Trite Tropes

Cinema is a language with its own conventions. The audience must be familiar with certain patterns, even unconsciously, for the transfer of visuals to register properly. Establishing a scene with a wide shot to get our bearings, not crossing the 180-degree axis, keeping the flow of action moving in a single screen direction – folks become disoriented when these conventions are broken. However, a number of story-specific shots have become part of our shared language as well, and, effective as they may be, I could happily go the rest of my life without ever seeing any of the following tired compositions on screen again.

• the toilet-cam point of view as an interrogated face is dunked into it

• establishing a crime scene by tracking the unspooling of yellow police tape

• cutting to the defendant flinching as the judge’s gavel cracks. See also: flinching mourners at a 21-gun salute

• bolting upright into camera after coming out of a nightmare

• a train approaching and passing over the camera for no apparent reason

• the final-second resignation on a bad-guy’s face just before a bomb blows him to pieces

• closing a dead compatriot’s eyes with a hand

• the awkward elevator ride with cheesy muzak as a moment of comic relief during an action sequence

• full-screen “access granted” computer terminal graphics

• the (unrealistic) black matte for binoculars point of view. See also: in softcore, the voyeur watching through their video camera will somehow see a scene assembled from coverage of wide, medium, and close shots.

• pan to the fireplace and defocus as the stars make love on the bed. Ironically, this can be called “going soft.”

• macro-focusing to the barrel of a gun pointed at camera

• sliding someone down the length of a bar in a fight, taking out all manners of glassware in their path

• refrigerator point of view as someone rummages through it. See also: medicine cabinets. Guess I just hate POV shots in general unless they represent a person.

• a room whose light level remains nearly the same once the lights are turned out. Now it’s just blue.

About Gordon

Gordon Highland is the author of the novels Flashover and Major Inversions, with short stories in such publications as Word Riot, Black Heart, Noir at the Bar Vol. 2, and Warmed and Bound, among others. He lives in the Kansas City area, where he makes videos by day and music by night.
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2 Responses to Trite Tropes

  1. Anonymous says:

    My biggest peeve is movies where it's sunny for the whole movie, and the moment something bad happens or is about to happen, it starts raining like crazy.

    I also hate horror movies where the car fails to start exactly when someone's trying to flee. Thankfully every car in the last 20 years has fuel injection, so this one's been dying out.

  2. G says:

    Speaking of modern advances, isn't it interesting how the simple availability of a cell phone probably would've gotten the hero out of at least half his predicaments in older films?

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