Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Movie Trends That Annoy The $#!&$%@ Out Of Me

pet peeve
n. Informal
1.) A particular and often continual annoyance
2.) Something about which one frequently complains; a particular personal vexation.

Pet peeves. Everyone has them. Little things which we find annoying that not everyone has a problem with. Some people will go berserk if they find a hair in their food while others simply remove the interloping pilus and continue their meal. If you misuse a word in conversation there are those who ignore it and those who feel an uncontrollable urge to correct you.

Something else that almost everyone has in common is that they watch movies from time to time. I know I do. And as long as there have been opinionated bastards like myself watching movies, we've had pet peeves associated with them. Things that make us grind our teeth or shake our heads when we see them simply because we've indeed seen them one too many times.

Considering the amount of movies that I watch, it's impossible for me to avoid taking notice of some recurring themes, plot devices, etc. in films. Some of these things that I notice are minor annoyances and others absolutely drive me up a wall. Some are blatant complaints that are shared en mass by movie-goers, and others are nit-picky little things that cause me to secretly curse the actors and directors responsible for them in my head. What follows, for your reading pleasure as well as to satisfy my never ending need to bitch and blather on about films, is a list (in no particular order) of things that bug me in movies.

Feel free to leave your thoughts about my observations or list off a few of your own gripes about the cinematic experience in the comments section of this post.


1.) Criminals and the multiple personalities who loved them.
Lets start with a few broad topics and then move on to the more obscure ones. Fight Club came out back in 1999 and knocked people on their asses with the whole multiple personality angle to a film mystery. "What a great way to trick the audience when they find out that the guy who they thought was the hero is actually the villain as well!" Fight Club wasn't the first film to tackle multiple personality disorder in this way, but it's widely regarded as the best example of the subject matter. Since the success of that film so many have been made with the same general premise that "multiple personality film" is practically on the verge of becoming a new genre all to itself. It's gotten to the point that a movie will lose all validity for me as soon as I find out that the hero is the villain, whether or not they themselves were aware of it. A perfect example of this is The Number 23. The concept of that movie was cool enough on it's own, but then toward the end of the movie the filmmakers felt it necessary to throw the old "it was me all along" bone at us. A good film involving multiple personality disorder is Primal Fear, because it tackles the concept in a different way than most. For my money though, films like Twisted are just cheap grabs at thrills with weak attempts at tricking the audience.

2.) It's scarier when there's a kid in it.
It all started with The Ring. It was an effective horror film and was rather original at the time, so leave it to Hollywood to drive it into the ground. Next we got The Grudge, The Ring 2, The Grudge 2, Dark Water, and others. Horror movies revolving around little kids. Again, The Ring wasn't the first film to do this. The Village of the Damned, The Excorcist, The Omen, and The Sixth Sense all came along before the "creepy Asian kid" trend began, but these days it's hard to turn around without seeing one of them. We've also got a remake of The Omen and a new film that looks a lot like it called Joshua as well. Then there are films like Godsend and 1408 which are also about either dead, demonic, or just plain evil little children. Not all of these are bad movies, but I for one am getting tired of films about scary little kids. Lets try making a scary movie with an adult or a monster again. What do you say?

3.) How old did you say you were again?
While we're on the topic of children in movies, it drives me batty when a kid in a film acts wise and or mature beyond their years. We're talking young kids like Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense here. In fact, that's a great example of what I'm talking about. If a little kid saw a freaky-ass ghost in real life (well, obviously this wouldn't happen, but kids have wild imaginations) he would piss his pants as he ran screaming for the hills and would probably go insane. In The Sixth Sense, Osment's character is, on average, a calm, composed individual who acts like a conservative adult most of the time. Another example of this that I've seen recently is in the trailer for the new John Cusack film 1408. There is a scene during which Cusack is visiting his dying daughter in the hospital and he's all broken up when she comes out with this little pearl of wisdom: "Daddy, everyone dies." Bullshit. I've never met a child that young who was more mature than me, which wouldn't be hard because I'm pretty childish, so whenever I see something like this on screen, the film in question loses any sense of seriousness/believability.

4.) That would be really cool if I could tell what was happening OR there's a pause button for a reason, I suppose.
"Toad is a pretty dumb character, but he's about to fight the X-Men, so that should be great. Here it comes...wait...what...what happened?" Fast cuts and shaky camera shots in action scenes. This is essentially the filmmakers' way of saying "we didn't have the means to make the action look cool, so we just shot a bunch of close-ups of things happening quickly and edited them together really fast." I hate it when this occurs in movies. I want to actually be able to see the action because chances are if it's a movie with action scenes, that's what I'm watching it for. I always feel cheated when a circumstance arrives on screen when something wicked is about to go down and then it isn't given the proper display that it deserves. I'm not saying that every movie should have Matrix-esque slowmo sequences all the time (because those are honestly becoming a bit played out as well), but just pulling the camera back and letting some of the action take place in normal speed would be fine in many cases.

5.) Oh, I remember her. Didn't she run around and giggle a lot?
A character in a movie has lost his wife. He sits on the edge of his bed and fondly remembers her. Then suddenly we are transported into a dream-like sequence in which our hero's dearly departed is running from the camera through a field, occasionally turning back to smile lovingly and giggle at us. When did this image become the go-to way to express that someone is missed? Was I not told that every man has to pick a nice sunny day and say to their wife/girlfriend, "Hey, why don't you let me chase you through some wheat for a while in case you ever die in a lab accident and I need to use your memory as an inspiration to take down some evil corporation?" It seems crazy that this still happens in movies so frequently because it is horribly overdone. Even a film as recent as The Fountain has a scene like this. And while I'm on the subject, scenes in which people watch home movies of their lost loved ones are pretty annoying as well. Lots of futuristic movies such as Minority Report, Paycheck, and Strange Days are guilty of this because it gives the special effects guys a chance to play with futuristic media players, etc. onscreen. This isn't as bad, however, as the fond memory scenario.

