(b) During a discussion about standards of realism on an RPG blog's comment thread, Meg Baker brought up the case of an electrician friend of hers who watched Capote (Bennett Miller, 2005) and was bothered by the fact that "a phone that figures prominently has a wire jack" which would have been "utterly impossible for the era."
(c) A film critic friend (and former teacher) of mine was unable to get into The Limey (Steven Soderbergh, 1999) because he couldn't buy Terrence Stamp as a guy who just got out of jail. "He looked more like he just got back from a Caribbean vacation."
(d) The first time I watched In the Name of the Father (Jim Sheridan, 1993), I had no trouble responding to/engaging with the movie on its own terms. However, I saw it again after having read more about the historical case and the liberties Sheridan and Terry George takes with Gerry Conlon's story, and the movie no longer "worked" for me. While I was still sympathetic to its politics and its overall p.o.v., the fact that the central event - Conlon being imprisoned with his father - had been almost completely fabricated seemed like a betrayal of the audience's trust.
Now: though I think I'm justified, in case (d), I can't help feeling that the people in (a), (b), and (c) are not quite playing fair with the movie. I mean, even though this is subjective, a dislike for incongruous accents, props, or suntans seems, to a certain extent, like something to get over. At least/especially if the movie is coherent in some way: that is, if there are organizing principles at work.
But I can even play devil's advocate against myself, too. Here's another case:
(e) On a message board discussion about how the makers of The King of Kong had not only kept things out of their movie that would complicate the story they were trying to tell but actually manipulated events to get the story they wanted, Luke Crane wrote that these simplifications, omissions, and manipulations did not matter because of the movie's overall truth:
I thought it was great. I was poignantly aware of the artifice of it as I watched, but I couldn't get past the characterizations. Why? Because I know those people! Not personally, but I meet people like that every day in my gamer life. And those on screen portraits were incredibly accurate to what I experience in my day to day.I'm bringing all this up not to say that anyone was actually right or wrong, but rather to suggest that there is a gray area between approaching a movie as a "generous viewer" - one who engages with it on its own terms - and "discerning viewer" - one who measures the movie against his or her own values/sensibility etc.
Sometimes I get the feeling that unsympathetic viewers will bring in a concept like "historical accuracy" to make their argument against a movie stronger: it gives the impression that they are holding the movie up to an objective standard. This is a suspect maneuver, IMO, because most viewers (general audience members, film critics, and film buffs alike) are not at all consistent in terms of which movies they hold to that standard. "Historical accuracy" is like a club they pick up when they feel the need to beat on movies they don't like. On the other hand, there's something about the way that movies like In the Name of the Father or The King of Kong play around with the facts that definitely bugs me. So, like I said, a gray area.