What Hollywood taught me:
movie clichés applied to life...
One of the main purposes of cinema is to provide a few hours release from the banality of everyday life. Most of us have never had the chance to go toe-to-toe with a gargantuan, stone, minigun-wielding samurai warrior (and we probably never will) but watching Sucker Punch gives us some small compensation for one of life's great injustices.
The words "mindless entertainment" are often thrown at Hollywood films to either excuse or condemn their dismissive attitude towards anything even remotely rational or plausible. However, I believe the cliches and tropes the film industry relentlessly bombards us with are actually valuable life lessons in disguise...
Below are some examples of how I am successfully enriching and prolonging my life using lessons learned from some of the greatest, worst, and even most mediocre films Hollywood has to offer.
Lesson Number 1
I never ever show anyone a photo of my loved ones...
This is probably the most crucial of all Hollywood's teachings. It crops up a lot, so much so that you'd have to be a damn fool to forget it. I am very careful to keep all photos of my girlfriend, my future wife, my actual wife, my kids and even my family home concealed at all times. You may think you can cheat the odds and show an ultrasound scan of your unborn baby, surely that's permitted? NO! Ultrasound scans are the ultimate promise of a rosy future and as such will mean instant, and probably very painful, death. If you must carry such items into any form of perilous situation, keep them hidden deep in your inside pocket or in your wallet and do not get them out for anyone! This is especially important: during gunfights; before embarking on any kind of mission in enemy territory; and in the midst of all alien invasions.
If you are particularly worried about your personal safety (as I am) this rule extends to even mentioning your loved ones, family members, hometown, or any kind of hopes or ambitions you aim to fulfil if you survive (which you won't if you open your mouth).
Example: In just about every war movie ever made there is a character who spontaneously decides to show another soldier that picture of his high-school sweetheart, or lay bare his plans for a future back home. This man is an idiot, bet on him to die during the very next scene.
Lesson Number 2
I never ever take shortcuts...
Taking a shortcut is probably the most dangerous activity known to man. Hollywood has taught me that not only is a shortcut always incredibly perilous, it will actually take longer than just going the long way. This is due to all the delays inherent in fighting off psychotic hillbillies, haunted trees and/or mutant cannibals. It may look good on the map, but trust me, taking shortcuts is a mug's game. Shortcuts are almost certainly single-lane dirt tracks riddled with loose nails, blocked by fallen trees or shrouded in a bizarre thick fog you cannot find your way out of. It's completely irrelevant how recently you filled up... you will run out of petrol. And when you walk to the nearest petrol station (no doubt run by some toothless, cackling inbred) you will return to your vehicle lugging that full jerry can only to find your tires have been slashed or some vital component of your engine has been ripped out.
Also at some point one of your party will inevitably feel the urge to urinate, wandering off into the woods only to disappear without a trace. Later you will find this person's head in a grimy looking fridge that probably doesn't even work.
Example: My favourite example of this is in the film Wrong Turn, in which Chris Flynn tries to make up time on his way to a job interview by cutting through the woods. It seems like a perfectly sensible idea, until he and his newfound teenage buddies are being hunted by a family of inbred cannibals who live in a shack full of pickled tongues and bloody axes. By the end of the film Chris is left deeply emotionally scarred by the numerous hideously bloody deaths and acts of cannibalism he witnessed… and he’s presumably unemployed. Never take shortcuts!
Lesson Number 3
Whenever someone says "I've got a bad feeling about this..." I ALWAYS listen to them...
As every movie fan knows, bad feelings are always unerringly accurate one hundred percent of the time without fail. Ignoring someone else's bad feeling, no matter how much of an idiot/moron/sadist that person may be, is practically suicide. If someone tells you they have a bad feeling about a situation you are about to enter into or an action you are about to perform... turn around immediately and walk away. If you fail to heed this warning you are placing your own life and the lives of anyone accompanying you in serious jeopardy. Whether you're about to do business with a drug cartel, land your spaceship on a seemingly-deserted alien planet or merely walk through a closed door in your own house... people are going to die.
Of course, in this situation at least one person will always survive. Always. But taking the chance that it might be you is simply not worth it. Oh, and if you're the one who had the bad feeling, forget about it, you're already dead. There is a possibility that the person who steadfastly ignores the warning will survive only to have to live with the knowledge they were responsible for leading everyone else to certain doom despite being confronted with the unassailable logic of a "bad feeling..."
Example: In Aliens, as the marines are about to land at the colony from which they have received no communication in a long while, Frost comes right out with it, "I'm telling you man, I've got a bad feeling about this drop." This proves conclusively that ignoring this warning could result in you being impregnated with an alien embryo that will subsequently burst out of your chest and eat your friends... You will also hear this unerringly accurate warning in Blade II, Reservoir Dogs and just about every Star Wars film. Indy also whips it out in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but his feeling couldn’t have been as bad as the one he gave the rest of us…
Lesson Number 4
I never ever attempt to rally the troops...
