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Arbitrary But Fun Friday, Striking Back at Hackery Edition

This version of Arbitrary but Fun Friday is inspired by Punkass Marc, who for reasons unknown actually sat and watched the entire film Charly on cable and found one of the stupidest movie cliches of all time.

The subsequent romance montage climaxes with a shot of Charly and Alice going down a children’s slide together, he behind her with his arms around her waist. They land with expressions of joyous rapture, happier than they’ve ever been in their lives.

Now, I understand why the patriarchy loves a rape-turned-romance story, but for the life of me, I can’t figure out how or why this slide thing is the iconic expression of True Love.

You see the damn thing used in movies like this all the time, but I can’t think of a less comfortable experience than trying to make my way down a tiny, sticky, white-hot metal slide while clinging to another person. Children are often unsanitary little creatures, too, and the thought of wriggling my lower body along the uncleaned path paved by countless kid-butts is hardly intoxicating. Even if you manage to make to the bottom without toppling over, what was the ride, two seconds long? Maybe we could switch the Slide Cliche to something equally as fun, like the Condom-Breaking Moment or the Accidental Burp During a Kiss.

While looking around for images to use for this ABFF post, I found that glass wedding topper that invokes exactly this cliche, which goes to show how big a danger hackery in film-making poses to our society. How long for this world is a couple that says, essentially, “Our love reminds us of the lazy choices of hack directors?” So I knew I had to throw this question out there:

If you could ban one movie cliche from movies forever, on the pain of the director’s execution or at least banishment from making any movies ever again, what would it be?

As I said in the comments at Punkassblog, the one movie cliche that always makes me wonder what wrong turn I took in life to be watching this movie is “I Love You So Please Don’t Get On That Plane.” Or any variation of the scene where one character is about to get on a plane and another character, realizing he/she doesn’t want that person out of his/her life forever, chases him/her down at the airport and stops the beloved from getting on the plane. Presumably, all these planes are flying directly into the sun. How else do explain why it’s always critical to keep the person from getting on the plane in the first place instead of letting him/her fly home, get some rest, let tempers cool down and talk about maybe mending fences at some point in the near future?

This cliche especially bothered me in Meet the Parents, a movie that was formulaic, sure, but was actually pretty funny and managed to capture very well how it feels to be in those alarming situations where everything you do, no matter how well-intended, just makes things worse. And while they tried to dress up the last minute airport dash scene with a lot of admittedly funny business about the airport bureaucracy and while it was amusing that the character who “realized” his love was the father-in-law, not the fiancee, it still didn’t make a lick of sense. All the excitement of it was just there to distract the audience from the obvious--Stiller’s fiancee was indeed a spoiled princess who didn’t have the courage to stand up to her dad and he shouldn’t want to marry her after seeing this aspect of her character.  It basically ruined the “romance” part of the romantic comedy for me.

So, what movie cliche ruins pretty much any movie you see it in for you?

Cross-posted at Pandagon.
Posted by on 05/26 at 07:16 AM
  1. I don’t know if it’s a cliché as such, but any movie with a May-December (or even June-November or July-October) relationship cast with a Major Actor who happens to be over-the-hill and an up-and-coming actress who happens to be young enough to be the actor’s granddaughter had better otherwise be in the Citizen Kane or Spinal Tap league.

    In the same dep’t., the portrait of “Neutron Jack” and Suzy Welch that accompanies their BusinessWeek column (see here) would predispose me not to take their “work” seriously even if it weren’t corporatist jingoism.

    Posted by Tom Bozzo  on  05/26  at  08:59 AM
  2. Without a doubt, I would ban Getaway Scenes Where Girl Trips Over Air While Running With Hero (along with the obligatory sound effect of the pitiful whimper she makes when hitting the ground). What, do women uniformly have a different relationship with gravity than men? This supposed anxiety-heightener barely worked in post WWII-era films (and only then b/c of the 4-inch heels and knee-length tight skirt factor--I’d like to see the Manly Hero make two steps in those), but it sure doesn’t work now. Yet it keeps going and going and going ...

    Posted by  on  05/26  at  09:21 AM
  3. I hate when the “other” character (disabled, differently coloured, outcast in school, you name it) is reviled for the entire movie and then does one simple act of kindness or intelligence and becomes a hero. It’s like suddenly they’re worthy because they helped someone and who would have thought they had purpose? For the life of me I can’t come up with specific titles but they’re out there

    Posted by  on  05/26  at  09:32 AM
  4. The Hollywood Southern/Rural/Hick Accent. It’s a generic faux-drawl you never hear anywhere but in the movies. Tom Hanks uses it about 33% of the time—F Gump, Green Mile, ad nauseam. Doesn’t matter if the character is from the Powder River Basin of Wyoming, southern Utah, East Texas, upstate Michigan, backwoods Miss-sip, or Atlanta.They awl tawk wiyuth the say-yum stupid drawl.

    The only actor to get it right in the last 20 years: Christopher Guest as Harlan Pepper in Best in Show.

