough to shrug off not being a part of Ferris's negotiations.

But I am also the guy who liked the scene where Tom Hanks looked down at his sub-titles in "Volunteers".



craig m said...

It wasn't at the ice box but on the drive home after seeing "Big Hero 6" that I wondered, Why did the villain go through all the trouble of (spoilers)? Everything was laid out perfectly for the villain already.

Johnny Walker said...

I think it takes real talent/bravery to be able to throw something like that into a movie and know the audience won't mind. It's amazing to me that anyone takes that leap.

That said, I think the audience is more forgiving when we know the author is being a bit cheeky (as with FERRIS BUELLER'S), rather than thinking it came out of ignorance (like a legal technicality or something like that). Plus, if we've fallen in love with the story/characters, we can be much more forgiving! :)

With FERRIS BUELLER'S I think a bigger question is how he got Twist & Shout played, and why the girls on the float had a choreographed dance ready and waiting. Ah, but who cares, what a great moment!

cd1515 said...

Shawshank had a couple big plot holes I can't get past...
a) after Andy escapes, Red says "I guess after Tommy got killed, Andy figured he'd been here long enough."
but Tommy had JUST gotten killed... Andy would've had to have been digging that tunnel for years beforehand.
b) the morning after the escape, the warden tears the poster off the wall... but how is it still taped to the wall if Andy already left through it?

Andy Ihnatko said...

If a movie is working, it turns off those sections of the brain that keep track of how many bullets a gun has fired and whether or not it makes sense for the homicide detective in charge of solving a string of murders to lead his team straight to himself as the killer.

If a movie isn't working...it can't get away with anything. You're so bored that your brain is free to detect every last inconsistency.

That Stan Laurel quote is spot-on, too. So long as a movie honors the reality that the movie itself chose to construct, it's probably all OK.

Chris G said...

Scooter Schechtman, Indy's role is to 1) witness the power of God and 2) bring the Ark into safe hands.

Jillian said...

Johnny: That's why I can enjoy musicals and my husband can't. I can accept that they take place in a world where people spontaneously burst into song and elaborate dance routines, all to a full orchestral accompaniment. My husband can never get past, "But that never happens in real life."

Eduardo Jencarelli said...

This reminds me of my cousin, who hated Gus Fring's demise on Breaking Bad.

I mean, the man stood up and straightened his clothing. Very OCD behavior, and very true to his character. So what if he briefly stood up after a bomb blast that should have killed him instantly?

To me, that's a small bit of failed plot logic that's more than excused by good storytelling and superb character work.

Mike Barer said...

I think the problem with today's entertainment media is writers work too hard at logic. A storyline can be illogical if it allows the audience to willing suspend their sense of logic.

chalmers said...

Thanks a lot, Hikenfan. I watched that Sheldon Leonard interview on your recommendation and ended up buying $300 worth of junk from the Handy-Dandy company!

Seriously, those interviews are fascinating.

Charles Emerson Losechester said...

Gee, a John Hughes movie that stretches credulity and has a far-fetched premise? Who woulda thunk it!

In this case "who gives a shit" was not only the correct answer, it was the polite one.

Dalton said...

I've never forgotten, when I was a kid, a friend's father complaining that a Bugs Bunny cartoon his son and I were watching was unrealistic and unbelievable because both Bugs and the dog chasing him were both able to breathe normally during a lengthy underwater chase scene.

Breadbaker said...

Roger Ebert apparently had a hearing problem, or at least a comprehension problem. The Letters of Transit were signed by General Waygand. Maxime Waygand was the commander-in-chief of the French army when it fell to Hitler (De Gaulle was the guy who opposed the surrender and escaped, of course). He kept his post through December 1941, meaning he was still in that position in the Vichy Government when Casablanca takes place. So no plot hole at all.

Janice said...

The whole premise of MURDER, SHE WROTE drives me crazy; are we really supposed to believe someone in that little tiny town is murdered every week?

And someone mentioned GRAVITY... I was pulling my hair out when Sandra Bullock read through the 3-ring-binder and thus learned how to fly the spaceship.

I envy people (my husband) who can be so easily entertained without questioning everything!

jbryant said...

I cut movies a little logic slack all the time as a viewer, but I think as writers we have to hold ourselves to a higher standard. I occasionally write with a partner, and sometimes on the final pass we'll say, "Well, there's a small logic problem with this line or that action, but probably no one will notice." But then we tackle it anyway, because it usually takes more time to self-justify taking the easy way out than it does to simply put some thought into fixing it.

jbryant said...

Janice: You must have watched only select episodes of MURDER, SHE WROTE. Jessica Fletcher traveled all over the world on various pretexts, so it's not like every case was in Cabot Cove. The main logic problem with that show, of course, was the fact that no matter where Jessica went, someone got murdered and she solved the case. You'd think after a while that relatives would think twice about inviting her for holiday dinners and such!

But I think a lot of this kind of stuff, especially with TV series, falls under the category of allowing the show its premise. For MURDER, SHE WROTE to be a murder mystery about an amateur sleuth, there has to be a murder every week. You learn to judge individual episodes on how well they work on their own, which is probably why most such series depend on stand-alone plots rather than continuing storylines and lots of recurring characters.

Gary Benz said...

Maybe I scanned too quickly, but all these comments and not one about an entire TV show franchise that was build on plot holes and illogic? That would be "24." Everything about that show's construct screamed "impossible." It was fun the first season but became increasingly annoying over its several seasons to the point where it became something you couldn't even "hate" watch.

Phillip B said...

A favorite film moment, when Michael York as Basil Exposition explains the details of time travel to Austin Powers - http://youtu.be/x8w95xIdH4o

Another favorite TV moment - can't find a clip for this one - when a exasperated Roger Ebert questioned Gene Siskel. Siskel had just questioned the believability of a film. Ebert asked "When you watch Casablanca, does it bother you that all the actors are dead?"

Amy said...

Memento annoys me. If Guy Pearce's character can't remember anything after that incident then how can he remember that he has a memory problem.

LouOCNY said...

Its not so much the sounds of explosions in space that bother me, but the SMOKE - every starship/star destroyer blows up in space with tons of smoke! When they were using models, I understand - but with CGI, there's still tons of SMOKE! At best all these doubletalk reactors blowing up would be big flashes of light and radiation patterns.

tb said...

After repeated viewings of "Goodfellas" something started to bug me. Why no consequences for DeNiro? He whacked several of his OWN GUYS to hog the Luftansa cash for himself.

benson said...

I'm sure somebody will explain is was Cameron's way of rebelling, but...the thing in FBDO that drives me crazy to this day is Cameron wearing a Detroit Red Wings sweater IN CHICAGO! There are things people in Chicago just wouldn't do and that is one of them. You might as well have had all three of them put ketchup on their hot dogs. NOOOOO!

Ken, I wonder if this bothered you as much as it bother me. WKRP in Cincinnati. HEADPHONES!

I hang up and listen.

Anonymous said...

I just saw "Birdman" and it bothered me that they were using footlights in a drama on Broadway, but it didn't bother me that Michael Keaton could fly.

Tom said...

I know it's not fair to the movie, but I can't sit through FERRIS anymore because it gives me the creeps to see Jeffrey Jones.

MikeK.Pa. said...

One plot point that got me last Sunday was how it easy it is to get access to the apartment of Carrie Mathers, the CIA bureau chief in Pakistan. What, no surveillance, silent alarms or remote cameras?

Re: HikenFan. So many great interviews to catch up on. Denoff, who was very gracious and complementary to the people who helped him, threw a special bouquet to Sheldon Leonard.

rg said...

John Hughes was from Detroit. And a big hockey and Howe fan. That's why Cameron were the jersey.

Gary said...

