The Alphabet of Hollywood Formulae – Ian Smith

The Alphabet of Hollywood Formulae

Altitude. Frantic rooftop chases culminate in close-ups, a trailing heel just making the near-impossible leap to safety.

Blood. Incarnadine. Always dramatic.

Convoys of cars filmed in curvilinear swoops, never held up by other traffic.

Drivers frowning into rear-view mirrors, realising they are being tailed, speaking without checking the road yet never veering.

Eiffel Tower. Or the White House. Or the Millennium Wheel. OK, I get location.

Funerals. Many as opening scenes, often in rain. Black umbrellas, white tombstones, sometimes a figure unseen by other mourners lurking behind trees.

Guest appearances by directors. Think Hitchcock, Tarantino. What about Where’s Wally?

Helicopters. I blame Apocalypse Now.

Images in mirrors. Often not revealed initially, too often used.

Jets. On runways, in cabins, cockpits, taking off, landing. We’re on the move again.

Kickboxers, suited, skivvied, working for cartels. Asian. Buzz cuts. Dark glasses, clothing. Endless robotic thugs who lose in the end.

Lighting. Night, danger afoot. All lights off. But we see?

Mouths mumbling, foam-flecked, impaled by toothbrushes. Verisimilitude.

Neurotic loners, crazy Vietnam vets, or porcelain dolls, glassy-eyed, cobwebbed, childhood blameworthy for madness.

Open air market stalls smashed by vehicles, vendors scrambling through orange showers, flying fruit and veg, a spectacular rolling mess.

Pursuits. Stunt drivers synchronising wheeled choreography, good guys unscathed.

Quixotic sympathetic leads impeded by thronged extras blocking streets, unlike car convoys, life or death time ticking away.

Retching characters in shock who, when they make it to a toilet, kneel, grip, plunge their faces right inside grungy bowls.

Shaving. Any man knows lather is being scraped from already smooth skin.

Theft, intellectual, from past greats, euphemistically called homage.

Underwhelmed. Predictable plots plod, Tuesday following Monday.

VIPs promenading down warrens of corridors towards our camera’s POV.

Women, bras underneath nightgowns, pyjamas, waking made-up.

X-rays. Ranks of silvery ghosts, shorthand for grave medical importance.

Yaks. The Himalayan region’s Eiffel Tower, Everest mirroring every other mountain. Ditto, yurts for the steppes. I don’t mind this, love yaks. And yurts.

Zoos where filmic single dads access kids, zebras backgrounded. Perhaps yaks?