Death to the Biopic: 11 Movie Concepts That Need to Die in 2014

Here at FilmDrunk, we’ve taken a more Festivus-oriented approach to New Year’s resolutions, where we focus more on how the world should change to suit us, rather than vice versa. Ask not what you can do for your country, and so on. Every era has obnoxious movie trends. Here, we’ve compiled 11 movie trends that we hope we can leave back in 2013, along with Miley Cyrus thinkpieces and Shia LaBeouf apologies.

As always, you can view it as a single page if you like.

The Traditional Biopic

I ripped on Jobs a lot when it came out, but it did offer us one service, which was to wrap up, in a pretty little package with Kelso wrapping paper, all the reasons this concept has gotten so stale in recent years. The worst biopics, like Jobs, are producer-driven. The director and writer will be hired guns, and the star some poor actor who desperately craves legitimacy (because awards voters, in their wisdom, have proved over and over again that they believe doing an impression is the highest form of acting). I’m pretty sure that’s not how inspiration works. There is no easier, lazier idea for a movie than “A famous person!”

Some dead person was famous! Of course he deserves a movie about his life! Don’t waste time trying to find out what his life was actually like, there’s not enough time! Just make it like the other biopics you’ve seen! Come on, we gotta strike while this iron is hot!

There are so many jackass producers competing to be the first to make some movie about a famous person’s life that we now get biopics about people right after their name has been in the news for the first time. The Fifth Estate became the biggest bomb of the year, probably by trying to do a biopic about a guy who just got famous yesterday. Meanwhile, there are no fewer than three competing Lance Armstrong biopics, despite there already being a perfectly passable documentary about the same subject. What are they trying to tell us with this? That our brains can’t handle a story without wild embellishments and swelling music? PLEASE PHRASE THIS PERSON’S EULOGY IN THE FORM OF ONE OF THE SEVEN BASIC PLOTS, PLZ.

I move that there be established a mandatory 10-year moratorium on biopics, timed from the day the subject stops being front page news. Sort of like hall-of-fame eligibility in sports, or becoming the subject of a postage stamp. Those are good rules! That way, if the person cures cancer or invents a better post-it note or whatever late in life, the films about him or her won’t miss the final story arc. In the meantime, we can hold a big costume party where actors dress like famous people and the winners all get trophies. Now everyone’s happy, right? Actors love trophies.

Action Rom-Coms

I know, Knight and Day, The Tourist, This Means War – they’re mostly a couple years old now, but let’s hope that 2014 is the year that this concept finally stays dead. The pervasiveness of the action rom-com reflects a pretty simple reality, that it’s easier to finish a hacky rom-com script if you just graft it to a hacky action script. Instead of all that clever dialog and wacky best friend b-story, you just write CHASE SEQUENCE GOES HERE, and bing bang vroom. And rom-com premises are easier to write than action ones, so action rom-coms are like symbiotic genre laziness.

In 2014, let’s just accept that Grosse Pointe Blank is and will always be the only good example of this genre.

Gritty Remakes

Part of me hates Chris Nolan for making one of the most tired concepts work three times (well, two and a half times, anyway). The big takeaway from Nolan’s Batman movies was “dark and gritty remakes can totally work!” when it should’ve been “there’s only one Chris Nolan.” Gritty Evil Dead remake was lame, let’s hope those ideas for gritty Mummy, gritty The Crow, and gritty whatever else all stay dead.

Reimaginings of Public Domain Stories

A close cousin to the “dark and gritty remake” is the “edgy reimagining of public domain stories.” I’ve seen a lot of stupid trailers in my time, but the one for the WASPy, cleft-chinned take on Frankenstein’s monster may take the cake.

I, Frankenstein was just one of these projects lucky enough (for us!) to make it out of development hell, but the siren song of a free premise with “name recognition” and built-in audience™ has long proved too strong for producers to resist. As evidenced by projects such as [deep breath] edgy Little Mermaid, the post-apocalyptic Zorro, Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters, Oliver Twist the parkour master, Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday: Shaman Hunters, Gritty Peter Pan, Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn fight dragons or something, and much, much more.

Oh, and did I mention this year brings us TWO Hercules movies, starring Kellen Lutz and The Rock, respectively? Crap, I guess this one’s already a lost cause.

