Friday, December 17, 2010

The Black List is back! And as ever, so are cliches...

It's been 11 days since the last post, which I can explain in two words that far too many people haven't seen in a long time. New job.

But I'm back, it's Friday night and it feels good! First up, the inspiration/motivation powerhouse that is the Black List. The Times ran an article on the 2010 list today and the script I'm most excited about reading by a long shot is All You Need Is Kill by Dante Harper.

Based on a Japanese novel about a guy who finds himself reliving his own battlefield death in a Groundhog Day-style loop, this sounds like a great concept. It also sold for $3m to Warners Bros, the only spec script I've heard of in a long time to generate that kind of money. Now I just hope the script is as good as it sounds.

On another note, because it's Christmas and because it's fun, I was thinking about genre cliches. I was watching Unstoppable recently and as Denzel Washington climbed up onto the roof of the speeding, out-of-control train, my viewing companion said confidently, "He's going to fall off and hang on the side for a while". We both watched as Denzel proceeded to run down the train with no problem whatever. Spoiler alert - he does not fall. Not even a jolt in that direction.
And you know what? I felt a bit cheated! Train movies always have someone fall off and hang on the side, usually while battling a bad guy, and then they usually manage to heroically heave themselves back up. Damn you, Denzel and your surefootedness!

Here are just some of the cliches I can think of, by genre:


There are almost too many cliches in this genre to mention, but here are a few:
  • People hanging around in dark places by themselves.
  • Groups pointlessly splitting up in sinister locations.
  • Houseowners refusing to move despite evidence that the house is evil/haunted/possessed.
  • Blondes of both sexes getting butchered. It's blonde genocide in horrors!
  • Towns/communities having deep dark secrets that they never reveal to the hero until it's almost too late. Usually when at least 15 people have died.
  • Authority figures are always bad/useless/a hindrance
  • People engaging in personal grooming at stupid times. I'm talking about a guy taking a shower when a serial killer is picking off his friends one by one or a girl deciding to shave her legs when there's a killer virus making everyone vomit blood (Cabin Fever, I'm looking at you).


Again, an embarrassment of riches:

  • Random stuff blowing up, but in particular oil barrels being placed for no good reason all over the place.
  • Car chases, usually on a busy freeway, at rush hour.
  • A very dumb hero. And a very bright villain.
  • Millions of bullets being fired, most of which fail to hit anything.
  • Bad guys having serious problems attracting good henchmen. Most of the henchmenget dispatched with no problem at all, the only exception being huge Germans/Russians or Asian guys with mad skills.
  • Girls taking their kit off, even if it doesn't fit their character's profession, personality, etc etc.


  • Long, winding coastal roads.
  • Huge, modernistic houses, probably in San Francisco.
  • A messed-up hero.
  • Mysterious phone calls involving codes.
  • No sleep for any of the protagonists - thriller characters are nocturnal.
  • Terse dialogue and open-ended conversations.
  • A horrible secret that we - and the protagonist - just HAVE to discover.

Romantic Comedies

  • The heroine has to fall over at least three times. Knocking things/people over as she goes is also mandatory.
  • The hero and heroine will each have a less attractive friend who is nonetheless far more interesting than them. This happens in musicals too - Ado Annie is a way better character to play in Oklahoma for example than the female lead (see, can't even remember her name).
  • Misunderstandings and missed opportunities.
  • Comic set-pieces that result in the heroine getting humiliated, again.
  • A man the female lead should marry, if he wasn't so boring/corporate/such a mensch.
  • A run to the finish, usually involving the hero/heroine's entire family/circleof friends.
  • A girl-power song over the closing credits.

There's loads I've missed - bring 'em on!

No comments: