In the tradition of Reverse Shot’s Dictionary of Received Film Criticism, here are 20 shots to be henceforth retired from film vocabulary. Compiled by your RS pals filmenthusiast2000, clarencecarter, robbiefreeling, sean mcavoy, eshman, and bugs meaney.
1. Moving clouds sped up.
2. It starts off in a long shot and a guy’s all far away and walking toward the camera and you’re all “Uh-oh am I going to have to watch him walk the whole way?” and you do and it takes three minutes or more. “Ooh, look at me, I’m sculpting with time!” Fuck you.
3. Alienated teen or adolescent girl in the passenger side of a car driving down the highway, window rolled down, her hand swaying in the wind as she zips down a road to Who Knows Where.
4. Overhead shot of protagonist in the rain, arms spread, just letting the downpour COME. Laughing optional. (See The Shawshank Redemption, Pleasantville, Instinct)
5. All side angle above-boob shower shots of women “cleansing” themselves of previous events. (Also: Into mirror shots of people washing faces in the sink, then looking up to examine their wet face in the mirror, mouth open. Extra hate to those that move characters from grimaces to tears.)
6. Protagonist on mass transit, looking pensive. Literally everyone looks miserable on mass transit. This conveys no information other than maybe they don’t have a car. And turn off that fucking melancholic electronica, while you’re at it.
7. Mexican/Sicilian/Indian/Iranian children running through streets without a care in the world, smiling and laughing, running right by a mother who hardly notices them, so busy is she hanging laundry
8. Helicopter shots of anything meant to signify connectedness. (NOTE: Helicopter shots for no good reason, however, can definitely stay.)
9. Any shot of someone throwing or catching a football especially slow motion with background a crowd in soft-focus. (NOTE: Footballs thrown against rubber tires to signify erectile dysfunction can stay.)
10. Dude goes to open a safe or a refrigerator or whatever and PRESTO the camera’s shooting out from inside the safe or refrigerator or whatever. That’s some bush league My First Creative Camerawork shit.
11. Anything with barrel distortion. I will slap that fucking 10mm lens off your camera, hotshot.
12. Shots of people dropping objects from the perspective of the object being dropped.
13. Super close-ups of old people’s eyes. Waking up from a dream or something. It means the film will be from his/her point of view and will probably flash back because we don’t want to watch movies entirely about old people. These moments are meant to instill gravity, because seeing crow’s feet in extreme close-up makes us contemplate death. (See The Green Mile, Saving Private Ryan, Titanic)
14. Epiphanies while jogging—gliding tracking shot, then pull up short when they get winded, physically and existentially. alternative: keep going as they double over.
15. In documentaries: Stock footage of 1950s appliance ads and educational reels for goofy/eerie/conformism effect. Also in docs: comic beats that rely on holding the shot slightly too long on an interviewee after he’s obliviously said something weird/dorky.
16. In trailers: Character’s chest is heaving from the exertion of a hasty retreat. He or she is slumped but still wary, back to a wall. Is it gone? Can it hear me? You can hear the percussive thump-thump, thump-thump of their heartbeat, louder and louder, coming though on the Dolby. Stop heartbeat. Screen goes black. They’re safe? OHMYGODNO IT’S A 30-FRAME CUTAWAY OF SOMETHING SCARY AHAHHAHAHAHAHAAAAA.
17 Goes without saying, but shit blowing up while somebody walks away and DOESN’T EVEN TURN AROUND THEY’RE SO NONPLUSSED* (buttrock riffs on soundtrack, usually).
18. Old-timey camera flashbulb close-up opens shot. Often in slo-mo so you can see the scorching filament. (See: every Scorsese movie save Kundun—and I’ll have to go check that).
19. Over-the-shoulder long takes that supposedly get in the mind of the character but only show their shoulder, really, and maybe an ear. Doesn’t work anymore, post Rosetta. (See: The Wrestler)
20. Anything like the still from The Pope’s Toilet, above. Yes, that’s right, New York, the Uruguyan film The Pope’s Toilet is coming to MoMA.
* [ED. “unperturbed” or “self-possessed”?]