The Downfall of Great Cinema

I’ve noticed a very disturbing trend: movies are getting more and more cliché, with less and less substance, all the time. I know that this isn’t a particularly original observation, and that people have probably been saying the same thing since the 1940’s. But unlike many of the aforementioned whiners, I am prepared to do something about it. So, I present to the world my Big List of Suggestions:

  1. People usually die with their eyes open, and are usually too busy dying to deliver some heartbreaking final line, or some witty quip.
  2. If your movie contains something that is so overused that even the parodies of it are cliché, you need to rethink it (I’m talking especially to those movies that emulated The Matrix‘s slow-motion effects. That was only good once.)
  3. The rugged, downtrodden, emotionless female character who doesn’t care about anybody became a stupid idea the second time it was done (such a character who’s heart immediately melts when she meets the right guy was never a good idea).
  4. The rugged downtrodden emotionless hero has the same problem.
  5. If you have two characters start making out suddenly in the middle of, say, a battlefield, tear up your screenplay and set the bits on fire.
  6. Extraterrestrials are not likely to be shaped like us, and I very much doubt that they’d have the equipment to learn or understand our language.
  7. Sometimes, despite their best efforts, the hero gets killed anyway.
  8. A muscle-bound, oily man in nothing but a loincloth does not mix with large swords or heavy weaponry.
  9. If a villain manages to lose grip on the hero because he was busy delivering some pithy, “I’m-about-to-kill-you” remark, throw your screenplay in the garbage.
  10. Unless sex is some part of the plot, there’s no need for a sex scene.
  11. If you have more than one needless sex scene, you are a pornographer.
  12. To the directors who think they can get away with gratuitous sexualization: just because a woman character is supposedly intelligent doesn’t mean she can still wear an “almost-nude” tanktop, and nobody will think it’s cheap. This tactic is not fooling the feminists (who probably have a right to be pissed in this case), it’s only fooling you.
  13. In reference to #12: if you actually knew any scientific types, you’d know that few of them are willing to jump into bed with the hunky hero at the slightest provocation.
  14. If two people are having sex and they knock all the junk off a table, crumple up your screenplay and eat it.
  15. Very few people can actually walk after being shot in the leg/chest/stomach/neck.
  16. This is a long one: If you have a character who was wronged by some villain, who delivered a “witty” line as they wronged the character, it is not cool to have that character say the exact same line as they wrong the villain back. Even if people existed that could remember such things with such great ease, they aren’t usually in a position to get wronged by villains very often.
  17. If you throw in a lot of science jargon, you must remember: some in the audience (I humbly point to myself as an example) actually know a bit about science, and will realize that the “science” in your movie is a load of crap. From my own experience, I can tell you that this will dramatically lower their opinion of the film (I’m talking especially to the makers of 28 Days Later: great plot and great characters, but there is no infectious agent that starts causing symptoms after thirty seconds of exposure).
  18. Most explosions are more dirt than fire. Those rare ones that are as fiery as the movie blasts generally don’t allow people to walk away after being caught in them (which invariably happens in movies).
  19. Getting shot in the head is not always fatal. Just because you don’t know how to deal with a subject as deep as a mentally disabled character doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.
  20. The time of superhero movies has gone. Please try to live with this.
  21. The villain who is “pure evil” was a cliché even back in the fifties, when it became popular.
  22. It is possible for Artificial Intelligences to experience emotions. Their brains are designed after ours, and the goal of most AI research is to make them as human as possible. H.A.L. (2001) was as good as I’ve seen thus far.
  23. Since I mentioned HAL: it is not, I repeat with great vehemence NOT necessary for every single acronym in your movie to spell something. Look at DARPA, AWACS, and HTML.
  24. And while I’m still going on about robots: if you’re going to have human-level intelligence robots, then why not make one of them a character (and I’m not talking in the butler-like, vaguely amusing manner of C-3PO here)? To my knowledge, that’s still a fairly fresh idea. After all, an entity with human intelligence would probably damn sure want to be treated like a human being.
  25. When something gets cut, it falls apart immediately. Whoever imported the concept of the “ooh-cool-delayed-slash-effect” thing from Japanese anime was a fool, and should stop doing that. (and by the way, if I were going to rant about anime, I think I’d need to split it into two posts; talk about cliché (well, most of it that I’ve seen)).
  26. A plot twist doesn’t work it it is any of these things: stupid/unbelievable/unrealistic/crappy/pithy/saccharine/clichéd/impossible/done for the sake of doing it.
  27. Some plot elements do not need to be explained; I’m talking especially to the directors of the Saw series here: the one thing that made John really creepy is that he didn’t move until the end of the first movie. You didn’t actually need to tell us how he did it.
  28. If you make a sequel just for the hell of it, we will know. Some movies are standalones. (I’m talking to the Saw guys again).
  29. Human bodies generally only contain about six liters of blood. Use a damned measuring cup next time!
  30. In reference to the above: most people die after losing the first four or so of those liters.
  31. Gratuitous gore was only the “edgy” thing to do the first couple of times it was done. Now it just looks stupid and unnecessary.
  33. Gasoline tankers only rarely explode.
  34. Gasoline pumps only rarely explode.
  35. Cars almost never explode. If your screenplay contains an exploding car, tear it up and flush it down the toilet.
  36. Unless they have some sort of congenital insensitivity to pain, very few people could actually make their own tourniquet and tie it up after losing their leg.
  37. Limbs do not slice off nearly as neatly as you seem to think.
  38. I don’t know what kind of fire you’re experienced with, but very few fires spread as fast as you seem to think.

All right, I seem to have reached the legal maximum number of rants in one post. To any film directors who read this: think about these things, they might do you good. And if you want an example of a really good, emotional, goosebump-making movie, look at Children of Men. Or go to Mexico. Alfonso Cuarón and Guillermo del Toro know what they’re doing.


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