Here's part of "Tricky Living," copyright by Russ Walter, second edition. For newer info, read the 33rd edition of the "Secret Guide to Computers & Tricky Living" at


Movies affect and distort our sense of reality. Here are some bizarre examples.

Extreme movies

To make your life more bizarre, watch these extreme movies:

Movie                                             What it’s best at                                             Year Award

Romance movies

       The Philadelphia Story              best wedding movie about choosing the groom   1940  8

       Casablanca                                 best movie about a past love                                 1942  9 A

       The Seven Year Itch                  best movie about being seduced by a neighbor    1955  7

       Splash                                        best movie about dating a mermaid                       1984  6

       The Bridges of Madison County best movie about a fling                                        1995  7

Lost-soul movies

       It’s a Wonderful Life                  best movie about avoiding suicide                      1946  9

       Cast Away                               best movie about being lost on an island                2000  7

Coming-of-age movies

       The Last Picture Show               best movie about growing up in Texas                1971  8

       American Graffiti                       best movie about growing up in California         1973  8

       Big                                             best movie about finding your inner child              1988  7

Gross-comedy movies

       Animal House                            best movie about college pranks                        1978  8

       Neighbors                                   best movie about having a bad neighbor                1981  5

       There’s Something About Mary best movie about peeking at women                  1998  7

Sinister movies

       Citizen Kane                              best movie about losing your principles                1941  9

       A Clockwork Orange              best movie about British thugs                              1971  9

       The Truman Show                     best movie about having your privacy invaded      1998  8

Horror movies

       Jaws                                           best horror movie about teeth, water, sharks         1975  8

       The Shining                               best horror movie about the effects of snow         1980  8

       The Cook, Thief, Wife, Lover   best horror movie about a restaurant                 1989  7

Popular-music movies

       Gold Diggers of 1933              only musical where the star sings in Pig Latin       1933  8

       42nd Street                                     best musical about impossible stage shows          1933  8

       The Wizard of Oz                      best musical about escaping from Kansas           1939  8

       Holiday Inn                                best musical about falling in love on holidays     1942  8

       South Pacific                              best musical about falling in love with foreigners   1958  7

       Let’s Make Love                        includes best lessons on how to sing, dance, joke   1960  6

       The Music Man                          best musical about salesmanship                         1962  8

       My Fair Lady                             best musical about how to speak properly             1964  8 A

       Cabaret                                      best musical about Nazi Germany                          1972  8

       Chicago                                      best musical about daydreaming                         2002  7 A

Classical-music movies

       The Competition                       best movie about a piano contest                          1980  7

       Amadeus                                    best movie about how Mozart was crazy            1984  8 A

Crazy-Jew movies

       Annie Hall                                 best Jewish movie about being in love                1977  8 A

       Deconstructing Harry                 best Jewish movie about being old and confused 1997  7

       Life is Beautiful                          best Jewish movie about laughing at death             1997  8

Illustrated-issue movies

       The Long Walk Home               best tale about desegregating Alabama                1990  7

       Not One Less                             best tale about school in rural China                  1999  8

The best way to learn about movies is to visit the Internet Movie Database ( That Web site lets people rate how much they liked movies they saw, on a scale of 1 to 10. In the Award column, I show the movie’s weighted-average score (which is computed by the Web site in a way to avoid vote stuffing). If a movie’s average is 8 or 9, most people in your household will probably like it; if a movie rates 7, 6, or 5, the movie is chancier: it thrills some people but disappoints others. In the Award column, an “A” means “won the Academy Award’s Oscar for Best Picture that year.”

If you try to get one of those movies, make sure you get the correct year. Other movies with similar titles from other years are worse.

Movie clichés

Americans learn about life by watching TV and movies. Many movies distort reality by containing these clichés:


A bad guy’s first shot always misses; it just announces that a fight will begin.

A hero always gets shot in the shoulder.

Evil men are too stupid to shoot heroes in the face; instead, they aim for the bulletproof vest.

Even the thinnest piece of wood will shield you from all bullets.

When one man shoots at 20 men, he’s more likely to kill them all than when 20 men shoot at one.

In a swordfight, you must find stairs to fight on, so the loser can roll down them to die at the bottom.

In a swordfight, jump up on a table; when the villain swipes at your legs, just hop over his blade.

When women fight, they pull hair, fall to the ground together, and roll over twice.

In a martial-arts fight, enemies surrounding you will wait patiently for you to kill them one-by-one.

