20 Super Annoying Hollywood Habits

film-clichesWho doesn’t love settling in on a cold, rainy day to watch a movie? Or to spend a lazy Sunday glued to the TV for back-to-back episodes of that must-see show about the biker gang zombies who cook meth and sell it  to dragons? I know I do.  The problem for me though, is that I have an annoyingly hyperactive brain guarding the path to true immersion in whatever escapist fiction flickers on-screen. Perhaps I’m overly cynical, or perhaps it’s because I once trained myself to be resistant to hypnosis so as to prevent becoming a sleeper agent assassin for the KGB. In any case, it means I have an exhaustive list of Hollywood habits and clichés that will immediately snap my suspension of disbelief – which is already as brittle as Michael Bay’s New Year’s resolution to take it easy on the explosions.

Here are just some celluloid neuroses of mine:

1. People order drinks and food then never eat it – usually sticking someone with the bill

This is number one, because it’s most certainly the most irritating. If I were a café or bar owner in the film-world, I would lose my mind over the endless customers who saunter in, casually ask for something and then saunter back out again as soon as their order hits the grill-plate. Sometimes they might hang around until a drink arrives, but will exit immediately after they’ve indolently picked it up and waved it about a few times in conversation. Just think of the ruinous expenses of all that wastage and unpaid bills!

2. No-one looks at at anyone when they’re dropping some real heavy news

I get that sometimes dramatic things happen in life and breaking the news of some heavy shit can be pretty damned hard. But, whether you’re telling the President the zombie mutation virus has broken out of containment; or confessing to an extra-marital affair with your spouse’s bikram yoga instructor; or finally revealing to other soldiers in your platoon what really went down during Operation: Blue Typhoon and why you can never eat a banana again; at least have the common decency to look them in the eye! At the very least point your face at their face. None of this back-turning, mumbling rudeness!

3. Everyone has appalling phone manners

Have we really become such a socially abbreviated culture that we can’t even manage a mannerly goodbye at the end of a phone conversation? Characters just sit there on the line and wait until the crucial bit of info is revealed and then hang up. It’s just rude. No ‘thanks for calling’, no ‘see you later’, no ‘have a nice afternoon’, no ‘say hi to Frank for me’… just an abrupt end to the conve-

4. Dating in a big city a breeze

Even, no, especially in films about romance, it seems like a love life comes complimentary with your latte from the trendy city coffee shop as if cupid’s arrow tips were made of biscotti. Not only do you just happen to regularly bump into random acquaintances for witty banter over whatever semi-embarrassing situation you’re caught in (locked out of apartment, spilled coffee on self, dog running amok… etc), you then can simply peg a date with a simple: “Dinner Friday?”, “Sure”, “I’ll pick you up at eight.”… Done!  It matters not where this stranger plans to take you, or how they know where you live. Pfft details – it’s date time!

5. The best player in the team will only show up at half-time

What does it say about team commitment when the best players are NEVER around for that dramatically crucial match against the really slick, sinister-looking team who have heaps of money, a bully coach and shiny  black uniforms. It’s not until your team is one full cheek into a clinical and comprehensive arse-kicking when who should show up in the dressing room? Only the most vital member of your otherwise shithouse (yet totally lovable) team! Now get out there and win in the last few seconds in the most uncanny, slow-motion, tears-for-the-underdogs way possible!

6. People just kind of waltz into a room and pick up the conversation as if they’d been there all along…

Seriously!? Do important people hide around corners in government buildings just waiting for the opportune moment?
“It’s almost as if the alien mothership has some kind of-”
“-electron-pulse plasma forcefield, yes general, I took the liberty of entering the room and finishing your sentence so now everyone knows I’m the smart one around here.” Unfortunately it never works for me, though hopefully the next time I blurt: ‘ham sandwich!’ as I enter a room, it WILL make sense. I probably should increase my odds and walk into more delicatessens.

