Tuesday, April 28, 2015

BY POPULAR DEMAND! THE TOP TEN WORST PLOT TWISTS OF ALL-TIME!

Okay, I give up, I have nothing to talk about today, I've been staring at this computer for, I don't even know how many days now, debating between writing a TV Viewing 101 blog, or another rant about how being a fan or a fanboy is the worst thing in the history of time, but fuck me, I'm getting bored of that rant. Frankly, I think that's partly why I got nothing to talk, because that's all that's out there in the entertainment world right now. I know people who are, not even Gold Derby people, just regular people trying to discuss the Primetime Emmys, right now! Like 4 months early, the network finales haven't aired yet! I cannot believe that I had no internet for like a month and as far as I can tell, nothing happened that I have any particular viewpoint ON. I can't pretend to care who's cast as what superhero or super-villain this week, or for whatever fucking Marvel sequel is out now,- I got pissed off at the Daytime Emmys this week and I didn't even watch them! Or care, there was just nothing else going on. The-eh, the Musician's Guild is suing a few studios, for something, there's a couple people dying, that's tragic and I'm sorry for Jayne Meadows's and Andrew Lesnie's family and friends, but that's not really a blog subject, not a good one. Oh, Verne Gagne too died, sorry for your loss, and that's another thing, you know just how much nothing is going on right now, I've gotten about six different trending updates in like the last three days regarding WWE news and results on my Facebook newsfeed and trending thingy. Like, alright, I've noticed Ring of Honor is back to being entertaining-, oh dear God, I'm watching ROH regularly again, ugh, but I- there has to be something else going on other than the King of the Ring tournament. Alright, the Nepal earthquake, that's frightening actually, especially if you the history and geography of that area, of how the Himalayas were actually formed but again, there has to be something else?! Right? Anything? Anything, really? Please, oh here we go, a producer is going to jail for defrauding money. Peter Hoffman a "True Detective" producer, mail and wire fraud related to his New Orleans based company, alright a Hollywood Producer took more money than he should've, and defraud-ed, peop-le.... (Voice trails off) What else, Bravo has a scripted series, good. Um, hope it works out. What else? Oh, another death, Don Mankiewicz, one of the Mankiewicz's died. Okay, sorry for your Ben, and the rest of your clan. Riots in Baltimore, eh-, yeah, I can't add anything depthful about that. Ooh, Beth Hart has a new album out, I love her. (Singing) "Man, I gotta get out of this town, man, I gotta get back on my feet. Man, I gotta get out of this town..." half of you don't even know that song do you? "Out of this town, and out of L.A.". 

(Frustrated grunt, sigh) Alright, I give. I gave it one last shot. (Calming breath sigh, calming breath sigh) I was hoping never to have to go to the last resort, but I'm out of options today, time to metaphorically break the emergency glass. I put a poll on Cinema Discussions's FB page and asked if there was any TOP TEN LIST, that they'd like/want me to do. I know, I have a big hate/love relationship with lists. Guys, part of why I can't stand people who basically put out lists is because, I was doing it before everybody. I still keep my list of every movie I've ever seen, and I have numerous sublists below that, most of those I don't bring up or publish. I've been keeping that, since, high school. Like, over wow, 12 years ago, way longer than Letterboxd has been around, okay. It's a habit for me, anyway that's why I don't make lists of everything, 'cause I was one of the very first people to realize how obsessed we are with lists. I watched every list imaginable started with AFI-, no starting with VH-1 "100 Greatest Artists of Rock'n'Roll", list, the first one they did. And most all the other until they became irrelevant. About ten years ago. Since, then, there's whole sites devoted to lists. We love ranking and putting together lists, I get it, believe me, and I'm only doing this because, I really don't have much else to say about anything else at the moment.

So, what won. Well, it looks like Worst Plot Twists. Top Ten Worst Plot Twists? Oh, crap. That was the option I wanted least. FUCK! Alright, well, first of all, what is a plot twist?

