Film Techniques We Would Like to See Removed

Top Five is a show where the hosts categorize, rank, compare, and stratify everything… from cars to gadgets to people and movies. From stuff that is hot, and things that are not nearly as interesting – it’s Top Five.

There are some film techniques that are overused to the point where they have become a bore, and in this episode we rank them from five all the way to number one.

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About Author

Stephen Schleicher began his career writing for the Digital Media Online community of sites, including Digital Producer and Creative Mac covering all aspects of the digital content creation industry. He then moved on to consumer technology, and began the Coolness Roundup podcast. A writing fool, Stephen has freelanced for Sci-Fi Channel's Technology Blog, and Gizmodo. Still longing for the good ol' days, Stephen launched Major Spoilers in July 2006, because he is a glutton for punishment. You can follow him on Twitter @MajorSpoilers and tell him your darkest secrets...


  1. I lost steam after 2, but I really hate both of them so I could easily give my number 1 slots 4 and 3 as well, with number 2 also using number 5…

    2) Cinema Verite – as seen in any MTV show, but particular in The Real World. My biggest problem with this aside from the general feeling of voyeurism is the funny angles and hand camera feeling they go for. If the camera is at an angle, I assume we’re looking at villains (Thanks, 60s Batman).

    1) Shaky Cam – please stop trying to make me throw up to put “realism” in your super hyped up impossibly crazy choreographed fight scene. I’ll be far more forgiving of any flaws in the sequence if you let me see the whole thing.

  2. I’m not going to do a full list, but I am going to build on Matthew’s #1. While I agree that “I am Legend” was horribly butchered, there’s a worse offender in my book.

    In 1967, a film took on the controversial topic of interracial marriage. Biting and dramatic, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” was groundbreaking and amazing. Netting Katharine Hepburn a Best Actress Oscar, William Rose a Best Writing Oscar, and earning eight other nominations, the movie is a classic.

    In 2005, Ashton Kutcher and Bernie Mac took a massive dump on Spencer Tracy and Sidney Poitier by turning the remake “Guess Who” into a horrible comedic farce.

  3. 3. Taking a franchise name and attaching it to something completely different. If I go to see a film called Transformers, I don’t want it to be focused on the humans no matter how hot that girl is. And if you can’t do it because CGI doesn’t show emotion then make it an animated film. You can’t tell me that animated films don’t make money. Incredibles? Toy Story?

    2. The creation of unfeasible devices to propel the story at break neck speed. This is related to the McGuffin technique that has already been said but I still want to rant about it. JJ Abrams basically eliminated the need for Starships when he decided that you can A) Transport into a Warping starship. B) Transport from Planet to Planet (Feasibly Hundreds of Light years away) using a device that fits in a duffle bag. Slow the story down a bit already! I rather the story make sense than it to be 2 hours of actions scenes dive-bombing over and over. It used to be movies would stop for a bit and let Doc Brown explain how alternate time lines work. Now days there will be a giant time monster that chases Marty to the next Lens flare scene.

    1. I can’t stand fight scenes where the combatants seem to be tripping over the camera because it’s so close and the scenes cut about the half second mark. Pull that camera back and do it in one or two shots. You might as well make a giant cloud and see hands and feet thrust out every so often like the old Beetle Bailey cartoons.

  4. Burtonizing a film (after Tim Burton). Also known as filming “comic book” type movies in the dark. Latest example “I’ve seen” is Pacific Rim. Monsters and villains only come out in the dark or cloudy days like vampires.
    Best example of how to do a “comic book” movie right Superman Man of Steel.
    That’s my 1,2,3,4 and 5.

  5. Just for clarification, Katie Holmes was 27 When Batman Begins came out, Scarlett Johansson was 26 for Iron Man 2, and Kate Bosworth was 23 during Superman Returns. Brandon Routh was 26 in Superman Returns.

  6. The only one I can think of is one that Stephen mentioned off hand, the fast-cut, can’t see a thing battle sequence. Makes me motion sick on the big screen and just plain sucks otherwise.

  7. _Don’t put the movie title to the end of the film just because it’s cool. While there are some movies where it works perfectly (“The Dark Knight Rises”), what was the intention of holding the title card back to the moment just before the final credits in “Avatar” or “The Hunger Games”?
    Well made intro sequences like from “Alien” or “Terminator” actually create a mood with the title sequence without having negative effects on immersion.

    _Color filtering to create a cold, gritty mood like in the last few Harry Potter Movies. There is no reasonable explanation for the altered colors, except creating a mood by post-production-effects. I know they wanted to create a threatening mood compared to the first three movies that had a more light hearted visual style. But they definitely exaggerated the effect in parts five and six.
    I have no problem with hue/saturation effects if they have a good reason and are mostly situational.

    _”Whispers and explosions” – please don’t.

    _”Jump scare!! Oh, it was just the cat!”. I guess this is more likely a trope than a technique.

    _Whenever possible, don’t use CGI Effects. While there are some examples of just bad CGI-effects (think Tobey Maguire-Spiderman action sequences), they tend to change the way, a movie maker thinks about a movie. Remember interviews that go like this: “With advanced technology, we finally were able to create our vision”. This can turn out just fine, but more often leads to movies like Avatar or Transformers, where there is not a lot of depth behind the beautiful facade.

  8. 3D is number one on my list. It seems like every major movie has a 3D version now, but in all but a few cases, it does nothing for the movie. It’s just a way for them to make extra money.

    Also I hate the glasses. Especially now that I’m wearing eye glasses.

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