The Shia Threshold


The Shia Threshold is a point that an actor crosses to achieve a performance that is otherwise deemed a ludicrous point to cross by his or her fellow actors. Otherwise known as extreme method acting.

Origin:  Shia LaBeouf went to extremes when preparing for his role as Bible in Fury. He is rumored to have pulled a tooth, not showered for the duration of the filming and cut himself on the face because real cuts look better than prosthetic scars. 

Usage: "Tom Hanks is brilliant, but has he ever crossed the Shia threshold for any of his roles?"

First Used: O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Texas Ballet

The Texas Ballet is the long, dialog free sequence that celebrates cornerstone elements of Texas misery that are hot, sweaty, dusty, and likely end in a key character being buried alive, though not always. 

Origin:  The Coen Brothers are expert at making use of location as a key player in their films. The silent sequence in Blood Simple is a great example, a dance of landscape driven visuals leading up to Dan Hedaya being buried alive.   

Usage:  "I live for subtlety — if a character's going to die, I need a Texas Ballet to build up to it."

First Used: Blood Simple



A subgenre that incorporates elements both of comedy and mafia films.  Hence, a Mafedy.

Origin:  Watching Prizzi's Honor again really provides an opportunity to see how John Huston and original author Richard Condon really were working to create a new subgenre, the Mafedy.

Usage:  It's rare to find a genre mashup as strange as a Mafedy, because they usually don't work very well.  Case in point -- Jane Austen's Mafia!

First Used:  Prizzi's Honor


When an actor's performance in the trailer doesn't sell their performance but upon seeing the film, it's clear that it is actually a genius performance.  

Origin:  Anthony Hopkins was totally unbelievable as Richard Nixon in the trailer, but when Pete saw the film, he realized he'd been wrong and that Hopkins was genius.  

Usage:  Hugh Jackman looked ridiculous in the trailers for Real Steel but, man -- watch the movie.  He really pulled a Hopkins.  He's great.

First Used:  28 Days Later

The Dredd Effect

When the lack of excitement for a film is reversed by the surprisingly good experience the film turns out to be.  The opposite of the Prometheus Effect.  

Usage:  Dredd turned out to be a much better film than we expected it to be, so we experienced the Dredd effect when we saw it.  

Usage:  It's a shame more people didn't go see Rise of the Guardians -- they would've really been hit with the Dredd effect, liking it much more than they ever thought they would.

First Used:  28 Days Later

The Hans Gruber Problem

Despite multiple wonderful and stand-out roles, a problem some actors face when their mannerisms will forever be linked to one specific character.  

Origin:  Alan Rickman's unforgettable performance in Die Hard as Hans Gruber still overshadows virtually every performance he's been in since.  He was obviously great in the Harry Potter films and in Sweeney Todd, but he still runs into the Hans Gruber problem.

Usage:  I don't care if Robin Williams won an Oscar for Good Will Hunting.  He still runs into the Hans Gruber problem with the Genie in Aladdin.

First Used:  Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Double Whammy

When you watch a movie you've cherished since childhood but haven't seen since then only to find that not only is it not as good as you remembered but also that you have now ruined the memory you had of it.

Origin:  Rewatching Rush really was a real disappointment for Pete.  He really loved his memory of the coolness of Jason Patric and the hotness of Jennifer Jason Leigh, but watching this film again really ruined that memory.  He also realized how much he didn't like the film.

Usage:  I rewatched Ralph Bakshi's Lord of the Rings and, man -- what a double whammy.  

First Used:  Rush

The Leonardo Complex

Also known as Leonardo's Curse.  A struggle some actors go through when they perpetually look like a child, even when they grow up.  Named after Leonardo DiCaprio but also applies to Edward Norton, Winona Ryder, etc.  

Origin:  Even when playing a cop or a parent, Leonardo DiCaprio always looks like a child playing dress-up.

Usage:  As great as he is in The Bourne Legacy, Edward Norton never feels like he could be the head of this secret spy organization.  He's got the Leonardo Complex and could never really boss Stacy Keach around.

First Used:  The Bourne Legacy

Jiggly Monkey

Quick shots used as transitions to get us from one scene to another instead of a direct cut or a dissolve.  Often used in action montages to invigorate them.  