A plot twist, according to the Oxford English Dictionary is simply, "an unexpected development" in a piece of literature. Novel, film, television shows, etc. That's it. That can be practically anything. And frankly, that's more of a story twist if we're being honest here. A real twist would be if "The Old Man and the Sea" suddenly turned into "The Fast and the Furious", that would be a plot twist. So, it's basically a story development that's unexpected, but you want shitty ones. Well, it's not really worst ones, but just failed ones. You can kinda do anything in a story as long as we're caught into it believably enough it's possible to hypothetically get away with anything. What this really is, is a sudden shift in the tale or story that's just not believable in the world that the story exists in. For example, Fonzi jumping the shark, is not a plot twist. We'd seen Fonzi, jump 14 trash cans on his motorcycle, we'd seen him riding a bunking bronco, win a demolition derby against the Malachi Brothers, hell turning on the jukebox frankly by just hitting it, Most of those things were relatively awesome, and actually jumping a shark is not that outrageous comparatively in that world, it was just repetitive. We'd seen Fonzi do this many times before, survive and under much more dramatic and dangerous circumstances for us to really be invested in whether or not he can waterski over a shark. (Which was dumb in of itself, it was in the Ocean, how do you keep the shark staying in front of the ramp? It's not like it's a pool or something? Stupid.) A plot twist would be if after Fonzi did that, he'd then announce that he was having a sex change operation and was changing his name to Jennifer. That's a plot twist. It's a very sudden, drastic change in the story. "Sudden" being a keyword. There can be foreshadowing of course, but a deconstructionist perspective, the most effective plot twists, you don't see coming.

Actually, I am more of a deconstructionist most of the time and this is why plot twists are difficult for me to analyze and discuss, because a plot twist to me, is really just a part of the journey of the story. We're expecting our emotions to be manipulated to such varying degrees, so some twists might not come off as twists to me. Yeah, I'll probably go after M. Night Shaymalan at some point here, because he overused this device. Yet strangely, the supposed twist in "Signs", his best film, doesn't exist. There is no plot twist. The water kills them? That's not a twist, it's actually part of the story. The little girl had a lot of glasses of water, so we were paying attention to it, but, let's face it, it's "War of the Worlds". It's just a remake of it, and in the original book, just like the movie, the thing that ultimately toppled the alien attacks was their lack of immunity to Earth-bound diseases and illnesses. They died off because of the common cold, which makes sense. So, why doesn't water make sense? It's possible that aliens might not have water or if they do they might not have an ability to survive our water, which their biological bodies aren't used to. They can both be either unfamiliar or they're just not capable of surviving because of the thing that's foreign to them, it's just as logical that it's water as it is the common cold.

Plus, a bad plot twist doesn't necessarily mean that it was something unpredictable. Nearly every whodunit is usually predictable enough that you would've at least considered the possibility that the person who did it, did it, unless it's somebody who's completely unknown to the story until now, and half the time's that's a deus ex machima and half the time that doesn't really work as a storytelling device or a plot twist. Everyone is naturally a suspect, so it's more-than-likely, you should've considered everyone as the plausible perpetrator. That's a good thing that it's not about whodunit, it's about how the detective character finds out whodunit. So, it's not really important, who actually committed the crime at least plot-wise.

All right, enough stalling. I'm going to take into account film, television and any other pieces of literature that I'm familiar enough with to discuss to come up with this Top Ten Worst Plot Twists. I won't be limited to that though, I might also put on a type of plot twist in this case. Not necessarily a particular work of literature but a generally bad overused plot twists. And I'll briefly describe each of the choices and my reasons for them. So, here we go...

TOP TEN WORST PLOT TWISTS

10. "WWE MONDAY NIGHT RAW"-Mae Young gives birth to a hand.



