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Counting ballots stressing you out? Watch these movies instead


Many Americans have been preoccupied with vote tallies this week, as many races have been just too close to call. Bob Mondello told us in 2020 he had a trick to distract himself from election-related counting. He concentrated on counting in movies.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: Hans Gruber didn't have to raise his voice to be scary in "Die Hard." All he had to do was count.


ALAN RICKMAN: (As Hans Gruber) I'm going to count to three. There will not be a four.

MONDELLO: He was a man of his word. Movie villains often are. So are movie heroes - say, Deadpool calculating his odds as he faces a whole lot of bad guys.


RYAN REYNOLDS: (As Deadpool) I only have 12 bullets, so you're going to have to share. Let's count them down.

MONDELLO: This counting bullets thing comes up more often than you might expect, in whodunits especially. Though, as "Clue" established, characters can overthink.


TIM CURRY: (As Wadsworth) There was one shot at Mr. Boddy in the study, two for the chandelier, two at the lounge door and one for the singing telegram.

LESLEY ANN WARREN: (As Miss Scarlet) That's not six.

CURRY: (As Wadsworth) One plus two plus two plus one.

WARREN: (As Miss Scarlet) Uh-uh. There was only one shot that got the chandelier. That's one plus two plus one plus one.

CURRY: (As Wadsworth) Even if you are right, that would be one plus one plus two plus one. Not one plus two plus one plus one.

WARREN: (As Miss Scarlet) OK. fine. One plus two plus one - shut up.

MONDELLO: When people are counting in movies, they're either adding things up or building suspense. Either way, there probably isn't a lot going on on screen. But then there doesn't have to be if there's, say, a bomb with the digital clock ticking down to zero - or, in the case of the Russian sub in "The Hunt for Red October," a torpedo coming that gets counted down and then up to - well, hard to say to what exactly. But Sean Connery gets it right.


SAM NEILL: (As Captain Borodin) Torpedo impact now 15 seconds.

SEAN CONNERY: (As Marko Ramius) Sound collision.

NEILL: (As Captain Borodin) Sound collision.

MONDELLO: People count in movies for all kinds of less consequential reasons - to cue the band in musicals like "Chicago"...


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) Five, six, seven, eight.

MONDELLO: ...To make sure everyone's lined up for a field trip in "Home Alone," to launch rockets in lots of movies. Films count cards in Vegas, seconds in prize fights, and sometimes filmmakers find a plot-driven reason to count - in "Rain Man," for instance, to give Tom Cruise a peek at the special talents of his autistic brother, played by Dustin Hoffman. A waitress has dropped a box of toothpicks, and Hoffman, barely glancing at the floor, sees a pattern.


DUSTIN HOFFMAN: (As Raymond Babbitt) Eighty-two, 82, 82.

TOM CRUISE: (As Charlie Babbitt) Eighty-two what, Ray?

HOFFMAN: (As Raymond Babbitt) Toothpicks.

CRUISE: (As Charlie Babbitt) There's a lot more than 82 toothpicks, Ray.

HOFFMAN: (As Raymond Babbitt) Two hundred forty-six total.

CRUISE: (As Charlie Babbitt) Change.

MONDELLO: Cruise and the waitress look at the box cover.


CRUISE: (As Charlie Babbitt) How many toothpicks are in there?

BONNIE HUNT: (As Sally Dibbs) Two-fifty.

CRUISE: (As Charlie Babbitt) Pretty close. Come on. Let's go, Ray.

HOFFMAN: (As Raymond Babbitt) Two hundred forty-six.

HUNT: (As Sally Dibbs) There's four left in the box.

MONDELLO: Hoffman took home an Oscar for that role. And J.K. Simmons got one years later playing a tyrannical music teacher in "Whiplash," where the most memorable scene was about counting beats mixed with slaps.


J K SIMMONS: (As Terence Fletcher) Why do you suppose I just hurled a chair at your head, Neiman?

MILES TELLER: (As Andrew Neiman) I don't know.

SIMMONS: (As Terence Fletcher) Sure you do.

TELLER: (As Andrew Neiman) The tempo?

SIMMONS: (As Terence Fletcher) Were you rushing, or were you dragging?

TELLER: (As Andrew Neiman) I don't know.

SIMMONS: (As Terence Fletcher) Start counting.

TELLER: (As Andrew Neiman) Five, six...

SIMMONS: (As Terence Fletcher) In four, damn it. Look at me.

TELLER: (As Andrew Neiman) One, two, three, four.


TELLER: (As Andrew Neiman) One, two, three, four.


TELLER: (As Andrew Neiman) One, two, three...

SIMMONS: (As Terence Fletcher) Now, was I rushing, or was I dragging?

TELLER: (As Andrew Neiman) I don't know.

SIMMONS: (As Terence Fletcher) Count again.

TELLER: (As Andrew Neiman) One, two, three, four.


TELLER: (As Andrew Neiman) One, two, three, four.


TELLER: (As Andrew Neiman) One, two, three, four.

SIMMONS: (As Terence Fletcher) Rushing or dragging?

TELLER: (As Andrew Neiman) Rushing.

SIMMONS: (As Terence Fletcher) So you do know the difference.

MONDELLO: OK, I've gone down a dark hole looking for distraction. Rest assured, there's plenty of comic counting, from Monty Python's "Holy Grail" hand grenade sequence...


ERIC IDLE: (As Brother Maynard) First shalt thou take out the holy pin. Then shalt thou count to three. Four shalt thou not count, nor either count thou two...

MONDELLO: ...To Roger Rabbit's haunting love poem that did not win over Jessica Rabbit.


CHARLES FLEISCHER: (As Roger Rabbit) How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. One 1,000, two 1,000, three 1,000...

MONDELLO: And then there is no accounting for taste. I'm Bob Mondello.


RONEE BLAKELY AND HENRY GIBSON: (Singing) One, I love you. Two, I'm thinking of you. Three, I'll never let you go. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.
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