10 Cloverfield Lane

All that packing montage for one box?


Truly, everything that is wrong with contemporary filmmaking. Talentless, witless, in love with itself and cheap.
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Reported on 21st of April, 2016

In one of the most inept images in recent cinema and near the end of 10 Cloverfield Lane, we are treated to a shot of a broken mailbox with the address……..

……

…..

10 Cloverfield Lane!

Apologies, that doesn’t give enough away. At this point Ms. Mary Elizabeth Winsted has escaped Mr. John Goodman’s fallout shelter, having learned that he’s both a creep and that there really was an alien invasion.

Okay? There’s your ending. I also gave it away here. Let’s move on.

10 Cloverfield Lane

18 March 2016 @ The Gaumont Rennes


-$8.75 or, if one must be jejune, and one must... 
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

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What’s truly incredible about this shot isn’t the tiresome let’s spend $1M rendering it instead of getting a dozen mailboxes and get it right aesthetic. Though there is obviously that. No, it’s that this foregrounded moment – 10! Cloverfield! Lane! – reveals…that this was the address all along? That this was the title all along?

Even if one were being extremely generous, that this mailbox reveals that this film is in the ‘Cloverfield’ universe, 1) how exactly would the mailbox know? 2) there aren’t any of the same monsters in this film, and 3) Cloverfield is a film so ad hoc it couldn’t really have a universe.

Okay, fine, that’s the half-baked rhetoric of saying that this film doesn’t relate to the other, and couldn’t even if it did. But also, 4) it stole everything from The Mist, which it couldn’t have because it contains nothing. Now that’s rhetoric.

We the undersigned lack the basic poetic skills to encapsulate the idea of a film into a title. And so, in a moment worthy of a throwaway sitcom character, we chose the first thing we saw. When you put it that way, it is a pretty good reveal, at least in the way Freud meant the word. I guess we're all glad it wasn't called 10 Empty Fax Machine Toner Box Lane.

Yet, the shot exists. I imagine its inclusion via precious in-jokiness: Mr. Abrams’ production company was/is on Cloverfield Blvd. in Santa Monica. This is true, by the way, and why that terrible, terrible film was called Cloverfield. So, the reveal is as follows, we the undersigned lack the basic poetic skills to encapsulate the idea of a film into a title. And so, in a moment worthy of a throwaway sitcom character, we chose the first thing we saw. When you put it that way, it is a pretty good reveal, at least in the way Freud meant the word. I guess we’re all glad it wasn’t called 10 Empty Fax Machine Toner Box Lane.

Why would one subject oneself to another Abrams joint, save the obvious, and yet diminishing returns pleasure I take here? Other than the poster, I knew nothing about it. Farm and tunnel implied abduction of girl. Inclusion of the word ‘Cloverfield’ implied the inclusion of the noisome Mr. Abrams, but I couldn’t be sure of anything. They just don’t seem to show trailers here. This is weird, because they show a lot of trailers.

We’ll get into what’s becoming an odd phenomenon here – that I don’t see trailers anymore – during a brief future aside re: the perfectly acceptable Demolition. Re: 10cl (or One liter.  Sorry, I haven’t been here long enough not to make metric jokes), sure it’s terrible, and even besides that glaringly clumsy moment above, the film includes genuinely some of the banal and slack confessional this is how my character defines my character dialog I’ve ever heard.

The film, ostensibly horror/thriller, is bland, and contains no tension or spark whatsoever. Every ‘character moment’ is merely a set-up, as in: ‘Back in the navy, we used this freon to freeze the handle of our CO when he was in the can. I can’t think of another use for it, so I’m going to put it right here. There’s no reason for you to remember that detail, or for that close-up that we, as the characters, can’t see, but we could imagine, if we close our eyes for a moment. Hmm. Very nice.’

As mentioned before, its staggering incompetence forced me to quickly write a piece on The Lobster, which I should have done a while ago. But bother with this? The answer, as is so often the case: other people are annoying. No, not those people, other people.

The Gaumont Rennes, in the space of a year, is now creeping up to 20 minutes of ads and trailers, though, as noted, no trailers for movies that people are going to see. This week's installment was a commercial for gasoline station giant Total as to what it would be like if you bought gas in space, seemingly made to prove that 90 seconds really can be boring.

The Gaumont Rennes, in the space of a year, is now creeping up to 20 minutes of ads and trailers, though, as noted, no trailers for movies that people are going to see. This week’s installment was a commercial for gasoline station giant Total as to what it would be like if you bought gas in space, seemingly made to prove that 90 seconds really can be like…being in space?

It never – never – occurred to me that anyone would like it, not even critics. Of course they did, and someone has to be the voice of dissent. A hero? Yes, but only by the definition of the underrated Die Hard 4. Which is another film I defend. I’m a hero who saves the people who define what a hero is.

