Critics are calling for the elimination of outdated and exaggerated cliches in modern movies, labeling them as alarmist and overused.

The disappearing habit of smoking.

Tilda Swinton showcases the disappearing smoking trend in Erick Zonca’s movie Julia, as well as other films. The first scene introduces a character as a “smoker”, often depicted engaging in excessive smoking to convey their lack of control and general disarray. They are shown first thing in the morning, desperately searching for cigarettes and lighting one with a shaky hand, usually in a rundown apartment with closed blinds and an overflowing ashtray. It is evident that this character has a severe smoking habit, possibly consuming three packs a day. However, as the plot intensifies and stress levels rise, they suddenly stop smoking for the remainder of the film. This is not reflective of how stress typically affects smokers in reality.

Similarly, the disappearing alcohol addiction among characters, who are portrayed as tormented and troubled alcoholics, is also worth noting. They are often shown chugging alcohol in the morning but somehow manage to overcome their need for it when the tension intensifies in the story. This observation was made by Peter Bradshaw.

Selfie shorthand

Nowadays, almost everyone is taking selfies, even unexpected individuals like grandmothers, young children, and suburban fathers. In film, however, taking a self-portrait is often used as a lazy way to depict shallow and possibly Californian young adults who are likely to meet their demise at the hands of a masked killer. The underlying message is that they brought it upon themselves by taking a selfie with their phone. This viewpoint was expressed by Catherine Bray.

Pavement catharsis

The Worst Person in the World.

Why do troubled young adults in movies often turn to the streets to temporarily escape reality? Is it to gain a new perspective on their problems? Or is it simply a result of main character syndrome? The iconic movie Frances Ha, which features a scene of Greta Gerwig’s struggling modern dancer twirling happily along a New York City sidewalk to David Bowie’s Modern Love (a tribute to Leos Carax’s Mauvais Sang set in Paris), may be to blame.

In the film Passages, directed by Ira Sachs, the self-absorbed and narcissistic character Tomas (played by Franz Rogowski) escapes from his problems by riding his bicycle through the streets of Paris. Despite causing the end of two relationships, he avoids facing his reality and instead aimlessly cycles through the city. Similarly, in The Worst Person in the World, photographer Julie (played by Renate Reinsve) briefly daydreams about a different life for herself as she energetically moves through downtown Oslo, creating a fantasy in her mind. These bursts of intense emotion serve as a shortcut to experiencing a certain feeling. The city itself becomes a cinematic backdrop for these characters’ journeys.

Droning on

In the film La Haine, director Mathieu Kassovitz’s intention to make a serious impact is evident in the impressive aerial shot that captures the entire cité, a feat that would now be easily accomplished with a simple drone and minimal payment.

The use of drone shots in modern cinema has become a cliche, often used for insignificant scenes and highlighting the uninteresting aspects in a negative way. These shots often feature an aerial view of mundane scenery, such as a car driving on a straight road or a forest filmed from above. While early filmmakers had to maneuver heavy cameras, the advancement of technology now allows for a slow and steady ascent for extended periods of time.

The nerd supremacy

Rooney Mara and Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network.

In the early 2000s, the stereotypical image of a nerd was one of pity, often portrayed as the opposite of the athletic lead. However, by the 2010s, this perception had shifted. Perhaps due to the rise of Silicon Valley and the charismatic technocracy of Barack Obama replacing the outdated views of George W. Bush, nerds were now in the spotlight. They were portrayed as billionaire playboys (such as Marvel’s Tony Stark), brilliant prodigies (depicted in “The Social Network”), and highly intellectual scientists (featured in many Christopher Nolan films). They were often shown writing complex equations on boards and engaging with women who were both beautiful and intelligent (although not as intelligent as them). Despite offending many people along the way, it didn’t matter because they had a clear vision.

