Monday Musings: Too Many Movies

[Content Note: Spoilers for Man On A Ledge]

So this conversation happened a few nights ago during a movie.

Husband: What's he doing in this movie?
Ana: Who is he? I don't recognize him.
Husband: I don't know his name, but he's too important to play that part.
Ana: Maybe he's in on the heist. 

--- 30 minutes later ---

Husband: There he is again!
Ana: He's definitely in on it. What do you want to bet he's the father?
Husband: The father?
Ana: You know, they had his funeral? We didn't see a body. Ten bucks says it's this guy.
Husband: I think you're probably right.

--- EXCITING MOVIE CLIMAX ---

Ana: Ha! It was the father. We're awesome.
Husband: You are.
Ana: ... maybe we watch too many movies?

When was the last time something like this happened to you? Books, movies, shows are all acceptable -- try to Spoiler Mark your comments as appropriate.

50 comments:

Mathbard said...

Long time ago, but when my sisters and I saw the first Pirates of the Caribbean, I said there'd be a sequel and Will's dad would be in it. Everyone said yeah, sure, there'll be a sequel, but no way would Will's dad show up. I liked being able to say "I told you so" when Pirates II came out.

Lonespark said...

Heh.
Too many movies? No such thing!

MJSS said...

My girlfriend and I are in the middle of a Castle binge, and it's predictable enough that we do this constantly. The episode we watched last night ("Ynj Naq Zheqre") is a good example.

Me (on the first appearance of one of the victim's family members, pre-opening credits): He's the murderer.
GF: What's his motive?
Me: I have no idea, which is why it'll be a shocking twist when it turns out that he did it.

Penprp said...

Ahhh yes. I remember watching an episode of Murder She Wrote with my mother...
Ellen: He did it.
Mom: What? Why?
Ellen: It's [B-List Actor.] He's ALWAYS the bad guy.

FrenchRoast said...

My husband and I have been watching Desperate Housewives on Netflix, and we do this all the time, because the show is incredibly predictable. For example, in a recent episode, John Schneider was Bree's boyfriend's father, and the boyfriend's parents got into a fight and decided to have a divorce. The instant it happened, I said "John Schneider is going to try to date Bree, even though his son just tried to propose to her, and it will be hella awkward." An episode later, bam! That's exactly what happened.

My brother can't even watch movies with my mom anymore, because for her half the fun is figuring out the movie, and she can't keep her thoughts to herself, which leads to her spoiling the surprise for my brother. I don't mind as much, because I end up doing the same thing when I watch a movie.

sweetcraspy said...

I try to do this with reality TV shows, most recently in Project Runway and Around the World in 80 Plates. It's usually a question of how cynical I think the production company is being. Who does the edited version of the show want me to worry about, and does any information that contradicts the narrative sneak through in the video clips? The "coming up next" clips help too, though they are usually much more blatant in trying to manipulate the truth. It's lots of fun!

Ana Mardoll said...

Heh. That back fired on me with Harry Potter. Gary Oldman as a GOOD guy?? Unthinkable.

FrenchRoast said...

Project Runway is especially easy in the first few episodes. "Oh, they didn't even spend 5 minutes on that person. They're definitely safe." And if the designers barely shown aren't called as safe, then they almost never win/lose...so they're still safe.

depizan said...

My dad could always guess the killer on Murder She Wrote, whether it was random B-List guest star or not, and guess them before the murder happened. Clearly, the writers were giving it away somehow and he was picking up on it.

Of course half the fun of watching Murder She Wrote was the episodes that were accidentally hilarious due to bad writing, bad acting, or some combination thereof. (Not that the show didn't also have a sense of humor intentionally.)

Thomas Keyton said...

This is half the fun of a lot of British detective series, though sometimes they'll just overload the famous-person-detector by filling the cast with people the audience can recognise*.

I did figure out that Zoe Wanamaker was the villain in the second episode of the new series of Doctor Who, though my logic there was less "famous guest star" and more "she's also playing the murderer in the Marple that's on the day before", so... I could help Adam West fight crime, I guess.

*Although sometimes they'll cheat, such as when Tom Baker got murdered five minutes into a Marple episode.

Lonespark said...

I don't do this kind of thing much. I guess that's just not really how I experience movies? But I do have the thing where people are indelibly stamped with a role of theirs I've seen that had a particular emotional resonance.

