Bingo goes to the movies
Sure, we’ve all seen plenty of casino scenes in the movies and on TV. After all, the glamourous surroundings and big money being played for make it a natural backdrop to the action. But bingo? Surely the game with a reputation for being for older people playing in big halls with elevator music in the background doesn’t make for very captivating entertainment.
In fact, these assumptions are wrong on both counts.
Ever since the online bingo craze took off it’s managed to attract a whole new generation of players who are attracted by the huge range of games available and the friendly sociable atmosphere they find there. So plenty of people are looking for new bingo sites where they can enjoy everything the game has always offered, with a very modern twist.
Secondly, as these five examples show, the game of bingo can serve a number of purposes in films from being played for laughs to giving an insight into the characters’ moods or personalities. Plus, because virtually everyone knows the rules of bingo, the filmmakers don’t need to waste any valuable time making sure that viewers know exactly what’s going on.
Johnny Knoxville certainly reached a level of notoriety in the Jackass series of films. The madcap pranks with seemingly no concern for the comfort or safety of himself or his team made them successful in a genre all of their own. The price that Knoxville has had to pay for this has been countless broken bones and trips to the hospital. So it must have been a relief to concentrate on his Bad Grandpa character, Irving Zisman, for this particular film.
You can tell pretty easily from the title what the set-up is going to be – an old fellow behaving badly and inappropriately in a variety of surroundings.
In this scene, it’s a typical bingo hall where our character begins by talking loudly, before progressing to drinking the ink out of his bingo dabber. Blue tongued and getting more raucous, he then proceeds to pull out a blender and make iced margaritas on the table. The biggest laughs come from the horrified reactions around him.
Better Call Saul
When the world discovered Breaking Bad it was obvious that here was one very special TV series. So it’s hardly surprising that the story of Walter and Jesse would soon start to spawn other series and movies. Of course, the very first was Better Call Saul and more recently El Camino has come to Netflix to quite some critical acclaim.
Undoubtedly one of the most interesting characters to emerge from the original Breaking Bad was Saul Goodman, the attorney who skirted very close to the law and always seemed to have a dark past behind him. So the TV series bearing his name gave us a chance to get to know him better and find out more of his back story.
One of the most memorable scenes that showed the darkness behind the façade came when he was acting as a bingo caller in a retirement home. Instead of announcing the numbers, he muses on the sheer futility of life and the pointlessness of existence. Who knew that nihilism could be so funny?
This 2014 psychological thriller/horror movie from Australia may not have had major mainstream success but it certainly achieved cult status, not to mention a very scary trailer. It tells the story of a widowed character called Amelia and her young son Samuel who move into a new home in Adelaide.
One day her son finds a pop-up picture book called The Babadook in the house and asks Amelia to read it to him. Soon after, strange things start to happen in the house and there is an ever-more dramatic series of events.
As the tension cranks up, and the audience are moved to the edge of their seats, there is a bingo scene designed as a real contrast to the rest of the action. The setting, like Better Call Saul, is also in a care home. In this case it’s where Amelia works and the few minutes she spends calling out the numbers give her, and us, a respite from the horrors of the rest of the movie.
An altogether jollier version of the horror genre comes in the shape of Hotel Transylvania. The hotel in question has been set up by Count Dracula, voiced by Adam Sandler, as a refuge for monsters everywhere who want to escape from pressure and persecution.
As part of the entertainment programme laid on for them, bingo naturally features. In this particular game the bingo balls are in the form of spooky miniature skulls which are spun round in a classic cage before being plucked out one by one. When they are, each one calls out its own number, which is then repeated by the caller.
Typically, the players react enthusiastically to the game, if sometimes argumentatively and it goes to make this one of the funniest scenes in what is a very funny movie overall.
The 2009 film Rampage, not to be confused with the 2018 movie of the same name, tells you all you need to know in the title. Our “hero”, Bill Williamson, is a disaffected 23 year old living in a small town in Oregon. His disappointing life, coupled with many other wrongs he feels have been done to him, lead to him making an armour-plated suit and going on a killing spree armed with assault rifles and knives.
Amidst all the carnage he visits a local bingo hall. The players are so transfixed by the game they barely notice the stranger wearing weapons-grade armour. The boy serving behind the counter, on the other hand, is so terrified that he gives Bill a sandwich and drink for free. Throughout the scene there’s a real tension that the slaughter’s about to continue. Luckily, Bill eats his sandwich and leaves to carry on the mayhem elsewhere.
So with all these different ways of featuring bingo in the movies and on TV, who could possibly say it’s not a cinematic game after all?