As part of my job I’m supposed to spot patterns of themes, subjects, motifs and whatnot in movies and relate them to what’s going on in the culture at large. The Zeitgeist. The Big Picture. The rule of thumb is: two similar films is a coincidence, three is a trend. Needless to say a lot of these apparent trends go nowhere or mean nothing. Remember the spate of comet and asteroid movies a few years back? Volcanos? I still have a toaster sent out as swag for “Dante’s Peak.”So eventually I end up with a drawer full of fizzled trend story ideas. Or are they really so half-baked? Here are a few and if you can see anything in them that I’m missing it’s probably best if you keep it to yourself.
Vomit:Here is a motif that fails to attain trend status not because it is too rare but because it is too common. Vomit is the new fart. (Click here if you aren't convinced).You can’t go to a movie without seeing someone spew. It’s bad enough that sometimes you step into some on the way to your seat. Again, it’s not so much a trend as it is film’s own reflex action at the state of film in general.
Boring, inescapable voiceover narrators:
And usually in a trite coming of age story and coming from the colorless hero who imagines himself to be a budding writer. Two from just the last couple of weeks: “The Great Buck Howard” and “Mysteries of Pittsburgh.” They make me want to vomit.
Co-ed swimming in underwear:And usually in a coming of age movie, like “Superbad,” “Adventureland” and, again, “Mysteries of Pittsburgh” (I think so anyway, or maybe my mind was just wandering because of the voiceover narrator). So it could be it’s just a Greg Mottola thing. I’m sure there are others, though, unless I am confusing them with
Two or more people in a bathtub:And often people of the same gender, especially two women. I don’t know anyone who does this in real life but then maybe the bathtubs in movies are bigger, as in “The Reader,” “The Black Balloon” and“Edge of Love.” Certainly they were more capacious in the 60s when Mick Jagger probably started the whole thing in “Performance.”
In 1987 there were two -- “Rent-a-Cop” and “Armed and Dangerous” -- and even that seemed too many. This year, by my count, there are four: “Paul Blart: Mall Cop,” “Observe and Report,” “Night at the Museum: Battle at the Smithsonian” and “Armored.” Is this some kind of commentary on the outsourcing of Homeland Security? Or is it just a dead end trend about a dead end job?
Ah, for the days when journalists were movie heroes, like with “All the President’s Men.” Okay, I’ll concede Superman and Spider-Man and maybe “Zodiac.” This year, however, there a couple of films that seem to tackle head-on the fragile life expectancy of this apparently dead-end profession -- “State of Play” and “The Soloist.” Maybe there are others, but with only two examples this trend remains at the coincidental stage and the fate of dead tree journalism is still looking grim.