When Pet Peeves Intrude On An Otherwise Enjoyable Motion Picture

Watching The Nice Guys again this morning…solid movie, by the way, very entertaining…

…I was reminded of something, trivial by most viewers’ standards, I’m sure, that annoyed me the first time around: The film’s anachronistic use of Pop music on the soundtrack, particularly during the lengthy scene that takes place at a large house party in the Hollywood hills.

In the film, Earth, Wind & Fire is the band performing at the party. Boogie Wonderland is heard at the beginning of the scene.

The movie announces at the outset it takes place in 1977, presumably near the end of that year, since the movie concludes during the Christmas season.

Boogie Wonderland wasn’t released until early 1979. It peaked on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in April of that year.

Later in the party scene, Get Down On It by Kool And The Gang, is heard. That song wasn’t released until November 1981.

Visually, the film engages in at least one anachronism that I noticed. There’s a shot of a billboard overlooking Sunset Boulevard which is promoting Jaws 2 with the famous poster art from that film’s wide release…of June 1978.

nice guys collageSharpen

If Jaws 2 was promoted on a billboard in L.A. in late 1977– maybe it was– I doubt that it would have utilized this particular artwork. After all, the sequel’s teaser poster featured this artwork…

jaws-2-red-poster

…not this:

Jaws_2_poster_1978_01

Back then, in the Seventies, even stretching into the Eighties, it was not the norm for a summer release to receive its initial promotional kick during the Thanksgiving-Christmas season of the previous year. Newspaper and magazine ads, TV spots, radio spots, etc, tended not to appear until a week or two before a movie’s nationwide premiere.

The movies receiving a promotional push during November-December 1977 were those either in wide release or about to be released: Saturday Night Fever, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, The Gauntlet, The Choirboys, The Goodbye GirlTelefon, Semi-Tough…but not upcoming summer releases. Not Damien: Omen II. Not Grease. Certainly not Jaws 2.

As a kid who paid attention to movies, both current and upcoming, I don’t remember hearing a word about Jaws 2 until late Spring/early Summer of 1978. Why would the summer release of Jaws 2 be promoted during November-December of 1977 in Los Angeles, but not the rest of the country? Maybe it was, in L.A.– after all, I wasn’t there– but I’m skeptical.

nice guys 03 pre-CGI
Screenshot from the trailer. Notice the blank billboards where Airport ’77 and Jaws 2 are featured in the finished film.

These are pop culture anachronisms that most viewers wouldn’t notice at all, I’m sure, but this kind of thing annoys me, mainly because it takes me out of the story for a moment as I realize “wait a minute, this is supposed to be 1977; why are they playing a song from 1979?”. For me, such mistakes indicate a glaring, disappointing lack of attention to detail.

A Hollywood production of this scale, utilizing professionals at every level, including post-production music supervision, shouldn’t be falling down on the job of recreating a historical period like this, especially when it’s a time period that’s fairly recent.

There’s also talk at the end of the film, when Ryan Gosling’s character predicts that, within five years (of 1977), everyone will be driving electric cars made in Japan. Having been eight years old in 1977, I remember visiting an open house for a newly constructed solar-powered house and hearing a lot of talk about solar power…and the coming Ice Age, which had been trumpeted in the news media…but I have absolutely no memory of electric cars being part of the national discussion.

I don’t know if I’d call the electric car reference anachronistic, since the first electric car, after all, was built during the 1800s, but, nonetheless, the reference felt out of place.

Growing up with a father who watched every movie about World War II that got released, I heard a lot of complaints whenever filmmakers would try to pass off an American Sherman tank for a German Tiger, or a Soviet tank for a Panzer, etc.

After a while, as I got older and noticed he’d dismiss certain movies which hadn’t gotten the authenticity aspect correct, I started to wonder, But, Dad, what about the rest of the movie?

Did the director know how to stage action sequences? Is the script any good? Does the acting work? Is the story suspenseful? Are the locations shot in a colorful, compelling style? Or is the military authenticity aspect so important to you that it taints the entire film when it doesn’t deliver?

I couldn’t understand how it was he could get so hung up on technical details that he’d judge the entire picture by them.

Years later, here I am, judging movies by how accurately they utilize songs and film references from the eras in which their stories are set…and when filmmakers foul it up, all I can do is roll my eyes and shake my head. It’s not something most viewers would even notice, but, for me, it’s a distraction that prevents me from suspending my disbelief and escaping into the movie, even if only for a minute or so while I’m watching it.

Like father, like son, I guess.

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