Setter’s ‘Spectives: Overused Plots, Unite!

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613I can’t pretend to know what goes on during the movie-development process in Hollywood.

I do, however, know that the results often have a manufactured quality, as if churned out from a machine fed specific information about character, theme and plot needs.

Some of these plots are recognizable from film to film. I’ve listed a number of them below as being, in my humble opinion, among the most overused. This isn’t a comprehensive list, nor is it objective … though I’d like to think it is. Anyway, here are my cinematic gripes for the day:

Single/Divorced Dad With a Heart (and Soul) Finally Finds True Love: They never tell you why he’s single, though, do they? Maybe he eats other people’s nostrils. Or likes Jerry Lewis films.

Zombies Run Amok After Some Medical Experiment Goes Awry: The least interesting monster in any monster movie often gets the star treatment–probably because you don’t have to write lines for it.

Man/Woman on the Run Hides Out in a Dance Studio; Comedy Ensues: And, unfortunately, singing. More often than not, the singing’s worse.

Sensitive, Movie-Buff Hit Man Retires to Home Town, Then Discovers He Never Really Left: What a long, strange trip this usually is, especially when references to Lash LaRue start popping up.

Ordinary Guy Finds Out He’s “The One” to Save the World; Stupidity Ensues: Also boring, slow-motion fistfights and pseudo-martial arts mayhem. Yuck.

Seminal Ancient Battle Gets “Reimagined” for the Screen with Posturing and CGI Blood: At this juncture, the squibs of yore seem more realistic. Add macho yelling and stir.

Multiple Stories About Folks Around the World Intertwine Tediously: Please, please stay with fewer characters. Once you spin a web surrounding too many people, the movie loses focus.

Dance Team Saves the Town Via Dreadful Flash-Mob Theatrics and Cheap Sentimentality: Possibly the least credible plot device of any film in this bunch. And I’m including the zombie one.

Setter’s ‘Spective: The Slo-Mo and the Furious

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613I blame you, Akira Kurosawa.

Remember: You started it. Or rather, you helped popularize the use of slow-motion photography in fight scenes–specifically via two different shots of villains dying in The Seven Samurai.

I adore your films, Akira. But I’m not happy with the seeds you’ve sown.

Ok, so you’re not responsible for all that ludicrous pseudo-Spartan posturing in 300. Or the (prolific) guts and glory in The Wild Bunch. But without those scenes in Samurai, we wouldn’t be so deluged with half-speed onscreen violence.

Granted, you used slow motion judiciously–and I think that’s what separates you from the rest. Peckinpah’s technique can hardly be called subtle, but his Bunch certainly packs a punch. Not so much all that silliness in 300, where the idea seemed to be showing how cool it is to kill ancient Persians with as much CGI blood as possible.

And I think that’s where all this slo-mo falls rather quickly on its face.

We’ve diluted its purpose, the whole point of its effectiveness. See it once in a while, and it’s as startling as a flower in snow. Yet watch it over and over again, and it loses its potential impact. Today, it seems to be de rigueur in “action” scenes, as if directors have forgotten how to film normally. So it has become showy instead of telling, obvious instead of shocking.

Frankly, I’d rather see My Dinner with Andre. That’s got more action than any Matrix pose-a-rama.

So Kurosawa, I’m going to take time out from praising you to gripe a bit, though with a heavy heart. Because I know as much as I loathe what slo-mo has become, without it we wouldn’t be what we are today.

Old man Sykes says in Peckinpah’s Bunch: “It ain’t like it used to be, but it’ll do.”

I don’t think it should.