A genre of play that never goes out of fashion is the one in which two brothers — less often two sisters — meet after long separation, and secrets buried for years are hauled into the open. The meeting will have been prompted by the death of a parent, generally the father, always identified as a bully, psychologically, physically or both. Incest doesn’t have to feature but behaviour that has wrecked the offspring has to be present and must be continuing to do its nasty work. Invariably one of the offspring will have escaped the foetid nest and become successful; almost always the other remained at home and hasn’t. Jeremy Kingston Times May 6, 2011
In American movies, TV, offering people cups of tea is a sign of high gentility – even though it’ll be made with tepid water and a tea bag.
In movies set in a post-apocalyptic future, why does nobody get from A to B by bike? Why aren’t space missions equipped with night-vision goggles? Why don’t robots have GPS so you know where they are? via cracked.com
Camera comes slowly up behind someone obliviously working a sewing machine/typewriter/knife grinder – they are going to be coshed on the back of the neck! And then they are!
Tribal drums, woman sings in chest voice in style and language of no particular country or culture – documentary about the origin of Man.
Flute plays Canadian folk song – we are in the land of the beaver, wolf, bear and conifer.
Camera pans over cluttered attic as tinkly music is played by an overturned music box = was it the ghost that done it? Or are we about to find a secret door/dead body/photo with the face scratched out?
Child or young girl sings nursery rhyme in breathy voice = she is a ghost! Also beware the unseen children laughing.
Dies Irae on lower woodwinds or brass – someone’s for it.
High, folky flute music: mass release of coral eggs.
Whenever someone looks out of a cabin door at night, a distant dog barks.
When a single woman returns to her country cottage at night, a distant fox barks.
Generic melancholy oriental music – we are in nearly empty Chinese or Indian restaurant which is either front for spy/crime organization or meeting place for John Le Carré anti-heroes.
Allegri’s Miserere (chopped up and played out of sequence) – we are in a religious or maybe just old building dating from 800-1900.
Satie’s Gymnopédies – will do for practically anything.
The Russian agent is sprung from his cell and driven through the night to his own little bedsit in a provincial suburb. He wakes up and sees the sun shining through the orange nylon curtains – he flings them wide and sees… a spotlight. It is a fake room exactly like his own, built in a warehouse. He is back in the hands of the Bad Guys.
In any archaeological dig, one digger wants to tell the world about his important historical discovery, while the other scientist wants to find gold – and lots of it. (Sometimes he wants to find the yeti and make people pay to see it.)
Lightweight has more depth than suspected (Scarlet Pimpernel, Frost/Nixon, Cyrano de Bergerac). Sometimes dies nobly.
More here and here.
Cop show cliches here and here.
Music and sound cliches here.
Spy drama cliches here.
More plots here.