Alternate Oscars and Other Dubious Distinctions

As this year’s Academy Awards ceremony fast approaches, all signs point to it being a more “heavier” ceremony, what with boycotts and the ongoing issues with diversity, so I thought I would try and lighten things up a bit.

(Serious Sidebar – for the record, my view is yes – the Academy membership needs to be shaken up, but the reason for the lack of nominations for people of colour should not be focused so much on #OscarsSoWhite, but rather more on #FilmsSoWhite. The Academy has proven many times that it does recognize and award performances by people of colour – but the problem is that there needs to be more of these diverse performances in general. Film studios need to be casting more of their films with a colour-blind eye in order for change to really happen. Okay, serious stuff over).

Anyway, as I was saying – I’m just here to have a little fun with the Oscars right now. And to do so, I decided to create some frivolous Academy Award categories of my own, as well as some special achievement awards for some very special films, indeed.

And now, the (not really an) Oscar goes to…

Best Performance by Supporting Characters in a Lead Role

The Minions in Minions

Best Performance by a Lead Character in a Supporting Role

Tom Hardy as Mad Max in Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Performance by Channing Tatum as a sexy beast (figuratively)

As the titular stripper in Magic Mike XXL

Best Performance by Channing Tatum as a sexy beast (literally)

As Caine, the alien/dog hybrid bounty hunter in Jupiter Ascending

Outstanding Mascot of the Year (animal)

Bears (The Revenant, Ted 2, Paddington)

Outstanding Mascot of the Year (non-animal)

Droids (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)

Outstanding Achievement in Title Punctuation (cumulative work)

The colon (:)

The saviour of number-prone sequel titles, the colon was used in the titles of no less than 14 films released in 2015 (only one of which, Kingsman: The Secret Service, was a non-sequel/non-franchise film)

Outstanding Achievement in Title Punctuation (individual)

The period (.)

There’s nothing like a snappy acronym, and the period pulled quintuple duty to draw attention to the one in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Best-Titled Sequel

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

This and Jurassic World were the only sequels released in 2015 that eschewed both colons and numeric designations, but the edge goes to Hotel for craftily working into its title the fact that it’s the second Marigold Hotel movie

Worst-Titled Sequel

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

Both this and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation employed punctuation overkill with the combination of colon + dash, but only M:I – RN gets a pass, since the colon is part of its original tile. The Hunger Games however goes for the unnecessary overkill. Pro-tip: if you are including a numeric designation in your title, you don’t need to further separate it with any punctuation (even if there’s already a colon in play, which is amazingly something that Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 got right)

Best Film To Demonstrate Everything Wrong With Reboots, Superhero Films and Reboots of Superhero Films

Fantastic 4

Say what you will about the goofy Jessica Alba Fantastic Four films – at least they gave us an FF that was an actual superhero team using their super powers to do super-heroey things. In this desperate cash grab/film rights extender, we were supposedly getting a “grittier” version of the FF, but what we got was a sullen, sulky batch of millennials who spend almost the entire movie indoors (or in a dismal, dark otherworldy dimension) working on science stuff, bickering , walking down hallways and acting angsty. It was the film equivalent of someone shrugging their shoulders.

Best Anti-Tourism Film for a Title Location

San Andreas  (“Come for the great weather, stay because the earth cracked open and swallowed you up)
Everest  (“Come for the breath-taking views, stay because the altitude is also breath-taking, so now you’re dead.”)
Brooklyn (“Come to 1950s Brooklyn and see how charming, clean and pretty it is, stay because it’s 1950s Brooklyn and you’re stranded because smartphones, wi-fi, GPS and Uber haven’t been invented yet”)

Most Misleading Titles of the Year

Magic Mike XXL…the “XXL” was only in reference to the film’s running time
Trainwreck…was not a locomotive-based disaster flick
Ricki and the Flash…was not about a former talk show host who teams up with a superhero speedster

Least Creative Titles of the Year (aka “Titles that could also be MadLibs answers”)

Home
Room
Spy
Joy

And finally, a Special Award going to the year itself, 2015, for:

Outstanding Achievement in Box Office – Worst Wide Openings

A “wide opening” film is a film that debuts on at least 2,000 screens. 2015 saw the release of not one, not two, but FOUR wide opening films that did so bad that they all managed to land in the Top 20 on the list of films with the all-time worst opening-weekend box office grosses (the most of any year represented on the list).

