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11 Creative Film Interpretations You Probably Hadn't Considered

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Every once in a while, a movie comes along that has tons of people scratching their heads. Memento, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Mulholland Drive ... what was going on there? But according to film theorists, even the movies you thought were totally straightforward may have had a little more to them. From Disney to horror to superhero flicks, here are 11 creative film analyses that will either blow your mind or leave you shaking your head.

1. The Shining is Stanley Kubrick’s confession of staging the moon landing

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Theorist: Jay Weidner, who appeared in a 2012 documentary featuring four theories about The Shining called Room 237.

Plot: The Shining is Kubrick’s adaptation of Stephen King’s horror novel in which a family watches over a hotel for the winter and events go amiss.

The Supporting Evidence: Many people already believe that the moon landing was staged, with help from Kubrick, and that The Shining is Kubrick’s way of expressing guilt and dropping hints regarding his help in the conspiracy. Room 237 is relevant to the plot of The Shining. The room is constantly mentioned and it is the location for one of the most horror-filled events of the movie. The moon is a little over 237,000 miles from the Earth, and Weidner believes that the moon landing was shot on a soundstage numbered 237. What’s more, the little boy in the film, Danny, wears a sweater showing the Apollo 11 rocket (the first craft to land on the moon). He also plays on a carpet patterned with red hexagons that mirror Launch Pad 39A, where Apollo 11 was launched. Theorists don’t see these as coincidences.

2. Ferris is imagined by Cameron in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (also known as the “Ferris/Fight Club Theory”)


Theorist: Jeff Roda, among many

Plot: High school senior Ferris Bueller skips school and goes on an adventure, with help from his best friend Cameron.

The Supporting Evidence: This theory involves entertaining the possibility that Cameron never even leaves his bedroom over the course of the film. Roda believes that Ferris was invented by Cameron to cope with both his parents inattentiveness as well as his own insecurities. Ferris seems to be everything that Cameron would want to be (adventurous, assertive, has a girlfriend), so it makes sense that he might be a projection of Cameron’s imagination rather than an actual mischievous friend. Like the romance in Fight Club, this theory makes sense if Cameron has a crush on Sloane, so he develops an alter ego, so he can experience a relationship with her.

3. Aladdin is Set in a Post-Apocalyptic Future

Aladdin Wiki

Theorist: Popular on the Internet

Plot: A poor boy falls in love with a princess and uses wishes from a magical genie to court her.

The Supporting Evidence: Based on the Genie’s comment to Aladdin that his clothes are “so last century,” fans have pieced together that he probably became trapped in the lamp during the third century. The Genie also claims to have been trapped in the lamp for 10,000 years, which means that the film would have to take place in 10,300 AD or later, therefore the film must be set in some post-apocalyptic future time. Language has become muddled, as it so often does in the post-apocalyptic future, so “Arabia” became Aladdin’s home of “Agrabah.” The Genie makes references to modern day figures, such as Jack Nicholson and the Marx brothers, which supports the argument that the film is set in the future rather than the past. People have even looked beyond the film with this theory, noting that an anachronistic stop sign is buried in the sand of the Aladdin video game for Sega Genesis.

4. Doc is Suicidal in Back to the Future

Theorist: People of the Internet, particularly on Reddit

Plot: After accidentally travelling back in time to the 1950s, Marty McFly must figure out how to return to his own era.

The Supporting Evidence: This theory primarily tackles the beginning of the film, wondering if Dr. Emmett Brown (Doc) could be suicidal and planning to use his latest invention to kill both Marty and himself. Rather than testing the DeLorean time machine, as he claims to be doing, perhaps Doc assumed there was no way his new invention could possibly work, so he was prepared to kill himself by setting the car in motion. Before the test, Doc acknowledges that all of his inventions up until this point have not been successful. Considering that, a time machine seems like a pretty elaborate invention. In the scene, Doc sets the DeLorean up so that it is headed straight for himself and Marty, yet is still shocked when it actually works.

5. Fight Club is a Sequel to the Calvin and Hobbes Comic Strip

Film.com

Theorist: Galvin P. Chow

Plot: A bored man creates a more adventurous friend and the two form a violent, rogue fight club.

The Supporting Evidence: The character played by Edward Norton is never given a name, therefore his name could be Calvin. At the end of the film, it is revealed that Tyler Durden is not his own man, but rather part of Norton’s character’s split personality. This twist reveals similarities to the comic strip. Calvin’s stuffed tiger, Hobbes, is completely different from Calvin, with his own unique personality, but is entirely created by Calvin’s imagination. Both Durden and Hobbes stir up mischief so that Norton’s character and Calvin don’t have to feel the blame or consequences of their actions. As Chow writes, “Calvin often blames broken lamps ... on Hobbes, and Jack is inclined to believe that Fight Club and other various anti-society mischief is brought about by Tyler, not himself.”

