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Nobody's perfect -- even in the movies

By Heather Murphy
CNN Headline News

In this scene from "Harry Potter Chamber of Secrets," a cameraman is visible at the left of the screen. This film tops the list of error-riddled films at
HLN Critical Mass
Arts, Culture and Entertainment

(CNN) -- Some people can get lost in movies. They get so wrapped up in a film that the little details don't matter.

For the rest of us, it's the little details that add up -- or don't. When a mistake shows up on the screen, the rest of the movie becomes an Easter egg hunt for the next goof.

The first time I caught a mistake in a movie was in "Driving Miss Daisy." Daisy and Hoke say they just arrived in Alabama. Moments later, their car is pulled over by a state trooper wearing a Georgia State Patrol patch on his sleeve. Since then, movie goofs seem to crop up in every film I see.

I'm not alone in this little habit. Some years ago, Jon Sandys was watching "Jurassic Park." He noticed that when things start going wrong at the dinosaur park, the office receives a call from someone at the dock, supposedly on a videophone.

"At the bottom of the video window is a little bar scrolling along, which finishes when the 'call' ends, showing it was a prerecorded clip just played back on the computer," Sandys says. "It's a geeky detail, but it leapt off the screen at me."

Sandys has turned his attention to detail into a comfortable living running The Web site lists thousands of mistakes.

Some have become site favorites, such as the "Star Wars" storm trooper who hits his head on a door frame. "It's become so notorious that in the new DVD release they've even added a slight 'bonk' sound when it happens!" writes Sandys.

My friend, Kara, is fond of a classic goof in "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory."

"In the beginning of the movie, a shopkeeper is dancing and singing around his candy shop. ... He starts to lift up the counter to let the kids dance around, and he hits one of the kids under the chin," she says.

Kara laughs, a little too gleefully, "This little blond girl with braids takes it right under the chin. Candy man, my foot! This guy belongs behind bars!"

Movie scripts themselves are rife with slips.

At the beginning of "Sleepy Hollow," a screen says "New York, 1799." But Johnny Depp as Ichabod Crane narrates, "A new millennium is upon us." When I heard that, I couldn't think about anything else for the rest of the movie. I couldn't wait until it was over so I could rewind it and make sure I had heard correctly. He was 200 years off. That little detail probably drove copy editors and English teachers everywhere bananas.

Sandys says he doesn't think people who pick out movie mistakes have a vendetta against the film industry.

"In my experience, the best mistake spotters are people who love watching movies," he says, "and [they] develop such an eye for it that they'll pick up on most mistakes even in casual viewing. It's not really faultfinding, just another way they enjoy the films."

If that theory is true, then mistake hunters must love "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets." At the latest count, lists 281 mistakes for the kids at Hogwarts.

A movie's popularity or quality is no guarantee it will be without mistakes. Some Academy Award-winning films have hundreds of errors.

For instance, some eagle-eyed viewer picked out this goof from "Gladiator" during the chariot battle: One chariot gets knocked over, and as it slides along the ground a black covering falls off the back of the chariot, exposing a gas canister.

It seems impossible to make a mistake-free movie, yet lists about 45 movies that have passed thorough inspection. The list includes high-brow favorites such as "Howards End" and decidedly low-brow fare such as "Teen Wolf Too."

Perfection is hard to come by, even in Hollywood. Some moviegoers are obsessed with costumes; others really get into soundtracks. Some, like Kara, are happy if there's no singing in the movie and plenty of buttery popcorn kernels at the bottom of the bucket.

But in the darkness of your theater, there is at least one person muttering to him or herself, "If she just fell into a pigsty, why is her dress so clean?"

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