Sunday, July 09, 2006

Glossary of Specialized Terms

All praise to Jabootu.

Glossary of Specialized Terms for Jabootu’s Dimension of Bad Movies

In an effort to aid the casual reader who may not be up on all the jargon of the dedicated Jabootuist, this glossary will explain words and phrases ranging from general ‘film’ terms to the more specialized language of the Jabootuite.

Atomic Grenade (n): Any explosive device that results in an explosion far out of proportion to it’s apparent capabilities. EXAMPLE: "You’re telling me that whatever was in that little purse blew up that entire building?! She must have been carrying an Atomic Grenade!"

The Avoid the Limbs Rule (n): This stipulates that when confronting a monster who can be damaged by gunfire (i.e., we can see chunks blown off) but not killed, that the shooter will never try to blow the creature’s legs off, so as to disable it or at least slow down pursuit.

The Borgnine Proviso (n): An obscure Hollywood Union rule which stipulated that, should one choose to produce a Disaster Movie during the 1970s, a role must be provided for Ernest Borgnine. Should he be otherwise engaged, one may opt to substitute either George Kennedy or Slim Pickins.

Box Picture (n): A film, usually a Disaster Movie, which spotlights its large cast in a series of small boxes along the bottom of the poster. These are usually highlighted with thumbnail credits revealing the generic nature of the actor’s role: "Leslie Nielsen is The Captain." Eventually, Box Pictures died out when rising salaries made the required mix of major and minor stars too expensive. Perhaps the last major Box Picture was Delta Force. ("George Kennedy is The Priest")

The Cricket Rule (n): Dubbed in cricket sounds always indicate that a scene is taking place at night, no matter how bad the day-for-night photography is, or even if (ala The Curse of Bigfoot) the sun is prominently visible throughout the scene.

Day-for-Night (adj.): Photography shot during the day using tilted filters to decrease light levels. Done properly, it makes a scene look like it’s taking place at night. Done improperly, it makes a scene look like it was ineptly shot day-for-night. See also the Cricket Rule.

Designated Hero (n): A character who we know the film regards as its ‘hero,’ even though he or she is not, in any objective sense, all that heroic. Designated Heroes usually get a ‘free from responsibility’ pass from the filmmakers, even when their actions result in mass deaths. Take, for example, Ally Sheedy’s reporter character in Man’s Best Friend. The movie ‘blames’ its generic Mad Scientist for the film’s mayhem. Yet it was the film’s ‘heroine’ who illegally broke into the guy’s lab and, in fact, loosed the killer dog upon the world. She then hides the dog at home, over the objections of her boyfriend, who is later horribly killed by it. Yet the film never explores (or even mentions) her culpability in the resultant carnage, pretty much just because she’s ‘the hero.’ This concept is most deeply explored in Douglas Milroy’s review of The Beast, which contains a bonus Designated Villain as well as a Designated Hero.

Exploitation Filmmakers’ Credo (n): "Come on, these dummies can’t remember what they saw five minutes ago!" Upon hearing this line in Terminal Island, Jason posited that it represented the EFC.

Foley Work (n): The insertion of sound effects on the soundtrack, as in putting in footstep sounds when someone on screen is walking about. Named for legendary soundman Jack Foley. I personally use the term informally, often as a verb: "The filmmakers’ helpfully foley in a rather exaggerated splat sound when he hits the ground."

"Fruit Cart, Fruit Cart!" (n): (Coined by Roger Ebert) Phrase chanted by movie buffs during any car chase taking place in either a foreign land or an ethnic neighborhood, in the certainty that the contents of a fruit cart will be spilled sometime during the proceedings.

Hero’s Death Battle Exemption (n): This rule stipulates that a monster or murderer will have to spend at least ten times the amount of time and effort killing a hero/heroine (or his/her significant other) than anyone else in the picture. EXAMPLE: In Prophecy, the killer mutant bear instantly kills folks throughout the movie with one swipe of its claw. Yet it ‘chooses’ to pick up the hero and hold him up to its face long enough to allow him to repeatedly stab it in the head with an arrow, eventually killing it. This despite the fact that the hero’s attack takes well over ten times the amount of time that it took the bear to kill any other person in the film. Even then, the hero emerges from the bear’s claws unscathed.

IITS (n): (i.e., ‘It’s in the Script’) Explanation for actions taken by any character that make, in context, absolutely no sense, but serve merely to advance the plot. EXAMPLE:
Perplexed Viewer: "Why is she wandering around when there’s a killer on the loose?"
Knowledgeable Viewer: "IITS!"

