Easter observer or not, nearly everyone can get behind a cinematic Easter egg. Those little self-referential nods from the filmmaker to the audience that lets them know we are in on their little jokes. Though some films or shows go a little overboard with their egg hunt, a perfectly placed Easter egg is a beautiful thing.
Today our Shelfers share: What is your favorite Easter egg?
If you’re a fan of classic films, it’s certainly not news to you that director Alfred Hitchcock made a brief blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance in almost all of his films. You can spot him missing a bus in North by Northwest or on a bus in To Catch a Thief, coming out of a pet store in The Birds, or breaking the fourth wall in a hotel corridor in Marnie. But with Lifeboat, the director faced a huge dilemma: how to make his signature cameo in a film about castaways in the middle of the ocean? He realized he couldn’t turn up in the boat in the middle of the film, though he did briefly considered floating by the raft as a victim of the initial sinking. His less morbid solution? Placing himself in a newspaper weight loss ad, which appears to camera as actor William Bendix reads out an article around the 24 minute mark. It’s perhaps his greatest self-insertion achievement and was so eye-catching that he was immediately inundated with requests for the faux product he was seemingly endorsing, Reducto. He enjoyed that so much, he placed another ad for it on a billboard in his 1948 film Rope. Whatever you may say about the legendary Hitchcock, he was never boring or predictable. – Emma Badame
It’s not a surprise to anyone that Martin Scorsese is a student of film history, he’s devoted his life to protecting movies on the brink of extinction, but did you know that The Departed features an homage to 1932’s Scarface? The tale of Boston police and the Irish mob planting moles in each other’s organizations is a bloody one, with no shortage of deaths on both sides. But when you look closely, each character features a large X in the background before their death. Scarface was a little less ambiguous in its foreshadowing–that film put the X in the title card–whereas Scorsese utilized framing, nearby architecture, and shadows to make his mark. One of the only actors to remain unscathed by Xs? Mark Wahlberg’s Sergeant Dignam, who is often beset by straight lines, perhaps because he is the only member of the film not pretending to be someone else.
This Easter egg isn’t as fun as connecting cinematic universes, but you will be able to surprise friends by predicting when each actor in The Departed meets their demise. – Colin Biggs
Avengers: Infinity War
As an unabashed MCU fan I suppose there are many great Easter eggs that reference classic comic book storylines or panels to choose from. However, I want to choose an Easter egg that actually makes reference to the character traits created by the Marvel Cinematic Universe and not any pre-existing media. There is a moment in Infinity War where Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and his group meet up with the Guardians and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) let’s the name Thor slip. Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) then says that he doesn’t think Thor is that good looking. Spider-Man (Tom Holland) then makes a face in incredulity. What I love about this moment is that it plays off the implication that Spider-Man thinks Thor is the best looking Avenger. In Spider-Man: Homecoming we get to see a montage of things Spider-Man did you prepare to impress people at a party and one of them was working on his Thor impression. I really like that Spider-Man’s admiration for Thor is referenced yet again in Infinity War two years later with an easy to miss facial expression in response to a seemingly throwaway line. – Daniel Grant
Pedro Almodovar’s Cinematic Universe
Pedro Almodovar’s movies take place in a self-contained universe, sharing characters and plots and often making open references to his previous films: the opening scene of The Flower of My Secret, for example, became the entire plot of All About My Mother, while the film within the film of Broken Embraces was a reconfiguring of Women On The Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, using that film’s original working title “Chicas Y Maletas” (Girls and Suitcases). My favourite Easter egg in this vein, however, is a future reference, a scene in 2004’s Bad Education which has the characters walk by a poster for a movie called “La Abuela Fantasma” or “The Ghost Grandmother”, which was the script Almodovar was working on for his next film and became 2006’s Volver. – Bil Antoniou
The Easter Bunny was busy with Barney’s Version, especially in the casting department. Pretty much every casting choice in Barney’s Version is an Easter egg in a running joke about a film’s perceived “Canadianness.”
The main actors—Paul Giamatti, Rosamund Pike, Minnie Driver, and Dustin Hoffman—are Americans or Brits playing Canucks. (And doing a spectacularly job.) But all the Canadians in key supporting roles—Scott Speedman, Rachelle Lefevre, Bruce Greenwood, Saul Rubinek—play Americans. The only Canadian star playing a Canadian in a notable role is Macha Grenon as Solange, the sexy Québécoise she-Mountie on Barney’s TV show, but the film adds a running joke in which Solange constantly thrusts press clippings at Barney in order to assert her worth to the foreign market. The punch line of the joke, however, is that Barney himself is fabricating the material, thus suggesting that a Canadian actor is inherently worthless to the foreign market.
The film also has tons of cameos that are inside jokes for the Canadians in the room. Paul Gross riffs on his Due South character by playing the Mountie on Barney’s TV show O’Malley of the North. Atom Egoyan and David Cronenberg play the TV show’s hack Canadian directors. (Spot-on casting re: Egoyan!) Denys Arcand is the maître d’ at the Ritz Carlton, while The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz director Ted Kotcheff plays a VIA train conductor and Barney’s Version director Richard J. Lewis plays a forensic pathologist. (Lewis also produced/directed CSI.) Producer Robert Lantos appears as a friend of Barney’s second wife, The Second Mrs. Panofsky, providing the Easter egg of Easter eggs since the producer was allegedly Mordecai Richler’s source of inspiration for Barney. These inside jokes are especially brilliant since Richler’s novel is rife with Canadian content Easter eggs. The film fills itself with cinematic equivalents. – Pat Mullen