Even more incredible is that three of the films, Jem and the Holograms ($1.37mil), Rock The Kasbah ($1.47mil) and We Are Your Friends ($1.76mil) charged in right to the top tier, nabbing the fourth, fifth and sixth slots. 2015’s other entry on the list, Victor Frankenstein, just barely sneaked in at number 19 ($2.46).

And so, by producing not only some of the biggest box-office blockbusters of all time like Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Jurassic World and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 …but also some of the biggest flops of all time as well, 2015 showed that it truly was a diverse year for movies!

Congrats, 2015!

 

 

 

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Rise of the Generic Titles

It has to be a little stressful for television show creators when it comes time to decide on a title for a new series. Not only do they need to find a title that is going to catch viewers’ eyes, pique their interest and be memorable, but also one that conveys (or should convey) some specific information about the show itself. Take, for random example, The Cosby Show, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Twin Peaks, and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation – all perfectly fine titles that resonated with viewers and each related something specific about each show – whether it be the star, the characters, the location or the concept.

tvtitles1

And coming soon: GUYS, TEENS and SPOUSES!

With each passing year, the number of network and cable television shows that hit the airwaves increases (over 200 returning and new prime time series will have hit the small screen by the end of 2013) so you think it would be of the highest priority that new shows try to have a title that sticks out from the crowd. But this year, more than ever, that’s the exact opposite of what’s happening.

It could be a wide-spread case of “playing it safe”, since for every How I Met Your Mother or Breaking Bad (unique titles that tie in well to their shows) there’s an Up All Night (whose title referred to the series’ barely touched-upon  concept of parents adjusting to being “up all night” with their new baby) or Cougar Town (a great show with a title that was such an obvious wrong fit that it became a running joke on its opening title card – and surely didn’t help the ratings-challenged ensemble comedy gain any additional viewers). But there’s playing it safe – think titles like The Michael J. Fox Show or Chicago Fire – and then there’s not playing at all, which is what we’re seeing in full-force this year. Vague and generic titles are on the rise, and there needs to be a stop put to them before our tv listings look like random pages of a thesaurus.

REVENGE OF THE GIRLS

I blame this rise on the success of two unassuming little shows – Revenge and Girls. When both these shows became modest hits for their relative networks (ABC and HBO) it was like television show creators everywhere suddenly had a revelation and said “Hey, if they can do it, so can we – we don’t have to think of  good or interesting titles anymore – we can just title everything after  keyword searches!”  And thus was born the Generic Age.

Just a few short years ago the words “Scandal. Deception. Betrayal” might have been used as the tagline in an ad for a show like Desperate Housewives or likewise, the copy “Crisis. Revolution. Revenge” in a promo for Game of Thrones. But in 2013, Scandal, Deception, Betrayal, Crisis, Revolution and  Revenge are all titles of shows unto themselves. Seriously – these are just…words. They’re overview words – words that would describe one element of a plot line – words that would appear onscreen next to a newscaster as he or she conveyed details of a breaking story. These aren’t stand-alone titles, and yet there they are, all over the tv schedule.

tvtitles2

If these were all taglines for one show, I’d be watching the HELL out of it.

It’s almost insulting to the intelligence of the viewers. At the very least, it feels like the powers that be behind these shows saw a chance to avoid the burden of thinking up creative titles and went just went for it:

“Let’s see, that show about those girls is called Girls, so…let’s call our show about dads Dads!”

“Nice! What about a title for this show we got about the recovering alcoholic who moves back in with her mom? On The Wagon? Suddenly Sober? I’ll Drink To That?”

“Hey – how about “Mom”?

“PERFECT”

*Sigh*. There is however, one thing we can count on in these dark times to help fight the battle against the rise of generic titled series –book adaptations. So long as there are still books to be optioned into series we can take solace that there will be creative titles in television. Gossip Girl, The Vampire Diaries, Pretty Little Liars, Game of Thrones, Under The Dome – all interesting titles that all came from pre-existing works. And it’s a good thing that they did, for if they had all been originally created for television, then we would probably be referring to them as Rich, Sexy, Secrets, Kings and Trapped. 

