6 Annoying Movie Trends (And The Secret Reasons They Happen)
Hollywood is a lot like high school...in that it's drama-filled, in charge of setting trends, and yet painfully un-self-aware at times. Producers will dump hundreds of millions on a glammed Johnny Depp or a Ghostbusters cinematic universe with all the denseness of a kid buying $70 Jncos.
While a lot of these mistakes are totally avoidable, you might be surprised to know that other, often lesser annoyances with the industry are actually inherent in the process. Here are some examples of just that: seemingly fixable movie flaws that, to continue the analogy, are surprisingly more embedded than acne and classroom boners...
Movie Colors Look Weird (Because Of How Digital Cameras Work)
We've written about this problem a lot in the past -- sometime in the early 2000s, every movie stopped looking like the real world and began hurriedly swapping through various color schemes like a house painter on cocaine. Sci-fi got green, horror movies turned blue, war movies turned grey, and for a while there we just said 'fuck it' and made everything teal and orange. These days, movies seem to have a foggy dung filter over everything -- like this moment from the last Captain America.
Technically, three of these characters are blue.
Why do such colorful characters refuse to look colorful? We've been through this a thousand times, and often blame digital color correction for the problem. What we haven't talked about (but this lovely person on YouTube has), is why we need color correction in the first place.
Here, take a look at this visual swamp-fart:
What, was this taken with a shoe?
That is completely untouched footage from the Arri Alexa digital camera -- a commonly used piece of equipment in the industry that coincidentally is what they've shot most of the Marvel movies on. See, the way digital works is that -- in order to get the most information into each frame -- the footage initially comes out flat and colorless. It then takes a professional colorist to go in and decide which hues to bring out. This makes complaining that movies should just use their "natural colors" moot when there isn't any to start with. Someone has to add color, and that person might not be the best at their job.
And so Marvel, for example, uses the same colorist for the sake of consistency. That means that no matter which cinematographer lights the set, it's the same person ultimately deciding how the finished product will look. If that person decides that all Marvel films should look like they're drowning in corpse piss...well, that's what we're gonna get.
All Posters Look The Same (Because Of Silly Actor Contracts)
Let's go down the list. There's "About To Rage Kiss: The Movie"...
Imagine the next frame for all of these.
..."Giant Ghost Head: The Movie"...
It's like they all just realized there's a camera there.
...and my personal favorite: "EVERYONE LOOK AT MATT DAMON: The Movie".
With words on his face.
Well you can blame acting for that...but not any specific actor or the craft itself. More specifically ... you can blame acting agents for all these oddly-identical posters designs, because more often than not movie stars will have very specific rules in their contracts about how much marketing real estate their honed faces need to dominate. And when forced to devote an insane amount of poster showcasing the mugs of Robert Downey Jr. or Mark Wahlberg, graphic artists suddenly have very little options in terms of design. Not to mention that this also applies to the order in which their names appear, often leading to confusing banners like these:
Eh, most people couldn't pick out Olympia Dukakis anyway.
Before you get mad at the actors -- keep in mind that most of them have no idea this garbage is in their contracts, and in a lot of occasions will agree to less-showy posters if approached about the subject.
Other times it's absolutely the actors fault, such as the case with The Towering Inferno. It was rumored that while all the actors were paid the same, Steve McQueen had fought with Paul Newman for first billing on the poster. The solution? Give one actor left-to-right superiority and the other an edge on height -- resulting in this:
"Sure, Paul is taller, but I'm ... lefter."
Teasers For Teasers For Trailers (Are Because Of YouTube And Twitter)
You've seen it all the time. A movie like Independence Day: Resurgence or Transformers will put out a 20 second teaser a full year before their release date. Eventually another video will emerge teasing a future teaser. Then the teaser, and finally a trailer. But now, even the goddamn trailer comes with a five-second teaser for the fucking trailer you're literally about to watch.
