Follow us:

Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

March 17, 2010 at 10:06 AM

Movie titles: What’s in a name?

Last night, I saw “The Bounty Hunter,” which is about a bounty hunter. This week, I’m also reviewing “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” which has as one of its main characters a girl with a dragon tattoo, and “The Runaways,” which is about the band The Runaways. These aren’t exactly imaginative titles, but they work — I mean, you can’t call a movie “Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler Run Around and Bicker For Nearly Two Hours”; that’s not going to move any popcorn. But it got me thinking about how rare it is that a movie’s title is something clever in and of itself. Sometimes a title comes along pre-set from a book or a franchise — “Alice in Wonderland,” “Spider-Man” and the like — but often there’s an opportunity, rarely taken, for something interesting. (Two favorite book titles that just popped into my head: Dave Eggers “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” and Jincy Willett’s “Winner of the National Book Award.” Now, why doesn’t anyone call a movie “Winner of the Academy Award”? Probably because the Academy won’t let them, more’s the pity.)
“Fish Tank,” for example, which is not about fish but about a young girl’s stifling life on a British council estate, is a title that makes you think for a minute; poetic titles like “The Wind That Shakes the Barley” (which, if you’re looking for an Irish movie on this St. Patrick’s Day, is a great choice) or “Treeless Mountain” give us an image that makes the film appealing. And some purely literal titles work almost too well: the great “Snakes on a Plane” being perhaps the ultimate example, or “The Men Who Stare at Goats,” or the upcoming “Hot Tub Time Machine.”
And some titles simply reek of bland compromise. “New in Town,” the Renee Zellweger romantic comedy from last year, was originally called “Chilled in Miami,” which is mildly interesting but got changed late in the game. “Drag Me to Hell,” for example, is a good title, but you wonder if there wasn’t some suit arguing to call it “My Trip To Hell” or something safer. Then there’s my favorite absolutely nonsensical title: “Final Destination 2.”
Has a movie title caused you to raise an eyebrow lately? Did you get “9” and “Nine” mixed up last year? Have you been surprised to find a good movie hiding behind a bad title? Do tell.

Comments

COMMENTS

No personal attacks or insults, no hate speech, no profanity. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate this thread by reporting any abuse. See our Commenting FAQ.



The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only, and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.


The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►