3x3: scenes obsoleted by technology

Two caveats: 1) We’re talking contemporary movies here, so let’s not turn Rosebud into a snowmobile. 2) No cell phones. That’s way too easy.

The idea here is to pick specific scenes in more contemporary movies that would be ruined by modern technology. We discuss our picks for contemporary scenes obsoleted by modern technology at the 1:20 mark of the Qt3 Movie Podcast of '71. [btw…please see '71]

3. The Shining
2. Good Will Hunting

  1. Se7en

Kelly Wand
3. Three Days of the Condor
2. Diner

  1. Alien

Tom Chick
3. Bring It On
2. Children of Men

  1. Poltergeist

What are your favorite scenes ruined by modern technology? Our oldest choice is from 1975, so consider that as a guide to what we mean by contemporary. Please listen to the show to hear us break down the scenes that modern tech would make obsolete, and to hear Tom read a few listener submissions. Finally, please send in your picks for the next week’s topic to [email protected].

And remember…no cell phones!

This scene from Bullitt.

Back to the Future II: Read my fax!

Only one sprang to mind for me, and I guess it may not be the best example because it dates from 1968 and may not be all that modern, BUT - if you wanted to see an early example of the fax machine in use in a Hollywood production, go watch Bullitt. Or if you don’t want to watch the whole movie, check out the scene in question.

I was lucky enough to catch a showing of “Hot Fuzz” when the creators were doing some kind of world tour showing the movie before release - but before each showing they also presented one of the films that Edgar Wright considered critical to influencing the creation of that movie, and when they came to Seattle, it was a double feature with Bullitt. This scene with everyone standing around tensely eyeballing the telecopier as it presents its page had the theater laughing big time.

edit: damn you, rei!

I love the way that the sound of that telecopier thingy just takes over the whole scene, and how they all stand there waiting. Nice one.


I don’t think this really fits but I keep thinking that in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Roy Neary would be in his living room using his kids’ videogame console to build the Devil’s Tower in Minecraft. It wouldn’t have the same impact as him building a scale model in his house.

The technology? ATM cards.

The movie? After Hours.

After Hours is one of my favorite flicks, a Martin Scorcese comedy that came out in 1985. The screenplay, by Joe Minion, was started in 1979, and finished around '81 or '82. So here’s the thing: by the time After Hours came out, there were ATMs all over New York. New ones. But ATMs were few and far between in 1981.

And so After Hours needs there to be no ATMS (or cell phones, but that’s off the table). In the film, our hero Paul has a weird night out and just wants to get home, uptown, from where he is in Soho. And as he’s in a cab earlier, his $20 bill–all the money he has, because banks are closed and there are no ATMs–flies out of his hand, and out the window of the cab.

He tries to take the subway home, but fares have gone up at midnight. Again, no ATM to buy a fare card. No EZPass with RFID chips. Nada.

We know Paul has money. That’s part of his angst–he’s trying to explain to total strangers in Soho that if they’ll just loan him cabfare or subware fare, he’ll pay them back tomorrow!

And so the entire movie turns on Paul’s quest to get home, without money, from Soho. I’m convinced that this movie is so forgotten nowadays because even by the time it came out, its plot required a lack of technology that was no longer in play.

Confession: I don’t think I’ve ever seen After Hours.

I don’t know why that is. It’s a weird aversion I had for the poster, maybe. Or maybe the fact that it never made it down to my little town in Virginia. It’s confounding that I never have seen this movie at home, after all these years.

I am curious given your description, however. I walked from the upper part of Manhattan down to the terminal to catch the ferry to Staten Island a few times when I lived there–after midnight usually–when the subway was jammed up, or I just felt like walking. It only takes a couple of hours, if that. So I don’t get why he would be so desperate.

I guess I’ll have to watch it. Thanks triggercut.


  1. Rear Window - It is far less likely that Jimmy Stewart is discovered by the killer with modern surviellance equipment.
  2. Terminator - No physical phone book, no list of Sarah Conners in LA. Sure, there is Google and other online sources, but that would have required much more subtlety on the terminator’s part.
  3. No Way Out - Costner would have been busted much earlier with modern face recognition software.

There are many more obstacles than just a lack of money. His walk is much more eventful.

Absolutely worth seeing, if only for the cast Scorcese lined up: Linda Fiorentino, Teri Garr, Verna Bloom, Cheech & Chong (who don’t play Cheech & Chong at all), Will Patton, John Heard, Catherine O’Hara…so great. Even Rosanna Arquette manages to not be terrible. At times the film almost feels like a horror film, so Kafka-esque is the feel of it.

What always gets me about poor Paul in After Hours: he basically does everything right. After he loses his money, that is.

The movie also touches on the kind of themes of inconvenience leading to disaster that Larry David would tap so well a few years later in Seinfeld. Paul is like the Ur-Jerry in this movie.

And the problem with the walk home thing is that it’s actually like a Wednesday or something, and Paul has to work the next morning, and it’s like 4:00 am and he knows all he’ll get is a shower if he’s lucky, but still.

