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Fun Joel's Screenwriting Blog

(OR EL DUDERINO IF YOU'RE NOT INTO THE WHOLE BREVITY THING)

-- On Screenwriting and Related Topics

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Location: Los Angeles, CA

I moved from NYC to LA in October, 2003. And though I still think NYC is the greatest city in the world, I'm truly loving life here in the City of Angels. I'm a writer, reader, and occasional picture-taker.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I Have Not Seen Cloverfield

...and once again, I have very little desire to. Why do I say "once again?" Because I realized I have unwittingly started a bit of a series in my posts, about movies I have not seen. There were these two, both with similar titles to this post, and the first of which I also professed no desire to see. And of course, there was also this post from last year, about another movie I didn't want to see. And in some ways, it is like the film from this post, in terms of where my reaction to this film stems from.

So, what am I here to say about Cloverfield, now? This is not about how I feel that the motivated home video aspect is a silly gimmick, though I do think that. I'm actually pissed off at what I deem (despite not having seen the film) to be a relative tastelessness in it.

Minor spoiler alert (yes, even though I haven't seen it)

The first thing I saw regarding this film was the teaser trailer months ago. You know, the one where the Statue of Liberty's head crashes down into the street. And I actually thought it was a cool image, and liked the idea of it.

Next I saw the teaser poster, which picked up on the headless statue motif:


Fair enough. That's a cool looking image, and Manhattan burning in the background is not bad either. But what didn't become clear to me until I recently saw the full-width billboard of the image, was what part of Manhattan was on fire. Look:

That is not the best shot of the billboard, so in case it is unclear to any of you, that is basically the exact location of "Ground Zero" where the World Trade Center was. The billboard I saw the other night has even more space on the right side, so it is completely clear that that is the southern tip of Manhattan island.

Now, I thought that was pretty tacky and heartless. Then, a friend of mine saw the movie (and hated it, by the way), and I mentioned that to him. He then told me (and here's a minor spoiler) that one of the early images you see in the film is of the Empire State Building collapsing.

So now it seems like more than just coincidence, for sure. A massive conflagration at Ground Zero, an iconic skyscraper collapsing to the ground, and two recognizable images of Manhattan destroyed.

I'm sure there is the possibility that the whole film is meant in some ways as a meditation on/metaphor for the 9/11 attacks. Some unknown beast unexpectedly attacks New York City and wreaks havoc and creates turmoil. And thus, those parallels would be intentional. But to me, they still seem tacky, tasteless, thoughtless and heartless. No, I'm not going to say, "It's too soon to do movies where there is destruction in New York City," or something like that. But when you make the parallels as close as Cloverfield does, this is more than just making a movie that has destruction in Manhattan. It is a direct and pointed reminder of that time.

And though I haven't seen the film (so it is possible that I'm wrong here, and please tell me if you think I am), I doubt that Cloverfield offers up any kind of new perspective on 9/11. I don't think there is any political commentary or anything. After all, the whole thing everywhere in the press has been pitched merely as a monster movie seen from the victims' perspective.

So, maybe I'm wrong. But in my sight-unseen opinion, Cloverfield has been made or at least marketed in very poor taste.

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8 Comments:

Anonymous Cecil said...

I think it's a little unfair for you to judge the movie without seeing it, but I understand where you come from. Any movie from now on that has New York City in some kind of destruction or disarray will bring 9/11 up in some peoples minds. More so with the people who were directly touched by it regardless of if it's monster attacking or a terrorist attack.

With that being said, there were some parts in the movie that did remind me of 9/11, but I don't think it's something that the director or writer did with any ill will or tastelessness. I look at it as a monster movie and if it happened in Philadelphia and Philly was burning, some people still might think it looked like a scene from 9/11. That's just the way it's going to be from now on.

11:03 PM  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

Hey Cecil! Thanks for stopping by. I don't think you've commented before, have you? So welcome!

I hear your points. On the first, I'll say that as long as I make it clear that my criticisms are coming from the perspective of someone who hasn't seen the film (as opposed to people who criticize religiously controversial films, and only reveal that they haven't seen the film once they are questioned about it), it is fair for me to pass such judgement.

I'll also say that the whole 9/11 parallel did not even occur to me when I first saw the teaser trailer, nor when I saw the first poster. So my reaction is not solely based on seeing "New York City in some kind of destruction or disarray."

And lastly, I don't believe the writer or director had any ill will or purposeful tastelessness. I just think they were thoughtlessly tasteless. I think the parallels I see are either obviously planned, or blindly shortsighted.

All that being said, I totally respect your opinion, especially since my reaction stems from a perspective of one who has not seen the film. ;-) So thanks! And please do comment again!

11:10 PM  
Blogger Glenn said...

Though I did see and enjoy the film, and would encourage you to do so, Joel, I have to say the only sour note in the film is that very scene where the building comes down. There's a number of shots right after, that clearly echo 9/11 - people wandering around in the dust cloud, coughing and covered in powder - and throughout the film, it's clear the filmmakers intended to draw parallels with 9/11.

It did seem tasteless to use those powerful images in a monster movie... but as I think on it more, isn't that how we as western culture manage and purge our traumas, for better or worse? By the same token, Godzilla was directly inspired by the very real trauma of Hiroshima/Nagasaki. It doesn't take anything away from the horror of those events, nor do those events make watching Godzilla any less fun. It might just be a way to deal with it in a cathartic and ultimately harmless manner, which certainly the war hasn't provided us.

I don't know the answer, just thinking out loud here.

11:20 PM  
Blogger JD said...

I now feel a little better that I too have not seen any of these films you have mentioned. We must have similar taste, or at the very least similar dislikes.

11:38 PM  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

That's a fair point, Glenn.

11:46 PM  
Blogger JD said...

That's a good point Glenn. However, there are some films that, instead of purging our fears or memories, resort to imposing a political agenda that the writer or director wants on the audience. And while that's fine, we should not confuse the two.

Having yet to see Cloverfield, I can't comment in which category, if either, this film falls into.

12:11 AM  
Blogger Leif said...

I guess I'm wondering what your point is. If its how the movie is marketed, then fair enough.

If however, you're judging the movie itself, then the fact you haven't seen it doesn't make you qualified to judge at all. That's seems like the very definition of judging a book by it's cover.

4:26 AM  
Blogger Patrick J. Rodio said...

There is no commentary in the movie, it's pretty much "run!" but it's a fun, different take on a monster flick. I liked it, and didn't vomit once!

7:14 AM  

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