Sunday, March 27, 2011
Somewhere back in the Eighties my brother came in from California for a visit one year and we went to see a Broadway musical called “A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine.”
The first half of the show featured several song and dance numbers staged outside Grauman’s Chinese theater. I don’t remember much of this show after all this time, but one tune called “I Love A Film Cliché” still stands out in my mind.
The singer describes the pleasure he gets from hearing familiar movie lines. Throughout the song other cast members pop up behind him and utter such gems as “why this is an egg from a dinosaur thought to be extinct for two million years!”
Being a serious movie fan I’ve got some favorite film clichés of my own, but I haven't set them to music yet. One of them occurs in courtroom dramas when the crusading attorney stands up and makes some completely ridiculous request.
The judge will pretend to ponder this motion for a few seconds and then say something like “this is highly irregular, but I’ll allow it.”
Of course you'll allow it. Was there ever any doubt? You’re a movie judge, that’s what you’re supposed to do.
Movie judges never say “this is highly irregular and hell will freeze over before I’d ever allow something like that and if you ever make such a stupid motion again in my court again I’ll climb down off this bench and beat the screaming beejesus out you with my little hammer.”
There are also visual clichés. If a major character is ever injured in a movie and taken to the hospital, you can bet there’ll be a POV shot of the hospital ceiling lights rolling by as our victim is being wheeled into surgery. Apparently people in gurneys never look left or right--just straight up at the lights.
Look Out Below
I got around to watching Terminator Salvation last week—yeah, I know, but I kind of liked it. I thought it was a decent sci-fi action flick, though it’s probably best known for Christian Bale’s onset rant at a hapless cameraman.
Bale supporters say the tape was taken out of context, but all I heard was four minutes of paint-peeling obscenities. I think that pretty much is the context.
Anyway, this movie, despite the special effects and huge budget, manages to fall back on an old monster movie cliché. I should probably say “spoiler alert” at this point, but if you’ve ever seen a monster movie in your life I seriously doubt there will be any surprises here.
The hero will face off with a superhuman being—Terminator, Alien, Frankenstein, it doesn’t matter. The two will start fighting and the monster will display his superior strength by picking up the hero and throwing him across the room like a beach ball. Repeatedly.
He will never, I mean never, pick up the hero and break him in two, or twist his head off, or squeeze the life out of him with two fingers—even though he’s perfectly capable of doing so and it would end the confrontation instantly.
No, he’ll just throw a stuntman through the air, or into a wall, or onto a table filled with all sorts of breakable stuff. The hero will get up with some fake blood on his face and a few rips in the shirt, but he’ll still be very much alive. This will go on until the hero finds some way of killing the monster, getting the girl, and ending the movie.
I understand the monsters are evil, but do they have to be stupid, too? Can’t they see that all this showboating can be fatal? I'm not rooting for the villain, I just want the fight scenes to be a little more realistic.
Still I love a good monster movie. And even though the hero-toss irritates me no end, it’s a classic film cliché’ and I’ll allow it.