Okay, swear to God, last time I'm mentioning pro wrestling this blogpost, but as soon as I thought of this I knew I had to put it on here. The fact that we're not expecting the greatest of storytelling and inventiveness of the literary form in professional wrestling however, probably makes this that much stupider and just as pointless. Mae Young, at the time, in her mid-'70s was a legendary groundbreaking professional female wrestler, back in the days when that was one of the few options a female athlete had. She was a recurring characters on and off WWE programming back in 2000, she was "Dating" 'Sexual Chocolate' Mark Henry, a man who was one-time legitimately, the world's strongest man, he was an Olympian weightlifter, superheavyweight division, before switching to wrestling, and working a gimmick around his sexual prowess. Then, as he was dating this senior citizen, 40something years his Senior, she got pregnant. And then, when she gave onscreen, she gave birth, to a prosthetic hand. (Go back and repeat those last few sentences, very slowly) This was the culmination of a storyline, that went on for, well, not nine months, but a few months overall. Pro wrestling has a soap opera storyline structure, so you know, if we're going by that standard, Mae Young's not the first person to be pregnant after going through menopause, but ye-ah, even for professional wrestling, this is stupid and nonsensical on so many levels. The concept of the relationship was dumb, the idea of the pregnancy was stupid and then the giving birth, to a prosthetic hand. There's a few plot twists here, all of them stupid. There's plenty of stupid plot twists in pro wrestling, and they have their own terminologies with these things, and I can go on to explain this more elaborately, but, frankly this is long enough to talk about it. If you think you really want to know more, find a longtime pro wrestling fan and ask them about it, you'll probably bum them out, but you can ask them.


9. "MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA"/Historius Interuptus 



In certain situations this can work, "Gangs of New York" comes to mind, but when it doesn't really add anything, this just feels like an arbitrary plotpoint. "Memoirs of a Geisha" is probably my most hated offender and I call this the, "Meanwhile, WWII happens syndrome", which is what happens in that movie, and then for no real reason either. I mean, yeah, history, that's about it. We have to stop for history. This was really bad in "Memoirs..." when, literally out of nowhere, it's WWII, but this is more of a general thing. Basically, this causes the geisha house to quit temporarily, (Which is not that accurate to reality) and then basically happens so a character can quit and then come back later to save the day. You don't even need the war frankly. It's completely arbitrary.


8. "THE VILLAGE" 



Yeah, I had to put one arbitrary M. Night Shaymalan on here, and I'm picking "The Village". SPOILERS: It's modern time. Yeah, that was dumb. I mean, if that was maybe a Eudora Welty short story or something like that, I guess I could see a twist like that working, in written form, but in the language of cinema, it doesn't work. We're wondering when and where we are most of the time anyway, so it isn't that surprising and frankly it just doesn't make any sense anyway. Who was that for, the Amish? Alright, I don't think I need to explain more on that one; I met my quota.


7. "FIGHT CLUB"/The Cheat Ending



Okay, for those who are unaware of this, "Fight Club" is a lousy film and a cheat. I know, some people are insistent that it isn't, they're wrong. This gets grouped together with other famous twist endings of the period,  like "The Usual Suspects" or "The Sixth Sense" but this one, isn't a twist, it's just a cheat. That's the thing a twist, has to actually do two things, one it actually has to have a dramatic input on the story, it can't be arbitrary. It kinda is in "Fight Club", but actually problem is that it's just a lie. There's numerous points in the film, including the opening shot, which specifically tells us, this is important and real, when in reality, if the twist is right then those scene we're impossible. In fact, much of this movie involves things that are just impossible. It might make more sense in novel form, but on screen, in the frame, when you create the truth and then say it's the truth, and then say, "Oh, just kidding," that's not twisting, that's flat out, lying to the audience. This is why those other films work and this one doesn't. "The Usual Suspects", Verbal Kint isn't lying to the audience, he's lying to the police. There's a difference, we're experiencing his story visually, but then there's lying to the audience, and that, you can't do. You can deceive or trick the audience, "The Sixth Sense" did that well, but lying to the audience, no, "Fight Club" from the first shot on, lies to the audience, only to say at the end, "I'm sorry, all that didn't happen." That's different than the untrustworthy or unknowing narrator. Now there's other problems with "Fight Club" too, but there's a lot of variations of this cheat ending disguised as a twist ending. "Fight Club", isn't the worst offender by any means, but I'm including it 'cause I'm amazed how many people fall for it with this film. There isn't even any good foreshadowing or subtle filmmaking techniques to hint at it. No seriously, there isn't. So we see Pitt before Norton, uh, sure, but that doesn't add anything, in fact all it tells us is that, "Ha ha, this is a much bigger cheat than we let on.", 'cause we already know Pitt's coming even before then. There's perspective shots that are impossible, there's one or two cute scenes involving Helena Bonham Carter sleeping with both of them, but they don't know they're one in the same, which is still impossible, oh, but it's okay, 'cause it's a metaphor for the Nazis, the Fight Club. Uh, no, not really. It really isn't that. There's better films with that metaphor, but still beating the hell out of each other isn't a movement, National Socialist or any kind of revolution, but I digress, even if you accept all that, the ending is still just a blatant cheat. to anybody who paid attention. Still, there's worst plot twists.


