Random Factoid #362

25 07 2010

Is a one-word title a tragedy?  That is exactly what the Chicago Tribune‘s cultural critic, Julia Keller, dares to suggest in the wake of the release of “Inception” and “Salt.”

Here’s her argument:

There’s a word for titles like these: Ugh.

The hot new summer films “Inception” and “Salt” may be entertaining and popular, but when it comes to the snipped-off monikers by which they’re known — the one-word title — they’re as disappointing as stale Milk Duds.

Trying to come up with an evocative one-word title is a challenge, a dare, a high-wire act without a net. It’s an all-or-nothing adventure without a Plan B. There’s no backup adjective, no cushioning adverb, no peppy little verb to take the pressure off. Neither a politely introductory “The” nor the helpful threshold of an “A” or an “An” is present to lend aid and comfort. No prepositions are in sight. No ampersand stands by.

Going with a solo word as a title is like risking everything on a single throw of the dice or spin of the wheel. It’s like betting the house on red 7 or black 17. It’s one-and-done. title is a challenge, a dare, a high-wire act without a net. It’s an all-or-nothing adventure without a Plan B. There’s no backup adjective, no cushioning adverb, no peppy little verb to take the pressure off. Neither a politely introductory “The” nor the helpful threshold of an “A” or an “An” is present to lend aid and comfort. No prepositions are in sight. No ampersand stands by.

But whether it soars or it sinks, the one-word title is a constant reminder of the marvelous, astonishing, complex and unfathomable power of words. Words are a matter of nuance and texture, of memory and association, of linguistics, of history, of that ineffable magic attending any creative enterprise. With just a single word, an entire world may leap to life. A one-word title can imbue a work with the primitive, epic, thunderous power of eternity; indeed, some one-word titles — think of the film “Gladiator” (2000) — march forth and demand to be chiseled in granite. Other titles — think of the film “Sideways” (2004) — seem achingly fragile, ephemeral, as if they might blow away at the merest hint of wind and be lost forever, like first love.

She lists “Inception” as one of the worst one-word titles ever.  But I say, what’s wrong with the title “Inception?”  It perfectly communicates the mystery and power of the movie, and what more can you ask for?

Let’s brainstorm some other titles – “Subconscious Security?”  It sounds like a bad Martin Lawrence comedy.  “Dream Within a Dream?”  That wouldn’t sell because it sounds way too complicated.  “Limbo?”  Sounds like a raunchy beach movie.  “Inception” perfectly teases us, sounding sophisticated without giving too much away.

Is a one-word title really THAT bad?  Sound off below!


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8 responses

25 07 2010
Simon/Ripley

I personally think one-word titles are pretty lazy, but it hardly ruins the entire movie.

25 07 2010
Red

Well that is just plain silly.

25 07 2010
Jennifer

One word titles are fine, I read an article a while back (it might have been on this blog….) with a case against title that were too wordy. One word title aren’t for all movies, but it definitely worked for “Inception.”

25 07 2010
26 07 2010
Jennifer

Yes, that was the one. Interesting that there is complaint with both methods of titling movies.

26 07 2010
Darren

I’m not entirely sure if the original article is serious… and I have a pretty reliable sarcasm-meter.

27 07 2010
Harry

If it is serious…that makes zero sense. I suppose I understand what she means in some cases, but like you said Marshall, what the hell else would you call Inception? “Idea Planters?” I haven’t seen Salt yet, but the title was part of its ad campaign right? I don’t know, the title of a movie rarely seems to bother me all that much. Oh and how is “Gladiator” that much better as a title?

28 07 2010
Fletch

The amount of words in a title have zero effect on the quality. As such, I could give a shit.

Inception is a good title because it’s unique. Would something generic be better?

I’m with Harry.

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