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MoPOP Movie Review: 'How to Steal a Million'

MoPOP Movie Review: 'How to Steal a Million'

Have you ever watched a TV show or film that featured a character with the same job as you? Have you ever thought, 'But, that's not how it is at all!' Us, too! So, as part of a limited content series titled MoPOP Movie Reviews, we'll take a look back at some of our favorite films and analyze how museums, art work, and art workers are portrayed.

To date, we've reviewed Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Velvet Buzzsaw (2019), Bean (1997), and Black Panther (2018). We continue today with How to Steal a Million (1966). Read on!

Numbah five in the series! We’re starting to hit a groove with MoPOP Movie Review content, and this time around we've brought in even more contributors. We don’t know if you knew this about the MoPOP team, but we’re major nerds. Don’t let anyone who works at MoPOP tell you differently. They’re nerds too, and that nerdiness is a huge asset to the museum because where one nerd’s interest drops off, another’s picks up.

As part of their weekly MoPOP Classic AV Club watchalong, Amalia Kozloff (Curator), Brooks Peck (Senior Curator)Chris Moore (Exhibits Projects Coordinator), Katherine Hughes (Registrar), Liisa Spink (Grant Writer), Melinda Simms (Collections Manager), and Stefanie Terasaki (Assistant Registrar) got together virtually to watch How to Steal a Millionand mercilessly roast it. Except, of course, for when they were admiring the outfits, cars, interior decoration, and typesetting present in the film!

Remember, the same rules as previous MoPOP Movie Reviews apply: How to Steal a Million starts with 20 points and gains or loses points throughout the review depending on our staff's assessed levels of realism in the museum/art work fields. Let's see how it fares!

How to Steal a Million

“Nope, you should never do that!”

Jumping right into the deep end of “nope, you should never do that!” the film opens with an art auction where one (COUNT 'EM ONE) art handler carries a priceless painting by the fragile edges of the frame up to the block. And, for some unknown reason he’s NOT EVEN WEARING GLOVES. And the scene with velvet layered to “protect” the paintings leaning against each other? We’re losing our minds here. Dead.

Museum/Art Work Realism Review: -6 points

Running Total: 14/20 points

How to Steal a Million

A Police Motorcade Escorting Artifacts? Complete Nonsense. 

We’ve all had overly solicitous security guards hovering over us while working on priceless pieces. Chris once had armed guards (with guns!) in Rome as he made mounts for Bulgari jewelry. But the whole procession that happens afterward with the motorcade? Complete nonsense. As you might recall from our commentary of Velvet Buzzsaw, art-handling trucks stay anonymous to protect artifacts. We’ve never heard of state police escorting artifacts. Security guards? Sure. Police? Nope.  

Museum/Art Work Realism Review: +3 points

Running Total: 17/20 points

How to Steal a Million

This Happens, But We Don't Recommend It

Generally, you’d want to grab paint from somewhere less obvious than the middle of the painting, but, yeah, this is otherwise accurate. Let’s be frank: forgeries always get caught. There are entire sections of the FBI dedicated to catching forgery rings and legal action will be taken. If you’re thinking this might be a lucrative, shady side hustle, we recommend against it.

Museum/Art Work Realism Review: +5 points

Running Total: 22/20 points (wow, we're doin' really good here! But, keep reading...)

How to Steal a Million

Lasers! Pew, Pew, Pew!

Lasers were around in 1966, but was the technology advanced enough to determine when the beam was interruptedWell, in 1965 they were able to phase lock a laser, so that would mean yes, but the cost of that kind of security system for one artifact would be ASTRONOMICAL.

Now, let’s look at the rest of the security in the museumPeter O’Toole was able to waltz right into the back of house security station; doors either weren’t locked or had keys hanging right next to them; and there were approximately eight guards for an overnight shift, but they were all just hanging out in the break room. Yeah, not great. The velvet rope stanchions might have been good for keeping well-meaning guests out, but that’s never really an effective method for keeping committed troublemakers at bay. 

In the end, it made us realize how much we appreciate modern security systems with camera feeds going to a centralized location. What an artifact lifesaver.

Museum/Art Work Realism Review: -2 points

Running Total: 20/20 points

How to Steal a Million

"Oooo.. Shiny!"

All right, look at this gallery that they keep wandering through. There’s a complete jumble of artistic periods hanging next to each other with no context. Peter O’Toole sums it up perfectly with, “Wonderful exhibition. So many beautiful things... and so valuable! It seems that the curators of this museum just mounted random, expensive artwork in a gallery and called it an exhibition! That is not curating. Curators spend a lot of time developing the themes and context in an exhibition and, well, CURATING. There’s so much work that goes into making a cohesive experience; not just hanging pretty pictures.

Museum/Art Work Realism Review: -5 points

Running Total: 15/20 points

How to Steal a Million

Drop The Scrub Brush And Step Away From The Tapestry!

AHHH. Stop it. Just. Please. Stop. Our housekeeping team would be freaking out. Our Collections Manager was definitely freaking out. Our Preparator is laughing because he’s a bit of a sadist. We love our housekeeping team. They’re incredibly educated and have specialty supplies to make sure that their cleaning of the museum doesn’t harm our artifacts. That said, they don’t touch artifacts. Our Collections team handles cleaning of all artifacts and sometimes collaborates with housekeeping for larger projects that involve being near or removing artifacts. 

But what was she doing wrong, really? She was blowing on a painting (we’re learning all about vapor droplets in our breath currently), using a stiff bristle scrub brush on this 17th CENTURY TAPESTRY(!!!), and went under the stanchion to stand right next to it (bumping hazard).

Museum/Art Work Realism Review: -3 points

Running Total: 12/20 points

How to Steal a Million

Overall, it wasn’t that bad. Yeah, they exaggerated some stuff and for some reason the bumbling security guard trope made yet another appearance, but we were picking apart some really specialized stuff. Who else would have noticed what a curatorial hodgepodge the gallery was except for a curator?

Final Total For Museum/Art Work Realism: 12/20 points


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Film, MoPOP Movie Reviews

About the author

Amalia Kozloff (Curator), Chris Moore (Exhibits Project Coordinator), Brooks Peck (Senior Curator), Katherine Hughes (Registrar), Liisa Spink (Grant Writer), Melinda Simms (Collections Manager), and Stefanie Terasaki (Assistant Registrar).