6. Most "It was all a dream" endings. 




This is very specific, I'm not talking something like "The Wizard of Oz" where it's pretty clear it's a dream the whole time, or tell you it's a dream, or something like a David Lynch where he prefers to use the world and logic of dreams as setting for the film. Or even aberrations, which you won't find on this list by the way, an aberration isn't inherently a plot twist and frankly, it's as often good character development as anything else. Nobody complains about dream sequences in "The Big Lebowski" do they? No, I'm talking when the result of the whole story, ends when the character suddenly wakes up to find up, none of it was real and it was all in their mind. That said, even then, sometimes this works, "The Woman in the Window" for instance is a great film noir that has this ending that still holds up amazingly. Hell, two of the greatest moments in television history, Bobby Ewing coming back on "Dallas" and the greatest series finale episode of all-time, the final episode of "Newhart" did this absolutely masterfully. In general though it's mostly lazy writing, and that's why I have to put it up here. Plus, it basically negates everything that came before, unless it's an aberration from within a character's mind. There's a few episodes of "Scrubs" that did this masterfully, because it didn't negate everything that happened it just put it into the context of it being from a character's perspective. I guess I could mention something like "North" that did this, or any ending that turns out to be a story being told to kids that just happens to be known to the storyteller as real. I know "The Care Bears" did that all the time but I heard recently a whole season of "Power Rangers" did that once. Not that I was ever a "Power Rangers" fan, but, I never would've thought they would never be reduced to a story told to children by a teacher, especially since when I was young, the fear was that they were too much of a negative influence on schoolchildren. It's basically the same thing, story being told, dreams, they're both just as unreal even if they feel real. It doesn't necessarily negate the events before, but still.... So, this stupid out in general, is pretty dumb, and I think needs a spot if for nothing else, even if it does work, it's lazy, lazy writing.


5. "PERRY MASON"/The Compelled Confession 



I actually love "Perry Mason"; I've watched this show all my life actually and in every other way possible, it invented the lawyer show. Everything good about the lawyer show too. He even lost a case once, don't forget, so even he did that. The rest of the time though, it's funny, that suddenly at the end of the episode, that whoever the killer actually is, will suddenly announce that he/she did it, in the courtroom, often on the stand, during the trial. The reveal of whodunit, that's always great, but the confession? That's worst than the Bond villain revealing all his plans to Bond instead of just killing him. Especially in anything when this happens now, the sudden confession at the end. At least with Perry Mason, it's almost a joke now that you can accept, but once in a while this show's up on "Law & Order" or something, the great reveals of information in the courtroom. Doesn't have to be revealing the killer, just the sudden courtroom confession, even with provocation, it really comes off as bad writing.


4. "THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT"/Amnesia



I don't know when the amnesia plot twist was started, I usually date it back, at least television-wise to "The Addams Family" (Great episode of that show actually, they did it well, probably why this plot twist is such a bad television cliche now) and there's variants on this, dating back to "A Midsummer Night's Dream", but this is really the bottom of the writing barrel, and the biggest hack writing move there is. It's fun for actors I guess 'cause they get to play something other than themselves, but it's basically a one-thing gimmick, the character forgets who they are, and then later, the remember. They always remember later, you almost never,- okay, "Samantha Who?" and the "The Bourne Trilogy" movies, but other than that, they almost always go back to themselves by the end anyway. Then there's the worst use of amnesia, "The Long Kiss Goodnight", and this is one of the few plot twists that isn't just the ending. Basically, Geena Davis doesn't know who she is, turns out to be a FBI who has for the last seven or so years, had a daughter, started a family, yada, yada, yada, and then suddenly, she instantly remembers that she's a true bad ass sexy, emotionless bitch who loves to kill. I almost also called this the Jekyll & Hyde syndrome, but he didn't forget who he was, he was just turning into somebody else. That's overplayed too, but that's not the same nor is it worst than having amnesia. It can be done well, but why do it at all? This is just a dumb, very dumb, overused plot twist. Used mostly as a device and only on very rare occasions does it actually get used in such a way to actually explore the real effects of having lost your entire identity and trying to then have to find out who you actually are.


