There are a few plot, dialogue and aesthetic elements that are used time and time again in movies that drive me to despair. Whether it’s through lazy screenwriting, lazy direction or just because filmmakers think they have to conform to what has come before. Here’s a countdown of my bottom five (hint: the worst is in the title).
5. Horror Move Behaviour
Thankfully this one has been spoofed for years with the SCREAM films and THE CABIN IN THE WOODS, so you rarely see this played straight-faced now. But a few decades ago, especially when Teen Slasher Movies were at their height, you could guarantee the morons on screen would go check the cause of an ominous noise, stumble into a darkened cellar alone and any number of other dumb things. Stupid, illogical behaviour to facilitate the plot moving forward, in other words.
4. “We have a situation/we’ve got a problem”
This one depends on the film genre (almost exclusively in Hollywood) you’re working in – if it’s a war or disaster movie, then someone always bursts into a bunker or war room and “has a situation”. If it’s a crime thriller or gangster movie then someone “has a problem” which needs to be “dealt with”. Cinematic shorthand it may be, but it’s also the epitome of screenwriting laziness. This was stale in the 90s, but it’s still used by sub-par filmmakers (Michael Bay) and even some good ones (Paul Greengrass) to say “we can’t be bothered with exposition” or “come see what we’re going to be doing for the rest of the movie”. It’s not a terrible idea to use this shorthand in order to “show, not tell” but it’s still overused.
3. They get together in the end…
I’ve not no problem with romance in movies. If you’re actively building up a relationship between two characters throughout a film (say, in a rom-com), or there’s a hint at a hidden attraction from the start, then fine – the payoff is very rewarding for the viewer. But why the need for characters to snog at the climax of a film just because they can? Lead man + lead lady does not = automatic chemistry. It often feels forced, pandering, and a cheap trick designed to beef up a film’s otherwise lacklustre ending. It also seems to be the Hollywood default position (especially in regards to marketing) and has been so since before the Golden Age so this one probably won’t be disappearing any time soon…
This is usually wailed after the death of someone the character cares about, accompanied by an exaggerated crane shot and the actor jerking their face up to the heavens. It’s been done too much in cinema, and lacks the dramatic impact it might once have had. It just too easy to make fun of now, to the extent that Darth Vader’s “noooo” from REVENGE OF THE SITH has become a meme, and the rest were expertly spoofed in the paintballing episode of SPACED.
1. “My glasses! I can’t see without my glasses!”
A confession – my most hated cinema cliché I take as a personal affront to me. Hollywood, take note: if you wear glasses to correct your vision, you don’t make a fuss if they fall off your face. You especially don’t explain your predicament, and the drawbacks of your poor vision without ocular enhancements out loud to the world. Do film audiences realise people who wear glasses have trouble seeing without them? They do? Then why are visually impaired characters forced to make such ludicrous statements? As much as I adore JURASSIC PARK, I don’t understand the need for Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight) to scramble around looking for his specs for 30 seconds in the rain (though I do like his realisation of “I can afford more glasses”). Velma used to do it in SCOOBY DOO on TV, don’t put it in your movie, it comes across as painfully cartoonish.
Are there any more egregious examples of Hollywood clichés? Feel free to comment. SSP