Saucers of Mud

September 13, 2007

Plot Hole

Filed under: Uncategorized — matt w @ 4:34 pm

Spoiler for the Manchurian Candidate (original version only, perhaps):

What do Raymond Shaw’s mind controllers do when his game of solitaire doesn’t turn out? If the Queen of Diamonds is at the bottom of the rightmost stack, do they just not do their mind-controlly thing that day?



  1. It’s been a while since I saw the movie. Does Shaw shuffle?

    Comment by CharleyCarp — September 13, 2007 @ 6:40 pm

  2. Maybe that’s the clue: Raymond Shaw isn’t the assassin. You’re seeing that because Ben Marco (Frank Sinatra) _thinks_ Shaw is the assassin. But Marco was brainwashed too …

    Comment by Ben — September 13, 2007 @ 8:30 pm

  3. You’re seeing that because Ben Marco (Frank Sinatra) _thinks_ Shaw is the assassin.

    An ingenious forerunner of The Conversation, and all the subtler because the mistake is never revealed to the audience, except that they’re as attentive as Weiner and cunning as Ben!

    Comment by ben wolfson — September 19, 2007 @ 4:38 pm

  4. What if “Ben” and “Weiner” were the same person??!

    Oh wait, that was Fight Club. Nevermind.

    Comment by Ben — September 20, 2007 @ 5:06 pm

  5. I’m just going to change the headnote of this post to “Spoilers for every damn movie.”

    Comment by Matt W — September 20, 2007 @ 8:29 pm

  6. At what point does one have to stop worrying about spoiler notices? For example, I didn’t see Empire Strikes Back until 1999 (yes I know that is evidence of cultural illteracy and insufficient respect for the canon). Somehow in the interim I had figured out the climactic revelation that Darth Vader is Luke’s fa–[CRUNK]. Should I be mad at whoever “spoiled” it for me? Do I have to ask for clearance to land before every time I squeal “Soylent Green is PEOPLE!!” Oh damnit, spoiled another one. And yes, I do say that often.

    Comment by Ben — September 20, 2007 @ 10:58 pm

  7. Oh, I think all these movies are well past the Spoiler Statute of Limitations. My favorite example is “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”; when you read it you can tell that there’s supposed to be some big question about what kind of hold Hyde has over Jekyll that’s making Jekyll leave him all his money etc., but dude, it’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

    If I’m not mistaken our mom spoiled Empire for us back in 1980, without having seen the movie herself. Someone said to her “You’ll never guess what you find out about Skywalker and Vader in this movie” and she said, “He’s his father?” The person was impressed.

    Is Lucas’s intent that you watch them from Episode I forward now? Because that whole “Anakin Skywalker” thing would be a touch spoily for the big Empire Strikes Back reveal, too.

    Comment by matt w — September 21, 2007 @ 2:03 pm

  8. Though in fact I’ve never seen The Conversation.

    Comment by matt w — September 21, 2007 @ 2:03 pm

  9. It doesn’t matter what George Lucas’s intent is. It matters what the community of Star Wars fanatics thinks the right order is. They can decide what is canonical. (You probably know this: in the Star Trek and Star Wars universes/franchises, there is an entire body of scholarship built up around constructing an internally consistent “canon” and explaining away inconsistent timelines or plot developments, or just throwing them down the memory hole.)

    It’s only a matter of time before the fans manage to evade Lucas’s copyright police and produce recut versions to suit their own tastes and orthodoxies (this has already been done to eliminate the annoying Jamaican guy, I believe).

    The Star Wars prequels are perhaps the best example of my theory of retroreader response criticism, or retrospective cultural market correction. An artist’s subsequent creations actually influence his or her previous work. While that may seem like a timeline violation, it is not in the framework of reader response theory. The later Star Wars movies, for many people (I haven’t seen them, but I heard the complaints! And even the trailers were pretty yuck) disappoint expectations raised by the “classic” movies (original canon). I am claiming, further, that the prequel movies actually amplify and extend hackish tendencies in the originals, and that the originals are permanently devalued because one can no longer write off their not lovably-cheesy, but just bad-cheesy, aspects.

    There are plenty of other examples. For ex, the breakout novels of Jay McInerney and Bret Easton Ellis, devalued by their later work. Late U2 reminds you that even early U2 was, ya know, a little pompous. This is not just the common fact that an artist’s work just goes downhill or fails to recapture later heights. Everybody thinks F. Scott Fitzgerald’s late work doesn’t reach the heights of Gatsby, but nobody seriously reads the late books and decides that Gatsby is just warmed-over John O’Hara.

    Comment by Ben — September 22, 2007 @ 9:24 pm

  10. Re 7: mea spoila, mea spoila, mea maxima spoila! (beats breast)
    As for the statute of limitations, I always feel that people shouldn’t casually reveal the identity of “Rosebud”–but that’s me. Somebody said, “Time is God’s way of preventing everything from happening at once,” but now everything IS happening at once: reruns, prequels, retro fashion…

    Comment by Matt's mom — September 24, 2007 @ 7:34 pm

  11. I assume you’re joking with breast-beating. I mean, if you could figure out the plot twist without even seeing the movie, that’s not your fault.

    Charles Schulz spoiled “Rosebud” for me — Linus is watching Citizen Kane, which he’s never seen before, and as Lucy’s walking away she says “Rosebud was his


    sled.” At the time I was like, “Why is that funny?” Eventually I realized that it was because Lucy had given away the mystery, and I was annoyed. Though one of my colleagues says that anything that’s worth reading/watching should be worth reading/watching even after you know the spoiler — which is I think true, but knowing spoilers can be bad.

    Still, as someone said about The Sixth Sense, “You watch it once for the surprise, then a second time to see how they set up the surprise, then a third time to realize it stinks.” I said that I’d had it spoiled but that I figured that just meant I could watch it the first time for the second time, and he said, “Yeah, that’s two hours saved from your life.”

    Ben, what you’re describing seems related to, but different from, the Problem/Law of Crappy Sequels discussed here and here; more like the Larry David time travel problem.

    I’m not actually sure that late U2 is any more pompous than early U2. Isn’t Achtung Baby! their least pompous album?

    Comment by matt w — September 24, 2007 @ 7:52 pm

  12. I was really happy the most recent time I watched Rear Window, that it had been long enough since the previous time I had watched it for me to forget what happens at the end. The experience of watching a great movie is distinct from the experience of being held in suspense waiting to find out what happens, thinking you’ve got it figured out, getting your expectations inverted — but certainly both are nice experiences. If you can have them both together, well, all to the better.

    Comment by The Modesto Kid — September 25, 2007 @ 8:06 am

  13. You should really see The Conversation.

    Comment by ben wolfson — September 29, 2007 @ 12:43 pm

  14. Directed at my 11 or at matt’s 8? Because looking at its description on IMDB it sounds like something I would like and indeed to have things in common with Rear Window.

    Comment by The Modesto Kid — September 29, 2007 @ 5:15 pm

  15. Blow Up is better.

    Comment by foeb — September 29, 2007 @ 7:23 pm

  16. I wasn’t that into Blow Up.

    Comment by matt w — September 29, 2007 @ 7:40 pm

  17. No. I can tell. Blow Out is more your speed.

    Comment by foeb — September 29, 2007 @ 10:53 pm

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