Tim Cogshell is film critic for KPCC's Off-Ramp and Filmweek, and for Alt Film Guide. He blogs at CinemaInMind.
Continuity errors in cinema are legend. There are a some classic doozies, like the croissant Julia Roberts is chomping in "Pretty Woman" that becomes a pancake.
The errors come in a number of categories, from crew and equipment earnestly working to get the shot they are in, to props magically appearing and disappearing between cuts, to material or narrative anachronisms.
Sometimes they matter, sometimes they don’t -- who cares if Rick's trench coat is wet when he boards the train in Paris?! -- and sometimes they make the movie. Here’s a quick DIY Film Festival of films you might want to see for their dubious continuity - and you can judge for yourself if they break or make the movie.
1. "Almost Famous" (2000)
Deep Purple’s "Burn" figures prominently in the background of a scene from writer-director Cameron Crowe’s "Almost Famous," set in 1973.
A precocious teen, Crowe was a writer for "Rolling Stone" in 1975. He spent time on the road with The Eagles, the band on which he based the fake iconic rock band, Stillwater, in "Almost Famous." And he wrote the definitive cover story on The Eagles. But he got a lot of the music wrong in the movie. That Deep Purple album was released 1974. There are a few of those in "Almost Famous" - along with some T-shirts for tours that wouldn’t happen for another decade. To fans of classic rock these errors ruin the movie, but most people don’t even notice them.
2. "Posse" (1993)
Director Mario Van Peebles 1993 film "Posse" is set in 1898, but a crowd shouting "No justice, no peace" is straight out of 1992, along with the late great Nipsey Russell asking, "Can't we all just get along?!"
These anachronisms were controversial at the time. Some critics and audiences - out for a rooting-tooting cowboy movie - called it blunt political commentary that the broke suspension of disbelief ... As if casting Big Daddy Kane and Tone Loc didn’t already do that.
3. "Born on the 4th of July" (1989)
Don McLean’s "American Pie" is forever associated with Oliver Stone’s "Born of the 4th of July." The song is played and heard by characters in the film several times ... in scenes set 1969. The problem? The album was released in 1971. Still - would any other song do? The of loss of an American ideal represented in Don McLean’s ode to Buddy Holly is a perfect metaphor for the American ideal lost by Ron Kovic. This movie and that song go together, continuity be damned.
4. "The Hurt Locker" (2008)
At one point in "The Hurt Locker," specialist Owen Eldridge, played by Brian Geraghty, says “.... they’re going to put me on YouTube.” Nope. "Hurt Locker" is set in 2004 and YouTube did not launch until 2005, which the producers of this film, which came out in 2008, should have thought about in 2007. Or maybe not, because it won a bunch of Academy Awards in 2009.
5. "TNT Jackson" (1974)
But my favorite continuity mistake of all time is in an early 70s Blaxploitation classic called "TNT Jackson." It stars stars Jeannie Bell as a young black karate expert out to avenge her brother’s death on the mean streets of Hong Kong.
There are a number of badly staged karate fight sequences in the movie, and Jeanne kicks much fake karate ass in all of them. But this was an exploitation film after all, so one of those fight scenes takes place when the exciting TNT Jackson is wearing nothing but a pair of panties and a wicked afro. During this perfectly fabulous scene, TNT kills the lights to even her odds against her multiple attackers.
When the lights come back on, the intrepid Ms. Jackson is wearing different panties. They were brown. Now they're white. The lights go out and come back on again. And the panties change again. You can’t help but notice ... because she’s only wearing the panties and the wicked afro. This is a perfectly crazy continuity mistake. And I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world.