Like I just watched The Incredible Hulk and I do think the Big Name Actor cast was kind of phoning it in, but it was more like my brain always thinks William Hurt is his character in The Doctor and Edward Norton is his character in 25th Hour and Tim Roth is Creepy Fucker in a Wig from Rob Roy.

(Most of the way into the movie I realized that one of the reasons I didn't like it was that it "looked too much like Transformers." )

Also I feel like I have many posts worth of confusion and anger regarding the way US action movies use "Third World" people and places.

chris the cynic said...

I don't know the most recent time that it happened, but the one that stands out in my mind the most has got to be Predators. There is not one twist, one turn, one character interaction, one death, one escape, one scene, one shot, or one word that you don't see so far in advance that the lack of anything resembling suspense or surprise is painful.

Planet of the Apes (2001 version), was also burned into my mind as predictable to the point of being painful. If you don't know what the very last scene will be by the time he's through the anomaly in the beginning (well before he lands on the planet) then you have been paying precisely zero attention. Made all the worse because watching the movie is like seeing a parade of missed opportunities pass by. You'll think, “If you just did X this might turn out to be a good movie, but I know you're going to do Y,” and then the movie does Y. Over and over again. It had so many chances to not be completely predictable suck, and yet...

-

Since last week I have done, stuff. What have I done? Uh...

I announced that the Slacktiverse is moving. I pointed out that I've been blogging for over a year now. My depression may have been dealt with, but because my life is a mess that means while things are better they're far from good. I made a post sharing pictures of fallen leaves glazed in rain. I pointed out that “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” is misnamed and, even though it's what the churches in question want, he IRS should revoke their tax exempt status. I described something I want to do in gimp in pseudo code in hopes someone could help me make it actually work.

And I made an index for the month of July.

Off my blog, I asked slacktivites what we're supposed to do with the forum we now have, and, since there seemed to be some support for the idea of a collaborative story thread, I started one. *hangs head* No one has commented in it.

Ana Mardoll said...

No one has commented in it.

I suspect this is partly because there isn't a quick and easy way to see new forum activity. I would like a side-bar widget, but I haven't been able to find one for Nabble yet and I lack the ability to program one myself.

chris the cynic said...

Speaking of over there, I just made a new thread over there that's basically an introduction thread, which makes no sense since anyone over there already knows everyone else over there, but it seemed like an interesting idea to have everyone introduce themselves again. Sort of like how sometimes someone acting like a tourist in their own city can learn about it in a way they never did before, maybe having people who already know each other introduce themselves will end up having us all get to know each other better. Failing that, maybe someone will have a good answer to the question of how to take over the world and we can use it to, you know, take over the world.

MaryKaye said...

I came home from seeing _Star Wars_ when it first came out (gods, I'm old) and my mother said, "X is Y's father." I was, like, how could you possibly know that? She said, "I'm an English major." I figured she was pulling my leg, until the later movies came out....

The one I found really surprising was _Krull_, where I said to my girlfriend "Wouldn't it be cool if X and Y turned out to have the same name?" and they promptly did. I have no idea what the cues were. I hadn't seen two-people-same-name used as a trope before (I was pretty young). Most memorable part of a not very memorable movie.

I had a visitor to my weekly Berkeley roleplaying game during the week the PCs were trying to find a supernatural creature who had been transformed into a normal inhabitant of a small village. The PCs ran around all session long collecting evidence, and then we went to dinner. The visitor said, "I know who it is." The players demanded that he tell me in private: he did, and he was right. I asked his reason--he'd spotted what he thought was gender-inappropriate behavior from the transformed creature. *I* didn't notice, so maybe it was unconscious, or maybe he picked up on something else and just perceived it as a gender-hint, or maybe he was right by blind luck. Anyway, it drove the players crazy all evening long, that he had the answer and they didn't. (They figured it out next week.)

Kirala said...

After the 6th Harry Potter book came out, my friend asked whether I thought Harry would die or not in the seventh book.

I said, "V guvax ur'yy qvr ohg raq hc nyvir va gur raq fbzrubj."

Still pretty pleased about that.

I would claim credit for predicting every major plot point of Pearl Harbor before the movie was half over, but really. It was obvious.

