Off the Top of my Head: Realism and the Reload Mentality

I’m a big fan of movies.  Bigger than most probably.  Due to my OCDs I tend to get stuck in a loop and watch and rewatch films over and over, so I can say without a doubt I’ve seen hundreds of shoot outs.  I can probably sit down one weekend and spend about 36 hours typing out the best 50 shoot outs I’ve ever seen and why they’re great.

Sometime during the late 80s and early 90s a trend began to become more common mocking great shootout scenes as being  “unrealistic.”  From the great westerns of Clint Eastwood and to the cartoon blast ups of Rambo and Commando scoffs of “how stupid look how fake that is” started to be heard in living rooms and theaters all over the country.  Then this sentiment spread to the internet.  Though this mockery has many facets one theme tended to overshadow the rest: guns use ammo, this ammo is limited, they never reload the guns so the movie is saying that six shooter hold 50 bullets.

I personally think this is a misunderstanding.  Just because we never SEE a gun reloaded doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.  The filmmakers have just decided that watching someone reload a gun isn’t as exciting as watching them shoot said gun.  I’m not sure who wants to see Josey Wales placing bullets in chambers, priming the caps, and cocking the hammer.  Not when we can see him taking out Kansas Red Legs with abandon.

As I said at the top of this post I’ve seen so many great shoot outs I can’t possibly count them.  I have seen only TWO scenes ABOUT reloading I’d consider to be good though.  Both worked into the story of the scene and both were used for tension.  Furthermore only one was in a really good movie!

  1. The first good reloading scene I’ve seen was in A Fistful of Dollars, Sergio Leone’s take on Yojimbo, when Joe and Ramon Rojo face off with pistol vs rifle.  One bullet each.  Who can load their weapon and get the other guy first?  Using music, short shots, and timing this scene made the reloading of those guns seriously effective.  It made sense to see it as it added to the scene and made for a great climax to some already fantastic shooty action.
  2. The second good reloading scene was in the Mel Gibson American Independence fantasy fiction The Patriot where Gibson’s film son, Heath Ledger and the movies Banastre Tarleton copy have a single-shot musket reload fight.  This tension was caused by the time it took to reload those 18th Century guns.  The best scene in the film, the two duelists miss their first shot then race to reload to get their second shots at close range.  Also tied into the story of the scene and integral to the tension, it was important to see them reload because who was first was going to get the other guy.

So why is reloading NOT important to see, despite the calls for “realism” in a movie?  Because it can be implied.  Yes that gun holds 16 rounds and one in the chamber.  It doesn’t mean we have to see every time they change the clip.  Yes that peacemaker holds 6 shots but they were remarkably dull to reload (open gate, expel spent shell, load new shell, one at a time) so why do I need to see this on film?  Filmmakers I think should stick with entertainment over the rallying cry for “realism” because movies aren’t real.  Don’t stop the action so we can see our hero put new bullets in his or her weapon unless it’s essential to the story or tension in the scene as above.  Otherwise it should be done as “stage business,” added in during a lull in the action.

That being said, I don’t need to see action heroes reload their guns, bows, or quivers any more than I need to see them go grocery shopping, fill a PEZ dispenser, or get gas…  Let’s use our imaginations to assume it happened and just enjoy some cordite-fuelled violence.

Now let’s forget how many bullets each kind of gun can hold and watch the kick-ass shoot out at the end of Hard Boiled.  This is the greatest shootout in history.  Any reloading done is incidental.  You DO see it, but those guns keep shooting long after they should but who CARES.  One of the best action runners in history…  Here’s how it’s done people…


American Horror Story: 5 Reasons to Love It

American Horror Story continues to gain viewers and attract more crazy people who can’t help but get sucked into the story – no matter how messed up.

And that’s what I love about it and one of many things that inspired this week’s post.

If you haven’t seen the show, it may not be your thing, but if you value a good story (as we often talk about here) and great acting it may be worth your time. Aside from the wicked stories and awesome acting, there are some special things I enjoy about the show:

1. It changes every season. New characters, new plot, new time period, and setting. It’s quite remarkable, and Entertainment Weekly revealed there is cross over, which only makes me want to watch it more, so I can put all the pieces together. It’s thoughtful, creative, and refreshing when things feel a little overdone in Hollywood.