    Posted by David J Swift  on  05/26  at  10:01 AM
  5. Seems like we movie voyeurs spend more time in public and private bathrooms following plot and character development as nature calls and is answered with increasing attention to detail. (Smell-o-vision™ anyone?) I understand that actors need to do something while delivering lines and I guess it beats smoking.

    I oppose executing directors on humanitarian grounds but we need to look at manditory minimums for dream sequencing.

    IIRC Charly was right-handed when in genius mode, left-handed otherwise. How real is that?

    Posted by black dog barking  on  05/26  at  10:30 AM
  6. The obligatory sex scene.  Course, I would replace it with a nonobligatory sex scene.

    Girl falling down while slowest monster in the world is chasing.  Nevermind.  Since the very foundation of horror films are the cliches I guess you have to stay true to the genre.

    The car chase.  I’ve seen it done well about three times (including the Charley’s Angels episode where Farrah is on a skateboard being chased by increasingly fast and ferocious vehicles).  All silent movies are exempt from this proscription.

    Posted by  on  05/26  at  10:35 AM
  7. When the lovers float in a giant vat of vaseline and hack each other’s legs off on the way to becoming whales.  I thought it worked best in A Philadelphia Story.

    Posted by  on  05/26  at  10:45 AM
  8. Mine is similar to Clare’s: the African-American, Latina, Asian, or disabled sidekick, especially in action films when said sidekick dies heroically, admonishing the protagonist to fight to the finish, marry the girl/boy, or whatever.

    Car chases are notoriously awful (French Connection and Ronin excepted), although I have to give credit to CHIPS for at least making the most absurd car chases possible (chasing school buses, semis, tractors with motorcycles).

    Horror films are such cliche-fests that I don’t know where to start.  The “weird local” (a la David Arquette in Scream) everyone wrongly suspects to be the monster is pretty tired at this point. 

    Oh and hit men who deconstuct music videos or syndicated TV series is getting old.  Tarantino writes one good scene in “Reservoir Dogs” and every pop-culture weaned wanna-be auteur thinks he can imitate it.

    Posted by Chuck  on  05/26  at  10:56 AM
  9. 1) I’m tired of movies ending with the protagonist giving an impromptu speech before some group of people in which he or she explains the ‘valuable lessons’ he or she has learned.  If the movie’s any good, those lessons should be perfectly clear without having to spell it out for the audience.

    2) While we’re at it, let’s eliminate the ‘valuable lessons’ as well.

    Posted by  on  05/26  at  11:03 AM
  10. I hate this one, especially common in scifi and spy movies. The key piece of bad-guy tech [The Big Red Button] is precariously perched atop a metal tower, across a grate bridge, surrounded by laser toting robots, or some otherwise difficult to access spot. The Hero must fight the Villian all the while he makes his away across the bridge, around the robots, and while scaling the tower. Oh, and the Hero will almost fall from a great height more than once. Perhaps his weapon will fall to a lower level and need to be retrieved.

    I can’t count how many otherwise very good scifi flicks disappointed me with this “climax.”

    Posted by ms lynch  on  05/26  at  11:19 AM
  11. How many times have we seen the ‘bad guys,’ armed to the teeth with all sorts of automatic weaponry, fire millions of shots that never come anywhere in the same zip code as our ‘hero.’ Then, after leaping, summersalting, diving, and otherwise covering 6 of the 7 olympic gymnastic challanges, the ‘hero’ fires one shot from his (or hers) semi automatic hand gun and hits the ‘bad guy’ square in the chest. Puleeze. I remember reading an article about the TV show Miami Vice that featured a variation of this scene every week. The article actually counted the thousands of times the detectives fired their guns and compared that to the number of times officers in Miami had actually fired their guns in the line of duty during the run of the TV show. I think the actual firings were 2. Two shots. Enough of the gun foreplay.

    Posted by  on  05/26  at  11:23 AM
  12. I checked out the whale-link gary provided. Can I add obvious-yet-paradoxically-obscure symbolism to the list?
    Ah, Bjork. I loved you once.

    Posted by ms lynch  on  05/26  at  11:32 AM
  13. How about the tiresome “character explains the mechanics of quantum physics with household cleaning products” scene? Gad! Enough already. Pauly Shore handled it the worst, and there were at least four errors in his calculations. Puke!

    Posted by  on  05/26  at  11:51 AM
  14. Myself, I’m aiming for a Constitutional amendment against any more kids-sports movies where:
    1. The team is horribly bad and is composed of a bunch of misfits, usually including one overweight kid and one nerd kid (who, naturally, wears glasses);
    2. A new coach, himself a ne’er-do-well and probably recently divorced, arrives on the scene;
    3. Things proceed to Get Even Worse for the team and its coach (somewhere in here he meets The Girl, who wants nothing to do with him);
    4. The Other Team is a juggernaut, and is composed almost exclusively of assholes;
    5. The coach, against all odds, turns the team around (and The Girl, sitting in the stands, begins to notice);
    6. The once-horrible team meets the Juggernaut and, after early setbacks, comes back to win (somewhere in here will be a scene where the Fat Kid gets back at the bullies and the Nerd Kid uses some kind of sci/tech knowledge that comes in handy).  Coach gets girl, etc.

