Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Monday, January 28, 2008
Talk Of The Town
Truth to tell, I already have a collection set aside of things that were either written about me or said to me that I figured might look impressive on the back of a book jacket. They're there for a rainy day but it seems a shame to keep them in the cupboard collecting dust. So, with a quietly hummed fanfare, we present the possible contenders for blurbs falling under the emblazoned headline What The Critics Are Saying!
Enjoy! (These are all quite genuine.)
“…just some gutless guy on the internet without the courage of his convictions, peddling lame post titles that were stale at the turn of the century.”
- Jamie S. Rich, author, Cut My Hair
“I give thanks every day that I’m not you.”
- Eugene Chadbourne, musician
“You’re looking fit.”
- Mark E. Smith, The Fall
- Jim Knipfel, unintelligible and angry author, Slackjaw, The Buzzing
“How come you never listen to anything normal?”
- Jeffrey A. Getz
- Numerous radio stations
“That’s the last thing you should do.”
- Dave Marsh, author, critic
“No, I don’t remember you.”
- Jello Biafra, singer
“(He) took those quotes out of context.”
- Chuck D., Public Enemy
“We’re really not sure we can air this.”
- WHYY-TV, Philadelphia
“Robert seems to me kind of different or special.”
- Anonymous High School teacher
“You disappoint me, sir.”
- Kevin Smith, filmmaker, Clerks, Chasing Amy
“The man is a god!”
- Clive Barker, author, Imajica, Abarat, Mister B. Gone
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Some Thing Is Making Us Nauseous!
So I did, of course, see Cloverfield on opening day. Something that geeky and event-oriented wasn’t going to get by me quietly.
I went right after work, in fact, and there wasn’t much of a crowd at that hour. I’d even bought a big old bag of popcorn, in keeping with the whole “popcorn movie” vibe of the thing. I was ready.
I had even followed a certain amount of the so-called “viral marketing” online for weeks: the fake myspace pages and fictional news reports, so I was hip, baby. I knew what Tagruato was and what TidoWave was up to, and I knew about the Deep Sea Nectar that was the secret ingredient in Slusho.
My hope was that the film would be the cinematic equivalent of one of those old Spook House rides, you know, where you get pulled slowly through a maze in a rickety seat waiting for the next scary surprise which, nine times out of ten, turned out to be a skull sitting behind some red cellophane spotlit by a tiny bulb.
You knew this going in, of course, but you rode it anyway.
What I wanted, and largely got, was that feeling that a nightmare gives, that sense of being safe and in mortal danger at the same time, of having one foot in reality and the other in dreams. The gimmick of the handheld camera allows you to accept the reality of it while it shows you the most outrageous visions.
The recent Korean monster movie The Host did a similar thing when it provided an ultra-realistic monster shown in broad daylight and was probably a much better movie than Cloverfield. On the other hand, Cloverfield is a much more apocalyptic, end-of-the-world kind of movie that owes a debt to John Carpenter films like The Thing, Prince Of Darkness, and Halloween. That gives it a little added menace in the sense that you feel that no one is going to make it out of this thing.
One of the disappointments, however, and this is ironic for a film that was so shrouded in secrecy, was the fact that the commercials gave away most of the set pieces, and this was a film that was nothing but set pieces. The only thing that was really kept secret was the monster and, in fact, when you see the film you realize how cleverly the trailers show you everything before and after one of his split-second appearances. So the only thing left to surprise you, really, was the monster itself.
He was worth the wait, generally, but there were no other real surprises in the plot or the story. We’d been prepped for every development by the trailers. Still, it did send the odd shiver down the spine in a fresh and original way, and that’s certainly worth something.
I am fascinated, though, by this whole idea of providing an online backstory that people can take with them into the theater if they so choose, though it isn’t necessary in order to enjoy or understand the film. It lets you expand that world according to personal taste and it makes me wonder if something hasn’t fundamentally changed in the way we think of creating entertainment, if the hegemonic idea of a “film” isn’t going to give way to creative properties that exist in a continuum spread over movies, video games, and the Internet, all of which will provide parts of a puzzle but never the whole, if the term “whole” continues to mean anything.
I felt some of this back when The Matrix films were out, with their attendant animated stories and video games with scenes that didn’t appear in the film. With our TVs and computers and music and movies all melting into a single entertainment product, it does make me wonder what’s on the horizon.
The other bit, of course, was the entire motion sickness business. Apparently there were a fair number of people that became nauseous or ill after viewing the film, and even reports of patrons vomiting in the theater, this the product of the “shaky-cam” look that was kept up throughout.
The odd thing is that I’m terribly sensitive to this kind of thing usually (I managed to last through 5 minutes of Blair Witch before becoming sick to my stomach), but I was happy as a clam through the whole thing. It turned out later that I had actually seen it on one of this Multiplex’s smaller screens, so maybe that was the difference. But I felt nary a twinge through every jiggle and jolt. In fact, when it was over I even strolled into the next room to watch There Will Be Blood which had its own monster, though they may as well mail that one his Oscar now.