There have been many regrettable trends in Hollywood over the last decade. Most have been chronicled and analyzed to a merciless extent. Except one. The Following is a list of over a hundred recent film titles Using an all-too-familiar formula. There are variations, but most employ a present infinitive verb followed by a subject noun, often a name. Early examples of such titles would include ’80s comedies “Eating Raoul”, “Educating Rita,” “Making Mr. Right” and “Raising Arizona.”
Fads in movie Titling come and go, from the crass verbage of ’40s noir (“Lured”, “Pursued”) to the portentous grandeur of ’50s melodrama (“All That Heaven Allows”, “An Affair to Remember”) to the blunt sensationalism of ’80s action (“Lethal Weapon”, “Die Hard”). So why is this new trend different – and so completely yucky? Let’s go there now.
Bear in mind that this is a Sampling of movie titles just from the last decade or so. A few of these films haven’t been released yet; other titles are as “fresh” as this week’s trade paper announcements. Some you may even recall Seeing…
Avenging Angelo / Becoming Colette / Being John Malkovich / Boxing Helena / Burning Annie / Calling Anne / Calling Bobcat / Calling Gerry Molloy / Chasing Amy / Chasing Billy / Chasing Buddha / Chasing Cain / Chasing Chekhov / Chasing Destiny / Chasing Holden / Chasing Kevin / Chasing Liberty / Chasing Papi / Conceiving Ada / Connecting with Jack Gilbert / Deconstructing Harry / Delivering Milo / Divorcing Jack / Driving Miss Daisy / Drowning Mona / Fighting Tommy Riley/ Finding Christa / Finding Forrester / Finding Kelly / Finding Nemo / Fixing Frank / Following Paula / Following Tildy / Guarding Tess / Hooking Up Ethan / Imagining Emily / Imagining Hamlet / Investigating Tarzan / Killing Castro / Killing Cinderella / Killing Dad / Killing Emmett Young / Killing Pablo / Killing Mr. Griffin / Killing Mrs. Duke / Killing Zoë / Kissing Jake / Kissing Jessica Stein / Kissing Miranda / Leaving Drew / Looking for Leonard / Looking for Richard / Losing Chase / Losing Isaiah / Losing Juggles / Loving Jezebel / Meeting Daddy / Meeting Elvis / Meeting Venus / Missing Brendan / Mixing Nia / Mourning Glory / Moving Alan / Moving Malcolm / Outing Riley / Owning Mahowny / Picturing Claire / Playing Mona Lisa / Raising Cain / Raising Flagg / Raising Helen / Raising Victor Vargas / Raising Waylon / Regarding Henry / Remembering Maria / Remembering Mario / Remembering Tom / Robbing Peter / Saving Grace / Saving Private Ryan / Saving Silverman / Seducing Doctor Lewis / Serving Sara / Shooting Carlo / Shooting Lily / Stealing Christmas / Stealing Sinatra / Surviving Picasso / Surviving Sabu / Teaching Mrs. Tingle / Undertaking Betty / Waking Ned Divine / Wrestling Ernest Hemingway
Typical of much Hollywood fare, above we see a whole lot of Chasing and a great deal of Killing, some done by Shooting. But we can take comfort that Finding, Meeting, Saving and Raising aren’t far behind – so don’t give up Hoping. (Note that we left out TV shows – “Judging Amy”, “Raising Dad,” “Crossing Jordan” – and books – “Charming Billy”, “Reviving Ophelia,” “Explaining Hitler” – to avoid Becoming too Overbearing.)
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 Butterflies / 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 / Finding Home / Finding Hope / Flirting with Disaster / Getting Even with Dad / Gleaming the Cube / Going After Cacciato / Going All the Way / Imagining Argentina / Inventing the Abbotts / Investigating Sex / 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 August / Moving the Mountain / Playing by Heart / Playing God / Pushing Tin / Racing with the Moon / Remembering Sex / Searching for Bobby Fischer / Searching for Paradise / Seeing Other People / Shooting Fish / Sitting in Limbo / Skipping Christmas / Sleeping with the Enemy / Splitting Heirs / Stealing Beauty / Stealing Harvard / Stealing Heaven / Stealing Home / Stealing Stanford / Surviving Christmas / Surviving Eden / Surviving Paradise / Surviving the Game / Swimming with Sharks / Taking Lives / Taking Sides / Telling Lies in America / Threading the Dark / Touching Wild Horses / Waiting to Exhale / Waiting for Guffman / Waking the Dead / Waking Up in Reno / Walking and Talking / Walking on Water / Walking to the Waterline / Winning London
For Crying Out Loud! This is all Sickening 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 Nauseatingly Cloying about Labeling a piece of pop entertainment as if it were some key to enlightened Understanding.
Maybe it’s part of the Infuriating Oprah-ization and Dr. Phil-ifying of our culture. We can just picture their Comforting faces as they pat our hands, Asking us to join them in a greater Calling. We’re not Watching a movie, we’re Joining the Peace Corps…Answering to a Higher Power…Buying the world a Coke. We’re Following the filmmakers on their special journeys as they earnestly Regard Henry, Raise Helen, Chase Amy or Save Private Ryan.
Even if a movie’s actually worthwhile, such a title reduces it to a kind of superficially emotional pop-psychology seminar. Certainly, Marketing plays a role. We’re Being strong-armed and group-hugged with the theme of each movie, told 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. But the result ends up Sounding like the blandest of Moralizing; it’s Pamphleteering Masquerading as drama.
One pictures the Helen, the Henry, the Amy, in a physical and emotional limbo: life is on hold until their predicament can be neatly solved. But this is not a complex, real-life set of problems. It’s a cheesily psychologized crisis that presents life as some Neverending self-absorbed process, or journey, or 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 those imaginative Hollywood folks.
Are we Protesting too much? Perhaps. But let’s look at how some of the most cherished classics are adversely 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 teenybop diva to make her next big-screen splash in “Spearing Britney”?
Moviegoers of America, let the Healing begin!
Get to Back Talking>>>