Those who support this theory believe that Hobbes became a repressed part of Calvin’s imagination, which reemerges as Durden in later years. The fight club created in the film is a grown up version of Hobbes and Calvin’s club G.R.O.S.S. (Get Rid Of Slimy girlS), as both are exclusive male-oriented clubs.

6. Toy Story 3 is an Analogy for the Holocaust

Disney/Pixar

Theorist: Jordan Hoffman at UGO.com

Plot:
Toy Story 3 is the final installation of Pixar’s Toy Story franchise in which the toys, thanks to their owner’s upcoming departure for college, are donated to a local daycare.

The Supporting Evidence:
There are parallels between moments in The Pianist (about the Holocaust) and moments in Toy Story 3 (including Woody’s speech, “No, we won’t just be abandoned. Surely we can be useful to them somehow. Yes, we’ve lost friends, but surely that can’t happen to us,” which closely echoes a speech given at a train station in The Pianist). There's more: Buzz Lightyear recommends they safely remain in the attic, eerily paralleling the story of Anne Frank. Sunnyside Daycare, where the toys end up, can be seen as a work camp. And towards the end of the film, the protagonists are almost burned alive. Though they manage to escape, the implication is clear that they are the lucky survivors—the exception, not the rule.

Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich says the movie "has absolutely nothing to do with the Holocaust...The Holocaust was never anything that was discussed in the making of [Toy Story 3]." 

7. The Wizard of Oz is about Populism in the United States

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Theorist: Originally a high school teacher in the 1960s named Henry Littlefield

Plot: A Kansas girl named Dorothy gets caught up in a tornado and ends up in a fantasy land from which she must find her way home.

The Supporting Evidence: Like The Shining, The Wizard of Oz is a book adaptation that sparked a lot of politically oriented theories. Many still believe that the film is about Populism, a political movement which supported the common majority versus the elite minority in the 1890s. Dorothy lives on a farm in Kansas with her aunt and uncle, and the state of Kansas historically had a huge amount of support for Populism. Depictions of Dorothy’s farm life are also the black and white portions of the film, which makes sense as Populism was about how the majority was suffering.

Theorists go further than this though, attributing a connection to the Populist movement for each character and location in the film. For example, Dorothy represents the everyday person who struggled in Kansas, which led to the rise of Populism. The Scarecrow would be a farmer, the Tin Man shows industrialism (his lack of heart is a not-so-subtle metaphor), the Cowardly Lion provides a stand-in for Populist presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan. Gold is measured in ounces, abbreviated "oz," which could correspond to Oz, and the Emerald City might reflect the green of money.

8. Willy Wonka of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory makes candy from children

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Theorist: Popular on the Internet

Plot: Candy maker Willy Wonka holds a contest in which five children are allowed to take a tour of his ultrasecret chocolate factory.

The Supporting Evidence: The film makes the point that Willy Wonka is weirdly secretive about his recipe. His factory originally shut down because he couldn’t trust his workers to not be spies for other companies, which is why the Oompa Loompas were brought to work for the factory. Theorists find it strange that the pipe Augustus Gloop flies into is the perfect size for a child to fit. Additionally, in the Nut Room, there is a similar tube, but this one connects to an incinerator. Both tubes seem to be the invention of a Freddy Krueger-type rather than a kindly candy maker. Later in the film, when Wonka's candy literally turns Violet into a blueberry, he has her “juiced,” which is the least subtle hint at cannibalism. Finally, based on the transportation the group uses to get around the factory, it is clear that Wonka knew they would lose members along the way. Though they lose people along the tour, there are never empty seats in future transportation that they use.

9. Drag Me to Hell is About a Girl Suffering from Bulimia

Universal Pictures

Theorist: An IMDb user, as reported on SlashFilm

Plot: A girl gets cursed by a gypsy and her life becomes progressively terror-filled.

The Supporting Evidence: Though this seems like a standard horror film, the events can all be read as eating disorder induced hallucinations. For example, a picture is shown of Christine as a young girl, posed in front of a sign that says “Pig Queen.” She has clearly lost weight since the photo was taken, and way too much weight to have been unintentional. She also claims to be “lactose intolerant,” but is later seen eating ice cream. It is a strange thing to lie about, and even stranger to randomly insert into a horror film, but this would make sense as an excuse for not eating food therefore a reason for hallucinations. Christine is rarely seen eating, whereas the film makes a point to show other characters eating. Many of the horror elements are oriented around food, including a cake that she’s eating, which turns rotten. And, of course, many characters throw up on her throughout the movie.