Documentaries about fashion designers

Oh my gosh, you design CLOTHES? That people WEAR ON THEIR BODIES?? I NEED TO KNOW EVERYTHING. Actually no, on second thought, I think I know enough about Anna Wintour to last me another seven lifetimes. She’s a very powerful fashion magazine editor, have you heard? And she has many rules and opinions about bangs and necklines and what kinds of shoes one should wear on certain occasions. She’s been played by Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada and documented in The September Issue. Then there were docs about Valentino (The Last Emperor), Yves St. Laurent, Bergdorf Goodman’s, Karl Lagerfeld, Diana Vreeland… all of which include copious amounts of footage of fashion people explaining how clothes are their way of expressing themselves. My question, if clothes are so good at helping people express themselves, why do so many of those people also need movies? No more documentaries, everything I need to know about these people IS RIGHT THERE IN THEIR BEAUTIFUL, EVOCATIVE CLOTHES.

Sequels to Beloved Comedy Classics

You would’ve been hard pressed to find something more hotly anticipated than an Anchorman sequel or new episodes of Arrested Development in late 2012 and early 2013. And now that they’ve come out… a resounding… meh? Surprise is such an important element of comedy that it’s damn near impossible to make the same comedy concept work twice (Shh, don’t tell the Super Troopers guys). Other than spoofs (Naked Gun, the first couple Scary Movies), has there ever been a good comedy sequel? The best you could say in most cases is “Eh, it was okay, I guess.”

And before you say it, Wayne’s World 2 was terrible, don’t even bother bringing that trash in here.

Nonetheless, I’m still thankful for this gif:

Lazy Spoofs

Not only have Seltzer-Friedberg not gone away, their awful, lazy brand of anti-funny reference mash-ups seems to have metastasized. Here’s Jaimie Kennedy copying the formula:

Watching what they’ve done to the spoof, what I wouldn’t give for a Naked Gun or even a Walk Hard. It’s gotten so bad that Seltzer-Friedberg have even started trying to Trojan Horse their spoof movies. Their latest, Best Night Ever, tries to pretend it’s not a spoof or even a Seltzer-Friedberg joint:

That others might try to copy the guys who keep making money on movies that look like they written in 20 minutes isn’t that surprising, I guess, but man is it depressing. Trust me that I don’t what I’m about to say lightly: Seltzer-Friedberg movies are worse than those Geico mandolin guy ads.

Franchise Reboots

It’s okay to let some things die, you know.

Characters Who Are, Like, Really Into Jazz, Maaaan

Screenwriters have this weird tendency to equate liking music with emotional depth. It’s like they’re writing online dating profiles or something. “Music is the soundtrack to my life!” No way! Do you also love to laugh and need a partner in crime!?

And the worst iteration of the “music is like, so important to me” scene is the “OMG, you like jazz too??” scene. Even my beloved American Hustle was guilty of it this year. Of COURSE Christian Bale and Amy Adams were destined to be together, they both liked Duke Ellington!

It’s not that I hate jazz or that I don’t believe that some people are into jazz, it’s just that the scene almost always feels superfluous, less like something the character might do than the old white male screenwriter equivalent of posting song lyrics as a Facebook status. You know Carrie, from Homeland? She’s totally into Coltrane, maaan. That dumb trumpet riff in the intro cracks me up every time. Tootle loot toot tootle too, just scattin’ and honkin’, man, scattin and honkin.

White People Solving Racism

I actually really liked Dallas Buyers Club, but almost felt like I couldn’t enjoy it because of the straight-white-guy-to-the-rescue angle. “Dallas Buyers Club feels more like a coming-of-age tale about a big bigot who, through the magic of capitalism, transforms into a beautiful less-of-a-bigot,” as my lesbian spirit animal Heather put it. It’s analogous to the race stories where white people are the heroes. Their tendency to dredge up unfortunate historical memories means that you can’t even tell certain true stories anymore. Let’s just call a moratorium on it for a while, like with blackface Halloween costumes (blackface sexual role play is still fine).

Boring People F*cking/Losing Their Virginity

The “boring-white-guy-loses-his-virginity” trope had been around a long time before Twilight and I assume 50 Shades of Grey flipped it on its head. Point is, it sucks either way. I don’t consider people more awkward than me learning to f*ck a triumph, I consider it an insult.