7. Gangs of ruffians never co-ordinate their attacks very well

I don’t condone wanton violence, nor gang affiliation… but nor do I condone a lack of respect for teamwork and role-based coordination tactics. So many attempted beat downs are thwarted because a lack of tactical cohesion completely nullifies the numerical advantage. Instead of gathering around in a circle and going in one at a time for a routine cycle of butt-kicking – why not pool your resources and attack with purpose? Guy in sleeveless leather jacket can feign a frontal attack to draw the target’s attention, opening up for a simultaneous pincer strike on the flanks from guy with shaved head and guy with bandana. While they close in, guy with metal pole can sweep low and take the legs out from under the target where they will be vulnerable to a good’n’proper stompin’. See street toughs of Hollywood? It’s not so hard.

8. Police think a car door is a bulletproof shield

Why? Why do cops do that?! Do they realise the baddies are firing lumps of lead at a really high velocity?! Unless you’re patrolling the streets in a Sherman tank, a car door isn’t actually going to stop a volley of bullets. You might as well hide behind a tissue.

9.  People hold torches funny

A torch (or, ‘flashlight’) doesn’t seem like the kind of object that requires any technique to use. You just kind of, point it and… not drop it… but the folks of Hollywood seem loathe to hold it any other way than next to the temple, with elbows pointed down. I suppose you could consider it the coolest way to point a torch – but you don’t always have to look cool, especially if all you’re doing is trudging knee deep in human refuse as you investigate the town’s sewers at night for whatever ominous reasons.

10. All doors can be opened by shooting them

Fair enough, I were packing heat, ‘shoot it’ would also rank high on my list of  troubleshooting solutions to overcome various problems, like say a jammed printer, a tight jar lid, a loud neighbour or even a locked door. But, would it actually work? Locks can be pretty hardcore these days, I’d be more worried about the slug ricocheting back into my groin from the 30cm distance at which I shot the stupid thing. Yeah, not a smart idea, better call a locksmith.

11. Looking at a photograph will change a character’s mind

They say a picture is a thousand words, to which every screenwriter in the business replies, ‘thank fuck for that’. In Hollwoodland, photographs are extra-super-mega persuasive and prolonged staring at an old photo of the family you once had will definitely thrust you into the third act guns blazing – figuratively and most probably literally.

12. Cops don’t take suspensions very seriously

I’m beginning to think that ‘You’re off the case’ is some sort of police code for: ‘Please continue the investigation, and make sure lots of things explode along the way’.

13. Dudes in suits are really awesome at fighting

This one I know a bit about, because I am both really, really good at fighting and also look really, really good in a suit. But, for reasons of restricted mobility and a little thing called Saville Row stitching, I refuse to combine the two – even if shit goes down at the charity ball. Disappoint the babes I may, but It’s simply impossible to execute an exemplary roundhouse kick in tapered trousers, and a bespoke Hugo Boss might look killer, but doesn’t make you killer. It’s also really hard to run at top speed in Italian loafers, so I don’t know who these try-hard suave Hollywood action men think they’re kidding.

14. The Wilhelm scream is really annoying

What was once a long-running inside joke in the film business has become a real pain in the aural receptors. The famous Wilhelm Scream appears in just about every mainstream Hollywood movie produced ever. I can barely sit through a blockbuster movie these days without the uncomfortable expectation of hearing that distinctive warbled cry clawing away in the back of my head. They could have at least recorded a semi-realistic scream; ‘Wilhelm’ sounds more like someone who fell in the toilet than a man who just received a bullet to the chest.

15. “I’m getting too old for this shit”

“Let’s get out of here”; “I’ve got a bad feeling about this”; “Get me the President”; “The monster is headed downtown”; “No, it’s too dangerous”; “Hold it right there”; “I’m hit! Go on without me”… So much lazy, lazy dialogue just won’t go away. I can honestly promise that I’ve never actually said any of these phrases in real life… well, except for in moments of extreme passion, and then it’s pretty much word-for-word in that order…

16. Profane old ladies are hilarious

No they are not. They just aren’t. A sweet old lady flipping the bird, swearing or laying down some ebonic trash-talk for ‘shock humour’ is not funny. Not even remotely. So, stop it. Now… Adam Sandler. Bad Adam Sandler!

