Glossary

Sometimes I use entertainment industry terminology that isn’t well known to the general public.  And sometimes I use my own non-standard terminology.  Instead of having to re-define these terms every post, I’m listing definitions here in a convenient alphabetical order.

This page will start off short, and I’ll keep adding to it as I use more terminology.  So if you’re confused about something, check back here in the future.  If you can’t find the definition you’re looking for, feel free to post a comment asking for clarification or suggesting I add something to the glossary.


 

Fun Action Movie – One of the two main categories of action movies, in contrast to Intense Action Movies.  A fun action movie is one where you want to live vicariously through the main character. Examples include Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark.  Fans would generally want to be a space-wizard using your wits, space-fighter-piloting, laser sword, and magic to bring down the evil Man.  And they would also want to be a swashbuckling adventurer traveling the world recovering mystical artifacts and punching Nazis.  So these are fun, rather than intense.

Intense Action Movie – One of the two main categories of action movies, in contrast to Fun Action Movies.  An intense movie is one where you would not want to be the main character.  For example, The Terminator.  You certainly wouldn’t want to be Sarah Connor, hunted by an unstoppable killing machine from the future who’s trying to murder you and succeeding and slaughtering everyone around you, so this is intense rather than fun.

Laid-Back Comedy – A genre of films most popular in the 1980s, where there isn’t much of a plot, and the action is just an excuse for funny people to stand around saying and doing funny things.  When done well, the is the sort of movie you want to hang out with.  This can be considered a subset of Spectacle Movies.

Mythology – When a story, character, or element of a movie or TV show rises beyond the individual movie to become part of our culture.  A touchstone that people can reference and use to share ideas beyond the context of the original film.  When someone mentions Darth Vader, the Wicked Witch, Homer Simpson, Spider-Man, being caught in The Matrix, etc., everyone knows exactly what they mean, and that shared culture can be used to communicate ideas.  These things are as much a part of our mythology as Hercules and Odysseus were to ancient Greeks.

Sophistimacated – When someone pretends to be a fan of something deep/intellectual/pretentious because they think it makes them seem smart and cultured.  For example, quite a few people claim to be fans of Jazz, Woody Allen, Ken Burns documentaries, fine wine, and art-house films because they are being sophistimacated.  Note that I’m not saying *all* fans of these things are doing it just for appearances or to feel smart.  There are plenty of people who like these things because they genuinely like them.  It’s just that there are a lot more who only pretend to like them, possibly even lying to themselves.

Spectacle Movie – A movie that doesn’t rely on compelling story or characters to satisfy the audience, but instead provides some sort of spectacle.  These spectacles could be action sequences, fights, special effects, jokes, song-and-dance numbers, etc.  When spectacle movies succeed, they do it by showing the audience something they’ve never seen before.  Some examples of successful spectacle movies are Marx Brothers, Singin’ in the Rain, Raiders of the Lost Ark, King Kong, Transformers, Avatar, and 2001. It should be noted that nearly every movie that’s not a straight drama has some elements of spectacle.  But it only becomes a spectacle movie when the film eschews plot and character development in exchange for this spectacle.

Superman ProblemWhen a hero is so incredibly powerful that the only way he can possibly be challenged is for him to be so incredibly stupid that he forgets his own abilities.  Since on a fundamental level, a movie is about the hero overcoming difficult challenges, it’s very difficult to make a movie work when the hero can’t be challenged.   This is why, in my opinion, there has never been a good Superman movie.  (At least on a story/characters level, rather than a pure spectacle level.)  But this problem applies equally well to any other overpowered hero.

Tentpole – A heavily promoted movie with a very big budget that is meant to attract a huge audience.  In the past these were typically released in the summer, but that’s changing.  The idea is that these movies will hold up the box office numbers as if they’re a tent, attracting people to theaters who will then keep coming back, and providing the revenue that can be invested into a studio’s other films.  Because so much money is invested into these (both in production and advertising), when they fail it can be disastrous, sometimes destroying a studio entirely.

5 thoughts on “Glossary”

  1. Another common and equally unsatisfying solution the Superman Problem is arbitrary banishment. (e.g. Doctor Manhattan in Watchmen, or Neo in the Matrix sequels.)

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    1. Agreed. Pretty much every episode of Superfriends included the obligatory excuse to get Superman out of the way so he couldn’t instantly fix everything. Or else they would horribly misallocate their resources. (Superman, you go direct traffic. We’ll have the two teenagers and a talking dog infiltrate the supervillain’s base.)

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