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FLINCHING AT THE FLICKS

 

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Nov. 29, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: Playing in theaters now are ‘Zombieland: Double Tap,’ ‘Countdown,’ ‘Joker’ and ‘Doctor Sleep,’ and in the next few weeks we’ll see ‘Brahms: The Boy II’ and ‘Black Christmas.’ What do they all have in common? They’re all violent horror movies, of course. Welcome to the holiday cinema season. This seeming contradiction in timing, and the idea of watching blood ‘n’ guts during the season of giving, reminded me of this column, published in the Deseret News on Dec. 15, 1991, under the headline, ‘A Few Things I Wouldn’t Mind Never Seeing Again.’ But, of course, I have seen them again … over and over and over.

Years ago I had a standard answer whenever people would attempt to justify the movies' ever-increasing penchant for graphic violence.

 

The defense would usually go something like this: It's more realistic to show blood and guts than to have a wounded cowboy fall from his horse without so much as a drop of blood or to have a gangster dropped with a Tommy gun, yet not have a single bloody bullet hole in his well-tailored jacket.

 

Similarly, arguments for sex scenes would go like this: It's more realistic to show a couple writhing in bed together making love than to have them in separate beds or keeping one foot on the floor, as was the case during the strict Production Code era.

 

Since my own prudish sensibilities tend to prefer the good old days, when things were more subtle and you had to use your imagination, I'm not thrilled with graphic gore or explicit sex on the screen. Not only is it the easy choice, it's redundant. How many ways can these things be shown, after all, before they simply become tiresome?

 

So, years ago, I had this flippant, pat answer: Well, throwing up is also part of life, but I don't want to watch it on a 40-foot high movie screen.

 

Unfortunately, in the intervening years, movies that graphically depict throwing up have become commonplace.

 

         

William Powell, Myrna Loy, Asta (the dog), 'The Thin Man' (1934)

 

Back in the old days — like 10 or 15 years ago — at worst we'd see someone run into the bathroom and then we'd hear hacking and coughing on the soundtrack. But these days … well, of course, anything goes. For me, it reached its zenith in "Dead-Bang," in which Don Johnson chased down a criminal, threw him to the ground, sat on him and vomited on his chest.

 

My argument remains the same — I don't want to see it. But it seems like I do see it in every other film.

 

All of this is a long overture to today's subject, which is things I don't like to see in the movies.

 

What got me thinking about this was a conversation with my wife, Joyce, after a screening recently. A scene in the film showed two men in the movie standing side-by-side at urinals in a public restroom, where they casually strike up a conversation. After the film, Joyce asked, "Do strangers really talk to each other when they're standing in front of those things? We've seen that in at least a dozen movies lately."

 

She's right; we have seen that in at least a dozen recent films — maybe two dozen. And it is, to me, a very odd trend, especially since, as she suggests, it doesn't happen that much in real life. At least, I've never been inclined to strike up a conversation with a stranger while in that very private position.

 

So why is this a trend in the movies? Who knows? But it has prompted me to think of other things I wouldn't mind never again experiencing in movies:

 

— Severed limbs. This is the kind of thing that Steven Seagal and Arnold Schwarzenegger revel in. Think "Out for Justice" or "Total Recall."

 

     

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sharon Stone, 'Total Recall' (1990)

 

— Children in peril. Think "Lethal Weapon" and, currently, "The Last Boy Scout." Someone holding a gun to a child's head is not an image I'm fond of.

 

—Children swearing. When did it become vogue for youngsters, particularly pre-adolescents, to spew vile words, whether profanities or vulgar phrases?

 

— The Eddie Murphy Word. Also commonly referred to as the "F-word," this four-letter obscenity is not simply used once or twice in anger anymore. It's become an integral part of the language in some films and it's even used as a syllable in the middle of other, common words. Someone buy these screenwriters a thesaurus, please.

 

— Obscene gestures. Whenever someone offers the most typical of these, using the middle finger, it's done with such flourish that you wonder if the filmmaker really believes it's the first time anyone has used it in a film.

 

— Flatulence and burping. Like obscene gestures, filmmakers who use these as comic devices seem to think they are original. It's the cheap-joke route for those who are humor-impaired.

 

— Nudity. Why do women continue to do nude scenes? It's obvious that the men who make the movies are exploiting the actresses who disrobe. Haven't they noticed that nearly every time an intimate scene is portrayed on the screen we see the woman nude but not the man?

 

There are many other similarly offensive elements in too many movies today, but you get the point.

 

Say what you want about the old days; movies may have been less technically refined, less rooted in realism and more fanciful — but they were also a lot more creative.

 

Today, too many movies look too much alike, and not in ways that are flattering.