10. Spider-Man is about Peter Parker hitting puberty

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Theorist: Among many, Gaye Birch of “Den of Geek”

Plot: In the 2002 version of Spider-Man, Tobey Maguire plays Peter Parker, who gets bitten by a spider and becomes a superhero.

The Supporting Evidence: Peter Parker gets bitten by the spider as he’s photographing his crush, Mary Jane Watson, which will lead to his eventual transformation. The spider bite is a pretty clear metaphor for what commonly happens during puberty when boys start to discover their sexual interests. Throughout his transformation into a superhero, Parker often stares at himself in the mirror. He continues to be shocked by his body’s changes and new abilities, another symptom of puberty. At one point in the film, his Aunt May comes to the door of Peter’s room and suspiciously asks what he could possibly be doing in there. It isn’t hard to imagine this conversation being about a more R-rated discovery. And as for the sticky white stuff that starts coming out of Peter’s hand ... again, the metaphor isn’t that much of a stretch.

11. Inception is About Movie-Making

Warner Bros.

Theorist: Maria Bustillos and Devin Faraci

Plot: A group must invade someone’s dream in order to plant an idea in his subconscious.

The Supporting Evidence: Star Leonardo DiCaprio may be one of the supporters of this theory, as he compared Inception to Fellini’s 8 ½, which is a movie about making movies. For this theory to make sense, DiCaprio’s character, Cobb, is the artistic director, who must abandon his muse, Mal, in order to create a comprehensive work. Maria Bustillos refers to this as the question of “Who are you doing this for? For your own vision, or for the audience?” Each character fits into a role within the movie-making process as well: Arthur as a producer, Eames as an actor, Yusuf as special effects, and Ariadne as a screenwriter.

These roles make sense within the plot, but also have presence in the film’s imagery. Eames changes the way he looks while looking into a mirror, just as an actor would. And, as Jacopo della Quercia and J.F. Sargent point out, Yusuf is responsible for “the coolest special effects moment in the movie...and the movie specifically points out that he gets no credit for it,” as production design and special effects rarely do in the film world. Some of the movie’s tricks for dreams are pulled straight from movie sets as well, such as the infinite staircase.
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In comments, let me know which theories you’re buying and whether you have more supporting evidence for them!

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Shout! Factory
10 Surprising Facts About Mr. Mom
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Shout! Factory

John Hughes penned the script for 1983's Mr. Mom, a comedy about a family man named Jack Butler (Micheal Keaton) who loses his job. To ensure their three kids are taken care of, his wife, Caroline (Teri Garr), goes back to work—leaving Jack to fight off a vacuum cleaner and learn why it's never a good idea to feed chili to a baby.

In 1982, Keaton turned in a star-making role in Ron Howard’s Night Shift, but Mr. Mom marked the first time he headlined a movie, and it launched his career. Hughes had written National Lampoon's Vacation, which—oddly enough—was released in theaters the weekend after Mr. Mom. But Hughes himself was still a relative unknown, as it would be another year before he entered the teen flick phase of his career, which would make him iconic.

In the meantime, Mr. Mom hit home for a lot of viewers, as the economy was on the downturn and more and more women were entering (or reentering) the workforce. But some people think that the movie's ending—which sees the couple revert to traditional gender roles—sidelined the movie's message. Still, on the 35th anniversary of its release, Mr. Mom remains an ahead-of-its-time comedy classic.

1. IT'S BASED ON A TRUE STORY.

Mr. Mom producer Lauren Shuler Donner came across a funny article John Hughes had written for National Lampoon. Based on that, she contacted him and the two became friends. “One day, he was telling me that his wife had gone down to Arizona and he was in charge of the two boys and he didn’t know what he was doing,” Donner told IGN. “It was hilarious! I was on the floor laughing. He said, ‘Do you think this would make a good movie?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, this is really funny.’ So he said, ‘Well, I have about 80 pages in a drawer. Would you look at it?’ So I looked at it and I said, ‘This is great! Let’s do it!’ We kind of developed it ourselves.” In the book Movie Moguls Speak, Donner mentioned how Hughes “had never been to a grocery store, he had never operated a vacuum cleaner. John was so ignorant, that in his ignorance, he was hilarious.”