17. If you own a fruit stall – a car WILL crash through it

It’s just a matter of time.

18. Electronic devices are noisy

Generally, if something electronic starts making noises, it’s most likely faulty and will probably electrocute someone. Unless of course it was programmed to make glitchy beeps and boops and crackles every time it is used. Though, why every high-tech piece of covert espionage equipment would be programmed to make more of a clamour than a startled R2-D2 is just too far a stretch for my logic.

19. There are commentators at children’s sports games

Despite the head injuries, I still remember my junior sporting days and NOT ONCE was there a card table and microphone set up for some play-by-play commentary of my team’s most nail-biting of encounters, 1998 under-12s grand final penalty shootout epic included. Though, if Hollywood were to believe every junior sports game features fully-fledged referees, grandstands and professional commentary. We were lucky if one of the mums remembered it was her turn to bring the oranges.

20. Batman can’t turn his head properly

This gets to me every time. Every stinking time! Get a more flexible suit already, you silly billionaire orphan!


The Worst Things in the World. Vol 2: Beauty Pageants and Honey Boo Boo

Honey Boo Boo Pageant

Surely the ideal candidates for a pro-eugenics campaign?

I had a minor rage incident recently. T’was just a little outburst of incredulous shock: the end result of an insidious combination of rainy weather, boredom, curiosity and YouTube  You see, I’d just slogged through a particularly stressful and demoralising week, and instead of enjoying my long-awaited weekend outlets of playing soccer, eating sushi train and drinking afternoon ciders at the pub, howling winds and thumping rain forced me, hermit-like, indoors.

Needing entertainment and some reminder that life was worth living, I decided to finally watch a film I’d been meaning to see for years. After Letters From Iwo Jima left me welled up with tears and wallowing in a dank pit of despair, I turned to the net for some typically senseless, but always entertaining YouTube hilarity. As I was wondered what to search for, I was struck by a sudden thought – a name, a phrase, a meme, or something or other that I’d heard of but knew little about – except that it was somehow popular. So, like a stupid cat poking its nose into a bear trap, I typed the words ‘Honey Boo Boo’ into the search field and clicked the first result that came up. It took less than a minute before the tears returned. However, these were not tears shed from sorrow over the futility and ruin of war… this time they were tears of rage. Tears of angry, salty, what-the-fuck-is-wrong-with-the-world rage.

What – to my increasing horror – I witnessed, was the latest and most heinous of reality television’s crimes to humanity. A truly face-palmingly moronic program about a bizarre family hailing from a ‘Murican backwater so deep that brain cells simply have no choice but to drown. The show primarily followed its protagonist, little seven-year-old Alana ‘Honey Boo Boo’ Thompson, an agonisingly annoying little brat with a sugar habit, who happens to be a full-time children’s beauty pageant contestant. Prodding her along each step of the way was her intellectually-derelict mother June, aka ‘Mama’, who I assume to be the unholy spawn of Cletus from The Simpsons and Jabba the Hutt. Shockingly, I also learned that this show had spun-off from another reality show entitled Toddlers in Tiaras AND that both programs aired on a network called THE LEARNING CHANNEL.

I can’t even… how the… what?

I truly believe that if humanity was stored in a barrel, and you had reached in and scraped your fingers along the bottom, the grimy filth clinging to the underside of your fingernails would still be more worthwhile to modern society than whatever the hell ‘Here Comes Honey Boo Boo’ is meant to represent.

Art of Money Getting P T Barnum book cover

‘Exploitative entertainment? I wrote the book on it!’

