By Caitlin Danaher, Third Year, English
Filmmakers love to tease viewers by hiding tiny treasures in their work that are easy to miss but well worth seeking out- here are some of the most prominent examples.
Easter is here and the holidays provide the perfect opportunity to waste precious time watching films instead of working towards your upcoming exams. I’m sure we’re all familiar with the notion of ‘Easter Eggs’ in film and TV, having been acquainted with the concept during the iconic Weeping Angels episode of Doctor Who (2005-), but for those of you who spent the noughties living under a rock, or just need a refresher: an Easter Egg is an intentional hidden message, image or inside joke within a piece of art.
The name supposedly derives from an actual Easter Egg hunt on the set of The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), which was so difficult for the cast and crew that some eggs remained unfound, only being discovered when they were spotted inadvertently appearing in shots of the movie.
Here are a few of the best movie Easter Eggs to look out for:
Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ in Us
Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures
With the recent release of Jordan Peele’s Us (2019), viewers flocked to Reddit to unpick the many layers symbolism within the film, with a surplus of hour-long Us dissection podcasts and 'Us Explained!’ YouTube videos revealing that everyone loves a good Easter Egg. The film begins at Santa Cruz beach, where young Adelaide picks out a Michael Jackson ‘Thriller’ t-shirt as her prize at the fun fair. This is not merely an ‘80s cultural reference, but hints at the darker themes within Us.
Much like Jackson morphs into both a terrifying werewolf and zombie in his music video for ‘Thriller’, Peele’s film explores the monstrous hiding within ‘us’ all, particularly within the cultural consciousness of the US. - another uncanny doubling there, Us and US, get it? Of course, this symbol has taken on added prescient symbolism in light of the disturbing allegations of child sex abuse against Michael Jackson revealed in HBO’s Leaving Neverland (2019), which has led to the banning of Jackson’s music from radio stations across the world.
The Pizza Planet truck - Pixar films
IMDB / Toy Story 2 / Walt Disney Pictures
First appearing on our screens in Toy Story (1995) as Woody and Buzz attempt to reunite with Andy at Pizza Planet, the iconic truck topped with a luminescent rocket has managed to weasel its way into almost every single Disney Pixar film - excluding The Incredibles (2004). The brains behind Pixar love a challenge; even when the aesthetics and temporal setting of the film are completely incongruous to that of Toy Story, they still manage to sneak the distinctive truck in.
My personal favourite cameos include the wooden truck whittled by the Witch in Brave (2012), the flash of the pizza rocket as Marlin and friends roll out of the dentist’s window in Finding Nemo (2003), and the abstract, misty appearance of the vehicle inside a memory ball in Inside Out (2015).
The recurring Starbucks coffee cup in David Fincher’s Fight Club
IMDB / 20th Century Fox
Edward Norton’s disillusioned, insomniac narrator in Fight Club (1999) seeks solace from his empty life through burying himself in mindless consumerism. He becomes a slave to IKEA, with the Swedish furniture catalogues offering a rare sense of order and stability in his discombobulated reality. It is out of this disillusionment that he seeks out the eponymous ‘fight club’, to inject some sensation back into his numb existence.
Fight Club has grown into a cult favourite, and we’ve all seen some version of Tyler Durden’s speech written in sharpie on the walls of a grotty club toilet cubicle: ‘Advertisers have us chasing cars and clothes. Working jobs we hate, to buy shit we don’t need.’ It’s fitting then that in this satire of consumerism, Fincher includes a Starbucks coffee cup in almost every scene, with the unnamed narrator at one point reflecting on the ubiquitous power corporations have over our cultural capital, even to the extent of space exploration: ‘It’ll be the corporations that name everything: the IBM Stella sphere, the Microsoft galaxy, Planet Starbucks’.
Mark Zuckerberg’s fake Facebook profile in The Social Network
When Mark Zuckerberg posts his art essay question on Facebook during The Social Network his alias is Tyler Durden. pic.twitter.com/rE1X1f2Hkg— Mad Movie Facts (@madmoviefact) December 6, 2014
The Social Network (2010) depicts the astronomical instant success of Facebook and the resultant friendship-destroying lawsuit between its co-creators: Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) and Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield). The film saw David Fincher receive his second Oscar nomination for Best Director in 2011, and provided every girl with the misfortune of dating a self-righteous arse with the perfect put-down: ‘You're going to go through life thinking that girls don't like you because you're a nerd. And I want you to know, from the bottom of my heart, that that won't be true. It'll be because you're an asshole’.
The film couldn’t resist alluding to Fincher’s earlier film Fight Club, as Mark Zuckerberg attempts to complete an art assignment for college by creating a fake Facebook profile under the name of ‘Tyler Durden’, the name of Brad Pitt’s anti-establishment hardman in the 1999 cult classic.
X marks the spot - The Departed
IMDb / Warner Bros.
What better reason to revisit Martin Scorsese’s Boston mobster thriller The Departed (2006) than the recent exciting announcement that the director’s latest film The Irishman (2019) is set for a Netflix release this autumn, featuring all of cinema’s infamous gangsters: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci. If you’re yet to experience this tale of police corruption, undercover agents and ‘fuckin’ rats’, then look out for the presence of X’s in certain shots. Some eagle-eyed viewers have spotted that the presence of an X foreshadows the death of a character onscreen.
Come for the brilliant face-off between Hollywood’s favourite leading men of the ‘00s, Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon, stay for the surprising mixture of Irish trad and heavy rock that is Dropkick Murphys’s ‘I’m Shipping Up to Boston’. A certified banger.
Featured Image Credit: Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures
What's your favourite Easter Egg of all-time?