6.) Stop! Go back...there. Can you enhance that?
Oh, the enhance button. Does the government really possess such a magically futuristic computer that it can zoom in and enhance any image, no matter how blurry or small it may be? It sure seems that way because I can't tell you how many times I've seen them do it in movies. This doesn't seem like a big deal, but after you've seen it done so many times it begins to seem a bit ridiculous. And it's always the same. There's a computer program that doesn't resemble any other program in existence with little boxes and random windows that all appear from seemingly nowhere and which serve no purpose. Then the person operating the machine just taps a few keys and you've got a crystal clear view of that spot of dirt on the shoe of the guy in the corner of the bank security footage that suggests he must have also been at the reservoir earlier that day when the informant was killed. This topic, of course, leads pretty well into my next one...

7.) A mouse? What's that?
This is one of my all time favorites. Ever seen a movie with a computer hacker in it? Hell, it doesn't even have to be a computer hacker, perhaps just someone who's computer savvy. I would say that if you really pay attention you will find that 90% of people in movies who use computers never touch a mouse. Every single action they perform on the computer is done with the keyboard. This is presumably because the tapping of keys is more interesting than the quiet click of a mouse button, but come many computer programs don't require the use of a mouse? An argument could be made that with the TAB and arrow keys on the keyboard you could navigate through most anything on a computer, but who the hell does that? Computer hackers in movies, that's who. The next time you watch a movie like The Italian Job with a stereotypical computer hacker guy like Seth Green's character, make sure to marvel at how they never ever ever use a mouse. This bugs the hell out of me because who doesn't use a mouse?! And speaking of computer hackers, they're really good at making last minute saves, aren't they? The phrases "I'm almost in..." and "I just need thirty more seconds to crack this..." come to mind.

8.) Look at this guy's landlord won't even let me hang up pictures with thumbtacks...
These days if your movie has a crazy person in it they usually have to do one of three things: Number one, fill notebook upon notebook with crazy drawings and gibberish. Number two, gather up tons of photographs, scribble all over them, and scratch the eyes/faces off of people. Number three (and this is my personal favorite), cover the walls of their room/apartment with the same phrase written over and over again in a variety of different sizes and fonts. I didn't realize that this was a required practice to be considered crazy. I recently watched both the original and remake versions of The Manchurian Candidate and found it strange that in the 60's you could be crazy without exhibiting such destructive behavior. I guess that the general public is just a bit more desensitized to crazy people these days so that in movies like The Number 23 it's necessary to go that extra mile to get across that someone is nuts by having them turn their living quarters into a piece of modern art.

9.) Are you going to drink that?
This is one that no one else seems to notice, but I see it a lot in movies. A character will enter a scene and either order a drink or be offered one. They will receive the drink and either take one sip of it, simply hold it for the duration of the scene, or set it down and forget about it. Then when the scene ends the character will exit the room/establishment, leaving a full glass behind. Again, not a big deal, but it drives me nuts! It's pretty played out to begin a scene with "Hi Tom, can I get you a drink?", but it wouldn't be so bad if Tom would at least drink some of it. He had to have the beverage, after all. If someone has a drink in their hand they are usually compelled subconsciously to take a few swigs even if they aren't thirsty. This is just one of those things that I have noticed in my many film-viewing experiences that I'm tired of seeing. I guess I just know that if I had a full glass like that I would have this nagging voice in my head telling me not to leave the whole damn thing un-drank. But maybe that's just me.

Last, but most definitely not least, we have the woo-hoo. If someone does something exciting in a movie, woo-hoo is the go-to expression with which to voice their excitement. Will Smith is fairly well known for pulling woo-hoos, as are many young actors in action-oriented roles. Of course if someone is happy about whatever is going on that's so exhilarating, I can see giving a woo-hoo. For example, the first time Tobey Maguire swings from his webs in Spiderman or when Will Smith takes off in the super-advanced alien spacecraft in Independence Day. What gets me, though, are some of the weird instances in which woo-hoos are present. My favorite example of this occurs in Fantastic Four. The Human Torch (Chris Evans) is snowboarding down a mountain, which is certainly reason for a woo-hoo or two, but he doesn't actually yell the offending exclamation until he suddenly and unexplainably bursts into flames. Who the fuck catches on fire and yells "woo-hoo"? I would think something like "AAAAAH!", "SHIT!", or "OUCH, WHY AM I ON FIRE?!" would be more appropriate in this situation. Once more, this is a pretty ridiculous complaint, but hey, they're pet peeves and as they say: "To each his own."


Ricky Robertson said...

HAHAH--I love all of your pet peeves and agree them all as well, I will say I haven't noticed the drink one though. I'm too tired to write my own movie pet peeves at the moment, but you can bet your ass I will later.

K.C.atronian said...

Man, I agree with you on most points, it's just funny watching you take little kids to task on a number of issues. And in all fairness, I think a decent number of kids are more mature than you. It's all right, man, there more mature than me too. They're smart little bastards.