In our current era, the stereotype dominates, and it’s not very enjoyable. The popular “smart guy” movie often glorifies the main character’s self-importance – the burden of being a genius – but warning signs are evident. As Rooney Mara’s character, a Harvard student, tells Jesse Eisenberg’s Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network: “You may think 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 a jerk.” Rebecca Liu

Never ‘appily’ ever after

Anyone who has ever swiped right on a dating app can attest to the gnarly horrors that can sometimes follow, but too many screenwriters have found themselves unable to see past the grim to focus on the good. When Tinder – or, more often, some cheap we-can’t-get-the-rights imitation called DateMatch or Flirter – is used on screen, it’s a cruel way to poke fun at those on it, a parade of ghoulish cartoons existing only to push our lead back into the real world, where people are, of course, historically totally 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

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The unexpected car accident

Be cautious of any car scenes where the driver is distracted and not paying attention to the road. This is often a foreshadowing of a surprise car crash, with another vehicle appearing out of nowhere. This trope has been seen in various films such as Adaptation, Whiplash, No Country for Old Men, The Age of Adaline, 10 Cloverfield Lane, and The Mother. The crash is usually accompanied by weightless spinning, shattered glass, and exaggerated reactions from the actors (such as Benedict Cumberbatch in Doctor Strange and Colin Farrell in The Batman). Bonus points if the character ends up hanging upside down from their seatbelt. Extra bonus points if the victims are the main character’s parents, adding to their tragic backstory.

Raised elevation

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.

You have been bestowed with the role of a superhero, carrying a great responsibility to both yourself and society. However, this comes with the challenge of keeping your identity a secret and facing constant pressure from the media. In order to find solace from this heavy burden, you seek out the tallest building in the city, where you can look out upon the bustling city below and reflect on your role as a defender of humanity. Whether you identify as Spider-Man, Batman, or Gwen Stacy from Across the Spider-Verse, being a superhero is no easy feat. However, remember that you have chosen this path and it’s ultimately your decision. Plus, let’s not forget that you are a fictional character. So let’s tone down the dramatics for everyone’s sake.

Quirky text messages

In the past, it was considered innovative to incorporate text messaging into movies and television shows. Characters in shows like Gossip Girl and Scott Pilgrim vs the World were shown texting on their phones, keeping up with the current trends. However, since then, the portrayal of texting on screen has remained outdated and unrealistic, with brightly colored bubbles added in post-production. To be fair, displaying digital messages on screen is not very cinematic as they are static and silent. The convention of using text boxes next to a character’s face made sense as it was cost-effective and kept the focus on the actor’s performance.

However, it has become a widespread issue of cheapening the visual experience. I cannot bear to watch another romantic comedy or teenage show, particularly those on Netflix, with insincere text bubbles or bizarre fonts that do not resemble the phone screens we are all familiar with. This is especially frustrating when the sole purpose is to get a character to a party. It would be more effective to simply show the real phone or convey the complex relationship between humans and their screens (as seen in Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade). While texts are crucial and challenging to portray, there must be a more suitable approach. – Adrian Horton

Moronic influencers

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.

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 portrayed as shallow, self-absorbed, corrupt, and potentially criminal, has provided an easy target for filmmakers seeking to vilify a character. However, with the proliferation of films such as Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, Sweat, Influencer, and Not Okay, it seems like shooting fish in a barrel. Despite the constant criticism, there has yet to be a truly memorable influencer character on screen (Triangle of Sadness comes closest). While it may be tempting to continue mocking this shallow pool, it would be refreshing to see more nuanced depictions as well. Phil Hoad.

For example, in the city.

Have you ever experienced the cliche of running into your most significant ex in a crowded city at the perfect moment for the story? I haven’t. I used to daydream about it, usually involving my hair, during my twenty years in the heavily populated London (with 9 million people). But did it actually happen to me? Not once. Yet, in Sex and the City 2, Carrie bumps into Aidan (who says, “This is the best mirage I’ve ever had”) in Abu Dhabi, a city with a population of 1.5 million, just as her marriage to Big hits a rough patch. Interestingly, Carrie had a similar experience in the TV series when she saw Big after trying to move on with the New Yankee. In Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Peter also coincidentally runs into his ex at the same Hawaiian resort.

In this age of constant digital monitoring, one would assume it would be simple to avoid encountering someone you have no desire to ever see again. However, I personally appreciate films that portray the true struggle of seeking out an ex-partner (such as The Godfather, Brokeback Mountain, or Kill Bill). That, to me, is a true testament of love. – Terri White


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