Sunday, April 25, 2010

Birds On Film

For a long time, I have enjoyed picking out bird songs and calls in movie scenes; usually, it’s chickadees that I hear. The other day, a friend of mine posted the YouTube video below. A few days later, I saw birds featured in the Showtime series Weeds and in the Jamie Foxx film The Kingdom. Seeing all of these bird appearances made me think it would be interesting to chronicle the use of birds in film and on television shows.

This scene from My Cousin Vinny features a screech owl and is funny because the owl is used to poke fun at Joe Pesci’s character, who is acting paranoid (I tried to embed it, but then the owl is not viewable):

In Weeds, the show about the suburban housewife turned pot dealer, I've seen two episodes with dead birds. In one, Kevin Nealon's character, Doug, who is an asshole who is down on his luck, is peeing near a dead bird in the desert. He speaks to the bird and he says he knows how the bird feels, dead inside. In another, Shane, the protagonist's 13-year-old son, shoots his teacher's cockatoo because the teacher ripped him off monetarily after a drug deal. His mother's body guard is with him, a man who kills for a living, and he becomes upset upon the bird's death, making Hail Mary/Jesus gestures with his hands and saying "Poor birdie."

Of course, I did not enjoy either of these scenes because the birds are dead and I hate any depiction of violence involving birds. However, I do not get too upset because I assume (rightfully, of course) that the birds are not hurt for the sake of the show.

The scene in The Kingdom was much better. This film is set in Saudi Arabia and is about some FBI agents who are trying to determine who is responsible for two terrorist attacks that killed one of their colleagues. It stars Jamie Foxx, as stated, along with Chris Cooper, Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman. During the course of the film, a high-ranking Saudi police officer, Colonel Al-Ghazi, transports the agents where they need to be. On the way to the Prince of Saudi Arabia's estate for dinner, the following dialogue ensues:

(a beat...)
The Prince will ask you about your
flight, the accommodations...light
subjects. If he offers you the
chance to hold his Raptors, don't
flinch: it's a compliment.

ADAM LEAVITT (Jason Bateman)
(to Grant: genuine worry)
Wha…? His rapture?? What……

Of course, in the next scene, the camera focuses on Leavitt, who is very nervous throughout the film, holding what is being called a falcon (I am not sure if it's a falcon or hawk, but I thought it looked more like a hawk), looking very awkward, while the Prince makes the following comment:

His talons slice bone.


The prince goes on to discuss the great hunting abilities of this bird while Leavitt continues looking uneasy, and the bird doesn't make any other appearance in the film.

I'm sure people have differing opinions about owning raptors and using them for entertainment/status/etc, and I don't necessarily know what to think about it, but in the case of the film, it was quite amusing because it highlighted Leavitt's nervous energy and I found the play on "raptor" and "rapture" witty and funny, too, as it would be realistic for a non-birder to be unfamiliar with the term.

If you know of any memorable scenes from film or television that feature birds, please let me know!

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