As a Superman fan dating back to the George Reeves era, I'm always amused when people say it's unbelievable that he could disguise himself as Clark Kent with a mere pair of glasses. Nobody questions that he's a being from another world who has super-strength, can fly, has x-ray vision, etc. But his secret identity? That's implausible!

VP81955 said...

That's why I can enjoy musicals and my husband can't. I can accept that they take place in a world where people spontaneously burst into song and elaborate dance routines, all to a full orchestral accompaniment. My husband can never get past, "But that never happens in real life."

Especially in the early musical films, their sensibilities were taken directly from the stage; in fact, Fred Astaire insisted there be no camera cutting during most of his song-and-dance routines, so as to completely replicate the Broadway experience. As a result, when Fred sings the sublime "Isn't This A Lovely Day" to Ginger Rogers during "Top Hat," he creates his own reality -- a reality many of us wouldn't mind living in.

My apologies regarding your husband, ma'am.

Dixon Steele said...

TB

You do know that GOODFELLAS was based on a true story, right?

Diane D. said...

Most of these comments involve story-related logic problems, but character-related logic problems can be more jarring. (Would this character really say that?)

Your remark that you sometimes get a great idea for a scene and then have to figure out how to get to it reminded me of an episode of Cheers where that might have been what happened. Sam tells an old friend of his to watch him "kiss his woman." I immediately thought there was no way Sam would say that. However, the scene that follows is one of the most hilarious I have ever seen. As Sam is kissing Diane, his friend says, "Yeah, Becky said you were the best kisser she ever had." Diane instantly bites down on his lip, and watching Sam try to extricate himself without losing his lower lip is funny enough to justify whatever device was needed to get to that scene. Ted Danson and Shelley Long, man what a pair!

Kirk D G said...

Ken.

As I'm watching Modern Family this week I started to think about how the series would end one day. Do writers typically have a plan for a series ending at this point and does it matter if it ends two years for six years from now?

Thanks

Kirk

Buttermilk Sky said...

You could empty the ice box going over all the holes in THE UNTOUCHABLES (screenplay by the esteemed David Mamet). Forget a man shot dozens of times and still able to communicate important information. Never mind an accountant, a G-man and two cops who happen to be expert horsemen. How about the judge who swaps juries in the middle of a trial? Bringing in one that was deciding a divorce? (Are divorce cases heard by federal juries in Illinois?) How was this not laughed out of the gigaplex?

I do like the Morricone music, though.

Cap'n Bob said...

The first anal sex scene I remember was on Hill Street Blues. The cop who growls gets it while cuffed to a pipe.

I used to be bothered by the letters of transit from Casablanca, too, until someone explained to me that the head of the Vichy government had a name like DeGaulle's.

Anonymous said...

I love Goldfinger. But Goldfinger is riddled with logic problems...

Why does Goldfinger elaborately explain his heist of Ft. Knox to the assembled gangsters if he knows he's going to kill them all? Obviously so the audience would know what was going on, but the gangsters are still dead.

Why does Odd Job kill Solo inside the Lincoln Continental instead of outside it? And why does he crush the Lincoln with the Solo's gold still in the trunk? He could have removed the gold first and saved himself the hassle of hauling the crushed Lincoln back to Auric Stud to pick out the gold.

Why is it that Jill Masterson is killed in Miami by painting her with gold paint, but the leave the unconscious James Bond alone to wake up in the room to discover her? Because if they had killed Bond then, the movie would've been over 20 minutes in.

And wouldn't Jill have woken up while being painted gold? Seems an inefficient way to kill someone.

After he has been betrayed by Pussy Galore, why does Goldfinger still have her flying his jet at the end of the movie? Makes no sense... except that it sets Pussy and Bond up for the finale.

After Bond has been captured in his Aston Martin, why do they let him drive it back to Auric Enterprises. It's dumb... but it let's Bond eject the henchman guarding him through the roof.

