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It's the Movie Cliche List -- PART TWO!

  • Dec 17, 2010
  • by
Like anything worth a damn in Hollywood, the cliche list has spawned a sequel. This time, it's personal. And it's getting revenge. And the cliche list begins.

Oh hell, let's just call it Part II (but with roman numerals).

(Part 1 was here..)
High school

Cliche #1 (a):

Most foreigners believe that Americans stay in high school well into their 30s, since that's the average age of the actors who play students. Whether it's cute looking vampire types in Buffy, or the louder-than-a-car-alarm-screechers in Glee, there are always more crows feet than pimples and many will be leaping from their final year straight into social security.

It's been well established that this trend is because it's a violation of Federal law to work in acting before the age of 25. Right? Or maybe it's impossible to find good teenaged actors to play teenagers? No? Actually, I think it's because Americans are sorely nostalgic for their high school years, and since most of these shows are targeted at 16-35 year olds, it makes the younger audience feel more mature and the oldies feel like they fit in.

Needless to say, you'll never see teenagers play teenagers at high school. Next!

Cliche #1 (b):

Additionally, at American schools there are only two subjects studied: cheerleading and football. You will fail in life if you don't excel in one of these.
Black and White Movies

When movie characters watch TV, they only ever tune into black and white films. This is partly to avoid breaking the fourth wall and showing an actor who may be current. Or maybe it's to do with avoiding licensing fees by showing out-of-copyright clap-trap.

I particularly like the clip used in Home Alone which is a nod to this cliche - especially since it wasn't a real black and white film.
Dialog Cliches
Villain: "You're not so different you and I!"

"Is that the best you can do?"

"It's quiet. A little too quiet."

"According to my calculations..." (sigh)
Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)

If you've ever attended First Aid training, you need to forget all that immediately since it doesn't work. Here are the real ABCs, according to Tinseltown:

- Audience: tell everyone to step back as you check for a heartbeat, but only after ripping off the person's shirt and pounding away on their chest while getting exasperated.

- Berating: after several minutes of beating the crap out of the soon-to-be dead, and giving them several zaps from one of those electric things with paddles ("CLEAR!"), start yelling and preferably even assaulting the corpse for "giving up" too soon.

- Commitment: to the Oscar statuette, as you focus on giving the performance that will get the Academy all excited. Violently fight back against people trying to pull you away, let the tears start gushing, and demand the person comes back to life until they take that life-saving reviving breath.

Works every time.
Guns are such an uber-class of cliche that's almost impossible to know where to start.

Needless to say, Hollywood guns never jam or run out of bullets, and you shouldn't worry too much about being shot because they're really not that dangerous. Especially since most bullets drift towards shoulders or other supposedly non-lethal areas, or can be blocked with any book that you'll naturally keep in your top inside pocket. And if you're Mel Gibson, you can be filled with more holes than a swiss cheese and still be fine, though it may make you anti-semitic or violent towards women.

Hollywood always recommends storing guns safely - like in the belt of your pants - and make sure you always chamber a round before shoving it in there. If the bad guy is in a car, bullets hitting the windshield will always land in his forehead, but you can also make the car blow up by aiming for the gas tank instead. If the good guy is in the car, it will be like an impenetrable fortress, so don't even bother shooting.

Bad guys always shoot superheroes like Robocop and Spiderman in their heavily-armored torsos rather than going for the face shot.

Drinking and smoking are the only two sanctioned drug-taking habits in Hollywood, both of which lead the characters to be more sexy and seductive. Characters engaging in other drugs are delusional (Trainspotting), sadistic (The Professional) or just stoner-type losers (almost any Seth Rogen film).

The alcohol available in a film varies upon the character type:

- People who are going through a tough patch always drink at the bar, by themselves, and order shot after shot of generic whiskey, slamming each glass with a grimace.

- Teenagers always have parties where a single keg serves a thousand people - but that's ok since they get shitfaced on the mere scent of a bottle of Bud Light.

- Wine is seriously sophisticated and will usually get you laid. I wish I'd known this 10 years ago.

Whenever alcohol appears in or near a brown bag, the person is an alcoholic. Additionally, anyone drinking alcohol in a horror film will always die - and usually first, unless someone else has sex before this, in which case they'll be second. If they drink, have sex and go to the upstairs of the house, they'll be dead in the very next scene.
Computers are so cliched in movies that it makes you want to beat the characters to death with a keyboard. Some of the most egregious cliches include:

- Governmental systems always display their logo prominently on the desktop ("FBI").
- All computers beep and whir constantly.
- When you can't get the password right (and it only ever takes two guesses to get it right, of course), you get a big "ACCESS DENIED" message.
- A screen of text is displayed line at a time - about reading speed.
- Characters never make typos.
- Files never get deleted instantaneously but take 30 seconds with a big progress bar.

Camera shots
Not all cliches are obvious - but we've all come to notice cliche camera shots without really noticing them. Like...

1. When the hero closes the bathroom mirror, there'll always been a ghost/monster/villain that suddenly appears in the background.

2. In any Spielberg film, the hero will run from mid-shot right up to the camera and fill the screen with their face. Usually, they look alarmed too.

3. The "walk into camera" transition - character walks right up, we cut to black and then film the same person walking away from the camera. Lousy.

4. Multiple explosion shot: one explosion, such as a car going bang (especially after being shot in the gas tank, lol) will be shown from 5 different angles but repeat the actual explosion in entirety five times.

5. When it's revealed that a scene is a movie-within-a-movie, the revealing shot will always be on a crane to show the entire set and never at floor level.
Film Trailers
Don LaFontaine (RIP)...

But more annoyingly:

- Music stops to punctuate a punchline: this is most often used in comedy trailers, and the soundtrack will stop usually with the sound of a record scratching just in case we didn't know we had to laugh. Like this:

- Scenes separated by long fade in/fade out: usually for thrillers, and often with "heartbeat sounding" music, the scenes are faded in and out with only 1-2 seconds of film in between. Most of the trailer is complete darkness.

- "From the people that brought you.." - I actually like this cliche since it's a warning not to bother seeing the movie. When the Executive Producer of Battlestar Gallactica needs to be mentioned, you've got serious problems.

By far the most annoying cliche - and it's used almost constantly - is the voice-over being broken like this: "The biggest crime family.... in Chicago.... destined for battle... waiting for destiny... going to the bathroom." I should put odd pauses my sentences like this just to scare people.

This says it all:

What did you think of this list?

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December 18, 2010
I miss Don LaFontaine, although those trailers made me retch. And including "The Mother of All Trailers" is getting you a nomination!
December 18, 2010
Don LaFontaine was epic and defined an entire era of film. Let's hope he announces new arrivals at the Pearly Gates. Thanks for the nomination!
December 18, 2010
That would be a most appropriate use of his talents. Oh, by the way, you're Glee clip doesn't work.
December 18, 2010
Thanks for the heads up - I switched out the clip.
December 18, 2010
Thanks for the heads up - I switched out the clip. And now for some reason item #8 has deleted itself. Argh.
December 18, 2010
De nada.
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