2. The acronym. If you Google AHS, you will find American Horror Story. I love that. It wasn’t on purpose and just happened. When I text, “watching AHS,” that person knows exactly what I’m talking about. Not many shows develop a natural acronym.

3. Giving actors/actresses work. Before the show, I hadn’t seen Kathy Bates, Jessica Lange, or Angela Bassett in ages. There are several people who want to work in the industry but simply don’t fit into the “popular” crowd of today’s Hollywood. And these people are more talented than the ones getting work. It’s a shame, but that’s what I love about AHS. This show gives them a place and purpose, and they can create a following of their own.
This season also (Freak Show) even more to work with featuring stars and acts from freak shows and characters based on real-life “very special people”.

4. Horror at its best (by modern standards). Some people complain that it’s too disturbing, slow, gory, dark, etc. Well, the horror genre is not a happy place. It is not rainbows and unicorns. The horror genre takes your worst nightmares and discomforts and slaps you in the face. AHS does that, and only true horror fans can appreciate the dark and often disturbing tone of the show.

5. Respect to the genre. With that said, the writers and crew pay homage to many real-life horror stories and work them in. They also use angels and visuals that pay respect to the greats like Hitchcock and Carpenter. The score creeps you out during the opening credits, and who can’t help but love this week’s cover as Come As You Are. Last season, a scene was so deep, it made me cry. The show evokes emotions, makes you think, and can rip your heart it. AHS defines modern horror in the most beautiful way.

We look forward to hearing your thoughts and what you think of the show. Share and feel free to comment below!

Story of the Month: The Failure of Zombie Cookies


Halloween more than any other holiday is a “pot luck” holiday to me.

This year rather than just do something store bought I thought I’d go all out and MAKE something.  While I’m actually a pretty good cook, I’m a lousy baker, but I put that aside and decided to try my hand at making some cookies.  I found some really clever Thriller style dancin’ zombie cookie cutters and thought I’d make a nice Halloween zombie horde.

Knowing my limitations I decided against making dough from scratch and bought some tubes of sugar cookie dough.  I rolled it out and following the instructions got it to a certain thickness before applying the cutters.  As soon as I removed the cutter, however, the cookie fell to pieces.  I determined the dough to be too thin and re-rolled it a bit thicker.  I applied the cutter again, and upon removing it only the head and arms and legs stuck this time, leaving just a zombie torso.  .  While dismembered would be in-theme, it seemed like too much of a mess up again and I decided to scrap those too.

At this point the dough started to get sticky so I re-floured it and put it in the fridge.  After letting it chill I re-rolled it thicker and tried the cutters again.  This time when I took the cookie cutter off the arms and legs stretched WAY out making an octopus-armed zombie.  At this point I started to get angry.  Like REALLY angry.

I re-rolled the whole batch SUPER thick and used the cutters finally having cookies survive the process:


I didn’t have a cookie sheet so I put six of them on a pizza pan, put them in the oven to cook, and continued to cut the rest of the dough, making 30-40 dancin’ zombies.

When the timer went off and opened the oven and found the six zombie cookies I was baking had merged into one GIANT cookie on the pan.  Apparently cutting them thick enough to survive the cutters meant they were so thick they swelled and spread out while cooking!20141030_161330

They shattered into a mess when I took them off the pan and I tried to make only twoto see if they’d just swell without merging into a zombie-cookie-blob form.  It made this:


I made Venus of Willendorf Cookies



Finally furious beyond imagining I yelled “F*CK THIS!” wadded the rest up into a bowl and bought some friggin cookies at the store on the way in the next morning.

Though admittedly the pics of my baking failure and the story was a bigger hit at the pot luck than any dessert I could’ve made.

Here’s hoping if anyone has to do any baking for the rest of the holiday season it goes better than my experiment and failing that you at least get as good a story out of it…