The players involved with the movie told Donner and Hughes they thought it should be a TV movie. Hughes had a TV deal with Aaron Spelling, who came aboard to executive produce. “Then the players involved were upset because John was writing out of Chicago instead of L.A.,” Donner said in Movie Moguls Speak. “They fired John and brought in a group of TV writers. In the end, John and I were muscled out. It was a good movie, but if you ever read John’s original script for Mr. Mom, it’s far better.”

2. JOHN HUGHES REJECTED THE IDEA OF DIRECTING MR. MOM.

Stan Dragoti ended up directing the film, but only after Hughes turned it down, because he preferred to make his movies in Chicago, not Hollywood. “I don’t like being around the people in the movie business,” Hughes told Roger Ebert. “In Hollywood, you spend all of your time having lunch and making deals. Everybody is trying to shoot you down. I like to get my actors out here where we can make our movies in privacy.” Hughes remained in Chicago and filmed his directorial debut, Sixteen Candles, there.

3. MICHAEL KEATON GOT THE ROLE BECAUSE OF NIGHT SHIFT.

In 1982’s Night Shift, Keaton’s character works at a morgue and starts a prostitution ring with co-worker Henry Winkler. Donner had an agent friend, Laurie Perlman, who represented the not-yet-famous actor. She contacted Donner and pitched Keaton to her. “’Look, I represent this guy who is really funny. Would you meet with him?’" Donner recalled of the conversation. "So I met with him. Usually I don’t like to do this unless we’re casting, but I met with him because she was my friend. And then she said, ‘You have to see this movie Night Shift that he’s in.’ So I went to see Night Shift, and midway through I couldn’t wait to get out of that theater to give Mr. Mom to Michael Keaton. Fortunately, he liked it."

Keaton told Grantland that he turned down one of the main roles in Splash to play Jack Butler. “I just remember at the time thinking I wanted to get away from what I’d just done on Night Shift,” he said. “I thought if I do it again, I might get myself stuck. So then Mr. Mom came along. So I said no [to Splash] so I could set up this framework right away where I could do different things.”

4. THE FILM BROKE NEW GROUND.

Teri Garr, Michael Keaton, Taliesin Jaffe, Frederick Koehler, and Martin Mull in Mr. Mom (1983)
Shout! Factory

In 1983, more women stayed at home than worked, so it was a novelty for a man to be a stay-at-home dad. Today, an estimated 1.4 million men are stay-at-home dads, and 7 million men are their children's primary caregiver. “Mr. Mom became part of the vernacular,” Donner told Newsweek. “Mr. Mom represented a segment of men who were at home dealing with the kids who, up until then, really hadn’t been heard from. That’s what really told me about the power of film, because it spoke for a lot of men. It also helped women, because I think that women sometimes, if you’re a housewife, you’re not really appreciated for what you do. This sort of made women feel better about what they did because they knew that men were understanding it.”

5. TODAY, “MR. MOM” IS CONSIDERED A PEJORATIVE TERM.

More than 30 years after the film’s release, stay-at-home dads feel the term “Mr. Mom” should die. The National At-Home Dad Network launched a campaign to terminate the phrase and instead have people refer to men as “Dad.” In 2014 Lake Superior State University voted to banish “Mr. Mom” from the lexicon.

“At least, the pop-culture image of the inept dad who wouldn’t know a diaper genie from a garbage disposal has begun to fade,” wrote The Wall Street Journal, after declaring “Mr. Mom is dead.”

6. TERI GARR DIDN’T KNOW IT WAS A MESSAGE MOVIE.

The movie redefined gender roles, but when the producers pitched the premise to Garr, they hid the plot reversal. “They just told me it was about a guy who does the work that a woman does, because it’s so easy,” she told The A.V. Club. “And I went, ‘Oh, yeah. Ha ha.’ It’s so easy. All the women I know who stay home and take care of their kids, they go, ‘Oh yeah, this is easy.’ Hmm.”

7. MARTIN MULL IMPROVISED THE “220, 221” LINE.

The quote everyone remembers from the movie comes from Jack, holding a chainsaw, standing next to Ron Richardson (Martin Mull) and discussing what kind of wiring Jack will use in renovating the house: “220, 221, whatever it takes,” Jack says.

“We’re doing the scene and it was okay,” Keaton told Esquire. “And I remember saying to the prop guy, ‘Go find me a chainsaw.’ When he comes back with it, he says, ‘You wanna wear these?’ And he holds up some goggles. I go, ‘Yeah.’ You know, they make me look crazy. And when Martin shows up, I know I should look under control, I’m not sweating it. I’m a dude. So we’re standing there, Martin pulls me aside and says, ‘You know what you ought to say? When I ask about the wiring, you oughta just deadpan: ‘220, 221.’ I died. It was perfect. I may have added ‘whatever it takes.’ But it was his.”