It goes on and on and on... but Goldfinger is the most beloved of James Bond movies and one of the greatest movies of the 1960s.

Because it's so damned charming you don't notice how stupid it is while you're watching it.

And if they filmmakers had tried to keep it all logical, it would be horrible.

Anonymous said...

Buttermilk Sky:
In the actual Capone trial, the judge did not swap juries but he did swap jury pools.

Wallis Lane said...

Thanks to all that cleared up the General Waygand / General De Gaulle mix-up from Casablanca. It had always baffled me why the Nazis would honor anything by De Gaulle. That just leaves me with the following conundrum: why didn't Bogart and Rains just get on the plane with Victor and Ilsa? After they shot Strasser, who was going to check them for exit permits anyway?

The worst logic problem I've encountered recently in the movies was in the already execrable Madagascar 3. The four main characters are in Africa, and want to get back to New York, but to do that that they supposedly need the help of the penguins, who have flown to Monte Carlo. Obviously the writers weren't creative enough to figure out how to get everybody to Monte Carlo, so in the next scene, it's revealed, in one quick cut, that they SWAM THERE (?!). It's never explained how a hippo, a lion, a zebra and a giraffe could swim 1000's of miles over open ocean, but even taking cartoon logic into account, if such was possible, why didn't they just SWIM TO NEW YORK INSTEAD and save us all from this hack job sequel?

Kaleberg said...

Different people have different iceboxes. Some are just faster than others. I saw the original Toy Story with a screenwriter friend. As we left the theater asked how Buzz Lightyear knew he should freeze when humans were present if he didn't know he was a toy. I hadn't noticed. He had probably noticed during the movie.

I once saw an interview with the woman in charge of continuity for The Seven Year Itch. At one point she apologized profusely to Billy Wilder for what she considered a serious mistake. Apparently she had forgotten that the bag of potato chips was originally on the left, not the right. Wilder took it seriously saying in effect: "Oh no! Every continuity girl in the theater is going to walk out in disgust. Luckily no one else is going to notice."

Thomas from Bavaria said...

I'll never understand how the Simpsons character can all start singing together at once. But that's probably a gift only people with yellow skin and four fingers have.

Johan said...

cd1515: The answers to your points, as I see them:
a: It's explained clearer in the book, but yes, Andy *had* been digging the tunnel for years. Red speculates (in the book) that he just got too afraid - insitutionalized - to actually go through with it.
b: It is shown - in the explaining flashback, if I'm not mistaken - that Andy had the poster fastened at the top and was digging with it hanging over his back. So it would have fallen back down when he left.

Jeffro said...

benson said, "...the thing in FBDO that drives me crazy to this day is Cameron wearing a Detroit Red Wings sweater IN CHICAGO! There are things people in Chicago just wouldn't do and that is one of them."

Well,
1) That was during the Bill Wirtz era where it was hard to see a Blackhawks game unless you attended in person, so the percentage of die-hard fans who would take any offense paled in comparison to those who fronted other Chicago pro teams like the Bulls and the Bears.

2) It wasn't just any Red Wings sweater, but a Gordy Howe #9 replica. That's Mr. Hockey himself! For any true fan of hockey in any market, especially fans of Old Time Hockey, that commands plenty respect. I'm a Broad Street Bullies fan for life and I even have a Gordie Howe replica jersey. Though I'll never ever wear it to a Flyers game, I have survived the streets of Philadelphia unscathed, and never insulted for donning it.

Cheerio,
Jeffro

Kosmo13 said...

In an episode of "the New WKRP in Cincinnati" series, the Herb Tarlek character consumed an alcoholic beverage. In the original WKRP series, Herb had been established as a recovering alcoholic.

His resumption of use of alcohol in the second series should've been a plot point or even multi-episode story arc with the other characters expressing concern. Viewers of that episode would be concerned about Herb falling off the wagon, but the show treated it so casually. It should've been a big deal like when Sam Malone resumed drinking.

