Quit It

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Things I learned from movies that are totally true:

#1). All cops are bad and should never be trusted. Unless you live in Detroit, where cops are the good guys and one of them is a cyborg.

#2). The clergy are all evil and want to rape your babies. Unless you are a swashbuckling masked vigilante with a penchant for vandalizing walls with your initial.

#3). Robots are evil and are plotting to replace mankind. Unless you live on the moon.

#4). Explosions don't actually kill people, they only push you around. Also, falling off cliffs won't kill you either. In fact, if you find yourself shot to hell and re surely to bleed to death, then your only option is to throw yourself from the highest point so your body will never be recovered and you can come back in the sequel.

#5). You and your best friend from the sandbox are going to throwdown in a knife-edge deathmatch.

#6). That boy kicked sand in your face because he really really likes you. BULL! Seriously what the heck are we teaching kids? Abuse=love? And how about the natural conditioning that young women receive from various media that raises them to be competitive and non-supportive of their fellow female peers? It reinforces a "Mean Girl" stereotype. What is up with that? Who writes that sort of stuff?

Okay, so number six was more rantitude than the former ones. Anyone else have things that they learned from movies?

The reverse of the First entry ( He had to lose Everything to find the One thing that really matters) reminded me of One Life Furnished in Early Poverty. It was filmed as an episode of the 80s TZ.

MovieBob:
"There are things man wasn't MEANT to know!," goes the saying... presumably, one of those things is how such an insipid sentiment has survived all the way into the 21st Century.

Hollywood hates science and logic. They get in the way of their movies' plots (re: The Core).

As long as science continues to make sense, movies wont.

I'm an Australian and recently undertook a Hollywood-based screen writing course. It's interesting because we get taught to make 'familiar' and 'safe' ideas in order to sell them. Producers need to be guaranteed audiences. But I'd think the more 'familiar' and 'common' an idea, the more likely audiences will tire of them. How hard is it to pitch a really new idea?

Anyway, in this course, everyone is writing predictable drama or comedy while I've got a character-driven story, ambiguous antagonist and poignant yet unpredictable ending. But I feel I've really shot myself in the foot because I can't pitch my idea as 'Godfather 2 meets Shrek' or something. I need more to sum it up, because there's nothing to compare it to.

I'm not afraid to write a totally unusual story. My biggest fear is hearing the words "it's been done before", but sadly, in Hollywood, the unfamiliar isn't a recipe for success.

From the article:
Y'know what I'd like to see? A movie about a rich, powerful talented/creative type who wigs out and decides he needs to "get back to what's important" by going back to whatever Nowheresville "good ol' fashioned community" he came from... only to rediscover what a soul-crushing existence it really is, and how fortunate he was to get out. Y'know, just for some balance if nothing else.

This made me think of the movie "Trading Places". Dan Aykroyd's character ends up being forced to live the poor life - and he hates it. Similarly, Eddie Murphy's character is introduced to the rich life after living the poor life - and swears that he'll never be poor again. They both spend the 2nd half of the movie both becoming rich (yes, I realize that this isn't the complete plot - but it's still one of the main points).

Now that I think about it, I miss alot of the 80's movies where the poor but creative/hardworking/talanted main character becomes rich (and never looks back). Much more interesting, and IMO, a much more positive message than "be happy being mediocre".

irani_che:
when the first pics of the movie came out with wolverine and co. in black, there was a huge fan backlash (myself included) over the lack of yellow in his costume.
I thought the yellow spandex was a good in-joke.

Also, there can never be too much being harsh on hippies, arts students, slackers and people who waste everyones time in a coffee shop. bee this in a movie or on the pavement

Right, because anyone who drinks coffee for any reason other than caffeine addiction and doesn't want a job in a cubicle or delivery truck is clearly a waste of breath. /sarcasm

What's ironic is that despite Hollywood's constant mocking of anyone who doesn't have a white-collar occupation, their movies could not exist without art students and creative types. Who applies for jobs as concept artists, cinematographers and cameramen? Because it sure as hell isn't Generic Office Worker WASP protagonist-types.