I get that trashy reality TV exists. I get that it’s fake, melodramatic and its characters are one-dimensional epsilon minors of our species. I even get that it’s a guilty pleasure for the rest of us. But this? This is next level exploitation; this is the 21st century way of locking freaks in a cage and carting them from town to town. Things such as this can only emerge from a place suffering a poverty of intelligence and integrity. On every level Honey Boo Boo is shameful, from the controversial axis on which it revolves – children’s beauty pageants – to the patronising mockery encouraged by the producers who make these monkeys dance for a banana with one hand, and rake in the cash from the idiotic laughing masses with the other.

Let’s put aside the silly rednecks and scumbag television producers for a moment and examine at pageantry as a thing. I don’t think it even bears explaining that coating a five-year-old in makeup and making them dance to provocative music is a bad, bad thing. But even the ‘grown-up’ versions, the Miss Universes and the Miss Worlds – really are no different. First of all, the original pageants were held to judge animals by inspecting the undersides of their tails and measuring their teeth – so there’s that. Second of all, the first human ‘beauty’ pageant, run in 1854, was the brainchild of a man named P T Barnam – the same P T Barnam who wrote a book entitled The Art Of Money Getting.

Now, Mr Barnam was a man who unashamedly pandered to the lowest common denominator, and mastered numerous unctuous ways to suck the pennies from people’s pockets. He ran gigantic circuses built on animal abuse and freak show gawking, he staged cheesy plays and was, in general, a champion of low-brow. Not surprisingly, he ended up in politics. To be fair, Mr Barnam did accomplish many great deeds and eventually became quite a generous man who was simply obsessed with grand spectacle. Nevertheless, beauty pageants don’t list among his more culturally-affirming legacies.

During the next century these pageants expanded from their hokey town fair origins, and with the help of television and institutionalised sexism, became the highly profitable trash parades we see today. Of course the name and the game is ‘beauty’ – but somewhere along the way, that term became far more removed from its literal meaning. ‘Beauty’ connotes elegance and allure, not just a pretty face but a beautiful being. Today’s ‘Miss General Location or Theme’ pageants seem to advertise that to achieve admiration, a woman must venture down a path of teeth bleaching, eating disorders and body-enhancing/ personality-reducing surgical procedures. To make matters worse, it almost sarcastically pretends that intelligence carries any bearing at all on judging criteria. Yeah…  The question and answer time is included to give the audience a bit of a laugh, no-one there wants or expects any mind-jolting flashes of perspicacity. The inane questions are invariably designed to lure out inane answers; I mean when would you ever seriously ask an adult what they would do if they were ‘President of the world’?  Oh, end world hunger? Have peace for all peoples? Even if a contestant happened to be bright and insightful, she’d unfortunately never be allowed the chance to shine. One, because the questions are dumb and two, because at that point everyone else has tuned out waiting impatiently for the bikini round.

'Oh Miss Brazil, your views on current issues facing developing nations are so insightful. Of views I meant of course your booty and insightful I meant of course is fine.

‘Oh Miss Brazil, your views on current issues facing developing nations are so insightful. By ‘views  of current issues facing developing nations’ I meant of course your booty, and by ‘insightful’ I meant of course is so fine, dayyyum!

If you need any more convincing, just look at who runs Miss Universe: Donald Trump. A man whose sleaze, bigotry and repugnance knows no bounds. Even Mr Barnam lived in an age where cheesy vaudeville and awful freak shows still maintained a feathery touch of class. The Trump effect, with it crass, charmless Vegas-vibe, only guarantees a complete bankruptcy of dignity.