    This, along with my other amendment to ban people named “Jeb” and “Mitt” from the presidency, must be passed soon.

    Posted by  on  05/26  at  12:34 PM
  15. Slow motion for any “climactic” scene in any sports movie.  In fact, slow motion of any kind.  I hereby propose the creation of a National Slow Motion Committee with the power to strip any movie of slow motion scenes, especially those in which a character utters an anguished and lugubrious “nooooooooooooooooo.”

    I’m curious to know whether Alek’s sensible strictures would cover “Dodgeball,” since that movie was quite clearly (and ironically) written to formula, and whether the “I Love You So Please Don’t Get On That Plane” phenomenon covers Garden State, an otherwise pleasant and well-intentioned little film that didn’t have the good sense to avoid the terrible airport scene or the obligatory yelling-in-the-rain scene (the one in which we are given to understand that Andrew Largeman has finally gotten in touch with . . . er . . . yelling in the rain).

    Posted by Michael  on  05/26  at  12:56 PM
  16. I’d ban the scene at the end of action flicks where the evil-doer, being chased by the hero, fires all the rounds in his hand gun (naturally missing everytime), then throws the damned thing at the hero (again missing) before engaging in a fist fight. Keep the gun to club Arnold, Mel, et. al. over the head, for crying out loud!

    Posted by  on  05/26  at  01:08 PM
  17. In movies set before 1900, the point-of-view shot of guests entering a ballroom through double doors opened slowly onto the spectacle of a dance in progress, preferably by obliging and deferent attendants who bow as the camera passes slowly into the ballroom.  If the p.o.v. is the female lead, the next shot will be a closeup of the lead smiling madly and looking around, barely able to contain her pleasure and curiosity.  Later, during a complex and moderately-paced dance encompassing roughly a bajillion square feet of dance floor, she and a suitor conduct a conversation full of subtle hints and evasions that no other dancers seem to notice, despite the fact that the two are the only ones talking.

    Posted by Jason  on  05/26  at  01:35 PM
  18. Whenever anyone approaches a microphone on a stage, as they begin to speak there’s ALWAYS a bit of audio feedback

    Posted by  on  05/26  at  01:58 PM
  19. I nominate the “If you keep up these shenanigans, McGonigle, you’re going to get kicked off the force” cliche.  Closely related is the “I’m getting too old for this shit” cliche (See especially the Lethal Weapon movies, as well as various and sundry detective and disaster movies). 

    My husband has a theory that the earlier in the movie anyone says anything resembling “you know they say s/he’s the best”, the worse the movie will be.

    Posted by  on  05/26  at  02:07 PM
  20. Vin Diesel.

    Slow Motion

    Posted by Randy Paul  on  05/26  at  02:16 PM
  21. When I saw Amanda’s cross-post note, I thought, “This will get a bazillion comments over at Pandagon.” It’s up to 120 right now.

    Anyway, I want to delete any director using the “outrun the explosion” scene and its variants.

    Posted by  on  05/26  at  02:26 PM
  22. 1) The bad guy who has the hero under his control and won’t just kill him. Two variants, sometimes combined. First - the creative use of snakes/spiders/industrial machinery to do the deed (and yes - James Bond movies are primary culprits.) Second - the bad guy feels the need to taunt/share the irony with/otherwise reveal his inner motivations to the hero. I mean, c’mon just kill the fucker - you’re Doctor-freaking-No fer chrissakes. (Ok, so this would absolutely gut and wipe out a whole genre of films - well wiped in my opinion.)

    2) I am not a sentimentalist. The “end of the movie” scene in which a grand reconcilitation, “we’ll take care of you"/"It has all worked out OK in the end even though you’re crippled” scene takes place in the presence of a person physically or emotionally wounded during the film (sometimes by the very people in the room - often a hospital room.) For instance at the end of East of Eden (which I otherwise enjoyed), I thought it would have been a great improvement to just have James Dean and Julie Harris go ahead and have sex right on top of the stroke-debilitated Raymond Massey, rather than sit there fawning over him.

    Posted by  on  05/26  at  02:28 PM
  23. Here’s the scene:  two characters in a room. Usually male, tough guys who’ve been through a lot toegther. One of the characters gets up to leave the room.  Just as he exits, the other simply calls his name. He stops, turns, looks.  Pregnant pause.  “Thanks,” is all that is said, all that need be said.

    Posted by  on  05/26  at  02:30 PM
  24. Any movie in which murder of the best friend or lover of the hero is used to motivate said hero There was a time in the 80s when it seemed that being close to the hero was a guaranteed death sentence in an action movie.

    Posted by  on  05/26  at  03:12 PM
  25. Not quite the same as the “outrunning the explosion” cliche, is the “calmly walking away from the explosion” in the background cliche.  It’s one of those things that looked cliche the first time I saw it.