A hero becomes invulnerable when he takes his shirt off.

When a villain captures you to kill, he kindly pauses for 5 minutes to tell you his life’s plans.


Every army platoon includes a black guy who can play the harmonica.

You’ll survive the battle unless you show someone a photo of your sweetheart back home.

The person with the most plans, prospects, and hopes will die.

During an artillery barrage, a kid or dog can safely wander around, but half the soldiers will die.


Every time bomb has a big red readout that shows how many seconds remain.

While a bad guy chases you, he kindly pauses to throw objects you can jump over.

When terrified, a woman always sticks her fist in her mouth.

Every woman who tries to flee insists on wearing high heels.

When being chased by an evil man, a woman always stumbles to the ground, even if the terrain is level.

To help a woman flee, a man hugs his arm around her, though hugging slows both of them down.

A person chased to a staircase is always stupid enough to run upstairs, not down to exit the building.


A hero shows no pain when beaten but winces when a woman tries to clean his wounds.

When you’re hit on the head and become unconscious, you never get a concussion or brain damage.

During a fight, a hero’s only facial injuries are on his right cheekbone and his mouth’s right corner.

A hero wipes blood from his mouth’s right corner with the back of his hand, then looks at it.

If a hero’s cheek gets injured, just put a Band-Aid on it, and it will heal completely by the next day.

Bibles, religious medals, and photos of loved ones stop bullets better than a bulletproof vest.


A good person dies only while friends are watching.

If a good person dies with eyes open, a friend will close them; but a villain’s eyes stay open forever.

If you’re dying, friends whisper lovingly to you or kiss you, instead of calling an ambulance.

If your friend is dying, try this cure: yell “You can’t do this to me — I love you!” and “Fight!”

Bedroom antics

Whenever strangers have sex, they reach intense, simultaneous orgasms on the first try.

During sex, all women leave their underwear on, and they moan but don’t sweat.

After sex, you never need Kleenex.

Every bed has a crooked sheet that covers up to a woman’s armpit but just to a man’s waist.

Whenever you wake up from a nightmare, you sit bolt upright and pant.

Every teenager’s bedroom window comes with a drainpipe strengthened to hold the kid’s weight.


You can eat as much as you want and never need to go to the toilet.

When women wake up, they don’t need to go to the toilet, but women must shower frequently.

The best way to tell when a woman is pregnant is to wait for her to vomit.

Women never menstruate.

If several people are in a bathroom, one of them must tell a secret while they all face the mirror.

Kitchen antics

Kitchens have no light switches. At night, you must open the fridge door and use that light instead.

All shopping bags are paper, topped off with French bread & carrots, which spill onto the kitchen floor.

Families are too rushed to ever finish breakfast, so dad and the kids always dash out, upsetting mom.


In Paris, all the windows face the Eiffel Tower.

In New York, nice people getting low-paying jobs all live in luxury apartments.

You can pick any lock with a credit card or paper clip, except when a kid behind the door is trapped in a fire.

All elevator shafts are clean and well-lit, to make sure heroes won’t get dirty or need flashlights.

Whenever you want an elevator, it’s already at your floor, unless you’re chased by an evil person.


When you drive to any building, you’ll always find a parking space in front.

When you try to cross the street, you’re delayed by traffic just if you’re in a rush.

In New York, you can safely leave your car unlocked; even convertibles with tops down don’t get stolen.

Whenever you flee a villain, your car won’t start — at least not on the first try.

While driving, you can dodge bullets by ducking your head.

When hitting a parked car, a speeding car goes up in the air, but the parked car won’t even wiggle.

Every car chase through town will smash a fruit cart owned by a Greek, who’ll curse but stay unhurt.

When you want a taxi, you’ll get one immediately, except when you’re in danger.

To pay for a taxi, don’t bother looking at your wallet: the first bill you grab will be the exact amount.


Planes always depart on time and never require a boarding pass: just hop on.

If your plane contains a nun, it will crash.

You can land any plane easily if somebody in the control tower just tells you what to do.


You never need to look up phone numbers: you’ve memorized your whole city’s phone book.

Whenever the phone wakes you up, you must knock it to the floor before answering.

When you phone friends, you never need to say “hello” or “goodbye”: those courtesies take too long.


Whatever you decide to sing, everyone around you already knows the tune & words and joins in.

If you start dancing in the street, everyone you bump into already knows all the steps.

