Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Why I shouldn't be allowed to have free time

I have this block of time right now -- about an hour and 20 minutes with very little to do but watch the clock. Sadly, this means that my brain kicks in (as opposed to kicks out, I guess) and, unfettered, begins to dredge up all the questions I have been mulling over for years. So, in an effort to keep myself busy, I am now going to present something which has been bugging me for a long time. Now, I did a very quick and cursory Google search to see if anyone else has dealt with this. I found a site which might have but all the relevant forum posts were experiencing "database errors" which looked to me more like they had all been deleted. I speak today of the chronological illogic of The Blues Brothers.

Just for the record, I love the movie. I think it is one of the prime examples of modern American cinema, nigh on perfect. And I speak not of the overall time line (those fateful 5 days in August). My problem is with the events on the final evening.

I will lay it out from memory, and with the most generous math I can muster.

The movie leads up to that one amazing show at the "Palace Hotel Ballroom" to be found “up north on Lake Wazzapamani". It is the kind of place which, if filled can make you 5000 bucks, easy, according to local entertainment figure and booking agent Maury Sline. I can't find anything definitive but let's assume that the show starts at 9PM. Often shows start at 8 around here but there is no announced opening act so I will assume 9.

By 9, the show has not begun. The Blues Brothers have run out of gas. Cut to the crowd getting restless. Eventually, Cab Calloway steps in. At what point would the crowd, having paid 2 dollars a person for a band they didn't know, start to stomp and shout for the band? I guess 30 minutes, tops. So at 9:30, Cab gets on stage and does a rousing rendition of Minnie the Moocher. The song clocks in at around 3 minutes, magical realism included. The time is now, at best 9:35.

While this is happening, Jake and Elwood show up, park and sneak in. They give Cab the high sign and he starts the intro. How long? Maybe another 15 minutes total, because I'm in a good mood. The boys end up on stage at around 10. Does that seem fair?

Song number one -- Everybody Needs Somebody to Love. How long? Three and a half minutes including applause. They move right into Sweet Home Chicago. Now before we discuss how long this song is, I should point out that they scoot out at about 2:51 of the song. Then the car chase begins. While the song is playing, they have to get to the car, outwit Carrie Fisher and start driving. The song is still playing -- the youtube version has it total at 7:52 but I found reference to a 20 minute version from another band. So by now, it has to be about 10:30 at the absolute latest. Now wait, you say -- maybe they played other songs in between and there was an entire show! Well, the Blues Brothers played a complete show in 1978 at Winterland -- 50 minutes. The Blues Brothers Band played a show in 1990 at the Montreux Jazz Festival which ran to 59 minutes. Great, put the time at 11:30 -- remember, I'm being generous here.

When they reach the car, we hear the immortal line, "It's 106 miles to Chicago we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, its dark and we're wearing sunglasses." One hundred and six miles. We know that they don't drive straight because they go the wrong way on a highway at least once. We also know that they exceed the speed limit (in downtown Chicago they drove over 100 miles per hour), but let's slow them down. Sixty miles an hour, door to door. One hundred and six miles total. Up it to 150 because they had to take detours. Heck, let's bump it to 240 which was written in one draft of the script!

Assuming they leave at 11:30. Assuming they drive 240 miles. Assuming that they stay at 55 MPH, their trip takes them 4 and a half hours. The time is 4 AM. On that fateful Thursday morning, the tax assessor's office opened at 8:30 AM!

But not only does dawn break during their trip (even though, on August 9, the time of dawn is 5:22AM), not only is it broad daylight by the time they get there, not only is the office building open and bustling, and the tax assessor's office open, but the guy working there (played by Steven Spielberg), was already taking a sandwich break. Sandwiches are generally NOT breakfast food.

There is no way that, even with the moment of silence for the car, the stopping to ask directions, the pauses to barricade the doors, the elevator ride and all that, the time is at all after 5:30 AM.

If not for this one fact, the movie would be without flaw. Well, that and the fact that, y'know, the phone booth flew in the air and crashed, but they were unhurt. I'll leave that analysis to a physicist or an aerodynamics engineer.

OK...only 45 more minutes to kill.

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