Randomosity said...

All movies mentioned by name are old enough that I think the statute of spoiler limitations has run out.

A friend and I often know who's going to die in horror and disaster movies. We call this trope "Survival of the Best Looking". I give you Volcano: two geologists, one blond and too young for her PhD and one dark-haired and no-nonsense and looks like she earned her credentials. Guess who died in the opening scene.

Also, in Mission to Mars, watch the opening credits. There is a Big Name Actor who dies in a really stupid way and it's telegraphed by the order of names. It was possible to save the character, the screenplay writers didn't want him to live. Murderers!

And again in Pearl Harbor. If there was a betting pool on the sex and name of the kid, I'd have become a millionaire. My dad and I saw the movie together and he was seven when Pearl Harbor was bombed, He said the movie was longer than the actual attack. I was disappointed because I wanted to see a war movie and what I got was a stupid romance with predictable results. As in the love triangle that resolves in the most cliched way possible.

And every caper movie that ever existed. Is there ever a question that the heroes are going to do the job anyway no matter how much Smurfette complains that she'll leave the guy if he does? I call her Smurfette because she's often the only woman in the entire movie and she doesn't even get anything fun to do. I like caper movies because even though the plot is formulaic, you don't know HOW they'll do it and it's the HOW that's important, not the WILL THEY SUCCEED. You know they will, and you know their meticulous planning will only get them so far before they have to improvise.

Intertestingly, old classic movies such as Where Eagles Dare do things like pass the Bechdel test and have genuine surprises that logically grow out of the story.

Nick said...

"I came home from seeing _Star Wars_ when it first came out (gods, I'm old) and my mother said, "X is Y's father." I was, like, how could you possibly know that? She said, "I'm an English major." I figured she was pulling my leg, until the later movies came out...."

Which is odd, considering that George Lucas himself didn't have that idea until he started writing The Empire Strikes Back's second draft script...

Miss. Meow said...

I'm always doing this. ^^; Most recently while reading Graceling by Kristin Cashore (which I still haven't finished) I guessed that Cb jnf n gryrcngu orpnhfr gur aneengvir unq sbphfrq fb zhpu ba ubj Xngfn ungrf gryrcnguf fb irel zhpu, ohg gung fur jnf tbvat gb snyy va ybir jvgu uvz naljnl orpnhfr ab obbx vf pbzcyrgr jvgubhg n ebznagvp fhocybg. Va gur irel arkg puncgre vg jnf erirnyrq gung Cb vf n gryrcngu. Yngre ba, gurl ubbxrq hc. I was all "I'm so smart!"

But yeah, books, movies, tv shows... I'm constantly guessing what will happen. Things are so predictable because pretty much everything has been done before and writers can sometimes be so heavy handed with foreshadowing. I love it when I'm wrong though... I love being surprised.

depizan said...

While Star Wars may be (in)famous for it, it's hardly the first case of it. And the movies are, somewhat intentionally, troperific (even if that term didn't exist when they were being made).

*resists urge to keep blathering randomly about Star Wars*

cjmr said...

I've done that recently in a couple of Doctor Who episodes (from last season) but am not remembering which ones now....

Brenda said...

I get a kick out of doing this with crime shows. Also, I recently watched "The Sting", a really good caper movie. I had seen it before, but it was so long I didn't remember anything except the con involved horse races, and the soundtrack featured Scott Joplin ragtime. So I really got a kick out of figuring out that gur "SOV" thl jnf va ba gur pba! And I'm pretty sure it wasn't just my subconscious, because I missed figuring out jub gur nfnffva jnf.

(Using rot13 so as not to spoil the con for all you people who should watch it if you haven't already!)

Gemma Mason said...

I was watching the stage version of "Wicked" and during interval I was all "Svlreb vf cebonoyl gur fpnerpebj naq nyfb Arffn unf gubfr "wrjryrq fyvccref" fb pyrneyl gurl ner tbvat gb ghea ehol ng fbzr cbvag -- bu, lrnu, orpnhfr Arffn vf ure fvfgre, fb fur'f gur Jvpxrq Jvgpu bs gur Rnfg, gung znxrf fb zhpu frafr!" and then my friend who was watching the show with me got mad at me for spoiling it. Oops.

chris the cynic said...

