Sunday, May 4, 2014

Movie Pet Peeves

Note: this post is inspired by Alex Withrow’s April 5, 2013 post Top 10 Movie Pet Peeves and his April 1, 2014 post Top 10 Movie Clichés (that I’ve never experienced in real life) – both at his site And So It Begins…  Check out his site when you get a chance.  Don’t think from these two posts that all he does is poke fun at movies.  Far from it.  There are a number of types of analysis he does that you will probably find interesting.

In my comment on his first post I tossed out a bunch of other things that are laughingly ridiculous and Alex responded that it was obvious that we could make a whole other list just on Movie Sex Scene Pet Peeves.  I made a mental note to someday write out in a little more detail some of the things I included in that comment.  Don’t worry, this post is about more than just sex; there’s also discussions of nudity in it.  (Kidding…not about the nudity, but there will be more than just sexually related topics.)  And I’m not going to just jump right into the sex.  First, a little foreplay.

Throwing Away/Leaving Behind Something Very Valuable – note: there is a spoiler in this section for Titanic (1997) if you’ve somehow managed to never see this film.

I’ve seen any number of movies where the main character just discards something worth thousands, or even millions, of dollars.  Maybe it’s because I grew up in a family that was not well off financially, or maybe I’m just a greedy bastard, but this sort of thing in movies bugs the shit out of me.  I’ve actually said out loud to my TV “go back and get the case with the money in it you idiot!”

What triggered this was watching the film The Decoy Bride (2011) last night.  At the opening the main character is coming back to the small island she grew up on.  She’s got an engagement ring on her finger.  She looks at it, takes it off her finger, and throws it into the water.  She’s coming home to her ill mother whose only wish is to see the world before she dies.  Would this diamond have fulfilled that dream?  Not entirely, but selling it would at least have gotten her to a couple of other places on the globe.  What a waste.

The granddaddy (grandmommy?) of them all is Titanic.  At the end Rose takes out the one of a kind jewel that is worth 100 million dollars and just chucks it overboard into the water.  I literally cringed when she did that.  Yes, I know this scene (and most of the others similar to it) is symbolic of how the character is letting go of the past and moving on.  Can’t they find a less ridiculous way to show this, though?  Maybe the granddaughter that has been so selflessly taking care of Rose could use some money.  How about giving the jewel to her?  Or if you don’t want anything to do with the money then how about selling it and funding something good with it?  One hundred million dollars would buy an awful lot of food and clothing for people.

People Ending a Phone Conversation without Saying Goodbye:

This is directly from Alex’s second post.  This always takes me out of a movie for a few seconds.  Yes, I understand that the director is worried about pacing, and showing two people saying goodbye wastes several seconds for no advance in the story, but is it really that big a stoppage in the movie?  Check out Alex’s post for a video showing any number of movie hang-ups missing the “goodbye”s.

Ridiculous Non-Nudity:

Yes, you read the words above correctly: this isn’t about ridiculously gratuitous nudity in movies, but the exact opposite – when the director/cinematographer/actor/actress go to such lengths to hide nudity in a scene that it’s noticeably laughable.  Often there is some object (arm, lamp, furniture, etc) that just happens to perfectly block our view of the few important inches while leaving most or all of the rest of the person’s body uncovered.  Stanley Kubrick’s film Eye Wide Shut was famously censored for the North American market after his death by digitally placing objects in front of sex scenes in the film.  Mike Myers even made fun of this practice in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.

Strippers Who Never Actually Strip:

This is a subset of the Ridiculous Non-Nudity one above.  You could make a long list of films where an actress wants to get a sexier image and so takes on the role of a stripper.  She isn’t willing to actually show any nudity, though.  The result is that in scenes like this we are often treated to any number of extras who are nude and then the star who is ridiculously out of place as the only one who is clothed while still dancing or spinning around the pole.

