This is a pretty simple concept – the things that irritate me when I see movies, not all of which are confined to the screen. Not an exclusive list, though I suspect yours may not be too different. These are not in any set order of annoyance, since each can be, in the right context, utterly awful.
1) Formulaic movies
Maybe there are times when you want to watch something that is humdrum and predictable. Maybe you don’t care that, like Last Vegas, to quote but one example among many thousand, the trailer contains everything you need to know about a film, and that includes all the best bits.
However, to me the utterly formulaic nature of the Hollywood machine means that for 8 movies out of every 10 you know what’s coming and you will have seen it dozens of times before. I don’t want more of the same, I want something that expands my horizons by virtue of its originality, quality of writing, emotionally complex acting, its rich and effective scenarios, and much, much more. Feed me, stimulate my senses, motivate me to get to the cinema, and do so without pressing all the same buttons you pressed last time, the time before and the time before that…
2) Sequels & Prequels
Continuing in the same vein, this heading should be widened to include endless repetition of the same characters and situations in marginally tweaked format, thus illustrating the total dearth of imagination within the film industry. For every Superman, Spiderman and suchlike, all the studios see is a cash cow with a nice fat bonus at the end of it. Why take risks if you don’t have to?
Maybe a very, very few deserve such treatment, but even when Peter Jackson decided to film The Hobbit, he chose to split that down into three separate movies, presumably to spin out the consumer dollar rather than that it was impossible to compile the one book into a single movie.
Of course, there are a select few sequels that are better than the original, Godfather II being the obvious example. But these are truly exceptional movies. If you are just trying to milk the concept, my advice is to forget it entirely. I personally don’t want to see movies about the same characters doing the same things time and again. That is seriously boring!
3) Shooting straight
You might argue that if baddies could shoot straight, the majority of good guys would not make it to the final reel, which in the case of a huge swathe of Hollywood films would be no bad thing – they could all benefit from being shortened a good half hour and we could get home all the quicker.
But is it not stupid and beyond the bounds of our fast-snapping credibility that the baddies always pull their shots to one side or another, where the hero always aims true and bad guys are caught in a plume of arterial blood en route to a rapid demise. If the hero is hit, it’s in the arm or leg, and, incredibly, they carry on walking, running and shooting regardless of a debilitating injury. To all Hollywood directors a simple message: if you insist on using guns, kill everyone equally – that’s what happens in real life!
4) Driving blindfold
We’ve all seen it, and in the wonderful movie Amélie, the heroine declares her hatred of this: two actors in the front of a car, one driving. Except the driver spends more time looking at his/her passenger, in the mirror, through the window, ANYWHERE but with eyes on the road. By rights, Hollywood should be a mess of car smashes – but then in reality the cars are loaded on a flat bed with camera crew attached and the actors are merely acting, never driving. So maybe we should insist the actors are really driving and see whether their eyes remain on the road and what impact that has on their delivery of lines (wicked grin!)
While we’re on cars, the fact that windows are always wound down to prevent glare and that car doors are seldom locked is simply not realistic. Do better next time!
5) Contraventions of Wittertainment’s Code of Conduct
As frequently referred to on Mayo & Kermode’s excellent movie review programme on Radio Five Live, the Wittertainment Code of Conduct covers everything of importance – talking, eating, slurping, rustling, arriving late, removing shoes, mobile phone usage etc. Objectionable behaviour should be punished by forcible removal from the theatre, no exceptions!
Yes, there are promotions but in the era of the multiplex standard seat prices are designed to be extortionate, matching the price of popcorn and other refreshments. Not as if it’s live performance, so ticket prices are unnecessarily extortionate. But then multiplexes are Cathedrals to the god of profit, so what did you expect?
7) 3D and other pointless gimmicks
And talking of profits, what better example than the 3D revolution, since it gives the operators the opportunity to flog you 3D glasses and charge yet more for pretty much zero benefit. Yes, I know that from the perspective of the movie makers it stops people using camcorders to make dodgy recordings, but then who in their right mind would want a movie counterfeited in that way? The real point is that once you’ve got beyond the juvenile stunts like an arm reaching out into the audience to grab a flying ball, it’s only one film in a thousand launched in 3D actually looks substantially better that way. Gravity made excellent use of the extra perspective, but then the whole space panorama in all its rich sophistication WAS that movie.