You can play wind instruments and accordions without moving your fingers.


Since bars are never busy, bartenders just relax, chat, wash glasses, and flip bottles in the air.

Whenever a bar plays country music, a fight will break out.

At a bar, don’t bother saying which brand of beer you want: the bartender can always read your mind.

At the home of a friend who asks you “Want a drink?” say just “Yes”: don’t bother saying which type.

Strong whiskey makes a hero wince, wipe his mouth on his sleeve, then flash clenched teeth.

One swig of booze is enough to numb pain before the girl jabs a knife in your arm to remove a bullet.

When you have a hangover, putting an icepack on your head makes you become fun and not vomit.

Whenever you throw cold water or black coffee at a drunk, he’ll immediately get sober.


In any pair of identical twins, one of them is evil — or both are evil.

During emotional confrontations, people always talk back-to-back instead of face-to-face.

A feminist spurns a macho hero until he rescues her from death. Then she becomes his docile slave.

After a feminist becomes docile, a macho hero always softens up and tells her his tragic past.


High-powered female executives always wear miniskirts and 5-inch heels to work.

Women always apply makeup before going to bed; it stays intact all night and while scuba diving.

Even in prehistoric times, women always shaved their legs and armpits.

Medieval peasants all had filthy faces, tangled hair, ragged clothes, and perfect teeth.

Whenever you knock out someone and steal the person’s clothes, they fit you perfectly.

At night, everything turns blue.

When lightning appears, you hear its thunder instantly, and the rain starts then too.

Mexicans speak perfect English except they say Señor and Gracias instead of “Sir” and “Thank you.”


Action heroes never wear glasses.

Your glasses will never fog, even when you come in from the cold.

Little girls wearing glasses always tell the truth. Little boys wearing glasses always lie.


If you’re a woman hearing a noise at night, you must investigate while wearing revealing underwear.

If you’re a woman hearing noises at home, your cat will jump at you before you get strangled.

If a killer lurks in your home, you can find him easily: just take a bath.

A light bulb burns out (or flickers) just if someone hides in that room and waits to jump on you.

Every police investigation requires a visit to a strip club.

A police detective can’t solve a tough case until he’s suspended from duty.

Dogs know which people are bad and bark at them.

Incriminating evidence will always be in the next-to-bottom drawer or in photo #4 of a stack.

To access a computer’s secret files, just type “ACCESS ALL THE SECRET FILES.”

If a hero kills lots of bad guys, police won’t question him about those murders.

For more info about movie clichés, see The Movie Clichés List (put onto the Internet by Giancarlo Cairella at

Stage names

If you don’t like the name your mom gave you at birth (your birth name), replace it with a stage name that’s more appealing, as done by these actors —

Stage name       His birth name

Boris Karloff             William Henry Pratt

Buddy Hackett       Leonard Hacker

Charles Bronson        Charles Buchinsky

Douglas Fairbanks      Julius Ullman

Fred Astaire               Fred Austerlitz

George Burns             Nat Birnbaum

Jack Benny                Joseph Kubelsky

Jerry Lewis                Joseph Levitch

Jimmy Stewart       Stewart Granger

John Wayne              Marion Michael Morrison

Kirk Douglas             Issur Danielovitch

Mel Brooks               Mel Kaminsky

Michael Caine           Maurice Micklewhite, Jr.

Peter Lorre               Laszlo Lowenstein

Phil Silvers                Philip Silversmith

Red Buttons               Aaron Chwatt

Redd Fox                   John Sanford

Rock Hudson             Roy Fitzgerald

Rodney Dangerfield   John Cohen

Roy Rogers                Leonard Slye

Stan Laurel                Arthur Stanley Jefferson

Tony Curtis               Bernie Schwartz

W.C. Fields                W.C. Dunkenfield

Woody Allen             Allen Kongisberg

Yul Brynner               Taidje Kahn, Jr.

Yves Montand           Ivo Livi

and these actresses:

Stage name       Her birth name

Anne Bancroft              Anne Italiano

Doris Day                  Doris Kappelhoff

Greta Garbo               Greta Gustafsson

Joan Crawford           Lucille LeSueur

Lauren Bacall            Betty Perski

Lucille Ball                Dianne Belmont

Marilyn Monroe        Norma Jean Mortensen

Natalie Wood            Natasha Gurdin

Shelly Winters       Shirley Schrift

Sophia Loren             Sophia Scicolone