Nonsensical Sequel Titles 2: Franchise Fiascos

So, my last post on nonsensical sequel titles , along with the current crop of films raking it in at the box office, got me thinking of another little problem I have with sequel titles – this one  has to do with sequel titles in specific film franchises (and you should also note that I’m adhering to proper sequel titling etiquette with this post – since this is a follow-up, and not a continuation, of my previous post there is no “Part II” in the title, just a regular, sequel-indicating, traditional “2”).

Now this probably speaks to the OCD side of me, but I really like it when the movies in a film franchise all maintain a similarity across all their titles. Whether it be the basic sequel numbering (as in Scream, Scream 2, Scream 3 and Scream 4) or a recurring titling structure (as in the follow-ups to 1968’s Planet of the Apes –with each film prefacing the original title with either Beneath The…, Escape From The…, Conquest Of The… and  Battle For The…), what can I say, I just love consistency.

But don't even get me started on how Halloween III is the most non-sequel sequel of any film franchise

But don’t even get me started on how Halloween III is the most non-sequel sequel of any film franchise

Now, I only find it mildly irritating when there’s just a superfluous inconsistency in franchise titles. I mean, it irks me that the Halloween franchise went from numbering their sequels with Roman numerals, to standard numeric figures, to dropping the numbering altogether, but it’s not really that big of a deal (and I do appreciate that they were at least consistent in their progression of changes).

However, when the title changes are inconsistent from film to film and choices are made that makes the titles actually stop making sense, well that’s where I have a bigger problem.

I’m pretty sure I was the only kid who was disgruntled way back in 1988 when Rambo III came out…and not because of anything to do with the actual film, but with the title. I mean, yes – everyone knew that technically this was the third movie with Sylvester Stallone playing John Rambo – but the first movie was called First Blood and its sequel was Rambo: First Blood Part II. So if the third film isn’t going to have “First Blood” as part of  its title, then “III” should not be a part of title either. Call it Rambo’s Revenge, Rambo: Still Killin’ or whatever…but calling it Rambo III would imply that there was a Rambo II, which there was not (not to mention a Rambo, which actually does exist, now — albeit as the fourth movie in the series. *sigh* I know.)

RamboSo, this brings me to the example that got me thinking about this all over again. One of the biggest current franchises is also one of the worst offenders when it comes to inconsistent sequel titling. It’s like the makers of these films have a big hat filled with scraps of paper on which are written words from the first film’s title, some numbers and maybe a random location or two, and whenever they make a new film they can only pull a certain number of scraps out of the hat before they have to make a title out of their selections. Yes, I’m talking about the Fast and the Furious franchise.

Now, just take a moment to look at this collage of titles here. It’s like some messed up version of the Sesame Street standard “One of these kids is FastFurdoin’ his own thing” – except it’s all of the kids, and they should know better and they’re not setting a good example for others.

Let’s break it down and see when and how logic leaves this franchise’s titles:

The Fast and the Furious – first film, so nothing wrong here

2 Fast 2 Furious – unintentionally amusing, but actually works, given the film (and moreso if the franchise is going to go the non-traditional sequel titling route)

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift – kind of odd to refer back to the original title now, but it does the job to indicate that the film belongs to the F&F franchise but might not be an out-and-out sequel. Lack of a “3” is in line with the non-traditional sequel titling.

Fast & Furious – ooookay, things are starting to get shaky. Title loses a couple of  “the”s  and swaps in an ampersand for “and”, making it all right in line with the off-putting recent trend of sequels just modifying the name of the original film, like they’re trying to hide the fact that they are actually a sequel (see also: The Final Destination, the aforementioned Rambo, The Wolverine). Still, marks for being consistent in avoiding the traditional sequel numbering though.

Fast Five – Actually kind of genius. Shortens the title even more (since at this point audiences know what the franchise is) and by spelling out “Five”, it manages to convey it’s the fifth film while still avoiding the traditional sequel numbering.

