Movie Likes & Dislikes

The Arts

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Remember when Amelie Poulain got bothered by the way drivers in movies looked at their passengers without watching the road? I have that problem with so many scenes in films. I don’t mind if a film doesn’t quite make sense (I’ve seen ‘Bullitt’ at least a dozen times and still don’t quite get the plot) but it’s the everyday things we do and which are imperfectly reflected in movies that bother me.

It disturbs me when someone throws money at the lead character, and it goes all over the floor. Do they manage to pick it all up? (It happens a lot in ‘Breaking Bad’). Or when someone jumps out of a car when they haven’t finished parking it properly.

I can’t help it, I have a tidy mind. I hate it when actors take a shower or bath and don’t wash off all the soap when they get out (Fellini’s ‘Amarcord’ is the master movie for this sin), or when they part-shave and the phone rings, and they wipe the rest off with a towel. Do they go back and finish shaving after?

The lead gets or gives an address over the phone – it’s always half an address, never complete. Wouldn’t they say ‘You can’t miss it, it’s opposite Prontoprint, next to a Nando’s’? And half the time they don’t even specify when they’re going to be there.

You’d think after a half a life spent watching movies for work, I’d be cynical about what’s up there on the screen, but no. I still hate it when happy couples have horrible on-screen arguments. I hate/love sad endings. Sidney Sheinberg famously wrecked the movie ‘Brazil’ by ending it at the false happy ending two thirds of the way through, but part of me wants the film to end there too because Sam is happy. I could barely watch ‘(500) Days Of Summer’ because we’re told at the beginning that it’s not a love story. My partner couldn’t watch the French comedy ‘La Maison Du Bonheur’ because the couple’s house sale fell through. It’s only a movie!

I never liked scenes in American films where kids drove to school because the concept was completely alien to me, or where people had conversations in office bathrooms because nobody I’d ever met did that. I still get spooked when kids called their fathers ‘Sir’ and still find it weird when parents admonish their sons for having a beer at sixteen. They’re old enough to marry, for God’s sake.

But the thing that bothers me most is that speech. You know, the one where someone goes on about how you can live life to the full and achieve anything if you just dare to dream and be free. There’s nothing wrong with the sentiment (although it should have clauses built in about being non-caucasian and/or working class) but to say it aloud to someone? Isn’t that the most sardonic thing you can do?

I like back-projection in old movies. Sometimes the staginess actually enhances the film, as in Hitchcock’s ‘Family Plot’. And in the early Lars Von Trier film ‘Europa’, the director plays with the idea, sometimes featuring the back-projection in black and white while the foreground’s in colour. A similar trick is used in ‘The Nasty Girl’.

I like nearly all road movies, from ‘Detour’ to ‘Vanishing Point’, ‘Easy Rider’, ‘Wrong Turn’ and ‘Highway To Hell’. Science fiction films that are actually set in space, constructed around ideas and not explosions. Utterly mad one-off horror movies, from ‘Squirm’ to ‘Blue Sunshine’ (both from Jeff Lieberman) and ‘Anatomie’ (both 1 and 2), grand slapstick movies like ‘The Great Race’, wit (what was the last really witty film you saw?) and comedies that don’t have anyone called Seth or Josh in.

A friend of mine who works at Paramount is depressed by the idea that their company’s biggest film this year is ‘Transformers 4’. I miss the showing of world movies in London’s cinemas, which has all but died out, and I still search for good low budget B movies, even though many of them insist on using bad CGI. The last one I watched was ‘The Human Race’, in which a one-legged runner must compete to survive in an alien sports arena – at least it had an idea, which is more than can be said for ‘Transformers 4’!

Please feel free to add any personal movie likes/dislikes.

8 comments on “Movie Likes & Dislikes”

  1. Ian Smith says:

    I’m sure this is a common one among film-viewers — found-footage horror movies where seriously bad stuff is happening and the stupid git with the camera doesn’t just drop the camera and run like hell, like any normal person would do, but INSISTS ON CONTINUING TO FILM!!!

    To be fair to the recent British found-footage horror movie ‘The Borderlands’, the characters are required to wear special head-cams at all times, which goes part of the way towards solving this problem.

  2. Dan Terrell says:

    It sounds like the continuity “girl” on those pictures, if they was one, needs to get her act together. People notice when a drink suddenly switches hands or – God help us – an overcoat goes from plaid to charcoal blue while being worn. A director of merit would have someone’s +++++ for such an error.

