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Great Typewriter Scenes

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As someone who well remembers what it was like to compose and express thoughts using a typewriter, seeing an old Royal or Corona pop up in a movie is always fun. These are some of my favorite film typewriter moments. Clickety-clack!

SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE (1972)

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Thank goodness we had the typewriter scene early in “Slaughterhouse-Five.” Getting across the trippy, time-hopping aspect of Kurt Vonnegut’s classic novel would have been rough without it. These days, it probably would have been done with a narrator, which isn’t nearly as effective as reading over Billy Pilgrim’s shoulder that he was “unstuck in time.”

ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN (1976)

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This great newspaper story is made all the more real because of the constant clatter of words being typed. You see Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman feverishly converting their intricate reporting into sentences and the movie culminates in a series of paragraphs typed across the screen.

RUBY SPARKS (2012)

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How about a magical typewriter? That’s what Paul Dano has in “Ruby Sparks.” He types up a soul mate for himself – and she comes to life.

SCHINDLER’S LIST (1993)

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Ben Kingsley says it exquisitely in “Schindler’s List.” “This list … is an absolute good. This list is life. All around its margins lies the gulf.” Indeed, the power and urgency of names typed on sheets of paper has never seemed so real.

NAKED LUNCH (1991)

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Now for something unreal. In “Naked Lunch,” a typewriter isn’t just a collection of metal parts daring you to write; it’s a feisty bug with an attitude. What writer hasn’t felt this way on occasion?

MISERY (1990)

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Talk about deadline pressure. James Caan is an injured novelist forced to work under the watchful eye of a deranged fan, played memorably by Kathy Bates. There’s plenty of physical pain in “Misery,” and I’m not just talking about how tough a Royal typewriter can be on the pinky fingers.

WHO’S MINDING THE STORE? (1963)

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For delightful silliness, there’s nothing better than watching Jerry Lewis type on an imaginary typewriter. Complete with typing sounds and music, Jerry is a total keystroke maestro.

STARTING OUT IN THE EVENING (2007)

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In this beautiful little character study from a few years ago, Frank Langella is an aging fiction writer coming to grips with family, mortality, loneliness and a novel that just isn’t right. His typewriter is a sacred object, to be treated with respect and reverence. The rest of his life isn’t quite so tidy.

HIS GIRL FRIDAY (1940)

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Anyone who bemoans the hassle of lugging around a laptop would do well to see Rosalind Russell putting a typewriter through its paces in “His Girl Friday.” She writes just as fast as she talks – which is pretty damned fast – and her faithful machine appears to weigh as much as a block of cement.

SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (1998)

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“Saving Private Ryan” has a couple of compelling typewriter moments. One is when Tom Hanks recruits a kid for a dangerous mission, and the young man attempts to bring his typewriter with him. It’s movie shorthand for saying that there are some jobs that can’t be accomplished with words. But in another scene, we see rows of women typing condolence letters to families who have lost a loved one to the war. That’s movie shorthand for saying sometimes words are the only comfort we have.

BARTON FINK (1991)

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It would take a much smarter individual than me to piece together all of the symbolism and meanings of “Barton Fink.” It’s a moody mix of creative angst, murder, sex, religion and the value of artistic integrity. Fink (John Turturro) is a New York playwright lured out to Hollywood to write movie scripts in the 1940s. For much of the film, he painfully sits in his hotel room, unable to writer. Another character calls him a “tourist with a typewriter.”

YOU’VE GOT MAIL (1998)

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In a much lighter vein, you have Greg Kinnear’s nostalgic love of typewriters in “You’ve Got Mail.” His character is something of a pompous windbag, too enamored with his own observations, but he does have a point when it comes to the sweet sound of typing.

THE SHINING (1980)

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Only Stanley Kubrick could make a stack of typed pages this scary. Poor Shelley Duvall knows that her husband (Jack Nicholson) has been acting crazy, but she doesn’t truly understand the severity of the situation until she goes into the room where he writes. She finds hundreds of sheets repeating the same phrase: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Yikes!

Frankly, I don’t see why there can’t be a typewriter tossed into every movie. It definitely would have helped “John Carter.”

The Slow Motion Hall of Fame

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sixmilliondollarman

No matter how elaborate the world of special effects becomes, there’s one gimmick that never seems to go out of style: Slow Motion. It draws attention, heightens emotion and allows a director to be master of the universe. And it’s cheaper than 3D! See what you think of these examples.

