We have some good actors out there. You can always tell which ones are a little bit better than every other actor, because they are asked to portray some very complex emotions. Earlier this year, Tom Hanks beautifully portrayed Captain Phillips, as he experienced those first moments outside of the hostage situation and realised he was going to live. In the world of TV, David Tennant showed us the Doctor meeting an old friend, Sarah Jane Smith, and being totally blown away, yet trying to hide his true identity for her. He did all that with a select few facial expressions that proved how talented the guy actually is. Moments like these are the things that let the world know how talented some actors, and in many regards, film-makers, in general, are.
However, there are three emotions and experiences that I think have never really been fully explored in cinema. Even when they have, I don’t think I have ever felt the power of that feeling. A good piece of cinema should put you in the character’s shoes for a brief moment, but when a complex feeling, like the three I shall describe below, come up, it becomes very different to emphasise with the lead, as it is very unconvincingly done. This isn’t quite anyone’s fault; I have no idea how I would portray these feelings properly.
3 – HEADING INTO ALMOST CERTAIN DEATH
This one is probably the most obvious as it comes up in almost every action movie out there. It is usually a very important moment in the film, but because this is an action movie, where the hero usually wins (it would be a terrible sucker punch is Hans Gruber ended Die Hard by shooting McClane in the head and walking away), there isn’t enough tension. This first hit me, when I watched ‘The Last Stand’ way back in January. There is a moment where Arnold Schwarzenegger tells his team of inexperienced police officers that they probably will all end up dead, when they take on an experienced team of criminals. They all find some resolve and reluctantly agree that they have to take on the bad guys, even if it means that they will most likely end up dead.
Of course, they are going to survive. Arnie doesn’t die; they performed medical tests during the making of Hercules. Sure, we thought that maybe one or two of these characters would die, but it was very unlikely that their fears would be confirmed. It is a shame that this is a tough one to make work, because it would make many generic action movies so much hard-hitting. James Bond would be so much more tense, if we actually thought someone could kill off 007. As it stands, this is one part of cinema we seem to have given up on.
2 – THE ‘WALKING INTO A DARK ROOM’ HORROR MOVIE CLICHÉ
I am sure everyone who has watched a horror movie as seen one scene, where a character walks into a room that is quite clearly where the monster or killer is hiding. Sure enough, soon after, he is killed off and we end up being frustrated at the TV, because his demise could have been so easily avoided. Well, there is actually a scientific psychological explanation for people doing this that makes it less of a cliché and more of a biological reaction.
This is a quote from a Psychologist Dr. Noam Shpancer in magazine Psychology Today that explains this feeling better than I could: “When you avoid something that scares you, you tend to experience a sense of failure. Every time you avoid a feared object or situation, your anxiety gains strength while you lose some. Every time you avoid the feared object or situation, you accumulate another experience of failure and another piece of evidence attesting to your weakness.”
I can use my own experiences to confirm this quote. When I was watching ‘Sinister’, I predicted how the fifth home movie would end (the guy gets his face smashed open by a lawn-mower). At the last moment, I turned away from the big screen and looked at my feet. I heard screams, I looked up. The moment was over, but I could tell I had just avoided a terrifying moment. I have felt gutted ever since and my imagination has filled in the blanks for that specific moment. I am sure that it would have been a much better experience if I had just watched the cinema. But in that moment, overcome by the scary movie, I gave into my fear, which, as Dr. Shpancer says, gave me this feeling of weakness. Sadly, movies never portray this correctly and you just end up thinking that the latest dead guy is a stupid idiot, who should have listened to your warnings. Damn you, fictional character!
1 – THE PASSIVE CRUSH
Let me go into specifics, because this is more than your average crush.
The Passive Crush (I made this term up off the top of my head; I am sure there is a better phrase for it), is the kind of crush, where your day sometimes crosses with a member of the opposite sex. For example, it has tried to be portrayed in ‘How I Met Your Mother’ and ‘Harold and Kumar’, when the leading male gets into an elevator every day and sees a girl. The two do not know each other, but there is still a sense that you harbour a slight crush for that person. This passive crush can come in many forms: maybe every day you walk past this crush on your way to work. Maybe that person is at work. Again, there are examples of the passive crush in TV and films, but it is such a complex emotion to get right, that it is rarely done justice.
I have seen the feeling portrayed of when that other person is not on that daily routine. It kind of becomes an unspoken rule that you have to cross paths, and when your crush is not there, it can be a little disheartening. I had a crush on a girl at work once and whether I had a good day or a bad day depended on whether she was there or not. Of course, this kind of crush takes a while to build up in a movie, so writers tend to go for the more stereotypical crush (read Zooey Deschanel), to make this feeling of love easier. However, the passive crush, if you can accept it for what it is and not let these emotions overpower you, can be a truly beautiful experience and it is a shame that there isn’t really a movie I have seen that can balance this wide range of emotions just right.