Visual storytelling can be a tricky art: If we don't see the villain get his hands on some poison, we're going to be confused when someone abruptly dies later from drinking his coffee. But if he has a five-minute monologue about how much he loves poisoning coffee, why would anybody take it from him? These are the bold few directors who took the latter path: They asked themselves, "will even the most basic of idiots get this?", decided the answer was "no," and then went about explaining it again, this time with smaller words and bigger gestures.
Every Musical Biopic Thinks Songs Are Inspired Very Literally
Musical biopics have to take certain shortcuts, because it would be boring to watch someone fiddle around with chord arrangements for six hours. But for some reason, every biopic thinks songwriters can only look out the window and literally transcribe what is happening at the moment. In Ray, an argument between Ray Charles and his mistress concludes with her declaring that their relationship is over. This instantly segues into them singing, "Hit the Road Jack," just like the musical that this movie isn't. He apparently wrote it on the spot because, in Hollywood, true artists can only be inspired by themes that happen to them seconds before they write the song.
In Walk The Line, June Carter calls out Johnny Cash's reckless behavior by saying "Y'all gonna blow this tour. You can't walk no line." Cut to Cash in the studio recording "I Walk the Line." Presumably, there's a deleted scene where Carter tells him to avoid getting the Folsom Prison Blues from a Boy Named Sue.
In Notorious, Lil' Kim very conspicuously refers to Biggie as "Big Poppa" during sex. Later, when she asks, "What do you like about me?" he replies, "I love it when you call me Big Poppa," a line from one of his biggest hits. This might as well have been followed by a wink to the camera and a Mentos pop.
In Jersey Boys, the Four Seasons are watching some old movie where a man slaps a woman, to which one of them says "I bet you she cries." Another responds, "Big girls don't cry ..." Cue instant jump-cut to their fully fleshed out hit. The song literally starts the moment his line is finished, like they were terrified the audience would take a bathroom break and forget this scene.
In Straight Outta Compton, Dr. Dre complains about the trouble he's having with his solo album. Snoop Dogg hands him a joint, Dre coughs up half a lung and asks what he just smoked, Snoop says it's "the chronic," and Dre immediately demands to be taken to the studio. To record a track from The Chronic.
We can't wait until Three 6 Mafia get a biopic and Juicy J gets a flash of inspiration while eating corn and getting a blowjob.
Watchmen's Blunt Batman Reference Introduces So Many Problems
Watchmen is set in an alternate reality, and the opening montage shows how American history diverged with the presence of heroes. Then, just to make sure that you understand the implications of events like Nixon getting elected for a third term, the montage is set to Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'." Get it? Because the times are literally changing? If Zack Snyder had directed The Usual Suspects he would have commissioned a song called "Kevin Spacey Sure Is A Suspicious Looking Fellow, Huh?"
But let's take a closer look at the very first shot of that montage. A superhero is punching an armed robber outside the Gotham Opera House while a wealthy socialite couple looks on. It's obviously a Batman reference, except here his parents survive. It's almost as if ... could it be ... the times are a-changin?!
And yet Snyder still felt his clear homage was too impossibly subtle, so he hit the CAPS LOCK on life, and plastered a bunch of Batman posters all over the background. And the more you think about that, the less sense it makes.
Does Batman exist in this universe? If so, who the hell is he? This is Batman's origin story. Also, why do Batman comics exist before the pivotal event that created the hero? Wouldn't Nite Owl preventing that event cause both to cease to exist? Why is Batman the one exception to Watchmen's rule: that there are no superhero comics because the real deal defeats the point of making them? Why would DC think that putting comic book posters outside of an opera house would help them reach their intended audience, decades before DC making bad marketing decisions became routine? What is going on in this world? Its internal logic was annihilated just to make sure that nerds didn't miss a Batman reference, as if that's ever a possibility.
Nixon Recommends A Hotel For Forrest Gump. It's Watergate. The Watergate Hotel. Where Watergate Happened.
