News

Hollywood clichés that should be retired

Barry Koltnow
Orange County Register (MCT)

Stop me if you've heard this.

In a movie or TV show, three friends are having a conversation. They might be at a party, in a restaurant or even at an outdoor event. One of the friends is sitting across from the other two and trash-talking about a fourth person. The two friends start acting strangely and their eyes widen as they try to warn their friend that the person being talked about is standing behind the talker.

All of a sudden, the talker realizes what is happening and says: "He's standing right behind me, isn't he?"

I'm not positive, but I believe I first saw this scene in "City Slickers" almost two decades ago, when Billy Crystal was badmouthing Jack Palance to friends Daniel Stern and Bruno Kirby. The very scary Palance walks up, and Crystal says the familiar line, although it wasn't familiar at the time.

I wish I had the statistics, but I'm not sure how many times I've seen this exact scene in a television or movie comedy since "City Slickers."

Only the actors and locations change each time. And, of course, the number of people who laugh at that scene. Nothing is funny the 10th time you hear it.

The next time you will see this offending scene will be in the new romantic comedy "When in Rome," which opens Jan. 29. I am not passing judgment on the movie, which I saw several weeks ago at a screening, but I am amazed and a little disappointed that someone thought it would be funny to repeat an overused gag like that.

It would be frightening to imagine that the person or persons who wrote that scene thought it was a new idea. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they knew exactly what they were doing. In other words, they were lazy and unoriginal.

When I complain about movie cliches, I'm not talking about classics comedy bits, such as slipping on a banana peel, a hit to the groin or passing gas in public.

No one has done that last one better than Mel Brooks in the iconic comedy "Blazing Saddles." Has anyone ever eaten a side of baked beans and not thought of the campfire scene?

Still, many other filmmakers have turned on the gas for an easy laugh, and I have no problem with that. I have very pedestrian tastes in comedy, and the good old-fashioned fart gets me every time. The same with a good swift kick to the groin, although that might just be a guy thing. The banana peel isn't really funny anymore, but Woody Allen used it to great effect in "Sleeper" (he used a giant peel).

Those are all funny sight gags, but the aforementioned "He's standing right behind me" is an entire scene with dialogue. There should be a law against such thievery. There should be a hefty fine levied. The guilty filmmaker should be forced to watch "Daddy Day Camp" on a 24-hour loop.

I think it's time to retire "He's standing right behind me," along with a few other bits that insult our intelligence.

For instance, is it really necessary for us to watch an action hero walk in slow motion away from an explosion? Yes, I know it's an effective scene. It was effective the first two dozen times I saw it. Now, it is such a cliche that it diminishes not only the actor, but the genre as well.

Here's another line of dialogue that needs to be put in mothballs: "Did I say that out loud?"

You know the scene. A character says something outrageous, and then says that. It was mildly funny the first time I heard it, and I think it was on a sitcom. People who write sitcoms are notorious comic repeaters.

And, while we're putting overused phrases to bed, let's ban "at the end of the day," both in popular culture and in real life. I've heard people use it three times in the same sentence.

I'm glad that older actors are getting to star in the kind of action movies normally reserved for younger actors. But, if I hear "I'm too old for this" one more time, I'm going to scream.

I would like to see the makers of romantic comedies find an alternative to wisecracking best friends and funny gay next-door neighbors.

Finally, it would be nice if a female character cut her own hair in a movie, and it didn't look like she just walked out of a Beverly Hills salon. I don't know much about cutting hair, or even hair for that matter, but I'm pretty sure it's difficult to cut your own hair in a dimly lit motel while on the run from assassins.

Let me know your pet peeves, and maybe we'll do this again.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image