Idiot Picture (n): (Coined by Roger Ebert) A film who’s plot can proceed only if everyone in the film is an idiot. For instance, you’re among a group trapped inside a house. One of you is a murderer, but you’re stuck there until morning. If you all decide to split up rather than stay together as a group all night, then you’re in an Idiot Picture.

Idiot World (n): The setting of any film, usually sci-fi or fantasy, which portrays a world that we, the viewers, feel we could immediately wrest power over. EXAMPLE: "That doofus is the Evil Overlord?! Man, I could seize control of this Idiot World in about 10 minutes!"
Informed Attributes (n): When a character displays a mediocre or even inept level of skill in some discipline (anything from dancing to writing to fighting), yet we are shown other characters lauding their talents. This is to signal the audience that, at least in the universe presented in the film, these people are to be considered as highly proficient at their craft, however much this belies the evidence of our eyes and/or ears. EXAMPLE: When we watch actor ‘Frankie Fane’ chew up the scenery in The Oscar, yet learn through dialog that his performance was considered to be skilled. Informed Attributes can also pertain to non-apparent character traits, as when one character notes another’s purportedly high intelligence or sexual magnetism.

James Bond Exposition Rule (n): Film convention that dictates that a supervillain isn’t allowed to kill the hero until he has meticulously revealed his master plan, including vital data regarding time elements and such. Traditionally, this takes so much time that the Villain must leave before personally seeing to it that the hero is taken care of. Inevitably, his goofball assistants then mess up the job, allowing to hero to exploit his newly gained knowledge and disrupt the villain’s plan.

Jason’s Rule of Explosive Endings (n): The habit of Bad Movies, having run out of ideas, to end the picture by just blowing things up. Formulated in his review of The Island of Dr. Moreau.

Ken and Andrew’s Rule of Plot Holes (n): This rule, formulated with the help of fellow Bad Movie aficionado Andrew Muchoney, stipulates that if a viewer is forced to construct (or attempt to construct) an elaborate framework of suppositions in order to cover over some hole in a film’s plot, then somebody on the production side of things hasn’t been doing their job.

Ken’s Rule of Guns (n): This stipulates that people will invariably forgo the ‘space’ advantage of a firearm, i.e., that it can be used at a distance. In effect, it means that gun bearers will move close enough to their targets so as to lose their weapons in a fight. This rule has saved more heroes than the James Bond Exposition Rule. Example: In On Deadly Ground, one character, who spends the entire movie ranting that Seagal’s character is the greatest commando in the history of the planet, gets the drop on him with a shotgun. Instead of just shooting him, however, he moves close enough to invoke Ken’s Rule of Guns. Seagal, by the way, has probably profited from KROG more than any other actor in film history.

Ken’s Rule of High Altitude Mortality (n): This stipulates that anyone who plunges off a tall structure (a building, a cliff, etc.,) will let loose with a loud death shriek, no matter how much damage he takes before the fall. EXAMPLE: In Robocop, villain Ronnie Cox has his chest perforated by a full clip of cartridges from Robocop’s machine pistol. Despite the fact that his lungs must be shredded, he manages to loudly scream as the impact of the dozens of bullets punches him through a high story window.

Ken’s Second Rule of High Altitude Mortality (n): No one in any sort of raised position will ever die without falling to the ground. This, mysteriously, using involves falling forward after being shot, despite the fact that the human body naturally falls backwards and that the impact of being shot would seem to add to this tendency.

Light Bulb Moment (n): When a character is enacted in such a way as to indicate that he or she is getting a big idea of some sort.

McGuffin (n): (Coined by Alfred Hitchcock) A McGuffin (also MacGuffin or Maguffin) is a term for whatever generic whatsis is driving the plot of an action or suspense picture. EXAMPLE: In the espionage flick Ronin, the characters are chasing a briefcase. We never learn the what’s in it, but its existence drives the film. For a more concrete example, the mystical Ark of the Covenant is the McGuffin in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Misdirected Answering (n): The habit of Bad Movie to spend time answering little questions you’ve probably not even thought of while ignoring truly gigantic plot holes. EXAMPLE: In Irwin Allen’s The Swarm, a film with as many gaping plot flaws as there are stars in the sky, a hunk of dialog is used to explain why Michael Caine’s scientist character sports a British accent.