Origin:  Tony Scott used these quite a bit in "Enemy of the State" -- really fast, computer "jiggly monkey" clips to invigorate the action when we see the character running from the point of view of a satellite.  

Usage:  Edgar Wright used some great jiggly monkeys in "Hot Fuzz" to make normally boring activities feel invigorating.  

First Used:  Hot Fuzz

Dehors de la Scène

The spiritual opposite of the term of art, mise en scéne, this term goes to describe the action implied though not explicitly depicted in the frame of film. 

Origin: By focusing on a close-up of Indy's face, the audience can't see the German guards gathering just dehors de la scène. On the reveal shot, the audience can see the set-up that was taking place in hiding moment before.

Usage: Spielberg likes to trick us by playing dehors de la scène, revealing hidden action set-ups as he transitions from close-up to medium shots.

First Used: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Morgan Freeman (v.)

When a performer is "discovered" late in their career and end up appearing in seemingly everything.

Origin: Morgan Freeman was 52 when he played Hoke Colburn in Driving Miss Daisy. Prior to that film Freeman had appeared in a number of TV movies, series, and fewer than a dozen feature films. Since Daisy, however, the actor has completed nearly 60 feature films.

UsageHoly smokes! That Bryan Cranston has totally Morgan Freemaned — since "Breaking Bad" it seems like he's in everything!

First used: Drive

Benigni Night

An Oscar night when everyone seems to have dismissed what really should be winning awards and are instead piling Oscars on the foreign favorite. It doesn't have to be a foreign film but seems to work best with them.

Origin: In 1999, nobody cared that Roberto Benigni beat out Tom Hanks, Ian McKellen, Nick Nolte and Edward Norton for Best Actor for his performance in "Life Is Beautiful" because he was just so much damn fun to watch win the award.

Usage: Boy, "The Artist" sure had a Benigni night this year at the Oscars.

First used: Post Oscar Night Wrap Up

The Steve Jobs Effect

When a visionary joins forces with a film company and ends up having an affect on the company's film quality. 

Origins: By partnering with Pixar, Steve Jobs could be said to have lent to the amazing quality the animation studio churned out for over a decade, simply due to his vision and belief in quality. 

Usage: Let's hope that John Lasseter's new role at Disney creates a Steve Jobs Effect with their overall output.

First used: The French Connection

Diablo Cody-itis

An affliction when everyone is seemingly drawn to Diablo Cody and you don't feel that she has the talent everyone else finds in her output. Can be used in relation to any artist you feel is seen through rose-colored glasses, but it is used best when discussing Diablo Cody. 

Origins: When Diablo Cody not only won an Oscar for "Juno" but also began writing a column in Entertainment Weekly, Andy decided that everyone else had Diablo Cody-itis.

Usage: I just don't know what they see in that movie. Everyone must've caught Diablo Cody-itis.

First Used: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Spielberg Spank

Using a nonsensical plot device to get rid of any antagonistic character, generally when in heavy pursuit of the protagonist and or others on the protagonist's side. 

Origins: After Marion drives Indiana Jones and company off a cliff, they land on a conveniently placed tree that lowers down, dropping them somewhat gently into the river below. After losing the excess weight, the tree swings back up and smacks the Russians, now in heavy pursuit on the cliff face, knocking them off the cliff. Also known as the McCarthy Spank, as we jokingly said that McCarthy had trained those trees to treat Russians this way. 

Usage: Boy, those Velociraptors sure got the Spielberg Spank when the T-Rex conveniently burst into the building and attacked them all, allowing the humans to escape!

First UsedIndiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Pull a Lucas

When one feels the incessant need to go back and tinker with anything finished long ago to modernize it or make it fit better with one's own modern sensibilities, even if those sensibilities now fall outside of the original intent of what one set out to do in the first place. 

Origins: George Lucas' need to first return to Star Wars Episodes 4-6 to not only modernize the special effects so they fit better with the look in the prequels, but also to decide that Greedo needed to shoot first. He again pulled a Lucas when he decided that, for the Blu-ray release, Darth Vader needed to scream, "Nooooooo!" at the end of the climactic fight between Luke and the Emperor in Return of the Jedi. 

Usage: Steven Spielberg pulled a Lucas when he decided the cops needed to be holding walkie talkies instead of guns in the re-release of E.T., but smartly decided to change back to the original version for the films Blu-ray release.

First used: Raiders of the Lost Ark