In a recent post, Rated C, for Confusing, I mentioned a few film genres I tend to avoid because of my inability to understand the plot. They included spy movies, psychological thrillers, and anything about drug lords, corrupt Supreme Court justices, or the CIA. I listed those because they are the ones that confuse me. But there’s another list, a longer one: the movies that annoy me.
When someone suggests going to see a film, or renting one, or watching something on television, I have a checklist I go through with them. It’s my way of screening the films. A “yes” response to any of the following questions results in an immediate rejection:
Does the movie have talking dogs?
Does anyone fall from a helicopter without a parachute and survive?
Does anyone come back from the dead?
Does anyone have psychic or magical powers?
Does anyone travel through time?
Does the movie have subtitles?
Does the movie end abruptly, requiring me to fork over more money to see the sequel?
There are seven corresponding rules that follow from these questions. Let’s take them one at a time.
1. There are way too many movies about talking dogs. It isn’t that I think dogs shouldn’t appear in movies. But when they’re the star of the film, I get bored even faster than usual. Dogs in real life don’t do that much. When the dogs also have the gift of speech, that’s really pushing it. (I mean, it was cute the first couple of times, especially when they figured out how to move the mouth to match the dialogue. But when I meet a real dog now and he doesn’t talk, I think either he’s physically hurt or he’s up to something.) By the way, I’m not ready to expand this rule to all animals. I still like Jungle Book and Finding Nemo and A Bug’s Life, and I don’t think we’ve seen talking otters yet (or have we?) But enough with the dogs already.
2. The question about falling from a helicopter is really more of a general question: Is the hero free to do anything without the possibility of getting killed? Because if so, I’m not interested. He dives headfirst over Niagara Falls, leaps from one speeding car onto another, runs down a street while snipers with machine guns on the roof of every building fire at him and all miss. It’s a stock movie convention that the hero almost never dies, and even when it seems as though he’s gone, he isn’t. Which brings us to the next rule.
3. Returning from the dead is simply a sneaky way around Rule #2. The person dies, but they’re still around and still affecting the plot. In fact, they’re central to the plot. Relationships involving the living people and the dead people just resume as though nothing happened. A man sees the ghost of his mother and within minutes they’re having an argument about how bad her cooking was. If I met up with my dead mother I’d need at least two years of therapy. For one thing, shouldn’t this guy react in some way to the realization that his mother has been watching everything he’s been doing since she died?
4. Psychic powers and the ability to perform magic is another lazy gimmick that makes me very squirmy. They mean anything can happen, and when anything can happen, I don’t care what happens. Unless I can use my mental powers to make the movie end sooner. Now that would be magical.
5. Time travel was great in A Christmas Carol because there was no interaction, just observation. In Back to the Future, there was a lot of interaction, but it seemed novel and funny then. I’m tired of it, mostly because it takes too much energy for me to keep it all straight. I’m sure my wife is equally tired of my asking, “Is this happening now, or is this in the past? Wait, when he has the beard, that’s happening now? Are you sure?”
6. Subtitles. Where do I begin? I guess I should begin with the copyright warning, the one about piracy and FBI investigations and felony charges and big monetary fines. Nobody is reading this, yet it stays on the screen forever. That’s followed by the interminable opening graphics that let us know, two or three times, which studios and production companies are responsible for this film, which seems as though it may never start: “Supernova Studios… and Lightning Rod Incorporated… present a David Dreamland motion picture… along with Pinwheel Productions… and Supernova Studios… and did we mention Lightning Rod Incorporated?… in a David Dreamland motion picture.” (“Motion picture.” That always makes me think of Thomas Edison and Fred Ott’s Sneeze. But then, it’s better than “Major Motion Picture Event,” which causes me to feel a little nauseated.) What were we talking about? Right, subtitles, and then abrupt endings and those irritating sequels. So the movie starts.
(TO BE CONTINUED.)