[BLOG] PCR questions “When does ‘style’ become ‘gimmick’?”

Hey Somethings, PCR here.

I’ve had something rolling around in my brain ever since we did our “Hateful 8” episode that we’ve joked about on a few occasions, but never really dove in to, and that is… “When does Style become Gimmick?”

There are a lot of directors that have a certain “style”, but I feel many of them lean on that style so much that they become a parody of themselves and their movies no longer feel like “A movie directed by…” as much as they feel like “A movie done in the style of…”.  Here is a list of my biggest offenders.

Tim Burton

You knew he was going to be on this list.  He’s shown he can indeed use more than 4 colors (Big Fish, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Mars Attacks!…) but he’s most well known for his ‘gothic fantasy’ color palette as seen in “Batman”, “Sweeny Todd”, “Sleepy Hollow” and many MANY many others.  Even “Alice in Wonderland” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” felt like instead of making a regular movie Tim Burton said “WHAT IF… I use a LOT of colors???”.

M. Night Shyamalan

Sure, “The 6th Sense” put him on the map for most people, and “Unbreakable” was great… “Signs” and “The Village” turned him into “the twist ending guy”.  Now, I’m not sure if it’s because he felt if he ever did a movie without one people would turn on him for not doing ‘his thing’, but the name that used to put asses in seats became a bit of a punchline for a while.  I remember seeing a trailer for “Devil” in the theaters, and the crowd was very into it… until the screen showed “…a movie by M. Night Shyamalan” and the place erupted in boos.  To his credit, perhaps the most self aware he’s been of his ‘gimmick’ is when he backed out from doing “Life of Pi” stating…  “I   was hesitant because the book has kind of a twist ending. And I was concerned that as soon as you put my name on it, everybody would have a different experience. Whereas if someone else did it, it would be much more satisfying, I think. Expectations, you’ve got to be aware of them”

Michael Bay

The man who brought you “Bad Boys II”, “Transformers”, “The Rock” and “Armageddon” has also brought you metric fucktons of explosions, and throws around Dutch Angles like JJ Abrams uses lense flare.   Now, I’ll freely admit, I really enjoy Bad Boys II, and seeing that felt he’d be a great director for Transformers (and I still don’t think I was wrong when the first movie is discussed), but it’s like he started becoming a superfan of his own work and “Baysplosions” were really a thing.   Still, as bad and campy as they may be, most of them are still amazingly fun, and when Epic Rap Battles of History riffs on you, you’ve certainly put a mark on pop culture.

Quentin Tarantino

In my opinion, the worst of the bunch when it comes to ‘Style as Gimmick” because it’s the most egregious.  Tarantino has an eye for cinematography for sure, but it’s his scripting and language that, to me, have become problematic.  While “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction” made him a name when it comes to great conversational scenes and dialogue, “Jackie Brown”, “Django Unchained” and more recently “Hateful 8” felt like he was going out of his way to be controversial when it comes to the use (and sometimes HEAVY use) of certain words (which won’t even be alluded to here… you know which one I’m talking about).  I’m not a ‘feet’ guy, but I’d have rather sat through 20 different shots of Quention licking toes than the nearly 50 times “that word” is used in “Hateful 8” (which is still less than half the number of times it was used in “Django”).  Now, there are people who defend his use of that language in his films (most notably, Samuel L. Jackson), but in my opinion, if you’re specifically using a word or language for no other reason than to make your viewing audience uncomfortable watching it, then it’s a crutch and only being done gratuitously.

Author: Podcast Rob