    Posted by  on  05/26  at  03:46 PM
  26. First--if you haven’t been on school playground slides lately, you really should consider it.  Especially during those quiet early morning hours, in the summer and fall when the humidity is really low.  They are all now constructed of various plastics and composite fibers, resting on insulators, which retain static charges of amazing magnitudes (multiple five to eight inch sparks per ride).  It can be both romantic and highly entertaining after an early evening cocktail of kool-aid.  Hours of cheap fun thanks to school safety campaigns.

    My biggest pet film cliche peeve is the gratuitous excessive violence of the villains (especially when perpetrated against women and children) in “rebel-hero” action films.  It is used by lazy directors to lamely attempt to get some emotional empathy built up for the hero, so that when he (unless you watch TankGirl) unleashes his own excessive violence it seems warranted and justified.
    Why must this go on and on, in film after film?  Linked with that is the ever present hero or heroine who can do it all without any regard for reality or believability.  Mariska Hargitay’s character in Law & Order, and David Caruso’s on CSI Miami, are examples of these, as are all the CSI and other L&O cops.  Does the NYPD actually have SWAT teams anymore??? Do cops willingly risk their lives without backup??? No, they don’t.

    Does Murderball count as another cliche sports film???

    Posted by  on  05/26  at  03:58 PM
  27. Having a character express that they have a “bad feeling” about something or someone. Everytime this happens something bad ensues, unlike my life where something bad rarely ensues unless it involves a national election.

    Posted by  on  05/26  at  04:18 PM
  28. At the risk of fracturing the minds of all the semioticians out there, I could do without ever seeing another mirror/window/watery reflection shattering at the moment of our lead character’s greatest emotional duress, either by accident or by the character’s ill-advised decision to punch and/or throw it at that moment.  Whenever I see that worn out bit of psychological symbolism it takes me right out of the movie and I can’t help thinking, man, we need to get some new film textbooks…

    Posted by  on  05/26  at  04:31 PM
  29. Plots involving infomation which for some reason is stored in only one place:  on “The Disk.” As in:  “gimme The Disk or the girl dies!” Jeebus, haven’t these guys ever heard of a backup utility?

    Posted by  on  05/26  at  04:31 PM
  30. 1. Adam Sandler in any scene, in any movie.

    2. People see disaster coming, and instead of taking evasive action, yell, “Noooo!” together. It sorta worked in ‘Raising Arizona’, then it got stale real fast.

    3. The Hero, who has been shown performing incredible training for the Big Fight, suddenly appears to lose even basic motor skills when facing the Bad Guy. After absorbing a beating that would kill a demi-god, Hero suddenly remembers how to fight and wins. Basically used to drag out fight scenes.

    Posted by  on  05/26  at  04:51 PM
  31. The Gay Best Friend.  Fine, I give up, I know we ‘mo’s are never going to be able to actually have romantic/sex lives in mainstream Hollywood fare, but Jeebus, enough with the (always fem) gay guy who’s there to fire off bitchy one-liners.  As a sidebar to that, quit having TGBF be played by straight guys.  There’s enough out actors around to cast them in this lame-ass role.

    Posted by  on  05/26  at  05:23 PM
  32. Sports films with miraculous comebacks in the last minute. Unbearable. This cliché is used universally in basketball and soccer films. I don’t watch baseball films, but I’m sure those are full of it too.

    Posted by Idelber  on  05/26  at  06:20 PM
  33. Does Murderball count as another cliche sports film???
    Posted by spyder on 05/26 at 02:58 PM

    I think it verges on cliche in places, but at least it introduces us to an unfamiliar sport/subculture in a way that is respectful of that subculture.  The final scene in which the quads invite/train the soldiers to particpate in quad rugby made me cringe a little, but mostly because of the manipulative non-diegetic music.  If they had played metal or something instead, it might have worked.

    Posted by Chuck  on  05/26  at  07:19 PM
  34. The women giving it all up for love cliche.  In Keeping the Faith, for example, Jenna Elfman’s character gives up a top executive job in a distant city to stay with love interest Ben Stiller - whose character wasn’t sure he wanted to be with her in the first place.

    Once he decides, however, she indeed gives everything up.

    Come to think of it, this is two cliches in one - she was about to board a plane when he “rescued” her from her ill decision making.

    Posted by  on  05/26  at  07:33 PM
  35. The scene in the romantic comedy where the guy (usually) serenades the girl in public.  Or any variation thereon.  They always make me cringe and feel just absolutely fucking mortified for both characters.  There is no way in hell that public embarrassment = romance. 

    Plus, this cliche has encouraged way too many idiots that proposing to people on jumbotrons, billboards, tv, blah blah blah is romantic.  Must.  Stop.  Now.

    Posted by bitchphd  on  05/26  at  09:29 PM
  36. JP Stormcrow’s first one (comment 22) is what Roger Ebert calls the Fallacy of the Talking Killer. He’s got a Movie Glossary loaded with other cliches (contributed by regular folks), e.g., The Loner’s Vindication Rule: “Whenever the fate of the world is on the line, governments turn to that lone scientist whose ideas and theories, once shunned as ludicrous, now become the last hope to save humanity.” Seen that one much?

