January 22, 2008

Schadenfreude Via the YouTube Aesthetic

cloverfield1.jpgOn Saturday, Cinecultist and Matty attended an afternoon screening of Cloverfield at Kip's Bay. Obviously it was the activity for your group of bros, about 10 dudes were all in a line in the row next to us and smatterings of other groups dotted the theater. But that's not surprising since producer J.J. Abrams and his crack marketing team have been working overtime the last few months to get as many bodies into the theater as possible for their star-free, DV monster movie.

However this chick wasn't as enamored with the mayhem we saw on screen as other movie geeks have been. The "found video tape" structure of the movie and its lack of compelling characters hobbles it unnecessarily. Cinecultist doesn't want to watch YouTube videos for more than a few minutes, so we certainly don't want to spend 84 minutes with an action movie indebted to a shaky cam, amateurish YouTube aesthetic. Any visceral thrill just gets completely overtaken by annoyance.

Unlike other entries in the city stomping monster genre, such as Godzilla or The Host, Cloverfield gives us characters without any agency. Rob and his party-going friends can't do anything to fight back against the monster that's invaded their city, they can only run around midtown scared. But, because the camera (toted by Rob's buddy Hud) is showing the story entirely from their point of view, the viewers spend the duration of the film forced to either align ourselves emotionally with these clueless, freaked out morons or distance ourselves, declare it "just a movie" and revel in the "coolness" of seeing New York City decimated without reason. As a person who moved here in the fall of 2001, that's a tough place to choose to be in, even six plus years later. Ultimately, neither of these reactions to the movie were satisfying and the whole mess turned us off. In fact, we could hardly wait for the unidentified monster to eat the stupid 20 something characters. Hopefully that chatty one, Hud, didn't give him indigestion.

We'd also like to mention that we've been pleased to discover Grady Hendrix's contributions to The Sun's movie coverage. As one of the programmers for Subway Cinema, he's a voracious movie watcher and a good writer to boot. Case in point, a selection from his excellent review of Cloverfield:

"At a brisk 90 minutes, Cloverfield is too fast-paced and well-produced to completely exhaust our enthusiasm for major monster mayhem, but it doesn't take long for the lack of story to become tiring. Like some tourist from the Midwest, once the creature stumbles into Manhattan and visits Central Park and the Empire State Building, there's nothing left for it to do but knock around aimlessly, getting in trouble and making a mess on the sidewalks."

Posted by karen at January 22, 2008 4:35 PM
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