Do they not realize that this is exactly what we're there to see? That when we click on a trailer, we don't need a second smaller trailer assuring us to watch the first one? How much farther are they willing to take this? Are these trailers-teasers going to have their own shorter teasers, each runtime infinitely being halved until the universe folds in on itself and every moment becomes one ... big ... endless ... teaser for all that is and ever was?
Yes, the answer is yes, probably. And the reason is kind of a symbiotic relationship of fault between us, the unattentive viewer, and YouTube's annoying advertising system. You know it. You live it, always.
Yes, I'm aware of the ridiculousness that an ad for an ad has another ad.
Thanks to that button, trailers (and ads in general) now have only five seconds to beg you not to look away. Same with Twitter and Facebook videos, which need to grab our attention in the speed it takes to scroll by them. That means the "good stuff" needs to be front and center in the first nanoseconds of any given trailer, severely limiting the style in which they get to edit them. And despite me just using this word -- no one is really at fault. The internet didn't make our attention spans shorter; it simply revealed how hummingbird-quick our attention spans already were. It empowered us to pick and choose what we want to see, and that understandably sucks for marketers. So can you really blame them for trying to game this insane system?
The answer is: yes, sometimes, dear God yes.
This is the insane era of marketing we now have to accept: random acts of desperation either followed by success or hilarious groveling. We are all the fuckable new kid in town, and ad companies will either win us over with their natural charm ... or resort to ungodly tricks to get us into bed.
There's A Secret Industry Behind Why All Trailers Sound The Same
Ever heard of "Immediate Music"? How about the band Globus? No? Well you may not know those names...but you sure as shit heard their music. You heard them every time you watched a trailer for a Spider-Man film. You've heard them in the ads for Prometheus, X-Men, Taken, Van Helsing, Team America, The Hobbit, The Day After Tomorrow, Waterworld, Hellboy, and ... like ... literally hundreds more trailers. Here's one of their recent hits, which you'll recognise from the last Harry Potter trailer:
How does one group get in so many goddamn trailers? Is every producer jamming out to Globus in their doobie-smoked wood paneling dens? Not quite. While completely functioning as a band (with live tours and a fan page and everything) Globus actually stands for Globus Music, Inc. -- a subsidiary of Immediate Music, a company designed to create music specifically to go in trailers. And yes, this is an entire industry that comes with it's own trade magazine and awards. There are top charting albums like any other music genre...like the latest "Trailerhead" album -- the sixth release of a series specifically designed to play over blocky lettering and city explosions.
What drug are we even supposed to do to this?
Companies like Immediate Music and Megatrax dominate the industry by hawking their sound-wares specifically to trailer companies, and designing their websites around licensing single songs the same way a stock image company does.
Meanwhile, studios create their trailers by sending footage to several companies and then choosing the ones they like best. This creates a system where certain sounds and songs are regularly favored over others -- causing the editors to constantly dip into the tired well in order to guarantee business. This, of course, leads to audio ticks like the Inception "bwaaaam" and the recent trend of slow piano covers. In other words, this entire industry functions the same way all music does. One type of sound or genre gets embarrassingly popular, then super annoying...and before you know it executives are quietly shelving the latest obsession like it's a Cherry Poppin Daddies album.
Cities Keep Getting Destroyed The Same Way (Due To CGI Fads)
CGI is becoming increasingly photoreal and intricate -- and as that bar gets higher, companies are finding it harder and harder to keep up. It's like sports. As athletes get exponentially swole, everyone is looking for a new competitive edge. Also like sports, this often produces inhuman results.
"I'm Bran Muff Tolkien, beep boop."
Along with people, there are still certain elements that CG can't quite get right. For example, water and explosions demand an amount of randomness that programs have yet to streamline (on account of it being, you know, random). This is why a lot of films still do their explosions in-camera.
And to make things worse ... even if you do make your explosion effective, your average moviegoer has seen more metropolitan rubble than hot meals. Wiping out a urban block became dry and expensive, like dating a mummy with fancy tastes. And thus came a new era of effects designed to combat the same-ol city destruction ... ironically used by every goddamn film at once. I'm talking about this:
"ACTIVATE SPACE VACUUM!"