Fast & Furious 6 – Good lord, here’s where it all blows up. Someone decided “screw creativity” and that now, six films in, would be a good time to fall back on the traditional sequel titling and numbering. The thing is, “Fast & Furious 6” used as a title would logically indicate that it is the fifth sequel to a film called “Fast & Furious”. But, since the franchise’s title was never officially shortened (as it would’ve been if they had released the fourth film as “Fast & Furious 4”) “Fast & Furious” only refers to the fourth film, not the franchise (which is still “The Fast and the Furious”)…thereby making Fast & Furious 6 this year’s Rambo III – a sequel title with no immediate predecessor.

Of course, just like Rambo III, everyone knows that this film is the latest installment of a popular franchise, so it’s not like this is having a negative effect. What it is doing though is sending out yet another message that filmmakers care less about logic and sensibility when it comes to titling their sequels – they just want to get their films out there with the least complicated, most recognizable branding they can (which of course, isn’t really a shocker).

Am I being nit-picky? Absolutely. I can’t help it, but I just find it to be a problem that something as simple as title consistency just gets brushed aside with so many big money-making franchises.

However, if they decide to title the next installment Mo’ Faster, Mo’ Furiouser, then I’m all in – consistency be damned!

Nonsensical Sequel Titles

PROBLEM: In terms of box office business, sequels are bigger than ever. However, in the rush to get their latest money-making franchise film out the door and on the screen, some filmmakers have apparently not bothered to notice (or care) that the titles of their sequels don’t actually make sense.

At its most basic, making a sequel and slapping a number after a film’s title indicates that the film carries over elements of the original film to tell a new story that is either: influenced by the events of the original film, follows characters from the original film and/or depicts events very similar to those in the original film.  Seems straight-forward, enough, right? Well here are some examples that show how sometime a few little tweaks to movie title can cause a whole mess of problems for its sequel.

The Hangover Part II and Part III

Now, when a film has “Part__” after the title, logic would indicate that it is a direct continuation of the story started in the previous film. For example, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is the second half of the story that was begun in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. So, that brings us to The Hangover. With the title of the film depicting a single event, the only way for The Hangover Part II and The Hangover Part III to make sense as titles is if all three films dealt with the events of the same titular hangover.

If they had kept it simple and gone with just adding a “2” and “3” all would be well…but this was probably done from a marketing standpoint in hopes that adding “Part” to the titles would help distract from the fact that they were really nothing more than your basic, unnecessary carbon-copy sequels.

I Still Know What You Did Last Summer

In trying to add a bit of creativity to sequel titling, this one ended up becoming one of the best nonsensical sequel titles out there. Since the events of this film take place the summer AFTER those of the first film, then this should really be called I Still Know What You Did The Summer Before Last. If the producers didn’t want to go the traditional numbered sequel route, they could have just called it I Know What You Did THAT Summer – or even better, take the idea they chose but cut it off: I Still Know What You Did.

The Last Exorcism 2

Ugh. Just…no. If the first film was about  a “Last Exorcism”, then that means by all indications there should be no more exorcisms! You gotta be a little more creative in the title department if you are going to make a sequel to something with a title that  indicates a certain finality. I mean, even the people behind the Friday the 13th  films knew to do this, when they followed up the fourth film in the series Friday the 13th – The Final Chapter  by slapping A New Beginning after the title of the fifth one.

The Haunting In Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia

I can’t even with this one…it’s a mess and makes my head hurt just reading it. SO many things wrong, I have to make a list:

1) This is not a sequel to The Haunting in Connecticut
2) This does not involve ghosts from Georgia moving to Connecticut
3) It is not about ANY haunting in Connecticut
4) It doesn’t involve anyone leaving Connecticut and moving to Georgia
5) It IS about a haunting in Georgia
6) Fun fact: During production it was called The Haunting in Georgia

Obviously, the makers of this film were not sure if audiences would make the connection that a film called The Haunting in Georgia would be similar to the similarly-titled The Haunting in Connecticut. But instead of say, adding a tag-line like “from the makers of The Haunting in Connecticut”, they probably had a conversation along the lines of this:

“Screw it, just slap a number after Connecticut. Problem solved, connection made.”

“Well, technically it’s not really a sequel”

“Then…tack Ghosts of Georgia on it. Boom. Done.”

“But…that doesn’t even make sen–“

“I said DONE!”

So there you have it – some fine examples of an enduring pop culture problem – the complete disregard for sensible sequel titles. There are of course many more out there, and surely more to come, so a sequel to this post might just be in order someday.