INCEPTION

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Let’s start with the ultimate, thinking man’s use of slow motion. There are MULTIPLE layers of it in Christopher Nolan’s modern sci-fi classic. Frankly, it’s so challenging to keep up with the various stories-within-stories (the plot has to do with dreams you can create and insert into someone’s subconscious mind) that you almost need the slow motion as a tiny respite. Cool beans.

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY

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Director Stanley Kubrick will be mentioned more than once on this List. In “2001: A Space Odyssey,” he expertly lets slow motion convey a sense of the vast, impenetrable nature of both space and time. I think we’re still waiting for that animal bone the man-ape threw in the air to come down.

THE MATRIX

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Rarely, if ever, has slo-mo been more badass than in “The Matrix.” Come on! That dude, Neo, limbos his way out of the path of bullets without so much as adjusting his sunglasses! On a related note, I can’t reach back to grab my TV remote without spraining something.

INSTANT REPLAY

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Thanks to the advent of slow motion replays in televised sports, fans everywhere can judge for themselves how bad the umpires are. Unfortunately, it also means we occasionally have to endure Tim McCarver or some other knucklehead repeat the phrase, “He missed the tag!” about eight zillion times.

THELMA AND LOUISE

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The slow motion ending of “Thelma and Louise” driving off a cliff was so perfect, I’m surprised more movies don’t use the device. Who knows? “Battleship” might have made some money if they’d steered the boat off a cliff.

BONNIE AND CLYDE

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This was some cutting-edge, slow motion violence. In 1967, audiences were stunned by the stylized way Arthur Penn had “Bonnie and Clyde” meet their demise.

BRIAN’S SONG

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I believe “Brian’s Song” was what they call a “male weepie.” Man, that sounds bad. Anyway, Billy Dee Williams and James Caan starred in this 1971 TV movie about about real-life Chicago Bears players Gale Sayers and Brian Piccolo. There’s friendship, there’s loss – and there’s slow motion to wring out every last ounce of emotion.

ZOMBIELAND

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Oh, but the opening of “Zombieland” is a bit of gory genius. With snazzy graphic elements and a witty voice-over, a series of zombies chase down dinner in slow motion to illustrate the rules of staying out of their hungry clutches.

THE SHINING

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Kubrick again creates an iconic image in slow motion for 1980’s “The Shining.” Something yucky and unexpected is about to issue forth from this elevator, and it takes its sweet time.

HOOSIERS

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Sports and slow motion are a natural combination. It’s all about savoring certain moments, such as the big shot in the big game of the big tournament. Everyone has his or her favorite, and mine is the old-fashioned, high school basketball saga, “Hoosiers.” What makes it particularly nice is that the slow motion here is incredibly subtle.

SHERLOCK HOLMES

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Robert Downey Jr.’s “Sherlock Holmes” series very effectively speeds up and slows down the action as a way to illustrate the hero’s brilliant, lightning fast mind. You get to experience what Holmes thinks will happen, then see if it actually transpires.

10

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Slow motion accentuates the sex appeal of Bo Derek in “10,” showing her running along a beach as Dudley Moore gapes admiringly. This is a device often used to indicate physical beauty or desire.

CHARIOTS OF FIRE

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Or it can stand in for basic sentimentality and reverie. In “Chariots of Fire,” you have slow motion as an ode to the pure joy of pursuing a personal quest for God and country.

THE UNTOUCHABLES

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“The Untouchables,” starring Kevin Costner, featured an elaborate scene in which a gangster pushes a baby carriage down a flight of steps in order to escape the law. It’s grand, operatic – and based on a scene from the 1925 silent film, “Battleship Potemkin.”

THE WILD BUNCH

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Nobody did masculine, gritty violence quite like director Sam Peckinpah. For “The Wild Bunch,” which deals with a band of aging mercenaries, Peckinpah decided to slow the camera each time one of his geezers bit the dust at the end of the film.

THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN

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Back in the 1970s, pretty much every wisenheimer worth his bell-bottoms did a stupid impression of Lee Majors in slow motion, as bionic agent Steve Austin in “The Six Million Dollar Man.” There was a silly sound effect to go along with it. Thanks, slow motion!

And now comes the part where I encourage you to add to The List. No rush. Take … your … time.