Pardon the interruption - I was in California for the last few days. Visited my buddy Mitch in L.A., and even had the pleasure to briefly meet Craig Kennedy. Then another wedding and catching up with the crew in San Diego.
So at my friend's place in San Diego, I was reminded of a feature that I've been meaning to get off the ground for a while: "Only in the Movies", otherwise known as movie clichés. These are, obviously, the distracting things in movies that completely remove you from the experience because they're so out of touch with reality.
Who uses answering machines anymore?
I thought I might be going out on a limb with this one, but the stats are out there: "According to USA Today, the number of homes that only use cell phones jumped 159% between 2004 and 2007. It has been particularly bad in New York; since 2000, landline usage has dropped 55%. It's logical that as cell phones rise, many of them replacing traditional landlines, that there will be fewer answering machines."
That alone is strong enough evidence, but I would argue that even those who still have landlines often have digital voice mail instead of a physical machine next to their phone. Forgive the hyperbolic metaphor, but there are probably about as many microtape answering machines around these days as there are rotary phones (or for that matter, pay phones). Yet, in movie after movie, these beeping machines continue to make an appearance.
Typically, we get an answering machine scene to relay a message from a character that we would otherwise not see: protagonist arrives home, tosses belongings onto a nearby chair, sees archaic machine flashing with a red light and displaying a digital number, hits red button, and hears a loud, clear message played back in between obnoxious beeps.
It's a shortcut for advancing the story, and it usually does the job. Besides, how else would we hear those plot-driving messages if the character was - as they would in real life - checking their voice mail with their phones up to their ears?
So I get the reason, but I'm still distracted by it, and I still think that it's especially out of place in so many movies with contemporary stories, like The Savages. Personally, I find it easier to relate to the characters when I can plug in to what they're doing. In Tell No One, for example, we were able to check out a cryptic email along with the main character, Alexandre. Considering most of us probably get as many (if not more) messages relayed to us via email and not phone, I thought it was a step in the right direction. This advancement of technology can be abused, however. Am the only who raised an eyebrow at the extreme dependence on text messaging in The Departed?
By this point you're probably rolling your eyes that I could be so bothered by something as silly as phone technology in movies. All I can say is, we all observe different details in different movies, and this is one of several that irks me every time.