This month’s rant is all about what we hate to see in movies…
Duane L. Martin:
There’s a laundry list of things I hate to see in movies, simply
because I’m a bitch and I don’t like a lot of things. One of the
biggest things I hate is when CGI is used in place of real creature FX.
I mean, CGI is the easy way out nowadays, and for some reason,
filmmakers seem to not care about the quality of their product anymore.
Sure you can put in a nice looking CGI monster in a movie, but does it
look real? No. Does it look like it’s actually in the scene with the
actors? No. But get a good creature FX guy working on your film, and
you can make magic. Now naturally this won’t always be the case,
because obviously there are some things that are just way to big or
involved to use creature FX for, but when it can be used, it should.
Not always because it looks better, but because it’s something real.
Something else I hate is bad pacing. A movie should flow at a certain
pace, which can speed up or slow down as needed. Now one thing I’ve
seen a tendency to do, especially in Japanese films, is to hold on a
scene WAY too long. Takashi Miike has made some films that have
pointless scenes of people walking, or sitting around or whatever for
minutes on end that really add nothing at all to the film. Other films,
like monster movies, tend to die between the action scenes, falling
apart into boring conversations and strife in the interpersonal
relationships between the characters. Characterization is good, but
when it affects the pacing of a film, that’s bad. There’s a classic
comedy film that you all should see called My Man Godfrey. If you ever
want a lesson in pacing, that’s the movie to see. I’ve never seen more
perfect pacing in any other film, and in general, it’s just an
incredibly enjoyable movie.
Another thing I hate is bad characters. Characters that are so stupid
or poorly written that you WANT them to die before the end of the
picture. If you can’t pull for the characters that you’re supposed to
care about to win out in the end, then what’s the point in watching the
movie? I can’t tell you how many movies I’ve sat though just wishing
everyone in it would die in the most horrible ways possible. Not
because I’m a hateful person, but because they friggin’ deserved it!
Let’s see, what else? Oh yeah, originality. I don’t want to see remakes
of stuff that was done years ago by people who actually had an original
thought, unless the original movie really sucked and the remake is
basically doing right what should have been done right the first time.
Unfortunately, that’s extremely rare. I know the April issue turned out
to be like one big bitch about remakes, but that’s because people
generally don’t like remakes. Unfortunately, since Hollywood has become
completely devoid of any original creative thoughts, they’re playing on
people’s nostalgia for the old films by creating new versions of them
that no one really wanted or asked for. One prime example of this is
the new Charlie and the Chocolate Factory film starring Johnny Depp,
which is a remake of the oh so brilliant Willy Wonka and the Chololate
Factory. I’ve seen the previews, and despite the fact that Johnny Depp
is a brilliant actor, he was just wrong for this part. No one will ever
top Gene Wilder in this role, and they should never have even tried.
I could go on forever ranting about this and that, but I’ll wrap it up
it one other thing that I really hate in films, and that’s cliches and
obvious humor and situations. Things are considered cliche for a
reason. It’s because we’ve all seen it or heard it a billion and a half
times, and we all know it by heart. So why put something in a movie,
whether it be dialogue or situations or characters or whatever that
we’ve all seen a billion and a half times before? As for obvious
humor… If I know the joke before it even happens, then it’s not
funny. The best humor is that which is unexpected. Playing on obvious
jokes because you lack the originality to come up with anything
unexpected or shocking is just lame and you’re better off to not even
try to be funny if that’s all you can come up with.
Ok, I lied. I was going to wrap it up with the last bit, but there’s
one other thing. This is the last one, I promise. I despise
telegraphing in a movie. This sorta goes along with the cliches rant in
a way. Basically what I mean by telegraphing is, I don’t want to
freakin’ know what’s going to happen in a film way before it happens.
If I can tell everything that’s going to happen way before hand, then
why bother watching the movie? If I know there’s a monster under the
stairs that’s going to eat someone as soon as they get to the bottom,
then the whole scene is pointless. Don’t telegraph it! I want to be
surprised damn it! I want to think there’s NOTHING at the bottom of the
stairs waiting for an unsuspecting victim so I can be surprised and
maybe even jump when the thing reaches out and grabs them. Telegraphing
can be done visually, through dialogue, or even through music, but it’s
always a bad thing.
Man, there are so many things I could rant and rave about when it comes
to what I can’t stand about the world of film. Clichés run rampant in
most of the schlock served up during the summer, and audiences eat them
up like they’ve never seen these tired devices before. Product
placement is also a big problem, turning what is supposed to be an
escapist experience into nothing more than a prolonged advertisement
for GMC Jeeps and iPods (I’m looking at you, Blade: Trinity).
If I had to pick one infuriating element of Hollywood over all the
rest, however, it would have to be the excessive CGI effects used in
There was a point in time when filmmakers had only a small set of tools
when it came to creating the fantastic or impossible. Steven Spielberg
had to create an actual, working shark for his beloved Jaws,
a heady task which involved a lot of effort and expertise. As a result
of his and the film’s team being creative in making this fierce
creature, the movie was made all the better.
Can you imagine a re-release of this masterpiece where the shark was
replaced by a computer animated beast? Oh sure, you could make ol’
Bruce do so much more, but at what cost? Audiences would lose that
palpable sense of fear which stems from their seeming ability to reach
out and actually touch the source of their fear. The mechanical shark
could very well come at you, whereas the animated fish might as well
appear in a DreamWorks parody of The Godfather.
