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Kate and Leopold
I finally watched "Kate and Leopold", having resisted for years because despite having a weakness for time slip romances, and a fondness for Hugh Jackman, I always thought it would probably irritate me. Which it did, in many ways, although I set my annoyance meter low enough that I could enjoy it for the piece of undemanding (if somewhat suspect) fluff it is.

The worst bit? When Leopold shows up J.J. (Jay like Gatsby?) as a poseur by revealing he knows all about "La Boheme" and J.J. is faking. At this point, Kate should have stared at him and said, "I thought you said you were from 1876? So how come you're such an authority on an opera that wasn'r written until twenty years later?" (And then I guess, he reveals that in his copious spare time, in the hours left over between learning how to use the toaster,telephone and other modern devices, he watched it on DVD and memorized the songs.) But nooooo -- she swallows it, and why not; this is meant to be another part of his old-fashioned, cultured education, as the audience is presumed to be as clueless as Kate. It's The Past! When people talked all formal and women wore long dresses and there was all this cultural stuff going on in the background. Yet it could have been ANY opera -- Leo has to come from 1876 so the movie can start with the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge. (I'm assuming that at least really was the correct date.)

And it's so unnecessary! ANY opera, or piece of music, or play could have been used to make the same thudding point.

That bit of stupid muddling with history really irritated me, yet I wasn't bothered by the pretense that this fictitious Duke of Albany had invented (or would invent) the elevator, and then name his elevator company after his butler, Otis. But, then, THAT was funny. A butler named Otis! Yeah, right.

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Comments
hippoiathanatoi From: hippoiathanatoi Date: November 26th, 2009 10:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
What's funny is that one of the foreign countries fixed that particular problem when they dubbed it...

... Yeah, Italy. ;) They changed the reference from "La Boheme" to Verdi's "La Traviata".

There's some other goofs there, like his familiarity with "The Pirates of Penzance" and also "Tosca", both performed after 1876.

Oh, and they got the Brooklyn Bridge date wrong, too. 1883. Don't really get the shoddiness there.
tournevis From: tournevis Date: November 26th, 2009 11:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
Actually, the Otis bit drove me batty. Because Otis is a real guy from Montreal and not a gale British butler. The only bit that I like in this movie is the dishwasher scene That is funny.
thefirstalicat From: thefirstalicat Date: November 27th, 2009 01:20 am (UTC) (Link)
The film "Pirate Radio" (aka "The Boat That Rocked") might irritate you too, then, as although it's set in 1966 Britain and concerns all the pirate radio stations broadcasting rock'n'roll to the UK from ships on the ocean, a fair percentage of the songs played on the soundtrack weren't actually recorded until 1968 or 1969....Me, I loved the movie anyway, but the anachronisms are quite clear - and, as in "Kate and Leopold," totally unnecessary, as 1966 saw a huge volume of brilliant pop music busting out all over, no need to stray into later years for good music....

Then again, the inventor of the elevator naming it after his butler, Otis? Yeah, that is funny {g]!
lisatuttle From: lisatuttle Date: November 27th, 2009 02:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've been wanting to see "The Boat that Rocked" and I did know that it took liberties with the facts (for one thing, making the offshore "station" big enough for the visitors it never really had) but I HAD NO IDEA that they weren't using authentic period music, and that's the one thing I thought a film-maker WOULD get right!

I mean, artistic license is one thing... and using non-period music is another (I know some people hate it when the background music in a costume drama is from the wrong period, but I just think of it as background music and it doesn't bother me at all if it seems emotionally right) but to get that kind of recent cultural detail wrong (deliberately? or through ignorance?) raises a lot of questions, e.g. what the hell were you thinking???

And yet...of course, it is a fiction, and there's that little thing called "artistic license." Maybe an artistic license should be more specific, and only renewable if it's used to good purpose.
thefirstalicat From: thefirstalicat Date: November 28th, 2009 03:08 am (UTC) (Link)
I HAD NO IDEA that they weren't using authentic period music, and that's the one thing I thought a film-maker WOULD get right!

Well, this is the thing, isn't it - the movie makers certainly chose to use songs from a later time, it just makes no sense why they would make that choice! I mean, you've got tons of Beatles and Stones and Hollies and Petula Clark for chrissakes to pick from in 1966 alone, leaving out all the non-British stuff like ALL of Motown (and Stax too). Choosing songs for "dramatic effect" is one thing, but they certainly had all the songs they needed for any drama in the posited year. Indeed, looking at my Billboard Book of Number One Hits (you want reference books? I got reference books!), the fabulous "Lightnin' Strikes" by Lou Christie was number one on February 19, 1966, and how much more dramatic can you get than that {g}?

OTOH, we just tonight watched the wonderful "Topsy-Turvy," Mike Leigh's film about Gilbert and Sullivan and the creation of "The Mikado," and although I'm not familiar with much of G&S, I am absolutely certain that not only was all the music right, but all the conventions of 1880s London were correctly shown too, down to the busy wallpaper in people's drawing rooms.
ellen_kushner From: ellen_kushner Date: November 27th, 2009 05:40 am (UTC) (Link)
Ah!! I've been trying to remember the name of that movie for years! Nobody told me about it, or told me I'd enjoy it, so my expectations were low & I enjoyed it thoroughly.

I can get pretty damn snippy about historical inaccuracy, but I realize, looking at all your notes & comments, that I know few 19c dates - no idea when "Pirates" or even "Boheme" came out. I guess this means I should be more charitable when they get the headdresses or waistlines wrong in 16c stuff, instead of foaming at the mouth about how they think we're all morons, huh?
hippoiathanatoi From: hippoiathanatoi Date: November 27th, 2009 10:48 am (UTC) (Link)
I wonder whether one should have different standards according to the medium. Would you hold film productions to a higher or lower standard than literary works? I'm thinking one should do so, just because your typical film production has way more resources and manpower being thrown at it than your typical literary work... but they rarely, if ever, seem to really exert themselves.

With a $50 million budget (as Kate & Leopold was reported to have had), they could have put a dozen fact-checkers on the job and put the world's foremost experts on 19th c. opera, elevators, bridges, etc. on retainer and barely make a dent in that budget. But they didn't, so the laziness seems even more galling.

The writer has much more excuse, being harrassed by deadlines (certainly), lacking more than two hands (usually), and penurious to boot (probably).
lisatuttle From: lisatuttle Date: November 27th, 2009 02:36 pm (UTC) (Link)

Kate and Leopold

When I realized that the Brooklyn Bridge wasn't opened until 1882, the carelessness about dates began to seem more than just a few mistakes. If the filmmakers wanted to fudge things they would have done better never to have mentioned a specific date. (In fact, even the elevator was invented decades before the film implies!) It's all so gratuitous, I imagine a story put together by committee, choosing stuff they wanted (opening of the Brooklyn Bridge, "La Boheme" and "Pirates of Penzanze" references from a refugee from 1876 -- a date plucked out of the air) without any regard for chronology or mere fact -- hey, it's a fantasy, it's all made up anyway! THey might hire fact-checkers and create rationalizations for departing from known facts in a bio-pic or "historical" film, but not if it's "just" a fantasy.
fjm From: fjm Date: January 21st, 2010 03:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hi, this is Farah. HAve just friended you.
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