Friday, February 22, 2008

Everything New Is Old Again

One of the interesting things about getting older is that you have, in many ways, see it all. This fact can turn parts of your life into a big disappointment. For me that would be movies. Every Friday the Denver Post reviews the newest movies. I have reached the point where I very rarely finish reading any review I've started. I've discovered my interest in the review usually dissipates after reading the first paragraph describing the plot. At that point I think, "Boring, seen this."

This is because, according to screenwriter Ronald Tobais, there are only twenty movie plots:

1. QUEST - the plot involves the Protagonist's search for a person, place or thing, tangible or intangible (but must be quantifiable, so think of this as a noun; i.e., immortality). (Maxtrix*)

2. ADVENTURE - this plot involves the Protagonist going in search of their fortune, and since fortune is never found at home, the Protagonist goes to search for it somewhere over the rainbow. (Pirates of the Caribbean)

3. PURSUIT - this plot literally involves hide-and-seek, one person chasing another. (The Fugitive)

4. RESCUE - this plot involves the Protagonist searching for someone or something, usually consisting of three main characters - the Protagonist, the Victim & the Antagonist. (Die Hard)

5. ESCAPE - plot involves a Protagonist confined against their will who wants to escape (does not include some one trying to escape their personal demons). (The Great Escape)

6. REVENGE - retaliation by Protagonist or Antagonist against the other for real or imagined injury. (Man on Fire)

7. THE RIDDLE - plot involves the Protagonist's search for clues to find the hidden meaning of something in question that is deliberately enigmatic or ambiguous. (The Da Vinci Code)

8. RIVALRY - plot involves Protagonist competing for same object or goal as another person (their rival). (A Bronx Tale)

9. UNDERDOG - plot involves a Protagonist competing for an object or goal that is at a great disadvantage and is faced with overwhelming odds. (Glory Road)

10. TEMPTATION - plot involves a Protagonist that for one reason or another is induced or persuaded to do something that is unwise, wrong or immoral. (Bedazzled)

11. METAMORPHOSIS - this plot involves the physical characteristics of the Protagonist actually changing from one form to another (reflecting their inner psychological identity). (Cat People)

12. TRANSFORMATION - plot involves the process of change in the Protagonist as they journey through a stage of life that moves them from one significant character state to another. (Now Voyager)

13. MATURATION - plot involves the Protagonist facing a problem that is part of growing up, and from dealing with it, emerging into a state of adulthood (going from innocence to experience). (The Lion King)

14. LOVE - plot involves the Protagonist overcoming the obstacles to love that keeps them from consummating (engaging in) true love. (When Harry Meet Sally)

15. FORBIDDEN LOVE - plot involves Protagonist(s) overcoming obstacles created by social mores and taboos to consummate their relationship (and sometimes finding it at too high a price to live with). (Brokeback Mountain)

16. SACRIFICE - plot involves the Protagonist taking action(s) that is motivated by a higher purpose (concept) such as love, honor, charity or for the sake of humanity. (Terminator 2)

17. DISCOVERY - plot that is the most character-centered of all, involves the Protagonist having to overcome an upheaval(s) in their life, and thereby discovering something important (and buried) within them a better understanding of life (i.e., better appreciation of their life, a clearer purpose in their life, etc.) (Castaway)

18. WRETCHED EXCESS - plot involves a Protagonist who, either by choice or by accident, pushes the limits of acceptable behavior to the extreme and is forced to deal with the consequences (generally deals with the psychological decline of the character). (The Days of Wine and Roses)

19. ASCENSION - rags-to-riches plot deals with the rise (success) of Protagonist due to a dominating character trait that helps them to succeed. (The Pursuit of Happyness)

20. DECISION - riches-to-rags plot deals with the fall (destruction) of Protagonist due to dominating character trait that eventually destroys their success. (Fargo)

With only twenty plots and almost one hundred years of movie making it is not surprising that some movies are the-same-old-same-old.

No wonder most movies make me think of that Wendy's commercial from the 1980's called Soviet Fashion Show. The same model presents Daywear, Eveningwear,and Swimwear. Each time she is has on the same plain gray dress. When she models Eveningwear, she carries a flashlight. When she models Swimwear, she carries a beach ball. Most movies seem to be like that these days.

*my example of a movie that falls into each category.

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