KQED Perspective aired November 2003

I can’t remember just when I started noticing biological inaccuracies in movies and TV. Maybe it was The Deer Hunter with Robert de Niro. They went hunting in Pennsylvania in mountains that rose well above the tree line and were capped with bare exposed rock, mountains that had to be at least 12000′ high. The forests of Pennsylvania however are totally cloaked in trees, 3200 feet is the highest point. I believe the majestic Cascade Range was subbing for the ‘cinematically inferior’ Alleganys.

Then there was the miniseries, Lonesome Dove.. There they were on the flat dry plains of Texas, the sun setting over the arid landscape and what evoked the feeling of ultimate loneliness? A COMMON LOON crying on a breeding pond in Minnesota! There would not be a singing loon like that for hundreds of miles to the NORTH! Oh well.

At the beginning of A Perfect World directed by Clint Eastwood, ominously wheeling around in the sky was a turkey vulture. And what sound was accompanying it? A screaming red tail hawk! Clint, Clint after all the Westerns you’ve done you should know vultures are silent!!

So on to Andre the Seal, a movie about a lovable harbor seal. Who had the starring role? not a member of the Phocidae but a California Sea lion. I guess he had a better agent.

Every single jungle movie has the sound of a kookaburra in it to evoke that wild and dangerous mystery of the dark unknown. Kookaburras, a kind of kingfisher, are found only in Australia far from any African jungle.

And last year was the brouhaha around CBS playing some dubbed bird sounds in the background of a PGA tournament in Louisville Kentucky. The only problem was they had recorded those sounds in Michigan in an earlier golf tournament. Bird watchers flooded the network with calls. What were those white throated sparrows doing in full song?? CBS was amazed at the number of people who noticed and they promised never to repeat that mistake again. So I’m not the only one!

This is Michael Ellis with a Perspective.

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August 6, 2009