The first time I saw Porky's I saw n ohvyqvat ba fgvygf bire jngre, bar bjarq ol na rivy crefba ab yrff, naq fnvq fbzrguvat nybat gur yvarf bs, "Fbzrbar'f tbvat gb fvax gung," and my friends, who had already seen the movie, got mad at me for ruining it.

cjmr said...

Hey Chris, I went and added to the story. I hadn't previously seen it. (I love doing collaborative stories, that was my favorite Girl Scout campfire game.)

esmerelda_ogg said...

I do this a LOT while watching crime shows with my husband - sometimes they outsmart me, but I usually see the twist coming. I think it's because I'm a lot more trope-savvy than my husband is; and that probably just proves what a misspent youth and adulthood I've had.

Inquisitive Raven said...

When Babylon 5 was doing its first run. I spotted the villain of the week in "The War Prayer" before the plot for the episode really got going; it was that formulaic. It should be noted that the script for that episode was written by one of Star Trek's then current stable of writers. I like to contrast that episode with "Believers" where the ending is the logical outcome given the character interactions earlier in the episode. That episode was written by David Gerrold, who has written some well known Trek episodes, but AFAIK wasn't writing for Trek at that time.

A computer game I downloaded recently featured a protagonist with an idiot ball. I mean how difficult is it to figure out that that if a person needs background X to solve the puzzles, then the protagonist must have the requisite background? I'm talking about something like having the right ancestry and parents never told you, possibly because they themselves didn't know, or one parent worked on black project X and couldn't tell you because security. IOW, accidents of birth because if it had anything to do with training or experience, you wouldn't have to figure out that you have the background because you'd already know.

Silver Adept said...

I had the ending to The Sixth Sense after the opening scene. After a spoiler-shush from someone else and the movie confirming what I already knew, I went to watch something else (I was watching it with family and friends...and I was under eighteen at the time.).

Most recently, I knew who was going to be dismissed from Face Off (a reality show about special effects and makeup people) due to the presence of that person in a commercial before the Big Reveal. My girlfriend said "How do you know?" I said, "He wouldn't have had time to do a commercial off he were still in the competition." A few moments later, he was dismissed.

I do that a lot with games and RPGs, mostly because I've been playing them long enough to know when big battles are coming.

Launcifer said...

I do this all the time now. Literally every flipping thing I watch, right down to being able to guess how a given channel will use a piece of historical information in a given documentary. What's really funny is that I've inadvertantly taught my mum how to do it, too, though she's still a little hazy as to which writing conventions to apply to which genre of programme. It's actually quite frustrating, because there's a whole list of programmes (and three entire channels, with the exception of one programme) I simply won't watch once I hit a certain success rate with the guesswork.

Admittedly, that's because I tend to apply the most stupid of all possible outcomes and get it right more often than not, which probably says far too much about my televisual tastes. Heh.

@Thomas Keyton: British detective and mystery programmes actually do this deliberately, partly to avoid the whole "the most recognisable non-regular cast member did it" issue so prevalent in a lot of US shows and also because we've never quite grown out of the whole disaster-era idea of "come and see famous people die in horrible, nasty ways" thing. So, really, the average episode of a British detective drama is kind of like discovering that Colombo is taking his wife on the Poseidon.

Camelliagirl101 said...

I was pretty proud of myself when my fanon "Snape had a thing for Lily and that's why he especially disliked James" guess from the third book turned out to be true.

Randy Kay said...

Saw a few folks mention Murder, She Wrote up-thread - I actually ended up with a copy of one of the books recently, and have been groaning over how bad it is for a couple of days now. The details are just all wrong.

My father, mother, and I watch NCIS every Tuesday that I'm home, and my dad and I have gotten pretty good at figuring out the killer before the reveal. My mother, on the other hand, gets much too hung up on details and trying to see depth in the show that isn't there, so she's frequently confused by the turn of events.

Asha said...

I do this so often now that I just don't bother to keep track of it when it happens, but I remember the first time I really surprised someone with it. I was home from college, my dad was watching a movie (I forgot what it is, but it was a crime drama starring Sandra Bullock and Morgan Freeman) and I identified that the bad guy was Morgan Freeman in the first five minutes. My dad was very surprised by this when I turned out to be correct.

