Thursday, June 12, 2008

Remember the Trite Ones

As we all know, movies are often riddled with clichés, with some genres worse offenders than others. Horror flicks have their indestructable killers, rom-coms have their wacky misunderstandings, and no buddy cop movie ever met an officer on the brink of retirement that it didn't want to rub out. Some overused plot devices (cars that won't start, guns that never run out of bullets, the loose cannons who get "taken off the case," etc) get all the attention, but this post is dedicated to the clichés that specifically bother me and know no genre bounds.

1. The inappropriately-timed joke.
Why is it that, when in the midst of a dangerous situation or crisis, at least one person remains just calm enough to crack wise? Gee, that's so much like real life. Like in Jurassic Park, when Malcolm is mere inches from being eaten by a T-Rex, yet manages to quip, "You think they'll have that on the tour?" Or even in Pulp Fiction, after Vincent gives Mia the adrenaline shot and she jumps up with the syringe sticking out of her chest. When Jody says, "If you're okay, say something," Mia replies, "something" without missing a beat.

2. Walking hard...through traffic. This is when a character determinedly walks (or runs) across a busy city street, putting his hand up to tell oncoming cars, "Hey, make way for me! I have important shit to do!" The first example of this that comes to mind is at the end of Night Shift, and is meant to demonstrate Chuck's transformation from shy guy to tough dude. It actually doesn't annoy me too much in that movie, because it's hilarious and one of my all-time faves. Unfortunately, I can't think of another movie off the top of my head that employs this device, but I know I've seen it a bunch of times.

3. The repeated line. This happens most often in action movies, but has turned up in other genres. This is when one character says something very wise, funny, or otherwise memorable, which another character adopts later in the movie. It's generally used to show some type of lesson learned or to demonstrate the progression of the characters' relationship. This is always hokey. Again, this happens all the damn time but I can only think of one example right this minute. In the movie Shoot to Kill, Sidney Poitier's character asks Tom Berenger's character, "Do you mountainmen do this kind of shit a lot?" to which Berenger replies, "Every damn day!" The end of the movie finds Poitier injured on a stretcher, about to be carted off to the hospital and a smiley Berenger comes over and asks, "Do you FBI men do this kind of shit a lot?" One guess as to what Poitier's reply was.

4. First kiss = first screw. This doesn't happen in too many rom-coms, where the long, drawn out courtship between the main characters is a necessity and sex is treated with more fun. However, in almost every other genre, it seems like when two characters finally decide they like each other, they kiss. They draw back, look at each other, kiss again and next thing you know, they're rolling around under the sheets, soaping up in the shower or pinning each other up against the wall. Most of the time, they haven't even had a proper date. Oh, and it's interesting that these women are never caught unprepared. The legs are always shaved, the b-line is always waxed, and the bra and panties are always a sexy, matching set.

5. Driving is always dangerous.
Unless it's a road trip or cop movie, you rarely see characters driving anywhere. Generally, if there is a scene with someone driving a car that lasts for more than a minute, there is either going to be a horrible accident or they're going to pick up a drifter who will promptly kill them.

If you can think of any better examples of these, please let me know. And while you're at it, tell me what clichés you hate.

'80s movies are notorious for cramming in as many clichés as possible but, for some reason, I actually enjoy them. I don't watch John Hughes movies over and over because of the intricate plot twists and turns. I watch them to root for the dorky girl to land the cool guy, hear some awesome synth music and, most of all, to see that slow-building clap.

The video below, appropriately titled '80s Ending, beautifully combines all the best movie clichés of that great decade. Enjoy.


Red said...

Excellent list. I really hate the inappropriately timed joke...or the cheesy one liners common in most action movies. Ugh. The worst!

Tony Alva said...

Holy shit! You're a 'Nighshift' fan AND you've got 'Rainbow in the Dark' on your blog margin player.

If I wasn't married already Beckeye, it would be on chick...

CDP said...

Nightshift is one of the funniest movies ever.

My favorite cliche is the wife/girlfriend who consoles the rebel/hero..."you did everything you could". Bah.

dguzman said...

This is pure gold, Beckeye!

I also hate the "principled guy against the world" cliche. See: any Stallone movie, "One Good Cop" type movies.

Anonymous said...

And WHY do they always go downstairs to the basement? WHY???

Kristi Mantoni said...

The only one I can think of applies to horror movies. "If you have sex, you're dead."

Loved to video!

You're right, it would be hard to make fun of So You Think You Can Dance but Nashville Star should be ten times easier than Idol!!

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Well there really isn't anything left to add, is there? That clip has got pretty much every cliche ever invented. Quite awesome, really.

And I sure agree with you on all these uber-prepared women. Do they wake up in the morning and think "I'd better shave and wear my best undies because I just might screw that cute guy I hate today."

bloody awful poetry said...

I think the walking-through-traffic and the perfectly-timed-jokes annoy me the most. Fantabulous list, all in all!

evil-e said...

The walk through traffic almost works in real life except the walker usually almost gets or does get hit. Happens to me everyday.

What about the sci-fi "the movie is all about technology but we are decrying technology with our message"?

The entire plot lines of romantic comedies are usually the same. I can usually sit with the girlfriend and pretty much tell her what will happen next.

"Rainbow in the Dark" was one of the first songs in my iPod!

Barbara(aka Layla) said...

(this comment is unrelated to the post: I am watching Bonnaroo Live and one of your boyfriends is on right now. He is SMOKIN HOT. Just thought I'd tell you I thought of you)

SkylersDad said...

My favorite cliche is when the hero good guy does amazing hand to hand battle with several dudes, finally winning after getting the shit kicked out of him. Them the female tends to his wounds and he finally winces after she barely touches the ouchy.

Distributorcap said...

why do people always find the clues they need within 3 tries?

Falwless said...

That video was hilarious. I love the, "That'll give us enough money to save the orphanage!" hahahahah


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