  3. Helen Martin says:

    Watched Eragon the other night (from Paolini’s YA book) and was commenting on how naturally the dragon moved (if that can be said of an imaginary creature with four legs AND wings). It helped that dragon and rider communicated mentally so they didn’t have to move the lips.”Flying at a distance” was a little stiff since nothing glides forever and you didn’t see her flap those wings once she moved to a distance in the air.

  4. Vivienne says:

    As a child I hated it when, in an adventure film (plane crash, lost in the jungle sort of scenario) one of the pair would say, ‘you go that way and I’ll go this…’ Nobody in their right mind would separate under those circumstances. Nowadays, there are more prosaic annoyances. When did people drinking anything, a cup of tea or similar, so obviously sip from an empty one. Can they not afford a bit of water so that the weight and swallow look real?

  5. snowy says:

    Films have a grammar of their own, they are a distillation of events to tell a story. [Nobody seems to mind plays being a bit ‘stage-y’].

    If a viewer notices any slight bending of reality, that is the Writer/Directors fault. Their job is to keep the viewer so diverted that such things pass unnoticed, [like a magician using misdirection to cover the key move before the ‘flourish’]. If you are interested in the characters, you shouldn’t really notice the wallpaper.

    [I’m going to drift into Bullitt for a bit and then come back to the topic]

    Bullitt uses an metafictive device, an ‘Ouroboros’ of sorts. [I didn’t get into this last time, as my comment was already much too long.]

    The film deliberately conceals what it actually about, this is a device to project the viewer into the same position as ‘Bullitt’. It works, but works too well.

    The key reveal at the desert motel is the problem with the film, as it is hugely underplayed, ever the problem with a ‘Lone Hero’, who has no-one to help with the exposition, [the exposition only comes at the Airport, where it is delivered at very high speed to a very minor character].

    To put it another way; ‘Bullitt’ spends over an hour telling you it is a hunt for a murderer, this is the bait! At the point you expect it to resolve it [quietly] pulls the ‘switch’ and goes off in another direction.

    The real plot of ‘Bullitt’ is contained in about 20 minutes of the film, bracketed by the hotel scene at the start and the motel scene near the end. Everything in-between is just misdirection.

    The whole film itself is constructed as one vast con trick to disguise the very fact it is about a con trick.

    [And we’re back]

    One thing that used to pull me out of a film is when Set Designers cheat badly, use a ready made object out of place and don’t disguise it well enough.

    The list could be [very, very] long, but just one, from a film full of odd anomalies/anachronisms ‘Where Eagles Dare’. Dicky Burton and Clint don ‘Snow Goggles’ to enable them to function in the snow. What they put on are green welding goggles [which are completely black in daylight], fortunately they manage to get to their objective without walking into too many trees or falling off a cliff.

    [It used to, but now I just smile wryly and think “I see what you did there”.]

  6. Terry says:

    I love this thread. drivers watching their passengers instead of the road always makes me crazy, too. But a *really* big gripe is that no one in movies (except, hallelujah, the “Scream” movies) has ever watched any TV or movies themselves. It’s obvious, else they wouldn’t wander off by themselves, they wouldn’t open that door, they wouldn’t believe that anonymous phone call, etc etc etc. This is a HUGE problem for me. It creates this incredibly obvious phoniness around the entire film. In real life, it’s often difficult to get friends/family/co-workers to STOP talking about movies/TV they’ve seen! In movies NO ONE talks about it. Oh, a few quip-quotes now and then. But it’s as though film-makers have decided never to use the color green, ever. For anything. How real is that?

  7. C Falconer says:

    oh so many:
    1) I’m in fear of my life from the government / mob / aliens, so of course I’ll meet you in the spooky underground carpark
    2) person goes into the pub to wait for someone, orders a drink, other person arrives and *they leave their drink undrunk*! I have never seen anyone say – hang on a minute and down the pint….
    3) non cyclists riding bikes (esp Shirley Mclaine in Caberet)

    Well that’s only three, but still

  8. Roger says:

    “seriously bad stuff is happening and the stupid git with the camera doesn’t just drop the camera and run like hell, like any normal person would do, but INSISTS ON CONTINUING TO FILM!!!”
    I’m willing to accept that, Ian Smith: there was a real instance in Pinochet’s coup in Chile where a cameraman actually swung round, centred on a soldier raising a rifle and carried on shooting as the soldier fired and killed him. holding a camera does make people think “It’s only a film.”!

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