In Forrest Gump, the favorite movie of your least interesting aunt, most of the laughs rely on Forrest referencing a well-known historical event in very stupid terms, until the audience finally catches on. "Ohhh, John Lennon is realizing the words to 'Imagine.' I get it!" It's not the subtlest film ever made, but it mostly works.
But in one scene, Forrest visits Richard Nixon, who immediately asks him what hotel he's staying at, as any president would. When Forrest answers, Nixon says "Oh, no, no, no, I know of a much nicer hotel, very modern. Brand new! I'll have my people take care of it for you," and you can feel the film winking at you. Forrest is then kept up at night by people breaking into a nearby room, and calls to report them. Wink! Still not getting it? Better zoom in on the name of the hotel and linger on it!
Wow, it's Watergate! You know, that famous location that literally everyone thinks about when they hear Nixon's name? That's what hotel it was. In case you were confused as to what this weird break-in scene could possibly be about. Why Nixon sent a witness to his own crime scene was unaddressed.
Spider-Man Has Insultingly Little Faith In The Audience
In the first first Spider-Man, Tobey Maguire watches Uncle Ben die, and pursues the killer. He eventually hunts him down and, gasp, it's the crook he allowed to escape earlier! When Spider-Man realises this we cut back to that scene from all of 15 minutes ago, for the benefit of everyone who took a crazy early bathroom break during the movie.
Then, uh, there are two more clips of that exact same scene, for the benefit of ... idiots with small bladders?
Then, because no movie has ever had less faith in its audience, we get a tragic black-and-white flashback to Uncle Ben's dead body, which we just saw fewer than four minutes ago. You know, just in case the process of remembering who Spider-Man was chasing made you forget why he was doing it.
It's okay, Sam! You're not making Memento. We can keep up with the complex lore of Spider-Man!
Volcano Thinks It's A Movie About Racism
As far as disaster movie plots go, Tommy Lee Jones running around telling LA how to prepare for a volcano should have been enough. But Volcano also finds time to introduce a subplot that takes a flailing stab at addressing race issues in Los Angeles -- just like everyone was demanding from disaster movies at the time.
Tension grows between a black civilian who is losing his neighborhood and the emergency responders who are furiously working to reroute the lava and save LACMA's art. The embodiment of every racist cop stereotype arrests the civilian for asking a firefighter what's going to happen to his home, and he, in turn, refers to the cop as Mark Fuhrman in a reference that would last throughout the ages.
After some more forced tension, the lava flow mercifully shows up. Another cop goes to free the citizen, who thinks he's about to be attacked for some reason, and says: "I'm about to be the volcano version of Rodney King."
They eventually put aside their differences and work together, because our petty differences only serve to divide us, when we should be focusing on the true enemy: nature. Volcano could have left it at that, but no. A reporter gets on camera to say, "This crisis has surely touched every one of us." Every one of us. Okay, we get it, good j--
Then we're treated to a shot where everyone's covered in ash. Why, with their skin concealed, every human being looks the same!
All right, we truly get it, movie: Racism is bad and we--
Then a passing officer carrying a lost boy asks what his mom looks like. The camera pans over the indistinguishable crowd.
There you go, finally, it's clear th--
Then the kid says "Look at their faces ... they all look the same."
Oooh wait. We didn't actually get it before. Now we get it!
Shockingly, Volcano did not solve racism forever.
Saikat Bhowmik has a serious account at Twitter and an Amuzic (that's not a spelling mistake) YouTube channel. You can keep up with all of Mike Bedard's movie-related opinions by following him on Twitter. When he's not writing, Sam Hurley co-hosts the funniest movie review podcast you've never heard, now on iTunes, SoundCloud, and Stitcher. He also tweets unrequited appreciation at his fave celebs here. Jacob Lewis is the sole writer at It's All Clown Shoes.
For more unnecessary film scenes, check out 4 Modern Movies That Were So Good ... Until These Scenes and 18 Otherwise Fantastic Movies With Glaringly Stupid Moments.
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