About Me

My photo
I operate an Internet radio show that seeks to help independent entertainers and artists promote their projects.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

New Orleans Films: The Right & Wrong: By Guest: Elaine Calloway

Editor’s Note:
When I issued my most recent call for guest articles, one of the first people to respond was novelist Elaine Calloway. Admittedly this was also the first time I’d spoken to Elaine or been exposed to any of her work but, I’m grateful for both opportunities. A native of New Orleans, Louisiana, she clearly has an affinity for some of the old fashioned mystery and spooky stories that often lovingly get associated with the city. You can read more about her books on her website.

When you see your home city showcased in the movies, it’s only natural to smile in approval at the things the filmmakers did “get right” and point and laugh at the misfires. Those who know me best will tell you that I’m an avid traveler and furthermore that New Orleans is way up towards the top of places that I’d most like to visit. As such, I thought it would be fun to ask Elaine to offer up some of her own thoughts as to how the images of “The Big Easy” that we see in the movies actually measure up.
In an odd little way, I like to think of this piece as research for a future vacation.

Elaine, the floor is yours…

New Orleans Films: The Right & Wrong
by Elaine Calloway

New Orleans is such an iconic city; she makes a great backdrop to any film. With the tax breaks so high and available for films shot in Louisiana, many companies are flocking to the Big Easy to get their next feature made.

Having grown up in the Crescent City (not to mention being a huge fan of my hometown), I can’t help but nitpick at those films that get the details right, and those who don’t. Many mistakes are simple camera editing, and it’s understandable to make a fluent scene work. However, in some films, the script lines are completely inaccurate.

Let’s look at a few:

Hard Target: Evil men hunt humans for sport across the New Orleans streets.

What they got right:

The accents / pattern of speech, particularly Wilford Brimley’s portrayal of the crusty old Cajun uncle. Cajun accents are difficult to perform; he did a commendable job.

Portraying the city as the threat it can be; Van Damme warns the girl about the dangers of waving her wallet around. Very accurate, something most tourists don’t realize.

No over-glamorizing or setting up props. This was a gritty movie. There was no need to dress up the film with parades or Mardi Gras beads. Kudos to them for not pandering in this way.

What they got wrong:

a.     I wouldn’t even classify this as a “wrong” but more of a camera editing trick that makes us locals groan every time we see it. Heads up, Hollywood: A person cannot run from the Cemetery District onto Bourbon Street within 5 seconds. The distance between the two is about 5 miles.

Undercover Blues: Husband & Wife espionage agents now have an infant; they return to New Orleans for one last mission before settling down as a happy family.

What they got right:

The scenery of the city, including spotlights on a few places not often shown in New Orleans movies. There are great shots of the Audubon Zoo, the streetcar route Uptown, etc.

What they got wrong:

The random trumpet. This is all-too-common in New Orleans movies. It means there is at least one scene where, for no apparent reason, the actor picks up a trumpet and is immediately surrounded by dozens of musicians who jam with him on a random street.  
No. Not correct. There are parades, music jamming, musicians on street corners, etc. during Mardi Gras and various special occasions, but never on a random street with no warning and no reason.  

The Big Easy: Cop stops corruption in his own precinct with help from a district attorney.
What they got right:

The police corruption. This is a given in New Orleans, something the locals are used to hearing about. Not everyone is corrupt, but the reputation is akin to prohibition era Chicago when things simply worked a certain way.

The scenery and use of local places. Great scenes in Tipitina’s, on Bayou St. John, in the courthouse.

The music. Some of the best local and Cajun music was on this soundtrack.

What they got wrong:

The accents. Gah! That horrible fake and overdone accent that Dennis Quaid used. He was on the right track, but it was very overdone and wound up taking away the focus on the movie because it was distracting.

 A few other mentions:
Runaway Jury: John Cusack character mentions that the Jefferson Parish police department is right across the street from the Esplanade Mall. Nope. Not even close. This was a script mistake designed to make the dialogue work, but it’s incorrect.

The Mechanic: Great scenes of Garden District homes, New Orleans “real” neighborhoods.

Double Jeopardy
: Scenes of the ferry on the Mississippi River, the dress shop where Ashley Judd buys her gown is actually the famous Carousel Bar in the Hotel Montleone disguised for the film set.

So, after all the nitpicking I’ve done, you may be asking yourself, “So, does she love any movie made in New Orleans?”

And the answer is a resounding Yes.

My two favorites:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button:
Man is born old and becomes young; he and his lover meet in the middle for a life together.

Amazing Cinematography
- This is the absolute best movie to see if you want to know what New Orleans looks like in beautiful light. There are shots of Uptown, the Garden District, City Park, the Riverfront, the old houses and Victorian style architecture. I love watching this film; it’s like a love letter written to my hometown, showing her in her very best outfits. For anyone who has never been to New Orleans and wants to know how it looks to us locals who love it so much, this is the film to see.

The Music
- the 1920s slinky music adds a depth and charm to an already charming storyline.

Flakes: A young slacker too scared to commit to his own artistic pursuits winds up running a cereal bar while learning the importance of having a dream.

This film uses all the typical props: Superdome, a random parade, Jackson Square, Bourbon Street, and some famous restaurants. But it doesn’t seem like these things are props; the scenery doesn’t draw attention to itself. 

The film also highlights a newly popular area - Frenchmen Street. Not to mention, the plot is about following one’s artistic passion. With a backdrop of New Orleans added in, who wouldn’t love such a movie?

One thing I’ll add about the various and typical scenery props in this one. Perhaps this is why I’m so forgiving of it. This was the last film made in New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005; it captured magic pieces of the city which took years to return to normal.

Visit New Orleans one day. You’ll fall in love.

Follow Elaine on Twitter
Book Info


  1. Thanks so much for hosting me today :) I hope the New Orleans insight is a help for those wanting to see the city in film, as well as those wanting to travel there :)


    1. Thanks again, Elaine! You raised some really interesting points for people that have never been to the city. I also appreciate the lead on "Flakes". I'll have to track down a copy of it.