    I view Grambo’s cliche (comment 11) as the combination of The Professional Killers With Terrible Aim and The Hero Whose Body Emits an Electromagnetic Force That Repels Bullets. The hero’s body is remarkably resistant to any injury—just watch a James Bond type leap from a moving vehicle and tumble down a rocky mountainside, surrounded by ricocheting bullets, emerging with nary a scratch or penetrating wound.

    Posted by Orange  on  05/26  at  09:44 PM
  37. The suspension of physics.  The latest version of this was in Redeye.  (Spoilers coming)

    The bad guys shoot a missile at the hotel window.  A security guy sees the missile en route, turns around, and runs down the hall, shouting “incoming.” Right.  Another one like this:  someone is falling and then they reach up a hand and catch themselves. I want to see you reach your hand up faster than you are falling.  The “running from the explosion” mentioned above also often qualifies.

    That Godawful Family Stone was a minefield of annoying cliches.  There was a stopping the true love from leaving on the bus (made even worse by the fact that she gets on, rides several yards, and then stops it and gets off).  There was the incredibly cold and repressed career women.  There was the dying beloved matriarch.  Ugh.

    Posted by  on  05/26  at  10:09 PM
  38. A friend of mine described the ending of “Under Siege 2” as “Steven Seagal outruns physics,” so that’s become the Official Designation for me whenever someone outruns fire or missiles or tidal waves.

    As for cliches I’d ban, as a horror fan I’d have to say that the one that bugs me the most is “the killer isn’t/the monsters aren’t dead after all!” non-ending.  I don’t mean the standard bit where the bad guy takes a lickin’ and keeps on ass-kickin’, but the one where the movie is over, the threat has been destroyed according to the rules of that movie’s universe, but just before the credits roll, OMG IT’S NOT DEAD LOOK OUT!  It’s gotten so bad that it’s noteworthy when a movie doesn’t end that way.

    Posted by  on  05/26  at  10:26 PM
  39. Ohhhh, Hackery-- on first hurried reading earlier today, I mistakenly read that as “hockery” and tuned out.  Gosh darn the power of conditioning!

    Posted by  on  05/27  at  01:04 AM
  40. The heartwarming story of an underdog who wins in the end against all odds.

    The movies which use some enormous event (WWII, the Holocaust, a mega-disaster) as the backdrop for a love story, especially he ones when two ideological opponents fall in love and realize that, after all, reality is about relationships and people and not all that abstract political stuff. (this is the

    Probably that only rules out about 25% of all movies.

    I can imagine a subset of bearable movies of these types, but the underdog movies are a big lie, convincing people to keep striving for Success, when in fact there is no real hope for them, whereas the love-conquers-all movies channel people into deciding that real estate and household appliances is where it’s really at.

    Most recently I think of Carville and Matalin for the love-conquers-all poster couple—wo completely vicious frauds who love one another.

    BTW, too many movies are date movies. To someone who’s not dating, a lot of movies seem like they might have been perfectly fine once, before the romance syrup was poured on.

    Posted by  on  05/27  at  08:30 AM
  41. I didn’t see this above, and if it is there i’m sorry for repeating it; otherwise....
    If any scene from a movie has been co-opted by the advertising industry, then it is now cliche.  This goes for that formerly wonderful scene from Casablanca, as well as the not-so-wonderful but “oh-so-camp” one from the Creature from the Black Lagoon.  The examples are too numerous and escalating at a rate that is darn near exponential.  But one that bugs me is how many times we are seeing the inferred hip/cool connotation, from Dylan throwing down the index card lyrics in Don’t Look Back, being used to sell something???

    Posted by  on  05/27  at  01:36 PM
  42. I hate it when a man and a woman are fighting (read:  man abusing woman), when the fight suddenly turns into a groping makeout session.  It offends me as a feminist and a movie fan.

    Posted by Lance  on  05/27  at  02:20 PM
  43. So, spyder, whaddya think about the new thing now, where major car or soda or whatever manufacturers are encouraging youth to go out and make their own amateur-indie-style commercials for them?  Now that out to be a capital crime.

    Posted by Lance  on  05/27  at  02:59 PM
  44. Sometimes a slide is just a slide…

    Posted by KathyR  on  05/27  at  05:20 PM
  45. Oh, and any movie not about lawyers or a lawsuit that ends with a courtroom scene or some other kind of hearing. Scent of A Woman comes immediately to mind, but there are lots more.

    Posted by KathyR  on  05/27  at  05:30 PM
  46. Has this one really not been mentioned yet?  I refer to the Urban Sophisticate returning to the sticks against his or her will, only to realize that he/she/his or her friends/fiance(e) is/are a phony/phonies and that bein’ jest folks is the only authentic way to live.

    Oh, and when our hero, sitting at the computer keyboard, types in a name supplied (aurally) by the techie subordinate, without asking how to spell it (and getting it right the first time, naturally).\

    Or when the monitor flashes DANGER in big red letters.

    Posted by Dave M  on  05/27  at  07:43 PM
  47. Heh, the OTHER David M. (and one of many Dave/Davids here) wishes to express his sincere appreciation for Lance and Amanda’s hosting.