For me as a viewer, that logic hole undermined the rest of the scene and episode. I kept expecting someone to raise the issue of "Herb is Drinking Again," instead of paying attention to whatever the episode really was about.

ODJennings said...

>The "Say a Little Prayer" scene in "My Best Friend's Wedding" is another example. It's an absurd musical number in the middle of an otherwise realistic movie <


That's nothing compared to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid when we suddenly have "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" in the middle of a Western about Train Robbers.

One of the strangest plot devices is in the first Bourne movie. For some reason, never explained, Bourne has a small metal container that, when surgically removed, has a laser that flashes the information about a secret Swiss safe deposit box on to the wall. And of course, the box contains, money, guns, passports--everything necessary to create a successful film franchise.

Without that, Bourne spends the rest of his life as a French fisherman.

Henry said...

The show "Hart to Hart" used to kill me with its lack of logic. Every week someone they knew was murdered. They were never actually called in to solve a case, but just happened to be there.

I've always wanted to ask the writers why they thought they could get away with that.

Greg Ehrbar said...

About 35 years ago, my brother and I came up with a phrase much like "Ice Box Logic" called GILLIGAN'S LAW.

Not to be confused with Vince Gilligan, GILLIGAN'S LAW is a two-tier process that starts at the ice box but continues with the viewer or viewers supplying his/her own offscreen reasoning.

"How come Maurice never saw the Beast's castle in the forest but Gaston was able to use the magic mirror to find it in minutes?"

"We didn't see it, but LeFou was looking at a map while everyone else was singing."

The mirror was like a magical GPS with a image of the forest pathways and a little arrow pointing the way."

And so on. Obviously GILLIGAN'S LAW is named for the pinnacle of all examples of the premise abyss. "why couldn't the professor build a radio after Gilligan broke the first one;" why could visitors to the island literally swim home but they could never leave?" etc.

To this day, my wife and kids and I say, "Gilligan's Law!" when one of us comes up with Ice Box Logic.

It's like Yahtzee.

V. Anton Spraul said...

THE BIG SLEEP was "cannibalized" from several short stories Chandler had written previously (as were several other Marlowe books). That's why the plots are so complex, and why sometimes there are pieces left over that just won't fit into the whole.

thirteen said...

"You can ask an audience to believe the impossible, but not the improbable." For example, Superman can fly. That's a fact, and audiences accept it readily. But flying around the Earth to make it spin backward, thus reversing time and ressurecting Lois Lane? That's just silly.

ODJennings said...

Another favorite is Sleepless in Seattle when Tom Hanks discovers his kid is on a plane to NYC to meet a crazed female stalker (something the audience completely willing to ignore because it's Meg Ryan and she's so cute, but that's another post).

Instead of calling the airline and telling them to hold the kid, or calling the NYPD, or just about anything sensible, Tom Hanks decides to get on a plane and follow his child to NY, leaving the child free to wander around Manhattan with a several hour head start.

Jason said...

Indiana Jones was also the one who figured out the rod and found the room with the ark in it, which was not at all where the Nazis were digging. He FOUND the ark.

Sure, at the end he was saved by, literally, a deus ex machine, but still.

diego said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
diego said...

ferris bueller spends the entire day scamming his way into situations. he fakes a serious illness to his parents' face. he talks cameron into letting him drive his dad's ferrari. he convinces the maître d' that he is the sausage king of chicago. talking his way onto a parade float was probably a walk in the park for him, and the only reason we don't see it is obviously so we can experience the reveal with cameron and sloan. to my eye, not a plot hole

Hank Gillette said...

Watching the most recent episode of The Flash, I had no problem accepting that a man could run several hundred miles an hour and that a woman could make object explode by touching them with her hands, but it really bothered me when a couple of lab techs told Barry that they created a special alcoholic beverage for him that was the equivalent of “500 proof”.

BetterYeti said...