Hollywood continually shows us that motivational speeches are particularly hazardous. When in a potentially deadly situation never attempt to pull your group together with an impassioned plea to reason, especially if an outsider to the group has already suggested an alternative and seemingly irrational course of action. If you are advocating taking your chances and making a run for it you are heading for an immediate death, probably before you even get to your pithy closing remark. In this situation you should allow someone else to make the big speech, wait until they die violently and then jump in with your own insane suggestion. The closer your suggestion is to suicide the more likely you are to survive, although anyone following you in this action is likely to meet their maker in a swift and violent fashion.
The absolute worst thing you can do in your speech is to ridicule the outsider for claiming some outlandish disaster is about to happen. If they claim aliens are invading, a tornado is imminent or even that genetically-modified sharks are on the warpath, I realise they sound crazy but please just take their word for it and do exactly as they say. Mocking the loner is the final nail in the coffin of any spontaneous speech-maker or wanna-be leader.
Example: The moment in Deep Blue Sea when Samuel L. Jackson takes the lead, firmly grabbing his companions' attention and trying to instil some confidence in the group; "We are not going to fight anymore! We're going to pull together and we're going to find a way to get out of here! First, we're gonna seal off this -" aaaand he's eaten by a shark. Who saw that coming? Similarly, in Alien 3 when Andrews is giving his 'rumour control' speech in the canteen, he loses patience with Ripley (the outsider) as she tries to tell him the aliens are coming, "Aaron, get that foolish woman back to the infirmary," aaaaand the alien reaches down from a vent above his head, leaving nothing but a puddle of blood where the condescending busybody had been standing a split-second before. Never try to pull people together in a crisis, and never ever mock the outsider...
Lesson Number 5
I never ever give any sign whatsoever that I am about to hang up the phone...
Many years of watching films has taught me that saying "Goodbye," "Speak to you later," "See you soon," or any other form of farewell before ending a phone conversation is completely unnecessary. In fact, a lot of the time you don't even need to say "Hello," or even tell the person on the other end of the line who is calling. The correct procedure for telephone conversations is to be as brief and economical as possible. Do not under any circumstances make small talk, this is a waste of time and money, and it does nothing to move the plot along. When the recipient of your call answers, simply lay out your demands or instructions, wait for them to acknowledge with an "Ok," "Yes sir," or "Consider it done," and hang up unceremoniously without waiting to see if they have any questions or wish to add anything. The only time you need to introduce yourself at the beginning of the conversation is if you are in a military or police setting and need to make your rank known to ensure your instructions are heeded. This is a practice that has never changed, even with the advent of unlimited minutes on mobile phone contracts.
Despite the fact no one ever indicates they are ending a call you will still always know instantly when the other person has been cut off. The correct procedure here is to repeatedly press the button on the phone that makes it hang up (what this is supposed to achieve, no one knows). Never call a person back in this situation, the proper form is to make a wild guess at what may have happened to them ("the zombies must have chewed through the phone cable!") and express your vain hope that they heard enough of your instructions to carry out your wishes...
Example: Pretty much every film in which a phone call is made. So pretty much every film in existence (apart from Conan The Barbarian and other such painstakingly accurate historical dramas). You can see an excellent spoof of this in the clip below from Black Dynamite.
So there you have it, the first five lessons I learned by watching Hollywood movies. I'm sure you can guess some of the ways in which these teachings have enriched my life. No one knows I have a girlfriend, fiancée, wife, ex-wife and seven children. I never ever tell anyone about my plans to go back to school, build a house with a white picket fence, have seventeen children, tell my mum I love her and take a week off work. I never take a shortcut, meaning that I am never ever early for anything... and when I'm running late I never have any hope of making up time on that track through the woods. I always listen to anyone who claims to have a 'bad feeling' about absolutely anything. This philosophy means I miss out on a lot of theme park rides and cheap fast food. I never make motivational speeches or attempt to rally the troops, and to be honest there aren't really a lot of situations where this is required, but I obsessively avoid it anyway... And finally, I never give anyone the slightest indication I am about to end a phone call. People are constantly phoning me back thinking they were cut off by bad reception or that perhaps I was hit by a car or am having a heart attack.
While these lessons may seem inconvenient, impractical and in most cases downright stupid, they may just save your life. Whenever you're watching a film in future and find yourself shouting at the screen "Listen to the guy with the bad feeling! He clearly knows what he's talking about," just remember that those poor characters are about to die a horribly gruesome and painful death so that you don't have to... learn from their mistakes and avoid the same fate!
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