    (While I’m being maudlin, I also appreciate Chris Clarke (and his much-admired back end), Karl the GM’s erudition, Oaktown Girl’s cheer, and Bob in Pacifica’s lore. Oh and that hockey player guy, too.)

    Now that baseball is so sweet (go Mets n’ Tiges) I only have time for le creme de la net--and le creme, c’est Lance/Amanda/Sadly, No!/and that Hockey Player guy’s blog.


    Posted by  on  05/28  at  12:09 AM
  48. Austin Powers sent up the evil villain and his nefarious plan to get rid of the hero and his consort very well (Sea Bass, anyone).  And the sensible Scott Evil just wants to shoot Powers.

    It’s not just the lousy aim for the gang of bad guys, strom troopers etc during the climactic battle - it the fact that they lost their deadly aim and nasty tactics that were well in evidence and so successful in the first reel.

    Posted by  on  05/28  at  12:51 AM
  49. A single tear running down a cheek.

    Posted by  on  05/28  at  08:28 AM
  50. This is more of a TV cliche, but anyway:

    Parent: “Your mother/father and I want you to know we love you.”

    Teen (sullenly): “...You’ve got a funny way of showing it.”

    Posted by  on  05/28  at  10:00 AM
  51. For the life of me, I cannot understand why so many people loved Garden State.  You know the scene where Natalie Portman gives Zach Braff the headphones and tells him the Shins will change his life? That’s the whole movie. “Dude, isn’t this cool?” No. I’m sorry. It’s cliche. The “don’t get on that plane” moment was bad, but certainly not as bad as the cumulative effects of the dozens of “hey, I’m having a serious moment of introspection right now, why don’t I tell you all about it?” moments.

    On the other hand - the scene with the CAT scan was great, as was pretty much every scene with Peter Saarsgard in it.

    Posted by  on  05/28  at  10:00 AM
  52. I was astonished not to see DON’T OPEN THAT DOOOOOOR! here so far, but maybe that’s less an overworked cliche than a foundation of a whole industry; let’s say that the headslapper moment of just about any movie is the first step on the road to ruin, for me.

    Know what I hate? Camera motion. Not yer basic smooth tracking shot, but camera motion that becomes the biggest deal in the shot: that stop-and-go or slow-and-speed nonsense that’s taking over slo-mo’s place as a signal of badness, and the Unsteadicam that I guess is supposed to display Sincerity on the part of the moviemaker. Stop it. Just stop it. It’s a lot like the way a stupid adolescent drives, now that he’s got ooooooo all that power to make skidmarks with. Very like the other kind of skidmarks, too.

    And people like Werner Herzog. I’ve loved a lot of his work. He’s probably a genius, but the world’s littered with them, ho-hum. When he gets hold of really great material, well, that’s half of genius, but with things like Herders of the Sun I just kept thinking Get out of the fucking way, Werner.

    And hold the damn camera still.

    Posted by Ron Sullivan  on  05/28  at  01:30 PM
  53. the preparation-for-the-big-game/fight/whatever montage. did it originate in the first rocky or just take its canonical form there? i can’t believe anyone’s still using it after ‘team america’ shredded it all to hell, but it just won’t die (like jason?—there’s another one i hate). and it’s a tv one rather than a movie one, but i also want to abolish forever the end-of-episode montage to a contemporary pop (or wannabe pop) song that i think might have originated on one of the great shows of all time (homicide) but has become puke-inducing in its ubiquity.

    Posted by  on  05/28  at  03:11 PM
  54. <style commercials for them? </i>

    Absolutely Lance.  Not only this process but the latest re-up of the process to include new commercials (and perhaps the worst possible criminal offense of all, commercials being shown while waiting for a movie to start in the theaters) that feature indie-film based semiotics.  A new one this weekend was for a car, or something, featuring Blair Witch and Omen referential material.

    Posted by  on  05/28  at  03:45 PM
  55. The wizened old Indian/shaman/hillbillie/native that portends some doom.  Also in this category are deceased loved ones that visit protagonists in visions/dreams to provide Deus ex machina.

    Unending Breath:  People holding their breath for like 5 minutes in underwater action scenes.  Try holding your breath for a minute sitting absolutely still.

    Ron Sullivan:
    the Unsteadicam that I guess is supposed to display Sincerity on the part of the moviemaker
    Damn right

    Posted by  on  05/28  at  04:36 PM
  56. "He was three days away from retirement...”

    Posted by  on  05/28  at  11:06 PM
  57. "it’s quiet.”

    “yeh.  too quiet.”

    as to montages, the montage song in team america: world police was the best.  second best:  the montage sequence from “real life” by albert brooks ("a chance to show the french what a montage is really about!”...complete with a tortoise turning its head in slow motion).

    how about:  the goofy hero screws up big time but accidentally endears himself and/or enriches the bazillionaire who then reams out the goofy hero’s boss, and promotes the goofy hero to the head of the corporation.

    also, i believe the “don’t get on that plane” cliche is just the natural evolution of “darling, please don’t get on that train” from the ‘30’s.

    and actually i thought garden state was way funnier than i thought it was going to be.

