Joe Queenan on Movie Plots that Technology Killed

Posted on August 1, 2011 at 8:00 am

Brilliantly funny Joe Queenan has a great piece in The Guardian about how today’s technology would have saved some classic movie characters a lot of misery — and eliminated the plots for the movies and the enjoyment for the audiences.

Imagine Janet Leigh, driving around with that stolen money, looking for a place to spend the night.  She’d check Trip Advisor on her iPhone and end up bypassing the Bates Motel.  And Clint Eastwood could use caller ID to block those “Play Misty for Me” calls from Jessica Walter.  The mistaken identity in “North by Northwest?”  Not after Google!

You’ll think of some of your own examples when you read his list.  “Casablanca?”  You could print out fake letters of transit using Photoshop.  “Citizen Kane?”  He wouldn’t have to spend all that money on the newspaper; he could be a blogger!



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9 Replies to “Joe Queenan on Movie Plots that Technology Killed”

  1. I’m not so sure. There were always plenty of “idiot plots” (i.e., movies where everyone has to behave like an idiot for the plot to hold together.) There have also been movies where the quirks of a technology drove the plot:
    > Pillow Talk
    > Bells Are Ringing
    > Desk Set

    But there’s usually a way around it, or put a new twist on it. In “The Sting” for example, the con is built around intercepting telegraph signals. If you paid attention, in “The Grifters”, the same con is used, but using computers a much shorter lag time.

    It’s not fair to take a story out of its period. For instance, “Rear Window” isn’t plausible anymore – air conditioning has closed everyone’s windows, and ADA design would make it less likely Jimmy Stewart would be stuck in his apartment. “Singin in the Rain” would just hook Lola Lamont up to an auto-tune box.

    For every hole, there is a plug: for Queenan’s “Psycho” example, Norman Bates might have set up bogus identities (does he know how to do that?) to keep his internet ratings high.

  2. …and on further consideration, the Bates Motel internet rating would make it MORE likely Marion Crane would go there than a clean, high traffic place – she’s hiding out, remember?

    1. Good points, Kevin L, with some good ideas for contemporary movie plots based on today’s challenges. Your list of technology-plotted movies has three of my all-time favorites. And don’t forget “Singin’ in the Rain.”

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