“That was a little ad-lib that we just threw in, but every carpenter or construction person I’ve ever worked with, they’re always quoting that line from Mr. Mom,” Mull told The A.V. Club.

8. MR. MOM OUTGROSSED HUGHES’S OTHER 1983 SUMMER MOVIE—VACATION.

Mr. Mom only opened on 126 screens on July 22, 1983, but managed to gross $947,197 during its opening weekend. Once the film went wide a month later to 1235 screens, it hit number one at the box office and spent five weeks at the top. By the end of its run, the film had grossed just shy of $65 million, making it the ninth highest-grossing film of 1983 (just between Staying Alive and Risky Business). National Lampoon’s Vacation, Hughes’s other film that summer, came out July 29 and ended its theatrical run with $61,399,552 (at its height, it showed on 1248 screens). Vacation finished the year in 11th place.

9. THE MOVIE LED TO HUGHES BEING CALLED “A PURVEYOR OF HORNY SEX COMEDIES.”

During a 1986 interview with Seventeen magazine, Molly Ringwald asked the writer-director why he never showed teen sex in Sixteen Candles or The Breakfast Club. “In Sixteen Candles, I figured it would only be gratuitous to show Samantha and Jake in anything more than a kiss,” he said. “The kiss is the most beautiful moment. I was really amused when someone once called me a ‘purveyor of horny sex comedies.’ He listed The Breakfast Club and Mr. Mom in parentheses. I thought, ‘What kind of sex?’ Yes, in Mr. Mom there’s a baby in a bathtub and you see its bare butt.”

10. MR. MOM WAS MADE INTO A TV MOVIE AFTER ALL.

In the beginning, producers wanted Mr. Mom to be a TV movie, not a feature film. But a year after the film came out in theaters, ABC produced a TV movie called Mr. Mom, with the same characters and premise. Barry Van Dyke played Jack and Rebecca York played Caroline. A People magazine review of the movie stated: “They and their three kids are immediately likable … But it goes downhill from there as the script lobotomizes all its characters. Here’s a textbook case in how TV takes a cute idea—and a script that does have some good lines—and leeches the wit out of it.”

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Ernest Hemingway’s Guide to Life, In 20 Quotes
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Central Press/Getty Images

Though he made his living as a writer, Ernest Hemingway was just as famous for his lust for adventure. Whether he was running with the bulls in Pamplona, fishing for marlin in Bimini, throwing back rum cocktails in Havana, or hanging out with his six-toed cats in Key West, the Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author never did anything halfway. And he used his adventures as fodder for the unparalleled collection of novels, short stories, and nonfiction books he left behind, The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, Death in the Afternoon, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and The Old Man and the Sea among them.

On what would be his 119th birthday—he was born in Oak Park, Illinois on July 21, 1899—here are 20 memorable quotes that offer a keen perspective into Hemingway’s way of life.

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF LISTENING

"I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen."

ON TRUST

"The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them."

ON DECIDING WHAT TO WRITE ABOUT

"I never had to choose a subject—my subject rather chose me."

ON TRAVEL

"Never go on trips with anyone you do not love."


Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. [1], Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN INTELLIGENCE AND HAPPINESS

"Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know."

ON TRUTH

"There's no one thing that is true. They're all true."

ON THE DOWNSIDE OF PEOPLE

"The only thing that could spoil a day was people. People were always the limiters of happiness, except for the very few that were as good as spring itself."

ON SUFFERING FOR YOUR ART

"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."

ON TAKING ACTION

"Never mistake motion for action."

ON GETTING WORDS OUT

"I wake up in the morning and my mind starts making sentences, and I have to get rid of them fast—talk them or write them down."


Photograph by Mary Hemingway, in the Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston., Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON THE BENEFITS OF SLEEP

"I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I'm awake, you know?"

ON FINDING STRENGTH 

"The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places."

ON THE TRUE NATURE OF WICKEDNESS

"All things truly wicked start from innocence."

ON WRITING WHAT YOU KNOW

"If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water."

ON THE DEFINITION OF COURAGE

"Courage is grace under pressure."

ON THE PAINFULNESS OF BEING FUNNY

"A man's got to take a lot of punishment to write a really funny book."


By Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. - JFK Library, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON KEEPING PROMISES

"Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut."

ON GOOD VS. EVIL

"About morals, I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after."

ON REACHING FOR THE UNATTAINABLE

"For a true writer, each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed."

ON HAPPY ENDINGS

"There is no lonelier man in death, except the suicide, than that man who has lived many years with a good wife and then outlived her. If two people love each other there can be no happy end to it."

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