Monday, July 17, 2006

Movie Clichés

Ahh, yes, the always funny and yet very important subject for screenwriters today – movie clichés. Below are two links that contemporary screenwriters would do well to study:

Ebert’s Little Movie Glossary, which offers countless fan-submitted rules of movies like these gems:

Dead for Sure, No Doubt About It

In a movie, the absolute proof of the death of a character is when blood drips slowly from the corner of the mouth. This is in too many movies to document. An interesting variation was the dripping of liquid metal from the evil mutant's mouth in "X-Men 2." As a physician, I can tell you that blood coming from the mouth after a fight is either, 1) a sign of a communication of the esophagus with a major blood vessel, which would be fatal, or 2) a cut in the mouth, which would not be.

Don't Wait For Me

Whenever the hero in a movie says "If I'm not back in 5/10/15 minutes, get out of here/blow the whole thing up/call the cops," etc., he will be late. But his companions will ignore his instructions and wait until the hero (who is always wounded) returns. There is a 20 percent chance that they will go out to look for him and also get wounded.

Archivist Killer Syndrome

Many serial killers could also find employment as the authors of double-acrostics and conundrums. In searching for such killers, hero detectives invariably find an abandoned apartment with newspaper clippings and photos on the wall showing the killers a) victims b) pursuer c) next victim and d) a message to his pursuers. See In the Line Of Fire, Seven.

And here's the great Movie Clichés website, which is organized by topic.

On Villains:

* The bad guy is always a foreigner.

* The bad guy also has a side-kick muscleman, who has some sort of trademark gimmick that he/she uses to eliminate opponents. You must kill or decomission this muscleman by forcing a backfiring of this trademarked gimmick. If the muscleman dispatched by a different method, he/she is not dead. (For that matter, don't assume that anyone is dead unless their death was spectacular. Beware sequels.)

* No matter how dead you think you've killed a bad guy, he can still get up at least 3 more times. Therefore, always make sure to leave his gun in or near his hand after you've killed him and you turn away to comfort the girl.

* When a villain seems dead, he never is. He will always be allowed one, and sometimes two resurrections. The hero will frequently see him coming, even if his back is turned. If he doesn't, a friend will finish the villain off.

* The bad guy usually kills his henchman for failing, yet don't seem to run out of loyal henchmen.

* Bad guys lurk until their presence is revealed by a flash of lightning.

* You can kill the bad guy by taking careful note of any object that the camera has lingered on for an unnecessarily length of time; typically this is something like a meat-hook or a jagged bit of glass. You will be involved in a mighty struggle, and at the appropriate time you can become inspired (usually by either an insult from the bad guy or a look of faith from your love interest) with strength enough to force the bad guy into/onto/under/in front of the aforementioned object. Actor's Equity (Hollywood) requires that within 15 seconds either side of the bad guy's demise, you utter your trademark phrase.

* Whenever a villain has captured the hero, he will pause for 5 minutes to tell the hero _every_ detail of his plan to destroy and/or rule the earth, including times, dates, and addresses.

* The bad guy, having finally gotten the good guy into his clutches, will usually spend a few megalomaniac minutes gloating over his victory and his opponent's downfall. This increment of time will prove just enough to allow the good guy to figure a way out of his predicament, or just long enough to allow a rescue attempt.

* The bad guy, instead of simply offing the captured good guy on the spot, will devise some sort of drawn-out, fiendishly clever method of execution that will take enough time to allow the good guy to figure out his escape.

* When a villain seems dead, he never is. He will always be allowed one, and sometimes two resurrections. The hero will frequently see him coming, even if his back is turned. If he doesn't, a friend will finish the villain off.

* You can always tell which nationality the United States and the popular media are currently most unhappy with because that nation sends all their villains to star in Hollywood movies during those times (e.g. Germans in the late 40's and 50's, Asians in the 60's and 70's, Soviets in the 70's and 80's and Middle Easterners in the 90's).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Two of my favorite cliches:

1) If a character coughs in one scene, he/she is dead by the end of the movie.

2) A character that is drunk in more than one scene is an alcoholic