Another one to me is:

I just want to be normal.

How often do we see people with incredible life and/or abilities that would give anything just to be normal... This is being subverted somewhat by the new waves of super hero movie who actually embrace what they are (Iron Man certainly comes to mind) but the cliche is still very alive in TV/Comic/Movies nonetheless.

This was raised to an height of silliness in Wanted (A bad movie, i know) where the first part of the movie really drives in how painful and suffocating the Hero's 'normal' life is. Than out of nowhere and all of a sudden in a scene in the later half of the movie, he turns to Jolie and tells her 'You ever wanted to just be normal?'

What the hell man? You were normal an hour ago and you hated it.

You know, usually when I hear people bitch about oft-repeated story outlines I get a little indignant because, well, all stories are pretty much the same and throwing in the interesting details is the fun part. However, I like that this article doesn't just rip on old tropes, but finds the truly toxic ones in modern moviemaking and explains why they're just so goddamn awful.

A+ would buy again.

I feel a nod to this is in order:

http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2011/2/28/

THE VERY WORST DEVICE I know is the one seen in movies based on a real life person or situation. In movies like Patch Adams or The Freedom Writers, there is always an absurd antagonist who wants to push the hero down, often for very thin reasons beyond them not wanting their authority undermined. We get the grouchy chief doctor fellow in Patch Adams who wants to see the protagonist expelled from med school because he is so obnoxious (sorry, I meant "funny"). In The Freedom Writers there is an evil principle who seems to hate ethnic minorities and anyone who makes any real effort to educate them.

What bothers me so much is that these are supposed to be true stories, based on real people. Was there ever a soulless dean who hated Patch Adams' bedside manner? Did the principle in that school really go out of her way to make the teaching ethnic minorities harder? I somewhat doubt that the real people would appreciate being reinvented as villains on the big screen. It's character assassination at its worse. I know that a good story needs obstacles for the protagonist, but does that really mean you have to defame some blameless person?

Tarkand:
Another one to me is:

I just want to be normal.

How often do we see people with incredible life and/or abilities that would give anything just to be normal... This is being subverted somewhat by the new waves of super hero movie who actually embrace what they are (Iron Man certainly comes to mind) but the cliche is still very alive in TV/Comic/Movies nonetheless.

This was raised to an height of silliness in Wanted (A bad movie, i know) where the first part of the movie really drives in how painful and suffocating the Hero's 'normal' life is. Than out of nowhere and all of a sudden in a scene in the later half of the movie, he turns to Jolie and tells her 'You ever wanted to just be normal?'

What the hell man? You were normal an hour ago and you hated it.

Ha, never thought of it like that, but yeah! You're right! God damn is that annoying. Who the hell ever wants to be normal in real life any way? Everyone wants super powers. If I was granted super powers, I'd be ecstatic. But then that is what probably would make me a villain.

Yokai:

irani_che:
when the first pics of the movie came out with wolverine and co. in black, there was a huge fan backlash (myself included) over the lack of yellow in his costume.
I thought the yellow spandex was a good in-joke.

Also, there can never be too much being harsh on hippies, arts students, slackers and people who waste everyones time in a coffee shop. bee this in a movie or on the pavement

Right, because anyone who drinks coffee for any reason other than caffeine addiction and doesn't want a job in a cubicle or delivery truck is clearly a waste of breath. /sarcasm

What's ironic is that despite Hollywood's constant mocking of anyone who doesn't have a white-collar occupation, their movies could not exist without art students and creative types. Who applies for jobs as concept artists, cinematographers and cameramen? Because it sure as hell isn't Generic Office Worker WASP protagonist-types.

There is something condescending about how those latte drinking, liberal arts graduates actually write their kind into their own screenplays, just because they know the viewer will lap up an easy hate figure.