I love that description, but basically all you had to say was Will Patton. I love that guy.


Will Patton is so Will Patton in this movie. After Hours is Peak Will Patton.

Scroll bar slowly builds to the right as the information drags in. Tech shrugs to indicate it’s one of those internet days. Steve McQueen internalizes. Everyone looks at printer as its spools up and prints out a hardcopy. Anticipation builds as McQueen steps forward, but is motioned back as his boss looks at the printout and then hands it to McQueen. He internalizes some more, then calmly zings Napoleon Solo.

Not really a whole lot different. Yes, you can play it as punch one button, instasearch in nanoseconds, and graphic output to several characters in several locations on computer screen, tablet, and cell p…well, okay, that one is banned. But the thing is, you can pretty much play it the same way.

Great scene, by the way. Love the implied menace as Chalmers walks in with entourage. Everyone waits for Damnation or Vindication. Sometimes it is best to let the scene play out and feed the anticipation.

Foggy airport, but not inside the terminal - wall sized screens everywhere with photos of Victor Laszlo everywhere saying “Don’t let this man board! Arrest immediately!” Security cams pick up Laszlo, Bogie, Prince John, and Uber Nazi. Stormtroopers flood area. Uber Nazi tears up letter of transit and Laszlo is carted off. Bogie shrugs. “I’ll be grief-banging Scandanavia tonight!” Prince John offers to protect everyone but Laszlo as long as it is a threesome. Bogie makes comment about the beginning of a beautiful friendship…Hays Office has conniption fit, but is slapped down by modern rulings.

Elizabeth Banks was recently in a latter day version of After Hours called Walk of Shame. The premise is that she’s just had a one-night stand in Los Angeles and wakes up in the dude’s apartment. Now she has to get across town to someplace by the end of the day because super-important reasons. The narrative contortions to movie has to put itself through to keep her from just borrowing a cell phone to call a cab are downright painful. It’s sad really, like watching a landed fish thrash and gasp.

Excellent! I totally didn’t think of phone books, but that is an iconic moment in Terminator, isn’t it? I can only imagine kids these days being utterly nonplussed at that scene. “What is that list of names and addresses just sitting out in public?”


  1. The Usual Suspects - a quick digital pic of Kevin Spacey shown to our dying witness would have cleared some stuff up pretty quickly.

Would Videodrome be ruined if they stuck a Blu-Ray disc in James Wood’s stomach instead of a videotape?

  1. There was a throwaway gag in that old Weird Al Yankovic vehicle, “UHF”, wherein a young man is bisected by Conan the Librarian for bringing back overdue library books. If only the kid had downloaded ebooks that would automatically disappear from his PC (and not an “IBM PC-Compatible”) or tablet (not a clay tablet etched with the other kind of stylus) when the time to renew it was nigh. He’d still be alive. Same with the older guy who wanted to know where books on astronomy were located. With modern library science hardware and software, even if you step into a brick-and-mortar library, you can find those ink-on-wood-pulp etchings without even having to talk to those lousy old librarians.

Don’t mess with a Cimmerian IT department, though.

  1. Speaking of UHF, at one point the main characters are running a TV station and running low on money. They hold an old-fashioned telethon to raise cash to buy stock so they can own the station instead of another guy who already owns another station. That guy, in order to remain compliant with the Federal Communications Commission’s regulations on twinstick duopolies, would actually shut down his new station should it fall into his hands. Regardless of all the fun his employees were having. This is a movie that is focused on the minutia of business transactions. Instead of a lame ol’ telethon to raise money, the station managers should have invented and run infomercials after the end of the regular broadcast day. They should have used Kickstarter or other crowd-sourcing techniques to gather large quantities of small donations from slightly interested viewers. The donors wouldn’t have to be in the local market, either, they could be reached on the other side of the globe. Stretch goals could easily be imagined in the form of more content.

  2. And speaking of UHF, what are they even thinking, broadcasting analog television signals over an ultra-high frequency? Cable was king in 1989 (though my house wouldn’t get cable for another ten years. Thanks mom and dad.). Who is going to replace a broken aerial on the roof just to pick up some staticky channel? Less than twenty years later, frequencies in the 698–806 MHz range were chopped up and auctioned off. If Weird and Kramer and all their buddies wanted to swede movies or develop throwback variety shows, they should have gone to the Internet. They could have put all their wacky comedies and wheels of fish on video-sharing websites like YouTube. If they wanted to keep the programming (in terms of shows, not of executables) under their financial umbrella, they could have made a comedy-specific website like Funny or Die. At least they could have inspired an ongoing short film fest like Channel 101 or the 48 Hour Film Festival.

Man, UHF is dated.

I love that post, Djscman. Seriously. You could have made every one of those things in your post up, made it all up out of whole cloth since I don’t know a darn thing about UHF, and still I’d love it.

You always bring it, Djscman. Thank you.