    Posted by skippy  on  05/29  at  02:26 AM
  58. hate hate hate the bit of dialogue between hero and villian where the villian invariably claims that said hero is not so different, that they are so very much alike.


    Posted by ccobb  on  05/29  at  03:56 AM
  59. The old “hero thinks the baddy’s dead but he’s got one last effort in him” cliche. With optional finishing off by sidekick or love interest. It’s hard to think of a single action movie that doesn’t feature this cliche to a greater or lesser degree. It’s got to the stage where a movie with a big fight that doesn’t end like this immediately goes up in my extimation.

    Posted by  on  05/29  at  04:28 AM
  60. 56: There’s also the scene when the white man proves that he is superhuman and the natives start to think he’s God. This practically ruined “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” for me. “The White Dawn” with Warren Beatty was no good already, except for the walrus-harpooing footage, but GODDAMN! Beatty is vain.

    Posted by John Emerson  on  05/29  at  03:34 PM
  61. The Inuit shamanic stuff in the film was representatively more accurate than most films have demonstrated, up to that point (after which they became more cliche), but that wasn’t Warren Beatty---Warren Oates, with Tim Bottoms and Lou Gossett playing the only non-indigenous people.  It is good to have a copy of the 1889/90 Bureau of Ethnology report when watching it; illuminates aspects that were captured by Huston.

    Posted by  on  05/29  at  05:36 PM
  62. Damn! I guess I’m prejudiced against Beatty.

    I saw the movie when it came out 30 years ago, and I’ve never been a movie buff (though I had seen “Bonnie and Clyde” by then).

    I STILL don’t like Warren Beatty, even though he’s politically a good guy.

    Posted by John Emerson  on  05/29  at  06:07 PM
  63. Genre films are the contemporary equivalent of folktales. Complaining about cliches in horror films or romantic comedies is like bitching about how everything in Grimm’s fairy tales happens three times.

    On the other hand, an “A” picture that has been meticulously audience-tested in order to get the appropriate scores, with the levels of sex and violence carefully manipulated to achieve the most profitable rating from the MPAA—that shit’s a crime against cinema.

    Posted by  on  05/29  at  06:57 PM
  64. "That’s either the smartest thing I’ve ever heard or the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.”

    “This is either the worst day of my life or the best day of my life.”

    “It’s a big risk, but not as big a risk as risking nothing at all.”

    Etc. etc. ad nauseam.

    I also hate any variation on Braveheart‘s “Every man dies, but not every man really lives.”

    Posted by Ignatius  on  05/30  at  01:10 AM
  65. man, i f*cking hate how everything happens 3 times in grimms fairy tales.

    Posted by skippy  on  05/30  at  01:10 AM
  66. 1.  The horror movie with a white female and white male lead and a bunch of minority bit part characters who are ALL GONNA DIE.
    2.  I just wanted to salute comment #22 because i hate the Bond villains who leave Bond in a situation he can easily get out of instead of just shooting him.  I want Bond to die. smile And this goes for all the other action/adventure movies where the villains leave the heroes to work themselves out of a weird and slow way of being killed. I liked the way Harrison Ford just shot the sword guy in Indiana Jones because it was like a comeback to all those dumb scenes.
    3.  The way that heroes know how to work really complicated machinery that they have never had to work before, absolutely perfectly, and they never hit the wrong button or pull the wrong lever or make any mistakes.  Plus, they are doing all this wizardry in a moment of extreme stress while being chased, or being threatened with something with a time limit, etc. This goes for airplanes, many other weird and fancy motor vehicles, and also computers and lab equipment.

    Posted by Anna in Cairo  on  05/30  at  08:23 AM
  67. Oh and I forgot 4: horror movie that starts out with two teens messing around and then they get slashed, perhaps because messing around is supposed to be wrong or something, it’s a real horror movie regular theme.

    Posted by Anna in Cairo  on  05/30  at  08:24 AM
  68. 1. All cars blow up effusively when crashed.
    2. English and Germans - baddies.
    3. The adolescent girl wise beyond her years.
    4. All female elementary school teachers sappy with floaty frocks.
    5. Death rarely grieved over.
    6. Everywhere in London overlooks Big Ben(I know this is TV, but in ER when Alex Kingston’s character went to work in London her publicly funded hospital overlooked Parliament and the River), in Paris is in sight of the Eiffel Tower, in Sydney is located near on the Harbour, in India is near the Taj Mahal etc.
    7. There are no regions of any other country apart from USA. No South France, Northern Germany, Northern England, Western Spain etc.
    8. Almost no movies ever set in Washington DC. Why is this?

    btw I saw Garden State and although I remember kinda enjoying it I can’t remember anything about it apart from that annoying and trite bit where she does something random.

    And to anyone who has decried sports movies. Don’t watch them. You churlish people not only misunderstand the glory of sports movies but, I imagine sports themselves. Why Hardball never won Oscars is beyond me.