Elexia:
I'm an Australian and recently undertook a Hollywood-based screen writing course. It's interesting because we get taught to make 'familiar' and 'safe' ideas in order to sell them. Producers need to be guaranteed audiences. But I'd think the more 'familiar' and 'common' an idea, the more likely audiences will tire of them. How hard is it to pitch a really new idea?

Anyway, in this course, everyone is writing predictable drama or comedy while I've got a character-driven story, ambiguous antagonist and poignant yet unpredictable ending. But I feel I've really shot myself in the foot because I can't pitch my idea as 'Godfather 2 meets Shrek' or something. I need more to sum it up, because there's nothing to compare it to.

I'm not afraid to write a totally unusual story. My biggest fear is hearing the words "it's been done before", but sadly, in Hollywood, the unfamiliar isn't a recipe for success.

A publisher once told me that all you need to sell a story is to be able to describe it in 25 words. If you can't explain the protagonist, what he/she does, what he wants, and his obstacle in those 25 words (and still make it sound original), your story lacks focus and a hook. If you ever come up with an idea, do the 25 word test.

Here is one I did earlier:

"A grisly murder starts symbologist Arthur Langdon on a quest to clear his name, meanwhile uncovering an ancient conspiracy that will shake Christianity to it's core."

Okay, that's a couple more than 25, but you get the idea. It helps if you imagine yourself sharing an elevator with a publisher, and you only have a matter of seconds to pitch your idea to him and get him interested.

bombadilillo:

TheWonko:

bombadilillo:
You know what plot I am tired of. The Punisher plot.

They killed his wife and kids, now hes got nothing to lose and he's gonna TAKE. THEM. DOWN.

In general I agree with you, but I make exception for any of the recent Liam Neeson "Irish Bruce Willis" films, just because they're so crazy awesome.

Well that is a bit different, in Taken his daughter is alive and there is a dramatic sense of time as well as a greater need for finesse and to generally not die as the hero. All this is absent in Punisher plot, where hero just need to do as much damage before they die/ credits roll. In the punisher plot you can suicide bomb the baddie headquarters at the end and go out samurai style.

Wasn't so bad in Gladiator. Perhaps because the protagonist isn't going out of his way to get revenge. He is far more concerned with matters of state.

znix:
I think MovieBob should "quit it". Quit trying to tackle subjects larger than he can properly research that is. Stick to reviewing :)

How does one need to "properly research" in an article about cliches? You only need to watch lots of movies to make valid observations about trite and derivative cinema.

Want to see a movie that mentions parties by name and does so well? My Fellow Americans! I can still rewatch this film.

GiantRaven:

Ibn-Hakam al-Bokhari:
I blame Liam Neeson

Hardly, that plot has been around for far longer. At least Liam Neeson made it interesting by virtue of being Liam Neeson.

Not to mention his family wasn't killed, yeah the daughter was kidnapped but he found her in the end. And as mentioned, Liam Neeson made it interesting by him being himsef. :D

A Gray Phantom:
Things I learned from movies that are totally true:

#1). All cops are bad and should never be trusted. Unless you live in Detroit, where cops are the good guys and one of them is a cyborg.

#2). The clergy are all evil and want to rape your babies. Unless you are a swashbuckling masked vigilante with a penchant for vandalizing walls with your initial.

#3). Robots are evil and are plotting to replace mankind. Unless you live on the moon.

#4). Explosions don't actually kill people, they only push you around. Also, falling off cliffs won't kill you either. In fact, if you find yourself shot to hell and re surely to bleed to death, then your only option is to throw yourself from the highest point so your body will never be recovered and you can come back in the sequel.

#5). You and your best friend from the sandbox are going to throwdown in a knife-edge deathmatch.