What makes this a peeve isn’t really that we didn’t get to see the actress nude (although that would have been a bonus); it’s that it’s so unrealistic.  Jessica Alba famously took on the role of a stripper in Sin City, waited until it came time to shoot her scenes, then played dumb by telling directors Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller that she didn’t realize there would be nudity involved in the role and she’d have to call her agent.  Up against a shooting schedule that didn’t allow for the part to be recast, they decided that it wasn’t “integral” to the stripper’s character to do any more than dance while clothed for a few seconds.

In this case the directors were caught by surprise, but in other cases it’s known ahead of time that an actor or actress have no nudity clauses in their contracts.  Why even bother to hire one of them if the part calls for nudity?  I completely support an actor/actresses’ desire to not be shown nude on screen, but if you’re this kind of person then why waste people’s time by taking a part that calls for nudity?  Can you imagine casting an actor to play a badass criminal only to find that he doesn’t believe in gun violence and is refusing to be shown holding or firing a gun?  Why the hell did the actor take the role in the first place then?

And don’t think this is restricted just to actresses playing strippers.  I know any number of women who have complained that the men in The Full Monty never actually showed “the full monty”.

Ridiculous Sex Scenes (and their aftermaths):

And now we get to the main event.  I’ll break this up into subsections.  And my reaction to all of these is, “if you’re going to resort to one of these things then why even show the sex scene in the first place?  Just leave it out.”

  1. While having sex it’s obvious that the man’s and woman’s “parts” can’t possibly be within two feet of each other because of the relative positions of their bodies.
  2. While having sex it’s obvious that there are six inches of bed sheets and blankets that are physically between the two to prevent the performers from accidentally dry humping each other.
  3. While having sex it’s obvious that there are two entirely separate sets of bed sheets wrapped around the two separate performers in order to keep them from ever touching.
  4. Then there’s the continuously shot sex scene where the woman climaxes in 30 seconds from start to finish.  I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting such a woman in real life.  Maybe I’m just not as good a lover as the ones in the movies.
  5. No nudity during the sex scene, even to the point of the woman never removing her bra before getting into bed.  What woman does this?  Scarlett Johannson actually called “bullshit” on her bra-wearing sex scene in The Island.  It took director Michael Bay a bunch of time to convince her to shoot it that way.
  6. Completely obvious body doubles, like in Friends With Benefits where Mila Kunis refused to show her butt even though Justin Timberlake had shown his.  The double they picked didn’t even have the same body type as Kunis.  Here’s a guideline – 99% of the time if you don’t see the face and the nudity in one unbroken shot then it’s a double.  Usually what happens is that if a performer commits to doing a nude scene then he/she damn well wants people to know that all the hard work that went into sculpting that body was their own.  It’s the same thing with stunt scenes: no face = stunt double; seeing the face shows the actor/actress wants us to know it’s them doing the stunt.
  7. In the aftermath of a sex scene there are any number of ways that movies try to hide the nudity (listed from least ridiculous to most ridiculous):
1.      The actor/actress swings their legs over the side of the bed, back to us, reaches down, finds their underwear perfectly placed right beside the bed on the floor, lifts themselves a millimeter off the bed, and slides their underwear fully on, and only then stands up.
2.      The actor/actress gets out of bed and our view is conveniently blocked by something (see Ridiculous Non-Nudity above).
3.      The actor/actress gets done having sex then immediately gets out from under the sheets already wearing underwear.
4.      And my favorite: where do movie couples get those L-shaped bed sheets that cover the man only to his waist, but cover the woman all the way to her neck?

Next Up – back to reviewing more movies in my Interracial Relationships category.  I’m up to 1967.


  1. One thing that I'm annoyed by as far as sex scenes are concerned is when there's a woman on top of a man and she's still wearing her bra. That feels very unrealistic.

    1. I agree. Most women find bras uncomfortable so leaving one on while having sex (other than spur of the moment, no clothes removed) seems unlikely. And even if she didn't then the man would probably reach up and remove it anyway.

  2. You have to start wondering if at some point the ridiculous sex scene stuff has started its own set of fetishes. I'm curious, but I'm also scared to look, but I imagine there are any number of websites devoted to just that.