Another good example of doing this and driving my mom crazy when we saw Cowboys and Aliens. For a movie that should have been a tremendously interesting and original, it was so saturated in racist and sexist tropes that I wanted to pull my hair out. I was whispering the entire plot to my mom in the first five, ten minutes, and she hated it because I was completely right.

About the only show that surprises me right now is Hawai'i Five-0, and I'm not sure if that's good or bad. I keep expecting it to follow specific tropes and then it... doesn't. It surprises me, but sometimes it really feels like the story is just throwing random elements out of left field. *shrugs*

Launcifer said...

I actually killed my mum's interest in Cowboys and Aliens (well, Daniel Craig's presence in the cast was the main cause, but I put the final nail in the coffin) by wondering aloud if it was going to end up looking suspiciously like another, incredibly similar film due out later on in the year.

Thomas Keyton said...

British detective and mystery programmes actually do this deliberately, partly to avoid the whole "the most recognisable non-regular cast member did it" issue so prevalent in a lot of US shows and also because we've never quite grown out of the whole disaster-era idea of "come and see famous people die in horrible, nasty ways" thing

Is this a recent development, though? I definitely remember more famous murderers in them when I was younger (though confirmation bias and the fact that they're around longer than everyone else is definitely affecting my memory here).

DavidCheatham said...

As usual, TVTropes has named this: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/NotSoSmallRole

Boutet said...

Less about guessing plot or character roles, but I get really distracted by the sets of movies and shows. I can't stop noticing how huge people's houses and apartments are, even while they're characterized as poor or struggling. Especially when they have huge apartments in big cities like New York! Even having a kitchen in the apartment in New York is a big distraction for me. It gotten to the point that I can hardly watch a commercial without some part of my brain yelling about how spotless, large and well-furnished the set is. I spent too many years as a student with my bed-mat on the floor of a tiny apartment housing 3 other people. I just can't believe that any "stuggling" young person can afford a huge apartment with matching hard wood furniture.
______
Unrelated, but I've noticed that you link to other people whose blogs you enjoy, and I have enjoyed some of them myself. I keep forgetting to bookmark the links though. I've been all over your site to see if I could find a list of links of the people whose work you follow but I could not find it. Do you have such a list? It's a lot of work to go back through your archive to find those links again.

Will Wildman said...

Ana has a blogroll on the right column of her home page (it doesn't appear if you've clicked through to a specific post here). It is listed by order of update, so you might have to click for more to see blogs that haven't had a new post in a while.

Anthony Rosa said...

Oh, yeah, totally. That's what happens when the creator of the series is a student of Joseph Campbell, after all!

Launcifer said...

It depends, I think. I know that a lot of the programmes that play this game tend to be stocked full of recognisable British television actors, so the murderer/murderess is often recognisable, for a given level of recognition.

Dunnno how recent it is, though. Damn, now you've got met thinking.

Boutet said...

Oh! Thanks, I didn't understand what that was. I think I just grouped it with the other site navigation stuff right above it.

Mary Kaye said...

Two movie elements have become so stock to me and my husband that we've given them names and make jokes about "and now a guest appearance by---!" when we see them. They are the Dome Window (a big hemispherical window made of separate panes with thick bars between them) and the Circular Explosion (an explosion moves out in a ring, or in space a sphere, from the origin point). I think I first saw the Dome Window in _20,000 Leagues Under the Sea_ when I was a little girl, and I've been seeing it ever since. The Circular Explosion is younger, but *very* popular in the last decade or so.

Laura G said...

I can't watch procedurals with my parents anymore. I figured out (or read? I don't recall) that the killer is usually revealed at the 20-minute mark, so when I watch with my parents, I'll find myself going "It's 9:20!" My mother laughs, but my father gets really annoyed. Still, it works the vast majority of the time.

Isator Levi said...

I think most of us knew what Znevba Pbgvyyneq was doing in Gur Qnex Xavtug Evfrf, especially when it became apparent how little else the character was given to do. :)

Lonespark said...

Heh, Isator, I did not figure that out, but I felt like none of the characters were used well, so I didn't give that one special thought.

Watching Batman movies for me is like watching Battlestar Galactica: I'm constantly disappointed by the narrative and character choices, but then I remember that I never liked the whole thing in the beginning, so why am I disappointed? (With BSG I do feel like there was a fair amount of squandering of greatness, whether or not it appealed to me personally...They're both things I watched because other people liked them.)