#6). That boy kicked sand in your face because he really really likes you. BULL! Seriously what the heck are we teaching kids? Abuse=love? And how about the natural conditioning that young women receive from various media that raises them to be competitive and non-supportive of their fellow female peers? It reinforces a "Mean Girl" stereotype. What is up with that? Who writes that sort of stuff?

Okay, so number six was more rantitude than the former ones. Anyone else have things that they learned from movies?

Bedsheets come up to the armpits on a woman, but only up to the waist on a man who is lying right beside her.
Men can have a fistfight/knife fight and never cringe or act like they are hurt... until a woman tries to bandage their wounds.
The Statue of Liberty will survive longer than any other manmade building, or at least enough of it to be recognizable
The ductwork in buildings is always super-clean and never sounds like an elephant in a steel drum factory when someone is moving around inside it.

Yokai:

irani_che:
when the first pics of the movie came out with wolverine and co. in black, there was a huge fan backlash (myself included) over the lack of yellow in his costume.
I thought the yellow spandex was a good in-joke.

Also, there can never be too much being harsh on hippies, arts students, slackers and people who waste everyones time in a coffee shop. be this in a movie or on the pavement

Right, because anyone who drinks coffee for any reason other than caffeine addiction and doesn't want a job in a cubicle or delivery truck is clearly a waste of breath. /sarcasm

What's ironic is that despite Hollywood's constant mocking of anyone who doesn't have a white-collar occupation, their movies could not exist without art students and creative types. Who applies for jobs as concept artists, cinematographers and cameramen? Because it sure as hell isn't Generic Office Worker WASP protagonist-types.

there are tens of thousands of artists who come out of uni every year, learning little more than that their ideas are the best. Of them about a dozen will actually amount to anything.
While admittedly we need the large pool to catch the few gifted, the speibergs, the copollas, the nolans, the DiCaprios, the Portmans the Firths etc.
the chaff will spend the rest of their lives looking down on working people, too proud to do the menial jobs that they are still only able to do. While scrounging around for arts grants to squander and complain how their successful brethren have become "overcommercialised"

maninahat:

How does one need to "properly research" in an article about cliches? You only need to watch lots of movies to make valid observations about trite and derivative cinema.

I wasn't referring to this particular podcast, but rather some of his other, especially "big picture", posts.

Most of these tropes Bob mentions are becoming increasingly obvious pandering, so consider this my signature on the petition for Hollywood to Quit It. My biggest beefs (from this set) are with the portrayal of science versus faith, and the "Average Joe's got it best."

We'll see a break from the "joys of being average" type of story arc when Atlas Shrugged hits theatres. I hope it's good.

This guy writes fucking cliches, the whole list was one. Few good points, one of which was the first one but any movie about people trying to succeed by dancing ,acting, boxing, or gaining financial stability is already THIS. The way he mentioned it should be done is needless.

Also most films update superhero costumes to be more practical and somewhat realistic looking, just like the comics do, because even comics think older costumes were silly(I don't but that's the trend).

And I'm pretty sure white old people can feel pretty powerless and like no pays attention or cares about them too.

on the topic of The Punisher type story; I have no problem with a guy deciding to go on a killing spree(in a movie fantasy kind of way), I don't like the recent trend of it just being their daughter because the guy is older. That's just kinda disgusting, and shows that people apparently wouldn't rescue old ladies.

maninahat:

Tarkand:
Another one to me is:

I just want to be normal.

How often do we see people with incredible life and/or abilities that would give anything just to be normal... This is being subverted somewhat by the new waves of super hero movie who actually embrace what they are (Iron Man certainly comes to mind) but the cliche is still very alive in TV/Comic/Movies nonetheless.

This was raised to an height of silliness in Wanted (A bad movie, i know) where the first part of the movie really drives in how painful and suffocating the Hero's 'normal' life is. Than out of nowhere and all of a sudden in a scene in the later half of the movie, he turns to Jolie and tells her 'You ever wanted to just be normal?'

What the hell man? You were normal an hour ago and you hated it.

Ha, never thought of it like that, but yeah! You're right! God damn is that annoying. Who the hell ever wants to be normal in real life any way? Everyone wants super powers. If I was granted super powers, I'd be ecstatic. But then that is what probably would make me a villain.

This isn't right. Superpowers aren't what bum superheroes out, it's the responsibility. Spider-man became a superhero while there were few in his universe active. His attempts at it cost him relationships, job opportunities ect(not to mention all the horrible things they encounter). Eventually that bums them out and they wish they could lead a normal life. But a normal life isn't what you think it is, a normal life is a chance to lead life the way they want to but they tend to be too responsible. The basic mold of superheros is that the right thing is hard to do, marvel took that and made it almost self destructive.

Callmeindy:
Snip.

Look. I'm glad that you're all for marriage and all, but honestly, when are any of these statistics you're attempting to wield even used by Hollywood? No one here is directly arguing against marriage as an institution, where your case of tl;dr is a better, relevant counter-argument.

Marriage in films is an entirely different point, and actually on topic.

In that case, there's two reasons. One is simple: marriage sells. It's easier to sell a film on the standard happy-ending (marriage, sunset, happily ever after) and the kind of generic stuff audience likes.

Two: more often than not, I would argue that with few rare examples, marriage + Hollywood is a mouthpiece for promoting the belief that all women want to have, or end up with, a man. And that women are incapable of being happy without the quintessential romance --> marriage path in life. Otherwise, you, as a woman are doomed to being single, unhappy, forever alone, (most likely) poor, and many, many stereotypes. This belief is held and supported by most other media forms (tv shows, books, magazines, Disney, etc), and long-standing social constructs. (Taking a class on this right now, actually)

Hollywood doesn't put out for your statistics and studies, it puts out because according to them, women are otherwise completely incapable of being happy and having a fulfilled life without their married life (and who doesn't love a happy ending? Win-win). In this regard, Hollywood is in desperate need of a fresh perspective, and what you don't realize is how damaging the material re-re-reproduced and recycled by things like Hollywood is to women of today. Is it really appropriate for us, in the 21st century, to continue selling the idea that marriage is the first, last, best, and ultimate acceptable ending path to women? The worst part of all is in my experience stats like yours, combined with media, are most often used by women to other women.

Recently, I've done enough research and written enough essays on this topic. It's not that I don't believe in marriage, or don't recognize or understand statistics, but for a lot of us we live in a community where men and women can support not only themselves, but each other on equal terms (you might even hear of the woman in breadwinner role instead of the man). I think that young women in particular are hurting from the continuous promotion of relationships/marriage. Not because of relationships themselves, but because of the lack of recognizable options. It won't bring about the apocalypse to show young women it's okay to want a life outside of man-hunting, and its unfortunate there's so little material out there. However, the best women get from, for example, most rom-coms is, "It's okay to have your career for now, but you know that happy-marriage-ending is coming in 90 and counting!"

An important figure I feel you forgot to mention: as of a few years ago, the average marriage lasts around seven years. The divorce rate is 50% and growing. Indeed, marriage: it works.

P.S. In case it wasn't obvious, I would love to see a movie about a woman, (1) in the leading role, (2) where romance is either downplayed as a non-primary interest for the film, or simply nonexistent, and (3) completely happy with that.

copycatalyst:
We'll see a break from the "joys of being average" type of story arc when Atlas Shrugged hits theatres. I hope it's good.

Unlikely. Have you seen the trailer? I've seen SyFy movies with better production value: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6W07bFa4TzM

The writer/director is also playing John Galt himself, which is about as big a red-flag as one can get on something like this...

You know, you're notion to make Hollywood stop making films about "someone losing everything in order to find the one thing that really matters" reminds me of another fan of film getting tired of cardboard cut-out bullies and would like to see movies based on the other side rather than having bullies just pick on the protagonist just so the protagonist can get his revenge on them...

...Although knowing YOU'RE experience with bullies, I doubt you'd see thing that way.

MovieBob:
MovieBob tells Hollywood to knock it off.

Leaning Dem in the States and leaning Left in politics anywhere else in the West are totally different things. The Left elsewhere tends to root for the Dems in the States because they're less obviously crazy than the sole viable alternative, no other reason. (Cameron's Avatar is an outlier, only possible because he became James Fucking Cameron and had the clout to make it get made; Hollywood isn't otherwise much known for really "left"-leaning movies beyond the comfortably vague Dances With Wolves template. What was the last major film to even deal with the American working class as such? Hoffa in '92, which was mostly about his Mob connections and excesses?)

Your point about the power dynamics in the Hall Pass scene sounds plausible (I don't really know, not having seen the film); but I could totally get on board with more humor at the expense of snarky, personality-challenged assholes who don't belong in the service industry. There's a lot of them, and they routinely make life worse for customers, and most of them while doing it (as anyone with a circle of waiter and bartender friends knows) do it while complaining how bad the customers are. Sometimes they're in the right, but in a lot of cases, honestly, these people really need a smack.

Minor quibbles, good article as usual.

Accidental post... 0_o

Uh, how did Cameron play it safe? People realize anti-"military" (mercenaries in Avatar but come on, we know), environmental films are NOT box office attractions right? Hell look at every Iraq war movie to come out - bomb after bomb. Even The Hurt Locker made no money

So Bob, what did you think of American Beauty??

A brief memo, from me to the guys who keep writing/greenlighting this movie (and book, and sitcom): I understand. You "settled down" right before social-media and shifting-social-mores in general made the "hookup culture" explode. Growing up, you were told that if you hit 35 without a ring and a mortgage society would see you as an immature loser... and that turned out to be (increasingly) not the case at all. Part of you is incredibly bitter about this, even if a bigger part really does know (or at least believe) that you're actually better off. I understand. I get it. You have my sympathy.

Is that the problem with the premise? Or is it that embracing the "hookup culture" when you're in your late thirties or later is still seen as on the pathetic side?

Gindil:

Why not take a few ideas from Bollywood. They sure seem to come up with a lot more than the ones in the West.

What the.....holy....WHAT THE....!?!?!?!?!?

Squarez:

omicron1:
Snip.

I agree I want all my films devoid of any personal opinion.

It's not about stripping artistic endeavors of personal opinion, it's about putting in the research necessary to make your opinion and handling of the subject valid. A straw-man character or poorly fleshed out opposite ideal is essentially just an excuse for the author to intellectually masturbate in front of an audience.

The problem isn't opinion, it's failing to present your opinion in a way that holds merit.

A lot of good points, though I would say that the Yellow Spandew looks pretty silly in the upcoming film, and even the director was pretty quick to assure people it doesn't turn up that much.

Rocketboy13:
First "X-Men" movie. It could be seen that the reason Cyclops said, "Would you prefer yellow spandex?" is because he is aware of the ugly yellow and blue combination that Prof X and Magneto wore back when they were doing the field work, and he is giving a legitimate criticism of how silly it looks. At the time it was a finger to the fanboys, now it just looks like he was giving a specific rebuttal to Wolverine because he knows what he is talking about.

I'm in that weird camp that think the black suits looked more functional and cool. Like a tactical uniform should. I generally dislike the X-Men being portrayed as super heroes and prefer to think of them as a very elite ethnic militia, fighting for equal rights and good graces on behalf of their minority groups.

......Wow, you just made my day in registering that. I hadn't thought of the X-men as anything but heroes, but that fits them far better. Kudos to you!

camazotz:

Gindil:

Why not take a few ideas from Bollywood. They sure seem to come up with a lot more than the ones in the West.

What the.....holy....WHAT THE....!?!?!?!?!?

I have no idea what I just watched but I loved every second of it.

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