8 thoughts on “Radio vs. the Mailbag: It Never Gets Old

  1. I used to hate monologuing: when a particular villain would explain the entire plot of the movie to the hero as a means of grandstanding his power. On occasion it is a hero who monologues. I found such a monologue in “American Hustle” when Christian Bale turns to Bradley Cooper and explains the entire plot: “that’s the story you want to go with? The hustler who you hired to hustle the FBI ends up hustling you?” (Or something).

    But what made me appreciate the monologue again was re-watching “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes” in which Ricardo Montalban provides a full description of the previous three films as he reminds Caesar why he is so important. Only a genius like Montalban could pull off such an obvious trope with Shakespearean aplomb.

  2. I never get tired of what John Rogers (Leverage, the Jaime Reyes Blue Beetle comics, lots of other fun stuff) called “The Evil Speech of Evil.” That’s where the villain gloatingly explains why he should get to do what he’s doing and why it’s so awesome.

    Ian Fleming excelled at these in his James Bond novels. Sadly, they never really made it to the movies– except for GOLDFINGER. You may recall the moment– it’s up on YouTube, here– where Goldfinger is telling the gangsters, “Man has climbed Mount Everest. Traveled to the bottom of the ocean. He has fired rockets at the moon. Split the atom. Achieved miracles in every field of human endeavor… EXCEPT CRIME!!” I love that. In the novels, Doctor No has a marvelous one during the dinner scene, and the all-time winner is Ernst Stavro Blofeld in YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, justifying all of his previous efforts as well as the suicide garden he has created in his castle. And when Bond refuses to applaud, Blofeld sighs and says, “…but I can see we have no contact. I cannot reach what serves you for a mind. For your part, you cannot see further than the simple gratification of your last cigarette. So enough of this idle chatter. You have already kept us from our beds far too long. Do you want to be hacked about in a vulgar brawl, or will you offer your neck in honourable fashion?” And then draws his katana to behead him.

    Other classics would be Mr. Potter slamming the door on George Bailey in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE– you know, the sneer that ends with “You’re worth more dead than alive.” Or Orson Welles in THE THIRD MAN. Even Gene Hackman’s Luthor in the first Superman movie, talking about his plan to make a killing in real estate and then sandbagging the big guy with kryptonite.

    That sort of gloating… I really think it should be baked into the DNA of a villain in any kind of crime or adventure movie, and if it’s not, you’re doing it wrong. Whether it’s a Bond villain or one of Mike’s inbred hillbillies, the moment where the bad guy is winning and takes a little victory lap… I just LOVE that. It makes the eventual karmic payoff so much sweeter.

  3. Just while we’re still on epic villain speeches, I will never stop pestering people to watch the 2008 version of ‘Speed Racer’. The villain, Mister Royalton (played to perfection by Roger Allam) gives one of the all-time GREAT villainous expository monologues.
    Seriously, even just thinking about it now gives me a chill.
    And on paper, it looks like NOTHING. It’s mostly a lot of dry talk about stock prices and market manipulation, but the editing and Allam’s delivery is just SO magnificent.
    And some delightful chap’s put it in youtube! Glee!

    Anyway, one odd stereotype which I just can’t get enough of is the two-fisted fighting sailor. There’s something about fighting pirates in the South China Sea or plying the treacherous trade-routes of the South Sea Islands, avoiding hostile natives and getting into dust-ups in seedy dockside watering holes that I can’t resist.

  4. In comedy, whether live-action or animated, I always find it hilarious when a character slams into a wall or window or whatever (and then often slowly slides down its surface). So even though I generally sympathize with poor old Wile E. Coyote, I always laugh when he crashes into a cliff or whatever.
    Don’t know why I find this form of physical humor so funny, but those type of scenes never fail to elicit a gut laugh from me, and I never get tired of them. The whole feature can otherwise be really bad and/or painfully unfunny (case in point: “George of the Jungle” starring Brendan Fraser), but I’ll still laugh whenever someone slams into a something solid.

  5. I’m not sure this one is so much a cliché as it is a film maker’s in-joke, but I love the Wilhelm scream. I first started noticing it in the Star Wars movies as a kid, but I noticed it in other films too over the years. It was a long time before I found out what it was called and where it came from, but for almost every movie I saw with a lot of action it, I’d end up saying, “There’s that scream again!” It’s got to the point now where I’m disappointed if a film had an opportunity to use it but didn’t. It’s incredibly versatile for a scream that was originally intended to be a man being eaten by an alligator.

  6. I’m quite fond of the “uh-oh” moment, in caper stories; the point where things start to go wrong and the hero (or gang) has to improvise. Sometimes they are played for laughs, sometimes for tension, sometimes they display ingenuity; but, they are always fun.

    One of my other favorite moments is something that Terry Pratchett latched onto in his stories: the point where the hero realizes he is going to win and presses home his advantage. Pratchett takes it a step further by having the hero realize he is going to win because he is the hero and that’s what heroes do. It’s a wonderfully “meta” moment where the hero recognizes his role in the story and lives up to it. One of his best characters for illustrating this is Captain Carrot, of his City Watch novels. He is a polite man, large in stature, but courteous in nature. He has a quiet, humble strength. He can stop the worst villain with a , “Lay down your arms; there’s a good chap!” And they do! Some see his rather humble looking sword and then look at the man and realize it is the sword of a hero and you don’t mess with heroes.

  7. Can a whole genre be a cliche? I will never turn down an opportunity to watch a movie where the good-natured criminal wants to get out of the game, but has to do just ONE MORE JOB. Heist movies are my catnip.

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