Breaking News Bar
posted: 8/7/2014 5:00 AM

Five visual cliches movies need to deep-6

Success - Article sent! close
  • Sarah Jessica Parker supplies the balloons cliche in the comedy "Don't Know How She Does It."

    Sarah Jessica Parker supplies the balloons cliche in the comedy "Don't Know How She Does It."

  • In "Slumdog Millionaire," ceiling fans are used to dress up the background.

    In "Slumdog Millionaire," ceiling fans are used to dress up the background.


Five clichés to deep-6

Five visual clichés I would like not to see again in movies for at least the next five years:

1. Fireworks: The all-purpose go-to effect to pump up the visuals in a dramatically sloggy segment (see "Wrestling Ernest Hemingway") or just to make sure viewers are awake. Mostly, fireworks are (over) used to punctuate celebrations. But they have never been employed better than when Cary Grant smooches with Grace Kelly in Alfred Hitchcock's "To Catch a Thief."

2. Big fans: Whether they're oversized "Casablanca" style ceiling fans or huge industrial fans mounted on the wall (preferably with blue light emanating from behind the blades, a la "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles"), large fans bring motion to a static background and dress up scenes effortlessly and relentlessly.

3. The "Wild Bunch" march: Where the main characters join together to march in unison to show solidarity while on a mission. It worked wonderfully at the end of "The Wild Bunch." Even in the middle of "The Right Stuff." But now the cliché has merely become a gratuitous, lazy way for screenwriters to symbolize the formation of a team. (Check "Guardians of the Galaxy" for its latest overuse.)

4. Balloons: These are even easier and cheaper to incorporate into a scene to dress it up with color and rounded shapes. A zillion movies include gratuitous party scenes or amusement park scenes, just for an excuse to bring out the balloons. Sometimes, balloons magically appear, especially in talky, less-cinematic scenes. (See this week's release "What If.")

Note: Movies that use balloons as actual plot devices (see "Minority Report" and "The Wizard of Oz") are exempt from my inflated criticism.

5. Characters who get their faces squished up against glass for desperate comic effect: I have never heard any audience, even kids, laugh at this perfunctory, moldy cliché. Even when Garfield the cat was pressed up against a car window in "Garfield." This dismally desperate pitch for laughs isn't limited to animated features (such as "G-Force"), it's also in live-action comedies, such as "White Girls" and "Breakfast on Pluto."

Film critic's notebook:

• The After Hours Film Society presents Vittorio De Sica's classic Academy Award-winning "Bicycle Thief" at 7:30 p.m., Monday, Aug. 11, at Classic Cinemas' Tivoli Theatre, 5021 Highland Ave., Downers Grove. De Sica's verbally sparse drama employed nonactors for the cast and became a standard-bearer for the Italian neorealist movement. General admission is $9. The program will be dedicated to the late Joe Barillari, board director and discussion leader of the After Hours Film Society. Go to

• The Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Classics present one of Rob Reiner's better directorial efforts, "Stand By Me," at 1 and 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 12, at the Elk Grove Theatre, 1050 Arlington Heights Road, Elk Grove Village. Admission costs $5. CFCA member David Fowlie will introduce the evening show and conduct a Q&A afterward.

• Join me and many amazing teenage filmmakers for the eighth annual Teen Film Fest 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 15, at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library, 500 N. Dunton Ave. Arlington Heights. Go to or call (312) 392-0100. I'll be a judge along with Scott Woldman, resident playwright at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, and Tessa Joncas, acting president of the library's Teen Advisory Board.

• You can watch Syfy's monster movie/disaster film parody "Sharknado 2: The Second One" on the silver screen when the Fathom Events presentation bites local theaters at 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 21. Original "Sharknado" stars Ian Ziering and Tara Reid join Vivica A. Fox, Mark McGrath, Kari Wuhrer and Kelly Osbourne for more hungry sharks raining from the sky. Special feature: About 10 minutes of extra footage about the special effects and bloopers. Go to for bite-sized details.

• Commercialism triumphs over art. Again.

On Sunday, Paramount Pictures-owned television network Epix will premiere Alexander Payne's excellent drama "Nebraska" in both its theatrical black-and-white version and its yet-unseen color version.

Variety reports that a full color version of "Nebraska" was created for TV outlets in countries such as Moldova and Sierra Leone that would only buy the color format. Apparently, Paramount's Epix will also show it, despite that Payne had hoped no one would ever see it.

• Dann Gire's Reel Life column runs Fridays in Time out! Follow Dann on Twitter at @DannGireDHFilm.

Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.