The disappearing trend of smoking.
The act of smoking is portrayed by Tilda Swinton in Erick Zonca’s movie Julia, as well as in other films. A character is introduced in the first scene as a “smoker”, frequently engaging in excessive smoking to convey their lack of control and disarray. They are shown first thing in the morning, searching for cigarettes with a shaky hand, often in a dirty apartment with closed blinds. It is clear that they have a serious smoking habit of three packs a day. However, once a dramatic event occurs and the plot intensifies, they never smoke again for the remainder of the film. This is not realistic compared to how stress affects smokers in real life.
Similarly, the pattern is evident in the disappearance of alcohol consumption among characters portrayed as troubled and haunted alcoholics. They are often shown consuming alcohol early in the day, but somehow manage to abstain when the tension escalates in the story. This is observed in Peter Bradshaw’s review.
Nowadays, almost everyone is taking selfies, from grandmas to 11-year-old nieces to suburban dads wearing trendy sweater-vests. However, in movies, taking self-portraits is often portrayed as a lazy stereotype for shallow and possibly Californian young individuals who are likely to be targeted by a masked attacker. This notion suggests that they brought it upon themselves by simply taking a photo with their phone. – Catherine Bray
Why do troubled millennials in movies frequently turn to the streets as a form of self-deception? Is it to gain a better understanding of their issues? Or is it simply a case of main character syndrome? I attribute this trend to the influential film Frances Ha, where the iconic scene shows Greta Gerwig’s struggling modern dancer happily twirling down a Manhattan street to David Bowie’s Modern Love (which is itself a tribute to Leos Carax’s Mauvais Sang set in Paris).
Ira Sach’s film Passages follows Tomas (played by Franz Rogowski), a self-absorbed filmmaker, as he escapes his problems on a bicycle in Paris. He avoids facing the consequences of his actions and instead aimlessly rides through the city. In The Worst Person in the World, Julie (played by Renate Reinsve) briefly imagines a different life for herself while racing through downtown Oslo. This momentary escape represents a desire for a different reality. Both characters use these moments as a way to quickly feel something intense. Cities have a way of evoking such cinematic emotions.
In the film La Haine, director Mathieu Kassovitz makes it clear that he means business with a breathtaking aerial shot that captures the entirety of life in the cité. This shot is even more impressive considering that in today’s world, one could simply hire a less sociable relative to capture it with a drone for a small fee and some food.
The use of drone footage in cinema has become a tired cliche, often used for unimportant transitional shots and making dull scenes even more boring. Scenes filmed from above, such as a car driving on a straight road or a forest seen from an aerial view, have become overused. While early filmmakers had to physically maneuver heavy cameras, now with modern technology, we can easily capture slow and steady shots from above.
The nerd supremacy
In the early 2000s, the stereotypical “nerd” was often portrayed as a weak and inferior character, serving as a contrast to the more athletic and popular main character. However, by the 2010s, there was a shift in society’s perception of nerds. This may be attributed to the rise of Silicon Valley and the rise of Barack Obama’s charismatic technocracy, replacing the previous “human beings and fish can coexist” mentality of George W. Bush. The nerds were now front and center, depicted as wealthy playboys (such as Marvel’s Tony Stark), brilliant prodigies (like in The Social Network), or highly intelligent scientists (featured in many Christopher Nolan films). They were often shown scribbling complex equations on whiteboards, involved with attractive and intelligent women (although not as intelligent as they were), and often offending those around them. However, their brilliance and vision overshadowed any negative traits they may have had.
We are currently in an era where the archetype holds significant influence, and it is not very enjoyable. Films featuring the “cool smart guy” often glorify their protagonist’s self-perceived genius and loneliness, but there are signs of consequences. As Rooney Mara’s character, a Harvard student, tells Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network: “You may believe that girls don’t like you because you’re a nerd, but I want you to know that’s not true. It’s because you’re an unpleasant person.” Rebecca Liu
Happily ever after never happened.
People who have used dating apps and matched with someone can understand the unpleasant experiences that may come after. However, many screenwriters struggle to look beyond the negative aspects and instead focus on the positive. When dating apps like Tinder are depicted on screen, they are often portrayed as a way to mock those who use them. The characters shown are often exaggerated and unrealistic, reinforcing the idea that people in the real world are “normal.”