3. "JOSHUA"/Faith




The worst single storytelling device of all-time, is faith. This isn't even really a plot twist per se, but, well, it can be, when that turns out to be the answer. Just believe for absolutely no logical reason, and then it'll be true. (Annoyed grunt) Imagine, if Santa Clause, didn't bring present every year, he just showed up at your house while you were asleep Christmas day and then, left. Maybe ate a cookie or two and drank a glass of milk, but do you think would believe if he didn't bring gifts? I don't think so. The gift is the evidence that, yes, Santa was here. This is why faith is not a believable storyline, ever. Never has been, never will be. I'm sure you can name a thousand films about how this fails, the one I always think about was this Christian movie I watched once called "Joshua". Who's Joshua? He's Jesus. There's a small town of Auburn, somewhere, and he's come in, and is a great carpenter who helps out the entire town from building the African-American's baptist church, to helping bake cookies or any other small job, almost like he's a presence and not a real person. The only person who is righteously skeptical of Mr. No Last Name, Joshua, is the town's local priest. Of course, by the end, he's converted throw the power of faith, through Joshua's hand. It ends with him getting to meet the pope in Rome, before, dissolving/vanishing into the spirits. Sorry for that spoiler. BTW, Tony Goldwyn was Joshua and the priest was F. Murray Abraham in that horrific film. Faith as a storytelling device is horrible enough, but faith as a twist, the twist being that yes, he is Jesus. That's pretty bad. Even some of the really bad religious films I've been unfortunate enough to see didn't have faith as the plot twist, although for all I know that might just be lucky me, but still, faith as a plot twist, is bad, if not worst, than faith as a storytelling device.


2. "AMANDA" 



I'm not being facetious here, this is the single-worst movie I've ever seen! I'm deadly serious, there is nothing lower than this film for me. (Under normal circumstances, we'll get to my number one, but I need to tell this story first.) I was a judge for a local film festival many years back, it was a side job just for experience and to make a few extra bucks and I was given the task up doing the write-up for the film "Amanda". If you've never heard of it 'til now, you're welcome. I did my job then. (Growling angry breath) I gave it a well-deserved, emphatic "Not Recommend," and no, it did not screen at the festival that I was judging and I am very proud of that fact. The story involves a forty-year-old bachelor, who like the rest of this movie is very shallow about women, but he finally meets the one. Amanda, and they get married and then on their wedding night, she tells him that she was born a guy. This is most horrible, horrible tragic thing that could've ever happened to him. And, if you're thinking "Holy shit, that's the most shallowest, stupidest thing ever!", this movie has more twists that are stupider and more shallow than that. The second half of the movie, after the marriage is annulled, is still the constant following of this shallow guy, as he begins to see Amanda everywhere, including in his fantasies or dreams and he wonders, "Gee, maybe I can actually grow and be accepting of this gorgeous, nice, beautiful woman who I'm in love even though she was born a man." Which he eventually does, remind you, this guy is supposed to be 40 years old at the time. But, no, there's another twist that's even stupider and more shallow than all this. He finally is willing to accept Amanda and then we find out, A. The marriage is still intact, B. She was lying, she was actually born a female and this was all a test! A test for what you ask? C. It turns out, not only is she perfect, not only is she a female, but she's stupidly stupidly rich, and she wanted to make sure that the love was real before revealing that. (Clinched fists, pounding against side of my head). Where to begin? How about "Oh, thank god, you're not a woman, and you're rich! Awesome!" Nevermind all the lying, the homophobia, the shallowness of the story, the disrespect towards females, in general in this film, but negating the whole plot in favor of "Ha ha, just kidding!" (Go back to my reasoning behind putting "Fight Club" on this list.) but, "Good news, I'm rich, it's a fantasy come true, you won the lottery! Oh my God, this movie. Could not fit more inexcusable stupid plot twists in it, one dumber than the next, and from the perspective of an asshole. It's tin-eared, it's offensive, it's everything that can possibly be done wrong from a storytelling perspective, especially for a romance. These are fine plot twists to actually use, to explore, but they're not done well at all. There's very little I can say about this, without literal steam coming from me. This movie is toxic, especially in the many ways it fails to use plot twists effectively. Basically, he has no idea how real people who aren't stupid, might respond to situations like this. Think for comparison a film like "50/50" where Joseph Gordon-Levitt finds out he has cancer and how the characters are in fact struggling to deal with all this entails. Well there is none of that here. Yes it's a bombshell, but A. She is a woman so why does it matter and B. alright, dick move on her part not telling, but still, the overreaction is not justifiable anywhere outside of "The Maury Povich Show".