My advice is to forget 3D for one good reason: it’s a distraction that film-makers could well do without, particularly when it is used to substitute the qualities for which we go to see a movie in the first place: plot, script, acting, suspense, excitement, drama, romance…
8) Smaltz & happy endings
This is not exclusively a Hollywood trait, but drenching movies in cloying and sickly sentiment is unquestionably a characteristic for which Hollywood movies are renowned. It’s nauseating, undesirable, uncomfortable to watch and not remotely lifelike. Life is jam-packed with bitter-sweet endings, and so should the movies be. Yes, an emotional reunion or a sad parting may invoke tears, but the great art is to understate these emotions and let the audience draw its own conclusions. Milking such scenes for every tear is simply dumb and pointless.
Yes, my hearing isn’t that great but even if it was the tendency of actors to mumble into their metaphoric beards means that no matter how loud the sound system you often have next to no chance of discerning what is being said. I sometimes think this is deliberate on the part of the film-makers, since their objective is, once you’ve seen the movie on the big screen, to flog you the DVD and assorted other memorabilia.
In many cases it’s the cheaper option to wait til the DVD has come out, reduced in price several months later (ie. so it’s the price it should have been originally), then listen to it with subtitles. Come to think of it, perhaps every movie should have subtitles to begin with?
At one time I might have included smoking in that, but thankfully that is not quite as prevalent as it used to be. There still seems to be a hard-drinking problem in the movies, and for the most part actors throw down their hard alcohol with barely a shudder and scarcely any hint that the demon drink is having the remotest impact on their speech, mobility or behaviour. Maybe that is a better prospect than bad “drunk acting” of yesteryear.
I don’t have any problem with swearing in context or where it is appropriate, any more than I do with sex, drugs or rock & roll. However, I’m pig sick of movies in which gratuitous expletives are added by the mouthful simply because it’s regarded as de rigueur, or because the makers perceive a youthful audience expects f-words by the thousand. That’s simply boring and detracts from intelligent dialogue and characterisation, and devalues the use of good old fashioned Anglo-Saxon idioms where they have the maximum effect. As Michael Flanders famously said, if everyday speech is peppered with 4-letter words, what will we use for special occasions?
12) Musical interludes
There is a point in many movies when the writers and director ran out of ideas and felt the need to eke out time with a musical interlude. That is, a song is played while the actors go about normal life. It generally adds little to the overall movie, though there are honourable exceptions (David Naughton and Jenny Agutter making love to Van Morrison‘s Moondance in American Werewolf in London and springs to mind along with Raindrops in Butch Cassidy, Everybody’s Talkin’ in Midnight Cowboy etc.) Yes, sometimes it can work but mostly it’s just filler and adds little if any value.
13) Continuity errors
These are now the preserve of these TV programmes pointing out the stupid errors, like where an actor is wearing a red t-shirt in one shot, but from a different angle is wearing a blue shirt. There are lots of websites dedicated to them (see here and here for example), but if you’re eagle-eyed you will spot them in pretty much any movie. At their most obvious they are a massive irritation and a distraction from the movie too. Also those stupid shots were you can see the camera crew, mike or some other feature clearly out of sync with the rest of the movie. The continuity people obviously shoulder blame but the directors ought to take more care.
14. Overlong & self-indulgent movies
You know what I mean. Directors start getting an inflated view of their own self- importance and lose all perspective. Tarantino certainly falls into that category (see also Cameron and Jackson) but he is far from alone. Note that long movies can be brilliant in the hands of directors who can edit with skill and maintain continuity and tight narrative (of which Tarantino is also quite capable), but the trend is to make every movie longer than it needs to be. I’d argue that there is scarcely any modern movie that could not be improved by judicious editing.
15. And finally…
No matter what characters go through on screen, sooooo many movies then feature them looking like they just dressed for dinner. Their teeth are perfect gleaming white, they don’t have a hair out of place, they are barely touched by evidence of action apart from the odd spot of make-up, women have perfect make-up and their clothes are either unblemished – designer rips notwithstanding.
Not just actors either. In Julie & Julia there is a scene where Amy Adams‘s character burns her boeuf bourgignon in a product-placed Le Creuset (and, as you will have guessed, I really detest product placement), but it still looks totally immaculate, as if it came straight from the packaging – which it obviously had.
So what irritates you about movies?!