Saturday, February 09, 2008

Cloverfield, Juno

Juno: nice little movie not worth near the hype its getting. Its a small movie, full of funny teenage humor which mostly works. On the other hand, it gets those laughs by applying standard high school-movie timing, mood and structure - like American Pie or 10 Things I Hate About You - to a protaganist who is a 16 year old pregnant girl. In fact, the movie opens with Juno going into a convience store to buy a third pregnancy test, because she rejects the results of the first two with Julia Stiles-calbier haughtiness. THe clerk is the guy who plays Dwight from The Office. As she buys, uses and - inexplicably - reports the results from the test, the Dwight/clerk guy mercilessly taunts her about it in his geeky-Dwight way.
Wait- a 16 year old gets pregnant and its fair game for snide jokes from loser 30+ guys working at 7-11? huh?
When the characters aren't throwing bathroom-slash-sex jokes at each other, its a well rounded, small movie, with small, catchy songs. In fact, the music - airy folk tracks from nameless, squeeky guitar-and-Starbucks acts - is a great metaphor for how big the movie should be, which is not big at all. A central conciet - a 16 year old can deal with pregnancy with sarcasm and a little help from quirky parents - and some nice execution. And nowhere near Great Movie status. THis should be a Showtime series, not an Oscar nominee.

Also not an Oscar nominess is Cloverfield, because it isn't trying to be. It wants to be a 3- or 4-chase-scene monster/horror movie set in - give or take - the post-human chaos of NYC on the morning of 9/11 only with a Godzilla instead of terrorists. It also doesn't want to benchpress even a single plate from the Traditional Horror rack of cliches, which is why its so fun. Instead, its a whole horror movie shot from POV, the 'internet' term for somebody filming their life.
So you get: not a stitch of backstory. not a note of music. shockingly little gore, cuz when the monsters attack, the guy routinely drops his camera and screams leaving the fight to be recorded in blurrs and whizzes of motion and split-second frames, and a wholly un-'And-that's-why-it-was-the-craziest-summer-Camp-Tititkaka-ever-had' ending.
Frankly, I can't believe it hasn't earned a name like the Godzilla Witch Project or something.
Its fun and fast, at least, after a shockingly long opening act, wherein the camera (the film's real hero) begins its night recording a going away party among friends before the monster hits and ruins not just NYC but the party, too. THe movie is a TV-like 84 minutes long, of which this party seems to last, oh, 15 or 20 minutes.
The final shot - and I mean, the last 15 seconds before the credits - is a fun little easter egg. Don't miss it.

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