The Misleading Masculine Moniker Rule (n): This stipulates that any incoming scientific expert in a ’50s sci-fi film will sport an androgynous or downright mannish first name (or be referred to by initials) like Pat or Steve, only to turn out to be a woman. This will set up a ‘meet cute’ "Why, you’re a girl!" scene between her and the film’s hero, which in turn will establish her as the film’s obligatory Love Interest.

Monster Death Trap Proviso (n): This stipulates that any stratagem to destroy a monster, once it has failed, may not be attempted again, even if it only failed because of some bizarre fluke. Nor can the same plan be refined and tried again. Instead, a completely other plan must be formulated.

Nut o’ Fun (n): Generic term for any prop or object meant solely as set dressing, but which is so interesting as to provide a much needed distraction from the film. The term was created by Douglas to describe a specific background prop in his Exorcist II review. It was then appropriated as a generic designation by Liz for reviews posted at her And You Call Yourself a Scientist! site (see our link page), thus becoming the first Jabootuian term to cross over from our borders into the world at large.

Offscreen Teleportation (n): The ability that allows an older or pudgier star, for instance Charles Bronson in his later movies, to keep up with a fleet youngster during a foot chase scene. When both are in the same shot, the star will invariably be seen to be rapidly losing ground. Yet, as soon as the camera tightens on the pursued, we know that the next wide shot will show the star right on the guy’s heels. Monsters (including Psychos from Slasher Movies) also employ this talent. Once they leave a potential victim’s field of vision, they can materialize anywhere they please. This allows, for example, Jason Voorhees to appear from behind exactly the right tree when a victim runs from a house, no matter which exit they use or what direction they run off in.

One Radio Rule (n): No matter how large a ship or secluded base or compound is, it’ll only come equipped with one radio. Once something’s happened to that, they’re on their own. The most egregious example probably occurs in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. Sybok, Spock’s half-brother, has wrested control of the Enterprise. In order to alert Star Fleet, Kirk must get to the Enterprise’s one emergency radio, located up near the very top of the ship were it’s hardest to get at. This on a vessel, mind you, with voice controlled computers, making you think that Kirk should be able to say one word anywhere on the ship and automatically send out an emergency distress signal to Star Fleet.

POV Shots (n): (i.e. ‘Point of View’ shots) Camera shots that are meant to represent what a character is seeing. EXAMPLE: John Carpenter’s Halloween opens with a famous extended POV Shot of a character stalking and ultimately killing a young woman. This is used to hide from us the fact that the killer is a six year old boy, which we learn only when the sequence has ended.

Selling Wood (adj.): A term used to indicate that an actor is giving a particularly stiff performance. Adapted from Jason’s favorite line from Bad Girls, wherein one of the film’s ex-prostitute heroines tries to convince the others to enter another line of work: "We sold our bodies, why can’t we sell some wood?"

Spring-Loaded Cat (n): (Coined by The Phantom of the Movies) The ubiquitous kitty that invariably jet propels itself out of closets and cabinets during horror movies, creating a false scare.

Superfluous Racking (n): The habit of idiots in movies to constantly pull back on the slide of a pistol, because it looks ‘cool.’ Actually, all you’d accomplish with this would be to eject an unfired cartridge while raising the probability of the gun jamming. Similar actions include unnecessarily pumping the action of a pump shotgun, spinning the cylinder of a revolver or constantly shooting the bolt on a rifle or submachine gun.

The Stealth Monster Rule (n): This provides that any monster, no matter how gigantic, awkward or noisy, will be able to sneak up right behind victims at will. See The Last Dinosaur or From Hell It Came for examples, or better yet, think of the end of Jurassic Park. There, the T-Rex, which earlier literally shook the earth with every movement, silently appears out of nowhere to eat the velociraptors that are threatening the cast.

"Watermelon, watermelon, cantaloupe, cantaloupe" (adj.): (also the shortened ‘Watermelon, watermelon’) Used to indicate obviously bogus ‘crowd’ murmurings. Taken from the venerable stage tradition of informing extras to say the above to each other to indicate mass communication, so that they wouldn’t ask the director, "What should I say?" This is especially amusing when the ‘watermelon’ noises are overlaid with obviously dubbed-in and spotlighted dialog. EXAMPLE: As in On Deadly Ground, when the generic ‘watermelon, watermelon’ sounds of the assembled Press are overlaid with lines like "Answer the questions, you weasel!"

Whooshing Powder (n): A standard issue item for all Witch Doctors, Shamans, etc,. which when tossed into an open flame causes it to whoosh up. See Jungle Hell and From Hell it Came for examples.

Thank you, Jabootu.