Well, perhaps you’re Noticing a pattern by now. If not, below are some variations on the “theme”:
Being Human ^ Breaking the Rules ^ Breaking the Surface ^ Breaking the Waves ^ Breaking the Code ^ Bringing Out the Dead ^ Buying the Cow ^ Changing Habits ^ Changing Lanes ^ Chasing Sleep ^ Chasing the Dragon ^ Crossing Delancey ^ Crossing the Bridge ^ Crossing the Line ^ Digging to China ^ Dying Young ^ Falling from Grace ^ Falling in Love ^ Falling Down ^ Falling Off the Verge ^ Feeling Minnesota ^ Finding Graceland ^ Flirting with Disaster ^ Getting Even with Dad ^ Gleaming the Cube ^ Going After Cacciato ^ Going All the Way ^ Inventing the Abbotts ^ Kicking and Screaming ^ Killing Time ^ Kissing a Fool ^ Leaving Las Vegas ^ Leaving Normal ^ Living in Oblivion ^ Living Out Loud ^ Looking for Richard ^ Losing Touch ^ Moving the Mountain ^ Playing by Heart ^ Pushing Tin ^ Racing with the Moon ^ Raising Arizona ^ Searching for Bobby Fischer ^ Shooting Fish ^ Sitting in Limbo ^ Skipping Christmas ^ Sleeping with the Enemy ^ Splitting Heirs ^ Stealing Beauty ^ Stealing Heaven ^ Stealing Home ^ Surviving the Game ^ Swimming with Sharks ^ Taking Sides ^ Telling Lies in America ^ Waiting to Exhale ^ Waiting for Guffman ^ Waking Up in Reno ^ Walking and Talking ^ Walking on Water ^ Walking to the Waterline
For Crying Out Loud! This is all objectionable for many reasons, beyond the Annoying conformity, the smarmy Hollywood groupthink. The point is, these Gerrymandering gerunds are not movie titles – they’re ideals, causes, pleas for Understanding. They sound like creepy group therapy sessions, not names of stories worth Seeing. Replace the first word with “Healing” and you’d hardly notice the difference. There’s something Cloying and Nauseating in Labeling a popular entertainment as if it were some enlightened way of life.
Maybe it’s part of the Infuriating Oprah-ization of our culture. We can imagine the great lady’s concerned, Comforting face as she pats our hand, Asking us to join her in a greater Calling. We’re not Watching a movie, we’re Joining the Peace Corps. We’re Following the filmmakers on their special journeys as they earnestly Regard Henry, Chase Amy, Save Private Ryan or Teach Mrs. Tingle.
Even if a movie’s actually worthwhile, such a title reduces it to a kind of superficially emotional pop-psychology seminar. We’re Being strong-armed with the theme of each movie, told just how we’re supposed to feel before we even see the damn thing. The geniuses who get paid to come up with this tripe are Giving us approval for our responses, congratulations for our Underlying humanity.
Certainly, Marketing plays a role. The financial stakes are now supposedly too high to mislead an audience or, God forbid, actually fool it into Thinking a film is about one thing when it’s really about something else. But the result has been the blandest of Moralizing; Pamphleteering Masquerading as drama.
There’s also a squeamish tentativeness to such titles. One pictures the Private Ryan, the Henry, the Amy, in a physical and emotional limbo: their life is on hold until their predicament can be solved. But this is not a complex, real-life set of problems. It’s a cheesily psychologized crisis that reflects the culture of victimhood, life as a Neverending 12-step program. The icky, New Agey phrase “Being Present” comes to mind, and let’s not forget “Moving Forward.” In fact, we should all really try “Thinking Outside The Box”…just like all these imaginative Hollywood folks do.
It’s as if a film can be about nothing but its title’s simplistic assessment of the main character’s life – unlike honest drama, which lends itself to various, often contradictory interpretations. We picture Ryan or Henry or Amy in front of some analyst, Being told that until his or her particular problem is confronted and solved, life just can’t go on.
Are we Protesting too much? Perhaps. But just look at how some of the most cherished classics are affected by a little touchy-feely 12-step Retitling: “Leaving Casablanca,” “Finding Kane,” “Exorcising Regan,” “Flying Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, “Raiding the Lost Ark.”
Hell, the Upcoming remake of ’70s cult shocker “Let’s Scare Jessica to Death” will no doubt be reborn as the kinder, gentler “Scaring Jessica”. And who can wait for everyone’s favorite teen diva to make her screen debut in “Spearing Britney”?
Moviegoers of America, let the Healing begin!
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Posted on September 7, 2001 in Features by David M. Korn & Tim Merrill
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