We all have them: distractions that completely take us out of a film. Those clichéd tendencies that cause our eyes to roll, our attitudes to shift, our breath to exhale forcefully. We all have movie pet peeves that annoy us to no end, no matter how common they may be.
But look, I’m not trying to be a hater here. Seriously. To watch a movie (any movie) is to suspend disbelief. Even documentaries (as “real” as some of them claim to be) manipulate truth through editing, narration, and so on. I don’t expect any move to be a perfect representation of real life, I’m just calmly point out a few flick gimmicks that irritate me.
Conducting a Secret Meeting on Top of a Parking Garage
What are the chances that some office worker is staring out of their window at the exact moment a group of crooked cops are going over, in detail, their next illegal job? Slim to none. I get it, but it still pisses me off. If I was going to partake in an illegal activity, I sure as shit wouldn’t talk about it in the wide open, within eyesight of anyone who happens to be (or wants to be…) looking. I’ll never understand the benefit of having movie characters doing this. Isn’t it more eerie to shoot inside a parking garage, anyway?
Cinematic offenders: Training Day, Fargo, most every cop thriller I’ve seen
Character Narration Treated as the Voice of God
I once had a roommate who loved the television show How I Met Your Mother. Loved it. So, as a gesture of good faith, I watched a few old seasons with plans to view the new season with him. Want to know why I hate it? Because it is all told in flashback, from the point of view of one guy, even though 50 percent of the scenes in the show don’t feature that guy. How exactly does one person know everything about a situation, when they weren’t there?
How I Met Your Mother is a lame example, but plenty of really good movies do this too. The first one that comes to mind is Million Dollar Baby (a film that I love), which is told from the perspective of a letter Morgan Freeman is writing, even though Freeman’s character isn’t in many of the scenes in the movie. How, for example, does Freeman’s character know about the conversations Clint Eastwood has with his priest? Or are some of the scenes in the movie actually not in the letter Freeman was writing? I don’t get it.
Cinematic offenders: Million Dollar Baby, The Shawshank Redemption, plenty other movies not narrated by Morgan Freeman
Opening and/or Closing Bow-Wrapped Narration
I love An Education, but its final scene, in which Carey Mulligan’s Jenny randomly tells the audience how she met a new boy after going to college, is completely unnecessary. Moreover, if the scene Jenny describes was actually filmed, it would’ve made for a lovely ending to the film.
Cinematic offenders: An Education, Match Point, Spider-Man
Talking Loudly in a Restaurant with No One Noticing
This is one I accepted long ago, but occasionally, a movie sets a scene in a crowded restaurant in which a character is yelling so loudly that I become distracted by the fact that people don’t notice. The best (or is worst…?) example I can think of is in Keith Gordon’s mesmerizing little flick, Waking the Dead. There’s a scene in which Billy Crudup’s character flips the fuck out in a restaurant, and he Just. Keeps. Going. I mean… for a long time. And loud. Crudup’s acting is solid throughout the scene, but the whole time, I was simply wondering when someone else was going to ask him to keep it down.
Cinematic offenders: Waking the Dead, Hannah and Her Sisters, nearly every movie that has a scene in a restaurant
Falling in Love After Having Sex Once
If I had ranked this list, then two characters falling in love after balling once would easily be number one. I’m not a particular fan of the way movies glorify sex to begin with, but the fact that so many flicks think it’s okay to assume a direct and immediate correlation between sex and love is simply baffling. Look, I’m not saying it can’t happen, but, well, does it?
Cinematic offenders: Every romantic comedy ever made
Fights in Which People Don’t Get Hurt
You may notice that I don’t mention guns in this post. And that’s because I have no problem with how laughably guns are misused in pretty much every film in which a gun is featured. Call it over saturation, call it desensitization, but I’m used to it. Same goes for movie fights. They’re too long, too rough and the repercussions are too tame. In real life, one solid, bare knuckle punch to the temple can kill somebody, and a swift kick to the head can render a man paralyzed for the rest of his life. But does that level of realism make for good cinema? No, I suppose not.
So, my problem isn’t with the hyperbolic nature of movie fights, but rather, with the audience’s disdain for movies that actually do depict violence accurately. A perfect example of this can be found in Robert Duvall’s The Apostle. Early in the film, Duvall hits his wife’s lover in the head with a small baseball bat. The hit puts the man in a coma, and he dies some time later. A few years ago, I was discussing this film with someone who admittedly did not like it. I asked why, and he said it was unrealistic that one hit with a baseball bat could kill you. “Are you kidding me?” I asked him. “Shit could kill you easily, within seconds.”
And what I realized is, because we’re raised on movies in which characters beat each other senseless and then carry on with their days, many of us assume that real violence is fake violence. No, not at all.
Cinematic offenders: Every action film ever made, and/or most any film with a fight scene
Empty Beer Bottles on the Bar
I’ve enjoyed many a beer at many a bar, and never has a waitress failed to clear my empty bottles. Letting empty bottles (or any empty alcoholic drink, for that matter) sit on top of a bar never happens. But I get it, the director wants to convey that the character is drunk. Okay, but Billy Wilder did that with martini olives. In 1960. So maybe it’s time to get more creative…?
Cinematic offenders: Fargo, Wild at Heart, Zodiac, nearly any movie scene in a bar
Abandoning Your Own Unique Narrative
I dig on gimmicky narratives. Non-linear, shifting, hyperlink – whatever you want to call it, I can vibe with a movie that doesn’t go in order. Or chooses to show the same thing from several different perspectives. What I can’t forgive is when, midway through the film, a movie completely abandons its own narrative, and not-so-subtly asks us to “forget” its structure leading up to that point. One tragic example is Doug Liman’s terrific Go, which is essentially three different stories of how an interconnected group of people spend a few days around Christmas. First, we see things from Sarah Polley’s point of view. Then Desmond Askew’s. Then, finally Scott Wolf and Jay Mohr’s. That should be it, but once the Wolf/Mohr segment is over, the movie just starts cutting to anyone it wants, leaving its Pulp Fiction style of story telling (which Liman said he blatantly borrowed) in the dark. Huh?
Cinematic offenders: Go, Vantage Point
Curse Words That are Dubbed to Secure a PG-13 Rating
David Fincher is a digital effects genius. There’s no debating that. Why then is it so obvious that Cameron Winklevoss telling his brother, “Let’s gut the friggin’ nerd,” was shot and recorded as “Let’s gut the fuckin’ nerd”? Fincher shoots an insane number of takes, so I find it implausible that he didn’t have enough coverage to cut away from that specific delivery. If it was just the audio, I wouldn’t have noticed, but the fact that we can see the character giving the line delivery… it’s just silly.
Cinematic offenders: The Social Network, The Ghost Writer (mostly Pierce Brosnan’s lines)
Horribly Obvious ADR
Speaking of bad dubbing, it really burns my ass when movies implore obvious instances of ADR. ADR (or additional dialogue recording) is when an actor rerecords a line of dialogue in post-production, to improve the quality of the delivery. Maybe their initial line was ruined by noisy natural sound, maybe the mic cut off for a split second – no matter the reason, ADR is done on most all movies, with the hope that the viewer can’t hear the difference.
Granted, you have to have a rather trained ear for bad ADR, but sometimes it’s so obvious that most anyone can spot it. You can hear it when Dennis Hopper is telling Keanu Reeves to “Get back real fast,” in Speed, or the exchange after Jay calls TS a “mad, fat chick killer” in Mallrats, and on and on.
Cinematic offenders: Speed, Jaws, Die Hard with a Vengeance, Mallrats – it’s never ending
Now tell me yours. What, if any, movie pet peeves do you have?