And so, back to little Honey Boo Boo and her televised saga of child abuse. It’s bad enough that beauty pageants exist for teenagers and adults, but children? The entire concept is based upon critical sexualisation and superficial values, which for adults is wrong and for children is criminal.  The halfwit parents who enter their kids into these competitions might say it’s good for raising self-esteem and confidence. In other words, teaching them that self-worth and confidence is smattered over your face in foundation and mascara, and that you are judged and estimated by how you look. Some even defend it by saying it’s no different than, say, signing your kid up to a junior soccer team. How, exactly, participating with peers in a team sport and prancing around in fishnets high on sugar are comparable, I’m not sure. Either it’s an absurd comparison or they play soccer very differently in the States. (That could perhaps explain David Beckham’s five year stint there.)

I’m not going to completely write off the idea of a pageant. It’s just another (and certainly not the worst) manifestation of a natural competitive instinct – and the ignoble but nonetheless pleasurable predilection for casting judgement on others. Of both those counts I am guilty a thousand times. But I just cannot see a positive seed sprouting from under the layers of dirt. It’s trashy, it’s superficial and worst of all, is a grand exercise of false empowerment. What’s more, it’s frustrating that having a problem with these things is so often dismissed as the jealousy of a foot-stomping, frumpy feminist – or, if you are a straight male like me, irrefutable evidence of homosexuality. Well, it’s not seeing a beautiful woman that offends me (though plastic matchsticks aren’t really my thing), but it’s the lamentable fact that so many young women will grow up to believe that donning a glittery little tiara on your head and a ‘Miss Anything’ sash on your shoulder is the greatest achievement a woman could dream of. An ‘achievement’ that is ultimately nothing more than artful exploitation… money-getting, some might even say.

I really hope it doesn’t rain again next weekend.

What are you Really Saying? III: Ye Olde Editione

A glance at the words of Geoffrey Chaucer and you’d be well-forgiven for thinking the English spoken a few centuries ago has as much in common with today as Ancient Etruscan. Though, it’s sometimes surprising how often we’ll blurt something out and not even realise that our pantaloon-wearing, lute-playing ancestors were saying the exact same things.   See Part I and Part II

Pay through the nose

"Grab my wallet, I'm going to sneeze!'

“Grab my wallet, I’m going to sneeze!’

Today’s meaning: To pay an unreasonably high price for something

A pub-stool guru would boast how this phrase goes right back to ninth-century Ireland, whereupon the conquering Danish armies had issued a rather creative form of oppressive taxation dubbed the ‘nose tax’. The story is, that if a plucky native refused to cough up to Olaf, he’d have his Guinness-soaked nose introduced to the business end of a Danish blade. Unfortunately(well, not for the Irish) there’s bugger-all evidence of that ever happening. Instead, this phrase may have arrived by way of more natural etymological evolution. In the 17th century, the word ‘rhino’ was popular slang for money, much like ‘clam’ or ‘quid’ is today. Similarly at the time, ‘to bleed’ was lose or extort a lot of money, a term still used today. Those acquainted with plastic surgery probably also know that rhino is Greek for nose. And those acquainted with blunt force blows to the face know that noses are inclined to bleed. Put these elements together and to lose a lot of money through regrettable circumstances is to ‘pay through the nose’.

Make no bones about it

Mmm, boney

Might just stick to the bread tonight…

Today’s meaning: To make something straightforward and problem-free

For many a goode olde Englishemane, a warm hearty broth in the public house was a welcome respite to the end of a hard day spent shovelling horse shit off the crowded London streets. The simplicity of stews, broths and others meaty soup concoctions made them a ubiquitous meal for common folk of the middle-ages. Though, the lack of culinary finesse sometimes meant the broths were swimming with chunks of bone and cartilage and other inedible animal bits. Not that it’d completely deter a famished Englishman – it just made it quite difficult to eat. So, when there were no bones in the soup, it was a good, easy, satisfying meal. And so, ‘no bones’ came to mean ‘no problems’, as in: ‘Well, you’re lucky that today he had no bones about it… but it might be a different story to-marrow!’ (sorry, I really had to put that pun in, by whatever means necessary. I regret nothing!).

Fits to a T

Here I come to save the day... again!

“Here I come to save the day… again!”