To play the blame game might come off as unfair in this discussion, but
nevertheless I’m going to point a big finger in George Lucas’ direction
and say it’s his fault for this deluge of CGI in today’s films. His
effects-laden Special Editions of the Star Wars
films are more than responsible for flooding the market with splashy
shots of monsters and supposedly realistic star ships, and because they
made so much money I’m sure more than a few directors thought CGI would
boost their box-office receipts as well. Now we’re forced to share
theater space with such junk as Van Helsing, a film which might as well have been fully animated.
Another casualty of the CGI invasion is the wonderful world of
puppetry. Again, using puppets to realize your visions of the fantastic
is so much more effective than the efficient but sterile computer
effect. Films like Jim Henson’s Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal
are a feast for the eyes because they ooze sheer artistry and
craftsmanship. The characters inhabit the space and interact with it
instead of merely being added in post-production. If we had more films
like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which used puppetry
extensively, then perhaps audiences would once again realize that
effects don’t necessarily equate a realistic atmosphere.
Unfortunately, I see no discernible end for the wave of computer
effects in its constant flow over the land of filmmaking. Along with 2D
animation, traditional devices such as puppetry appear to be dissolving
in the wake of new technology. Some might say I should get with the
times and accept this new way of making movies, but I refuse to stop
complaining. On a final note, a sequel to the The Dark Crystal is apparently in the works, and it will be a combination of puppets and CGI. In a word: Blech.
As of late, the thing that burns me most about movies is the use of the
spooky kid. Don’t get me wrong, early uses of the theme like Children
Of The Damned were good and actually effective. Then the idea exploded
near the turn of the century with Haley Joe Osment in The Sixth Sense.
Nowadays, it seems to be a perquisite in the horror industry to have an
evil little tike in your movie. If you think about it, are evil kids
all that scary? Honestly, do you think in real life a ten year old
could beat you up? All they need is one good kick and faster than you
can say child protective services, the threat would be vanquished. That
and there are stereotypes always popping up revolving around these
kids. The girl with the long dark hair covering her face seems to be
the latest redundant thing. Take my advice, if you want to see children
in their most evil form watch Nanny 911.
I am also sick of Hollywood having to go to Japan for ideas. Far too
many remakes are being made of Japanese classics such as The Ring and
The Grudge. Are we that out of ideas in this country?
It is awfully hard to find a movie that I truly hate with my defense
mechanism of being as easily entertained as I am. I was thinking about
what to write about what really ruined a movie for me. It was hard not
to just say talentless annoying teen and 20-something actors. The mere
thought of Paris Hilton can ruin a movie worse that an Albert Pyun
credit. I want to bring up a few things that annoy me before I discuss
the two true fatal flaws a movie can have.
Characters are a very important part. Bad characters can be pretty
awful. Derivative sci-fi characters have gotten me sick of the
scientist with an ex-spouse. By the end of the movie, they will have
reconciliation. Most of the slasher characters are so hateful you cheer
when they get knifed. If you don’t like them, why should you care if
something bad happens to them? Wouldn’t it be shocking to have a
likeable character get offed instead of someone the audience is rooting
to be killed painfully?
In particular, I think the about the best way to kill any movie is the ending. Take the ending of Dungeon and Dragons.
What was the point of it? It led directly into hopefully a sequel that
won’t ever be made. Any movie with a character that has the nightmare
ending then awakens should have the screenwriter and the director
smothered in honey and staked over an anthill of fireants. The monster
movie with the possible sequel ending with the monster egg hatching
right before the credits should be banned, too.
If the movie is boring, it has completely failed. If I want boring,
I’ll rent a foreign movie about a bunch of French philosophers mourning
the death of true thought while downing double latte espressos. A movie
is supposed to be entertaining. In fact, most movies have some
entertainment value whether it is intentional or not. However, some
movies seem to fail completely in any entertainment value.
There’s a lot of stuff I could rant about here, but I’ll
focus on the double-edged sword that is CGI. Admittedly, if it wasn’t
for the computerized effects we had today, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Spider-Man
films, and many other epic films would not have been possible. CGI
really isn’t a bad thing and is in fact the next step in the evolution
of film making; in the future, I foresee that all of the actors will be
computerized, resulting in the end of stuntmen as we know them. But
seriously, for all the technological advancements made with computer
effects these days, why am I seeing so many movies with terrible CGI
effects?! I still have yet to see a movie with dinosaurs as realistic
as Jurassic Park, and I have yet to see a good PG-13 horror
film with a decent CGI monster. Recently I’ve seen two films that
elicit this question, namely White Noise and Boogeyman.
Both are big budget supernatural thrillers that contain some
psychological thrills; both are PG-13; both suffer from terrible
endings; but mostly, both suffer because they showcase some very lame
CGI creatures. Hollywood, hear my plea! Please go back to the old
school way of doing special effects until you find a way to make CGI
look flawless and realistic! (Which may or may not be a long way off.)
Blow up real cars and buildings, use squibs, utilize rubber monster
suits, soak actors with Karos Syrup, fire blank bullets, etc. Trust me,
your national and international audiences will thank you for it!