CKL's HotSheet (unpublished)

August 2001


I recently watched _Crimson Tide_ again, and you know what my favorite
part of the movie was?  "Clean up after yourself."

In the third act, after Lt. Cdr. Hunter (Denzel Washington) and his
cohorts have been locked up in the officer's mess, they're having a
serious conversation about nuclear war.  Hunter is standing in front of
the coffee machine, and on the wall behind him is a handwritten paper sign
which says "clean up after yourself."

I find it endlessly amusing that, in a movie where the filmmakers have
employed so many visual cheats-- making submerged submarines and torpedoes
visible, shining video display "reflections" on people's faces, having
naval personnel salute while indoors-- they apparently felt the need to
post the "clean up after yourself" sign on the wall for realism,
regardless of its detraction from a dramatic scene.

I don't have a problem with exaggeration or even outright lies in movies.
Characters outrunning a grenade blast in _The Long Kiss Goodnight_?  Yeah,
sure, whatever.  It's fun to watch.  Machines enslaving humans and using
their body heat as an energy source in _The Matrix_?  Yeah, okay, if you
say so.  Just move on to the next action scene already, willya?

Don't even get me started on _Armageddon_.

_Crimson Tide_, on the other hand, makes a genuine effort to be a serious
drama.  There are endless discussions about military procedure and the
chain of command, and the movie goes so far as to show us officers and
crew performing specific tasks during a missile launch drill.  The
producers clearly did significant research to make those sequences, if not
actually accurate, appear accurate.

That's what filmmaking is all about, really.  It doesn't matter if
something is real, as long as it looks real.  Sometimes the particular
ways in which something looks unreal make the impact.  Of course, all this
assumes that the movie is aware of and acknowledges the gap between
physical reality and what is portrayed onscreen.

What bothers-- or, in this case, amuses-- me is when a filmmaker