Sunday, February 10, 2008

A turn up for the books

Technically, it's a turn up for the movies but that is not the saying now, is it? Anyway, two movies recently opened in the UK, arriving from the US on tidal waves of hype and hysteria (and in one film's case, many award nominations). I have now seen both and had my expectations confounded in both instances. Allow me to elaborate further.

Cloverfield's hype machine started about twenty minutes after the teaser trailer debuted, out of nowhere, in front of the US release of Transformers. It all kicked off so quickly that I was instantly suspicious of it all. It seemed so very planned. And of course it was, as JJ Abrams, the film's producer and publicity mastermind, has now admitted. The teaser trailer was specially shot and was in theatres a week before principal photography on the picture started rolling. As the film's US release neared, and new trailers demonstrated that the film was nothing more than a mash up of Blair Witch Project and any number of monster movies, what little interest I may have had in it quickly evaporated. The precipitously steep second weekend drop off in the US confirmed what I had come to believe before seeing it: the film was no good and word of mouth was killing it dead.

But I still went to see it, mainly because I wanted to be able to sneer about it from a more informed perspective (the same reason that I continue to watch Prison Break, even though it jumped the shark about 8 episodes ago). And I'll be damned, but I actually really enjoyed it. Not buying into hype, it seems, is a good thing. While the film is not perfect, it is still hugely enjoyable. I liked that you never found out anything about where the monster was from, why it had appeared, nothing. It was just there and there was something fantastically unsettling about not having an overly intrusive musical score or editing style to dictate when to jump, when to be scared, when to hide behind your hands, etc.

It wasn't perfect, of course. A couple of obvious blue screen moments and some nagging questions that pull you out of the reality of the situation (would one character really walk three miles through subway tunnels in strappy high heels without taking them off or complaining about how much her feet are hurting?) but for a film that you know the outcome of from the very beginning (we're told that the film was recovered at the site formerly known as Central Park, so you know going on that nobody is going to make it out alive), it is still pretty riveting to watch. There is already talk of a sequel though, which would be a terrible idea. Book Of Shadows, anyone?

And then there's Juno. Originally this entry was going to be titled "what not to expect when you watch a movie about someone who's expecting" but that was too cumbersome. Anyway, it is opening here having gone from being "little seen indie film" to "rave reviewed, Oscar nominated, huge box office smash hit movie" seemingly overnight. I have been seeing trailers for it since October and thought it looked like it could be cute and funny as well as insightful and honest. Well, how wrong I was.

The performances are the only good thing the movie had to offer. Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Alison Janney, JK Simmons, Jason Bateman, Jennifer Garner, all great. But the dialogue, oh sweet Jesus, the dialogue. Nobody talks the way these people do. People like Juno simply do not exist and so making an oh so real film with that character as your centrepiece? I was never going to buy it. It's telling that the film only works when it drops its "I'm so smart and clever, LOOK AT ME AND NOTICE how smart and clever I am" schtick that made me want to track writer Diablo Cody down and punch her in the face. Even more telling, the only moment that really feels genuine and true is entirely devoid of speech, as Juno and Bleecker embrace after she has given birth. I keep reading reviews that say how one of the reasons Juno is such a success is because it is a lot smarter than you think it is going to be. I could not agree less and I have to say the biggest reason that I fundamentally don't think it's a good film is because it isn't anywhere near as smart as it thinks it is.


Eric said...

Oh, Mary, you're so contrary (to pull from a previous post). :-)

Cloverfield...actually, I followed the hype for awhile but lost track (thanks to the busy job).
However, I hear that a lot of the hints and whatnot dropped all over the interwebs fills in a bunch of the missing information from the film.
Don't read if you don't want to know, although I haven't confirmed this.
Apparently, the monster has been tracked for some time. The Japanese company Rob's leaving to go work for happens to be Slusho, that infamous JJ Abrams in joke. Turns out Slusho was digging around in the ocean and woke up the Cloverfield monster, which began its rampage.
I feel like there's some more little tips and tidbits but I can't recall them. They also drop hints within the film that let you know SOME people did indeed know what they were facing (as in knowing that "girl in heels" had been bitten and would explode).

Anway, I ended up not loving the movie when I saw it but it's grown on me as time has passed.

Grouchbutt said...

If Diablo Cody gets to claim to be in her 20s, then by God, so do I.

Lottie said...

dear god, finally we agree on more than one thing! I just saw Cloverfield and really liked it too, I have my issues (of course) but I did enjoy it and THAT is saying a lot if you know ME (which of course you do and are probably shocked I even saw it!)