Friday, January 23, 2015

American Sniper and #FakeBabyGate

There did appear to be one tiny flaw in the otherwise great movie American Sniper. It's quite minor, and I only mention it because I wasn't the only one to notice it.

First of all, a confession: TMZ on TV is one of my guilty pleasures. I very seldom venture over to their website, and I could care less about most celebrity gossip. However, there is a very dysfunctional family vibe about the people who work there, and I enjoy watching the sibling type camaraderie that goes on there. (And occasionally, I get a new candidate for the Friday Night Babe.)

So, last night, they bring up what appeared to be a "fake baby" in American Sniper. The scene is where Mrs. Kyle finishes feeding her baby, Chris picks up the baby, holds it for about twenty seconds, then lays it in its crib. For about thirty seconds, that "fourth wall" of film making was breached, and I thought about the constraints upon filmmakers when filming small children and infants. That's it. About 30 seconds. When Bradley Cooper picked up his "baby", it looked like one of those life sized dolls. But soon, the story picked up again and I forgot all about the problems with using babies in films.

In case you don't know, there are very strict child labor laws concerning small children and infants. Thanks to Obamacare, most infants can only work 20 hours a week. (I'm kidding!) Most TV and movie productions that involve small children and infants, typically cast twins when they can, so that when one kid's time on camera expires, they bring in kid #2. Because of time constraints and the fact that children do not always stop crying on cue, life like baby dolls are often used for long shots of the kids, because their stage mothers are the prop people.

Commonly, when you see a baby on TV, you see really tight close up of the baby and long shots of the kid in a crib or bassinet. Less frequently do you see a two shot of someone actually holding a squirming, kicking, sometimes crying baby.
The exception to this is childbirth scenes. The frequently used "I'm giving birth right now" scene which concludes with the rookie who just assisted a childbirth hands a somewhat slimy older infant to it's "mother", and says, "It's a boy/girl!"

As a veteran father of five, who has been present at the delivery of multiple babies, I know something about handling newborns. I was there to catch my daughter as she came into world, with sure hands,like Tom Brady handling a slightly deflated football! When it comes to handling babies, I'm your man! Having some familiarity with the scene, I generally try to guess the age of the large "newborn" with the big, perfectly shaped head, that's being handed to its "mother" on TV and movies. Fortunately for directors, newborns cry a lot, as do older babies being handed about by strange actors. This works for them.

Again, #FakeBabyGate was a very small distraction for me, because either some poor mother has a kid with a head like a Cabbage Patch doll, or they used a real doll. I personally have the solution to the problem: CGI

A computer generated baby violates no child labor laws and only cries and coos when the sound man tells it to. I'll stop trying to guess the ages of the infants smeared with goo that get handed to their fake mothers, and you'll probably save a little time, money and grief in trying to work with babies.

After my remarks about eliminating jobs for babies in Hollywood,  I believe that I am starting to channel my inner W.C. Fields, so, we'll just leave it at that!

Update: According to the clip from the Today show, Infant #1 was running a fever and infant #2 was a 'no show', so they went with an uncredited performance by a plastic doll.

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