Jason said: Indiana Jones was also the one who figured out the rod and found the room with the ark in it, which was not at all where the Nazis were digging. He FOUND the ark.

But . . . Without Indy, the Nazi's would have recovered the complete head of the Staff of Rah, had both sides, been able to figure out the correct height of the staff, and therefore dig in the right place. (Rather than relying on the one-sided impression burnt into Toht's hand after they burned down Marion's bar). I've been through this game with my son -- it's hopeless!!!

Mike said...

Battlestar Galactica, halfway through the last season, Xena tells them she knows the Final Five, then doesn't tell the crew who they are, but merely that they will come to her. Later in the episode she is killing hostages until they release them to her. But she won't tell them the identities of who they are supposed to release!

Mike said...

Teen Wolf, when he's shooting the free throws at the end, the other team's player is staring at him from right under the basket.

MikeN said...

And Saving Private Ryan, if that's Matt Damon doing the reminiscing, then how does he know what happened in the first 2/3 of the movie?

mike said...

Who cares what M Broderick thinks? He's a murderer.
http://www.fairfaxunderground.com/forum/read/40/608911.html

Mark P. said...

There was a really funny Stargate SG1 episode about a sci-fi TV show inadvertently based on the Stargate project, full of insider jokes and references. Actors in the sci-fi show-within-a-show were constantly questioning the script's inconsistencies to the writers and director.

"So you think aliens eat apples?"
"Why not, they speak English."

"I'm having a little trouble with scene 27. It says I'm out of phase, which means I can pass my hand through solid matter, or I can walk through walls."
"Yeah, yeah, 'cause you're out of phase."
"So... how come I don't fall through the floor?"
(director and writer look at each other)
"We're gonna have to get back to you on that one."

Jabroniville said...

This happens a lot in movies, especially old ones. Sometimes the ENTIRE PLOT makes no sense, but the movie can still work.

CASABLANCA is the best example- the whole "Letters of Transit" thing is stupid. The Nazis would never allow Laszlo to leave Casablanca, no matter what he was carrying. But the Letters are just a Plot Macguffin so you just ignore it and move on to the main point, which is that EVERYONE WANTS THE THINGS.

Disney's Beauty & The Beast, considered by many to be their finest film (I do, too), has a major plothole with the Beast having a 21st birthday be at the centre of his curse, yet he's already been a Beast for something like ten years in the story. Plus there's a castle only a mile or so from town that everyone seems to have forgotten once contained a Prince and all his servants. That one falls a bit more into "Ice box Logic" (Called "Fridge Logic" elsewhere).

Disney's Frozen has one where they never bother to explain WHY Anna needs to be locked up in the castle with her memory wiped. You're just supposed to accept it and move on, because Anna needs to be the reason Elsa accidentally unveils her powers later, and needs to be a naïve shut-in for the rest of the story to work.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

The only problem with the ice-box logic idea is that if the viewer has enough of those late-night "That makes no sense moments" they will lose all respect for your show and stop watching. Hitchcock could get away with it because a) he was Hitchcock and b) he made *movies*, not TV.

wg

Carrie said...

Henry said...
The show "Hart to Hart" used to kill me with its lack of logic. Every week someone they knew was murdered. They were never actually called in to solve a case, but just happened to be there.

I've always wanted to ask the writers why they thought they could get away with that.


They got away with it for five years, and again in half a dozen made-for-TV movies a decade later.

HART TO HART owed far more than Sidney Sheldon ever would have acknowledged to MR. AND MRS. NORTH, who were the title characters in a long-running string of mystery novels written by Richard and Frances Lochridge from the 1930s into the early '60s. The Norths were extremely popular in their day, the novels spinning off into a broadway play, a motion picture (with Gracie Allen--sans George Burns--as Pam North), a long-running radio series, and a short-lived TV series in the 1950s. As in HART TO HART, the Norths seemed to have nothing better to do with their lives than occupy themselves solving the murders that they stumbled into regularly.