    Posted by saltydog  on  05/30  at  08:51 AM
  69. There is a standard movie plot device where the hero is clearly and repeatedly warned not to do something, that doing this thing will unleash the forces of hell itself or whatever and, of course, the first thing the hero does is the one thing that s/he is warned not to do.

    In GREMLINS, for example, the kid is warned not to get the gremlin wet.  How hard is that?  Of course, the first thing the kid does is get the thing wet and chaos erupts.  Yeesh.

    This was nicely done at the end of TIME BANDITS where the hero’s parents find a black, smoking rock in their microwave and the hero shouts, “Mom! Dad! Don’t touch it!  It’s Evil!” So, of course, they each touch it and get blown to smithereens.  Quite satisfying.

    Posted by  on  05/30  at  11:15 AM
  70. Oh and I forgot 4: horror movie that starts out with two teens messing around and then they get slashed, perhaps because messing around is supposed to be wrong or something, it’s a real horror movie regular theme.

    Ummm… no it’s not. This is a common trope in slasher films, but as any horror fan can tell you, slasher film != horror film.

    This is real pet peeve of mine. Slasher films account for only a tiny fraction of all horror films, and they follow their own (stupid) rules that have nothing to do with the rest of the horror ouvre. Slashers are poor examples of horror films because they reject the nihilism and moral ambiguity that is the hallmark of horror.

    Essentially, slashers are a degraded form of the Italian giallo film, in which all the characters have been replaced by cardboard teenagers and the polymorphic perversity of the giallo has been replaced by Goofus and Gallant scenarios taken from Highlights for Children. And let’s be honest: “dead teenager” is about the most obvious cinematic metaphor since “train rushing into a tunnel.”

    If you really want to see what kind of horror film you can make from sex and death, see Dario Argento’s Profundo Rosso or Aldo Lado’s Short Night of Glass Dolls. Watch Takeshi Miike’s Audition or the Pang Brothers’ AB-Normal Beauty. Or, hell, watch James Whale’s The Bride of Frankenstein or Fritz Lang’s M.

    Posted by  on  05/30  at  01:06 PM
  71. 1. I second the “return of the dead villian” as my number one despised cliche of all time.  Remember Die Hard?  How the F**k did that guy get down there from the @#$% roof, and why was he under all that rubble?  I’m more startled when the villian doesn’t jump out at me after death…

    2. Triumph of the Human Spirit.

    3. Running out on your wedding - does this ever really happen??  You’d think that no one ever actually gives much thought to the idea of marriage until 10 minutes before their own ceremony.

    Posted by  on  05/30  at  03:02 PM
  72. ’The way that heroes know how to work really complicated machinery’

    They are heroes goddammit! If they couldn’t do things mere mortals couldn’t do then that would make them pretty boring and every film would be a worthy dogme-style snore-fest.

    BTW: I forgot -
    1.Disabled people are always ‘so brave’ and have a good heart or some other rare talent to humanise them - making up for their hideous deformity or otherness. Also non-disabled actors suffer a greater challenge in playing disabled characters than playing ‘normal’ people and win awards for it.
    2. Hookers invariably have a heart of gold and are eventually ‘rescued’
    3. TV news crews (who are all publicity seeking narcissists)interfere with everything and nobody ever simply says: “get the fuck out of here you idiots!”
    4. The Feebs come in and take over, emasculating the local cops and then screwing everything up.
    5. It becomes personal when the terrorists kidnap the heroe’s wife and cute kids.
    6. Crossover with the wise beyond her years adolescent girl - the adolescent kidnapped girl proves herself to be a feisty handful to said terrorists.
    7. Coming of age. The boy wants to kiss the girl, but hardly ever does the girl want to kiss the boy.

    Posted by saltydog  on  05/30  at  06:42 PM
  73. Late to the party, as usual, but could they please stop having people hold onto ropes/wires/vines, jump off of relatively safe structures, swing across vast chasms and then (a) land on their feet, (b) land on the bad guy, (c) free one hand up to catch something (obviously thrown by someone who has spent a lifetime practicing throwing objects precisely at moving targets) or (d) actually picking up another person on the way and depositing said person, along with themselves, exactly where they expected to end up. 

    Let go of the Tarzan fantasy, folks.  Just. Let. Go.  The sound of your cliche falling into the chasm will be free you to write good action sequences.  I promise.

    Posted by  on  05/31  at  09:41 PM
  74. Two words: Tom Cruise.

    (Three more: Sarah Jessica Parker)

    The human embodiments of hack film cliches.

    Posted by sarah  on  06/01  at  12:31 PM
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  92. The car chase.  I’ve seen it done well about three times (including how many months pregnant am i jr i want to get pregnant
    the Charley’s Angels episode where Farrah is on a skateboard being chased by increasingly fast and ferocious vehicles).  All silent movies are exempt from this proscription.

    Posted by  on  02/07  at  10:47 PM
  93. What I want to ban is those cliche that they “hero” always gets the girl. I mean there should be a twist like the “girl” did not eventually ended up with the “Hero”.

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