Whether it’s a catfishing liar or a sex-obsessed bro, we’re only ever seeing worst-case scenarios, dialled up past 11. With two in every five couples now meeting digitally, it’s a strangely dated and annoyingly alarmist trope, seemingly created by someone who has been married since a time before smartphones, smugly judging from up high. Benjamin Lee
A surprise collision involving a vehicle
Be cautious of any scene that takes place in a car where there appears to be little action. This is especially true if the driver is frequently distracted by talking to a passenger, checking on children, adjusting the radio, or getting upset on a phone call (which they shouldn’t be doing while driving). This often leads to a surprising car accident, where another vehicle suddenly appears (seen in films such as Adaptation, Whiplash, No Country for Old Men, The Age of Adaline, 10 Cloverfield Lane, and The Mother). This is usually accompanied by weightless spinning inside the car, shattering glass, and actors making exaggerated faces in slow motion (as seen with Benedict Cumberbatch in Doctor Strange and Colin Farrell in The Batman). Bonus points if someone ends up hanging helplessly upside down from their seatbelt. Extra bonus points if the victims are the main character’s parents (as seen in Baby Driver, X-Men: Dark Phoenix, and M3gan), adding a tragic element to the story.
You are a powerful individual with a great responsibility to yourself and society, but you must keep your identity a secret. It can be isolating and difficult when others do not understand you and the media is constantly watching. To escape from this overwhelming weight, you seek solace on the highest building in the city, where you can look down upon the bustling city and reflect on your duty as a defender of humanity. Whether you are Spider-Man, Batman, or Gwen Stacy from Across the Spider-Verse, we understand the struggles of being a superhero. However, remember that you have chosen this path and it is not necessary to put on a dramatic performance for others. At the end of the day, you are not a real superhero and it is important to maintain perspective for the sake of everyone involved. – Andrew Pulver
Quirky text messages
In the past, it was considered innovative to incorporate text messaging into film and television. We may remember characters from shows like Gossip Girl or Scott Pilgrim vs the World using their phones to communicate, reflecting the trend of the times. However, since then, the portrayal of onscreen texting has remained mostly unchanged, with dated and unrealistic colorful bubbles often added in post-production. To be fair, digital messaging is not very cinematic as it lacks movement and sound. The traditional format of displaying text on screen through small boxes next to a character made sense as it was practical, cost-effective, and allowed the focus to remain on the actor’s performance.
However, it has become increasingly common to see a decline in visual quality. I am tired of watching romcoms or teen shows, particularly those on Netflix, with unrealistic text bubbles and strange fonts that do not resemble the phone screens we are familiar with. This is especially frustrating when it is simply to show a character going to a party. Instead, it would be more effective to actually show the phone or explore the complicated relationship between humans and technology, as seen in Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade. Texting is important but there must be a better way to portray it accurately. – Adrian Horton
It has become increasingly difficult for movies to portray certain groups of people as completely villainous or lacking any redeeming qualities. The rise of social media influencers, often depicted as shallow, self-obsessed, and potentially corrupt, has provided an easy target for cinematic criticism. However, with recent films such as Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, Sweat, Influencer, and Not Okay heavily featuring influencer characters, it seems like a repetitive and unchallenging trend. Despite the abundance of negative portrayals, there has yet to be a truly memorable influencer character on screen (with Triangle of Sadness being the closest so far). While it may be tempting to continue bashing this superficial world on screen, it would be refreshing to see more nuanced depictions as well.
Ex in the city
Have you ever experienced the coincidence of running into your most significant ex while living in a densely populated city? I haven’t. But in Sex and the City 2, Carrie ran into her ex Aidan in Abu Dhabi, a city with a population of 1.5 million, just when her marriage to Big was facing challenges. This scenario is something I would sometimes daydream about during my years in London, but it never happened. Similarly, in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Peter also had the unexpected encounter of seeing his ex-girlfriend at the same resort in Hawaii.
This is not a new phrase, but in a world of constant online monitoring, one would assume it would be simple to avoid encountering someone you have no desire to see again. However, I appreciate films that showcase the true struggle of actively seeking out an ex (such as “The Godfather,” “Brokeback Mountain,” or “Kill Bill”). That, to me, is true love. – Terri White