Today’s meaning: Something that suits a particular style or model perfectly, in fine detail

This phrase comes all the way from the 1600s, which pre-dates the common belief that it refers to the T-square (a geometry drawing tool). It’s most likely that ‘fitting to a ‘t’’ was shorthand for ‘fitting to a tittle’, a line used in a play, which surprisingly had nothing to do with comfortable brassieres, but rather the little dot that hovers above a lower case ‘i’ – known to the few feckless souls who would care about knowing such a thing, as the tittle. Figuratively, it was used to emphasise a meticulous level of detail; thoroughness all the way down to the tiniest dot, a fine point. Eventually the phrase became used more to describe a perfect fit, rather than just a comprehensive analysis.

Put up your dukes

You're in for a jolly good hurting, sir

“You’re in for a jolly good hurting, sir.”

Today’s meaning: raising your fists in preparation for a fight

If someone told you to ‘put up your dukes’, you’d first-of-all realise you’re about to do pugilism; and second-of-all wonder how you teleported through time to a tavern-side alley in 1940s America. The term, though, dates way back to Georgian era cockney rhyming slang. When two geezers were about to throw down,  the’d taunt: ‘put up your forks (fingers)’ ,which became ‘put up your Dukes of Yorks’ and later simply ‘dukes’. Fisticuffs has always been a tradition ripe with slang, as seen in Samuel E. Chamberlain’s 1859 memoir My Confession, where he eloquently describes beating the snot out of someone: “I landed a stinger (punch) on his potatoe trap (mouth) with my left duke (fist), drawing the claret (blood) and sending him to grass.(floor)”. Even today, many refer to their fists as ‘dukes’, in preparation to ‘duke it out’, though I may have been a bit literal naming mine ‘Arthur Wessesley’ and ‘Rolf the Ganger Ragnvaldsson’. Just don’t mess with Arty and Rolf.

Keen as mustard

Rarely will you see a more appetizsng sandwich. Browns and yellows in delicious harmony.

Rarely will you see a more appetising sandwich. Browns and yellows in delicious harmony.

Today’s meaning: to be especially eager

Many would have you believe this common simile developed from the famous Keen’s Mustard brand that was founded in 1742, however, the saying existed even earlier than that. Much like today, Ye Olde England was a drizzle-soaked isle obsessed with roast beef, mustard and despising the French. There is much evidence of this in the many contemporary cultural references, such as Richard Leveridge’s brilliant 1735 song ‘Roast beef of old England – “When mighty Roast Beef Was the Englishman’s food / It ennobled our brains/ And enriched our blood…” And roast beef wasn’t roast beef back then without the accompanying mustard – the real, nostril-burningly, yellowy spreadable-death stuff.  The zestiness of the hugely popular condiment soon became a handy metaphor for a person who was particularly intense or eager, and remains so to this day.

Skeleton in the closet

'I'm in ur closet, lol'

“The charcoal grey or the burgundy today, sir?”

Today’s meaning: A hidden secret of someone’s past, generally something unseemly

Those who have skeletons in their closets are either keepers of a macabre secret, or really, really bad at the ‘seek’ part of hide-and-go-seek. The presumed origin of this phrase is your standard 17th century visceral ghastliness, when a burgeoning fascination in anatomical study and dissection swept through Europe’s enlightened academe. The doctors and surgeons of the time didn’t have access to the textbooks and cadavers that today’s medical students do, and so, unburied human corpses were quite the prize. If a doctor was lucky enough to come across a free dead body (entirely feasible back then), they’d then go to great lengths to conceal it for personal study, rather than share or give over to superiors. It became assumed that around that time, quite a few doctors had a secret skeleton stuffed away in a cupboard. Another (more believable) theory traces the phrase to Gothic novels, where the ‘skeleton in the closet’ was no more than a clever and creative plot allusion to a character’s past misdeeds, specifically murder. But the doctors cramming dead bodies in their cupboards explanation is way more amusing.