Will Wildman said...

Spherical explosions in space? I would go on a quest to retrieve the Heron Chalice from the heart of the Steel Desert if it meant moviemakers would even give us spherical explosions in space. What gets me is that explosions in space still get an inexplicable ring-shaped shockwave. (They edited the ring waves into the Death Star explosions for the SW special editions, which I tried super-hard to think of an in-universe explanation for before sighing and going back to selective headcanon.)

EdinburghEye said...

Many years ago I was a fan of The Incredible Hulk. (The TV series. DO NOT JUDGE ME.) I had a friend staying with her two kids. She was out doing stuff, we had an hour to spare to watch TV before I had to start cooking dinner. The Hulk was on the telly.

Being a fan of TIH, I had watched eleventy-hundred episodes already, and was settling down with the two kids who were also fans of the series (and who hadn't watched it as often as I had) and we had just watched the opening five minutes - David Banner boards plane, sits, plane takes off, pilot says something to co-pilot, one of them (I forget which) looks kind of odd and sweaty/twitchy - when the phone in the kitchen rang, and I got up to answer it.

By the time I had finished dealing with the call, I figured there was no point going back to watch the episode, so I started making dinner, and the kids came through to help once the Hulk was over. They were sorry I'd missed it and asked me if I wanted to know what had happened.

I told them: "The pilot had a heart-attack or something and died, there was a bad guy aboard who tried to take over the plane and shot the co-pilot, David Banner tries to land the plane, in the course of doing so he Hulks out and yet somehow manages to land the plane as the Hulk and then the episode ends with the Hulk running away from the plane."

THey looked at me with their mouths slightly open. "You'd seen it before!!!" they said.

I hadn't. Nor had I quite realised that after so many episodes of Hulk-watching, I could plot a Hulk episode out from start to finish having seen the first five minutes. The bad guy had been clearly signalled by the camera lingering on him while he had a little smirk on his face, I think.

Ana Mardoll said...

There is a REALLY GOOD BOOK by Bobbie Ann Mason called "The Girl Sleuth", which I mention here because she points out that a lot of detective/mystery tropes used in children's lit were pioneered in the Nancy Drew / Hardy Boy days, and since there was a lot of class turmoil going on at the time (then, as always, I suppose), a lot of the villains basically represented lower class people who refused to be happily content with their lot.

So villains had suspiciously immigrant-y names/features, yes, but also Piercing Eyes (as opposed to Smiling or Downcast ones) and Smirking Smiles (as opposed to Cheerful or Dignified ones) and basically features that indicated that the villain was not accepting hir class-ordained role in life.

I think about that sometimes, especially as I smirk A LOT, so presumably if the camera ever lingers on me, I'll be pegged as a Classic Villain right away.

depizan said...

The Hardy Boys. Why, to this day, the word "swarthy" conjures up in my mind, not someone with dark skin, but someone who is large and hulkingly muscled. Definition by association. *sigh*

EdinburghEye said...

Ooh. I remember reading about The Girl Sleuth, but I never got hold of a copy. *makes note*

Paul A. said...

I have done the "he's too important an actor not to be significant" thing, I know I have, but I can't think exactly when.

When I saw Puneyvrf Natryf, in which the big partway twist is that the guy the detectives have been investigating is (unpleasant but basically) innocent and they've been set up by the real villain, one of the things I appreciated was the actor who had been cast as the decoy villain was exactly the actor who would normally get get cast as the villain in a movie like Puneyvrf Natryf.


I've also done the "solving the detective story by genre savvy" thing; it's pretty much the only way I ever figure out the culprit before the detective does, because I'm pretty bad at solving mysteries properly.

James Thurber once wrote a fun piece in which he analyses Macbeth according to the genre conventions of the murder mystery. The immediate, inescapable first conclusion is that Macbeth is innocent, because when a murder mystery takes the time to set up one particular character with a motive, then shows him heading out with murder in mind, then cuts straight to the morning after and the discovery of the body, that's the one character you can be absolutely certain didn't do it. Thurber then runs through several theories before settling on a really clever solution that's unobvious enough I don't want to spoil it. You can read it all here.

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