Yes folks ... when the aliens or mutants or robots come, no longer will they simply fire up their laser and hadouken mankind into an orbital crisp. Instead, buildings and cars and people will be raptured for just the time it takes to piledrive them back into the dirt like a toddler playing hamster-bounce. So why is this happening? Well, besides the aforementioned boredom factor, particle effects are way easier to deal with when you're not trying to be random. No one can animate every little spec of rubble and flame by hand, so it's way easier to program everything to flow in a single direction and work that into the plot.
Am I saying that digital effects dictated the plot of these films? Probably not. But as Slate recently pointed out -- along with looking original, sucking things into the sky is a considerably less violent form of destruction for films aimed at pleasing families.
Not that they exactly minded watching countless CGI 9/11's in the past ...
It comes down to this: if something both entertains the audience and makes it infinitely easier to meet the ever-growing standards of CG, then studios with glom on it like cats to a canal corpse. But the unfortunate result is that we're taking artistic decisions and handing them over to an algorithm.
Remember when matte painters had to create entire sci-fi cities like this?
Now this can be done on a graphing calculator.
These days the same beauty will be made by a digital artist on a computer, which is just as great! Only as that gets too time-consuming, the job of designing a freaking landscape is bafflingly being taken over by a program that will randomly generate cities instead.
Like New Yorcagoston Francisco here.
Superman's Metropolis is one of the most famous fictional cities out there, and yet the new films handed its design to a program called CityEngine. The result couldn't be more generic and soulless...probably because the thing designing it didn't have a goddamn soul. So I guess I'm not saying we shouldn't put robots in charge of city-destroying simulations...just that we should teach them how to love and hate and fear first. I see no way this plan can go wrong.
Movies And TV Got 'Grittier' (Because Of Better Sound And Camera Equipment)
The other day my mother mentioned to me that people were getting "harder to understand" on television -- specifically that they were "always mumbling" and speaking extra-quiet. Obviously, I began calling retirement homes to price-compare the various "bag and toss" packages they had to offer -- only to discover that a good deal of these so-called "services" didn't take people against their will. Determined to find something that would hold up in court, I began Googling her statement...only to find that a lot of folk actually shared this same affliction. And not just the lunatics like my mom...but like, Roger Moore -- who complained that modern actors seem to fart dialogue through numb lips.
To be fair, has no one ever heard Marlon Brando talk?
To my own dismay I began to notice this as well. Movies and TV had not only gotten quieter, but darker too. And I don't mean like ... more serious. I mean literally darker.
This shot from Game Of Thrones would be a spoiler if you could tell what the fuck is going on.
So when did everything get so somber and quiet and bleak? The moment it technologically could. Like the chiseled fox writing these words, sound equipment is more sensitive and sophisticated than ever.
Back in the days of early microphones, actors had to speak loudly and clearly in order to be heard. But as we developed smaller mics that could be attached to bodies, as well as editing programs that manipulated audio digitally ... the need to bolster your dialogue disappeared. Suddenly the craft of acting didn't have to involve speaking like you're at nana's house, and the same evolution happened for lighting too. For decades, shooting on film was notoriously hard to do in low-lit areas. But as camera technology got better, the need to hang giant explosive bulbs over actors diminished. As fun as that sounds, this was generally a good thing.
Not sure if you know this, but these things kind of suck to lug around.
Like literally everything on this list -- it really comes down to making things easier and less expensive so that we keep getting awesome shows and movies. And while that evolution might cause audiences to get annoyed every once in awhile, it's ultimately just the kinks being worked out of progress. But before you take that as a cue to stop whining, remember that the only way to fix a problem is to identify it first. By endlessly complaining about every tiny dumb mistake we can cherry-pick from our entertainment, we're actually helping it to evolve.
In a lot of ways, that makes us the heroes. Especially me.
Catch the Dave Train on his Twitter, you sexy fool.
For more things we wish would go away in movies, check out 5 Annoying Trends That Make Every Movie Look the Same and 5 Old-Timey Prejudices That Still Show Up in Every Movie.
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