Excuse me Mr. Andy Rooney, for furrowing my unkempt eyebrows, and muscling in on your turf here, but- I’d like to ask a silly question to the world at large… Why is it the purveyors of movie magic, who have mastered all facets of genetics and technology, who can mold flesh like clay, who can mutate and evolve creatures at will, who plumb deep space and animate alien life, who can set loose all manner of creeping death and leaping horror, who can obliterate planets, set hordes in motion, bring the dead to shambling life, who hold sway over the cataclysmic forces of nature, who have dominion over the very fabric of space and time itself and can as such pretty convincingly re-shape reality in any manner necessary… why can’t people with these incredible powers manage to composite a single believable looking family photo?

We see it again and again, the panning shot over a shelf cluttered with family photos. It’s short-hand. It appears early in the film and is meant to quickly offer context, fill in back story, hint at motives, and clarify character relationships. They are images of fishing trips and days in the park and summers in front of monuments. They bring depth to the desperate cop, the grieving widow, the bad seed, the divorced father, the orphaned child. They are important as emotional ballast for our underdeveloped characters and yet… they always seem to look ridiculous.

I wonder why? Is it because-

a) The filmmakers blew the FX budget on other things, like say… texture mapping some charisma onto the leads, building an animatronic Xenu-bot to help motivate the cast, or late fees on the rented smoke machines, strobes, and industrial sized turd-polisher?

b) The job was farmed out to the children of a congenitally near-sighted tribe in Papa New Guinea who, being unfamiliar with technology, still believe photographs represent stolen souls, and in as much would handle them only with their elbows and toes?

c) The actors involved were all uncommonly humble and so lacking in the narcissism which would seem part and parcel to the job that there were practically no photos of them in existence at all, and thus the FX team had insufficient source material to draw from?

d) Along with de-lousing used merkins, pre-testing the viscosity of all fake vomit, and fastening the motion capture thingys to the lead actor’s taint… the family photo composite is the onus of an intern?

e) We have much more first hand experience with snapshots than with 40 foot tall laser-eyed alien death-bringers who do battle with heroic unicorns made of pure energy, and so are more apt to notice inconsistencies in one than the other?

f) They just suck at it?

You tell me, internet.

08.27. filed under: inquiries. 5