    On a non-sex topic, there are a number of weird little cliches that pull me out of a film. Like how there's always a parking space directly in front of a destination people are driving to. Or how if, in an action movie, a new character does a series of impressive stunts on a motorcycle, you can almost guarantee that when the character removes the motorcycle helmet, it will be (gasp) a woman.

    1. In regards to cataloging all the different ridiculousness I once ran across something called Rule 35 (or maybe it was 36). Anyway, it was a maxim that said that if something exists then somebody somewhere has made a sexual version of it - Star Trek, Frozen, The Godfather, Gilligan's Island, anything. I'm sure someone somewhere has cataloged all the weird sex scenes in movies and maybe even made their own versions of them.

      The parking space thing is funny. I remember watching Lost in America and they immediately parked an RV in downtown New York City by apparently pulling into one of the many RV parking spaces on New York's streets.

    2. It's Rule 34. There's also Rule 63--for every male character, someone has created a female version.

      I get why the parking one happens--it's because we don't want to watch people looking for a parking space or walking three blocks to where they're going. I just always find it funny. Similarly, I find it funny that when anyone goes shopping, they always buy a loaf of French bread. Always.

    3. I had never heard of Rule 63, but it makes sense. So what are Rules 1-33 and 35-62, or should I not ask?

      Many years ago, when the internet was still young, I ran across a site that had posted several hundred "rules for movie characters". People that visited could suggest more. There were things like "As a villain I promise I will not let the hero get me talking about my evil plan" (long before The Incredibles). "As a villain I will resist the urge to create an underwater lair. Sure, they're cool, but they're expensive as hell to maintain." "As a henchman I will not be the one to tell my boss that the hero is still alive." "As a henchman I will learn the sound of a pebble being thrown so I will not be distracted by it." "As the love interest to the hero I will learn basic mountaineering skills so that I can save myself when hanging off the side of a cliff." "As the love interest to the hero when he tells me to stay somewhere to be safe, I'll do it." "As the new owner of a haunted house if a disembodied voice tells me to get out, I will."

      These just went on and on and on. I laughed so hard my chest hurt after awhile. I just tried googling for it, but didn't find it after a cursory search. The site may not exist anymore.

  3. I think there's a sub-corollary to the Strippers Who Never Actually Strip, which is the Strippers in a PG-13 Movie. Sin City was rated R and thus in theory Jessica Alba could have gotten naked (as other actresses in the film did) but then you have movies like Independence Day, where the screenwriters wanted to have Will Smith's girlfriend be a stripper because ... reasons? But it was also intended to be a family-friendly blockbuster. So you have Vivica Fox dancing on-stage at her club in an outfit ridiculous in its modesty ... but that's hardly the actress's fault.

    1. You're right about the rating restricting it, in which case I would ask the filmmakers why even put a character in that profession in a PG-13 movie. (see also The Hot Chick, the Walking Tall remake, etc.) Why not make them a waitress, a teacher, or a singer? The Island, where Johannson protested wearing a bra during a sex scene, was also PG-13.

      Joining Alba as strippers staying covered up in R-rated movies are Natalie Portman in Closer, Lindsay Lohan in I Know Who Killed Me, Rose McGowan in Planet Terror, Heather Graham in The Hangover, Salma Hayek in From Dusk Till Dawn, Salma Hayek in Dogma, Jennifer Aniston in We're the Millers, Bar Paly in Pain & Gain, Amy Smart in Crank 2, etc., etc. And that's just the ones that come to mind.

  4. Great picks here, Chip. And thanks so much for the links, always happy to help inspire a post. I’m with you on all of these, but, as we’ve mentioned, those sex ones are just ridiculous. To add my thoughts:
    A. Yes, exactly. So stupid.
    E. I can handle no nudity, but the bra-wearing is idiotic. There’s a way to shoot around bras, if your actress refuses to take it off.
    F. So lame. Great example you used too.

    1. Thanks. And thanks for all the great posts at your site.