(Drumroll)

And now for the NUMBER ONE ALL-TIME WORST PLOT TWIST OF ALL-TIME!

(Drumroll ends. Frustrated sigh)

Yeah, a plot twist ruining a movie, understandable. Forgivable perhaps. Ruining a TV series, tragic, very tragic. But, how bad can a plot twist really be? You see the thing is, a plot twist means that's you've started a plot already and are now suddenly going in a different direction, a different narrative perhaps and there's nothing inherently wrong with that, unless of course, you negate everything that came before. Now how bad is that, depends on, what exactly you had before. Maybe you ruin an episode, a season, maybe your whole series, but surely, you can't ruin a whole art medium by doing that. No, it's just limited to what's in the piece of literature's you're working on, you can only ruin your own world, right? Killing your babies is fine, that's part of writing, but you can't possibly kill everybody else's babies as well, while killing your own?! That's not possible, right? RIGHT!? I can't ruin my own novel with a stupid plot twist that also ruins "Romeo & Juliet", that can't possibly happen?! There can't be anything that bad?!?!


1. "ST. ELSEWHERE" "The Last One" (FINALE EPISODE)-Tommy Westphall Multiverse



OH MY GOD, THEY KILLED TELEVISION!!!!!! YOU BASTARDS!!!!!!

Okay, first off, some backstory "St. Elsewhere" is a television show more people should know about because it basically was, "ER", like ten years earlier and just as good maybe better even. It was the most realistic portrayal of a hospital ever on television up to that time and it should've been regarded like that. It lasted six seasons, had some big stars on it. Howie Mandel got his start on it, so did Ed Begley Jr., so Denzel Washington of all people, lot of other terrific actors, writers, directors, etc. It was a critical and ratings success. This was a great show, and it should be considered the groundbreaker that it was, but when the series ended, it ended catastrophically. It turns out the most realistic television show that ever took place in a hospital, was in fact, all inside the mind of Tommy Westphall, a little autistic child. Now, as somebody who watches his autistic brother most days, I know about autism and I get the sentiment they were trying to show, but this was so the wrong way to do the "It was all a dream." plot twist. Yes, I'm using this twice, but there's a difference. How "Newhart" did this perfectly, "St. Elsewhere" did it horribly, beyond even the worst dream twists like this. There's a reason it's impossible to find this show in reruns, the whole show essentially negated and not only was it the wrong kind of show to negate, but somebody years ago figured out that this single act, ruined television, forever. Before the show and after the show! How the hell is this possible? Well, "St. Elsewhere" took place in reality, the modern world, and like many shows that use modern world language and references, the show made numerous reference to other television shows. It even had numerous crossovers with other TV shows and those shows had numerous references to other television shows, and there were shows in the future that indeed referenced or took place in the same universe as "St. Elsewhere". Basically, with few exceptions, and you can look up the map yourself, just google Tommy Westphall Multiverse, television is now just a figment of an autistic kid's imagination! There was literally no worst scenario they could've come up with to use this plot twist. The deeper down this rabbit hole you go, more and more television almost daily becomes apart of this kid's mind, television that's actually being created now is stuck inside this kid's mind. This without a doubt, even above the worst movie I've ever seen is the single-worst plot twist in history! I will not accept an argument for any other answer, nothing is worst than this. No other plot twist are we still feeling the ramification from, 25 years later, and we might feel that twist for decades to come.

Alright, there you go. You wanted the Top Ten Worst Plot Twists of All-Time, there they are. I guess that wasn't so, so bad. I might do more of these down the line. Not right now though, but I hope you enjoyed this little aberration of me doing a Top Ten List. Now to plan my next plot twist, where next blogpost, it turns out I've been a paralyzed lesbian vampire dying of Syphilis this whole time. Okay, just kidding about the Syphilis.
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