And yet I understand (I really don’t) the appeal of the film. There’s the obligatory three act structure, which this film slavishly follows, much to the counterfeit of the characters: She doesn’t trust him! Then she does! Then she finds out the truth! She then recognizes that switching back and forth like this makes no sense and walks off the film! Meaning it was never made!

Which is why there are only three acts, and not five.

But there’s also the gotcha set-ups, as there always must be in an Abrams adjacent joint. Like that from which he made his bones – Lost – the constant reveals mean there’s no need for consistency, wit or even competent shot choice. The audience need only know that something is coming.

In fact, and this is only now occurring to me, things like character or distinguishing characteristics actually stand in the way of the surprise. If characters behave according to their specific desires, or even obvious self-preservation, one is unable to maintain the reveal. Their relatability is out the window because they can’t even be nondescript, only schizophrenic.

The odd side effect of the lack of character, and it’s not based on the relatability question, is that the film, like so many recent big-budget horror types is in no way and at no time scary for even a single second. All you are able to do in the dead space where characters normally go is spin the different outcomes. This is all the film is and wants to be. Basing it in this case on the single question: is he or isn’t he? has all the excitement of waiting in traffic only to discover the reason: there was a lot of traffic.

I’m aware that the Gotcha genre is not my thing, but unlike torture porn and JJ Abrams films, there is a way to do it well. We’re adding them late in the game, but headers!

How it would work as surprise:

It is revealed through various ‘clues’ that Mr. Goodman’s character had another woman captive years ago, and thus Ms. Winsted must escape. That’s fine, if average, since it’s an obvious surprise: he is or he isn’t. But if we give the filmmakers this conceit, this reveal would ideally in turn explain other parts of the film that either we didn’t notice (Mr. Bruce Willis doesn’t actually talk to anyone in The Sixth Sense), or maybe were thought of in a different way (the mother is actually dead in Psycho).  If we could look back and say: a ha, that explains all those scenes, it can be kinda fun.

10 Cloverfield Lane offers the opposite experience where we look back and simply say ‘huh?’ then, ‘But the..’ then, ‘and also he…’ and so on. I believe I may have said these out loud, which would have confused the otherwise French speaking audience. ‘We need a predicate to your subject!’, they might have said.

See, there’s this third character, whose impression is so slight we’re only including him now. Let’s call him, I don’t know, whatever. IDKW exists, again as part of the surprise universe: is he part of The Reveal? When he turns out that he is not, his inclusion inverts the ‘A ha!’ to a ‘Huh?’, if they’re capitalized, and you move the bar of the ‘A’s up and straighten the sides.

Allowing him into the shelter means Mr. Goodman’s plan to have his creepy you’re my daughter I have sex with way with Ms. Winsted is not only postponed, but actually put into danger. It makes no sense in retrospect, and actually defeats the purpose of a Gotcha film. Ironically…

How it would work as non-surprise:

Using Misery as a template, it generally is better to know what’s happening, as choice creates tension. You know the place of everything, even physically, the key is here, you are locked to the bed here and so on. You don’t, and this is by way of farfetched example, put your oxygen filter for your underground shelter behind a tiny tunnel that you can’t reach, so that only Ms. Winsted can access it to find clues for act three.

And we’re back on track.

In this version, we know that Mr. Goodman had another captive who he creepily kept prisoner years before. If we know everything, we see him make the choice to let IDKW into the shelter, and every moment is now a struggle between his image of himself as a good guy and a bad one. You could even throw in some surprises à la Unfriended/Pulp Fiction where Ms. Winsted can be up to no good herself.

But aliens!

Sigh.

I’ll keep going back, if for no other reason that it seems no one else is making movies. Maybe they’ll surprise me.

The Take

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Profits!
Mr. Goodman and Ms. Winsted are as good as the risible dialog will allow, and make us wish a better film for them.
$1.25
Total Profits
$1.25
Losses!
Stealing the face mask shot from Gravity? Not a good choice if you’re an even moderately talented filmmaker.
$4.00
Re: My title: there is an extended 1980s my boyfriend is totally stupid packing montage that eats up a few minutes of screen time. It includes the obligatory we spend another $1 million rendering a city so we could invisibly pass through the glass opening shot, if you’re wondering where $100 million budget went into a movie set in three rooms. It went to pay the guys from The Equalizer. Not for stealing it. For stealing from The Equalizer.
Shit. Where was I?
Right, in the end, Ms. Winsted emerges with a tiny box, containing, naturally, only things that she will use to escape. Maybe this is some kind of every cheap screenwriting gimmick happens for a reason philosophy. Sure.
$3.00
The story is, of course, the homologue of Kimmy Schmidt minus the catchy auto-tune. And the scares, of course.
$3.00
Total Losses
$10.00

-$8.75

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