Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Cloverfield

Yesterday evening I watched Cloverfield, the 2008 camcorder-shot crazy monster movie, simply because it features Lizzy Caplan, that one who plays Janis in Mean Girls. I am 30 years old.

My report on the film itself is that it was a perfectly entertaining way to spend 80 minutes. The camerawork is quite annoying at first, but it does serve to set the film apart from its rivals. The main problem is that, in a film structured much like a zombie movie, Cloverfield succumbs to the old zombie film curse: your cast of sympathetic characters is slowly picked off one by one but they are all so vapid and two-dimensional you don't really care who lives or dies. Lizzy Caplan dies in it. Oops, spoiler alert. Overall, I give it ONE THUMBS UP.

However, where Cloverfield really succeeds as a film (for me, at least) is that it throws up a number of questions. Chief amongst these is: could this really happen? For those who do not know the film, the basic premise is that New York is - for reasons never really explained - suddenly and catastrophically besieged by a huge monster who damn near destroys everything. He is accompanied by more boring smaller spider-type monsters who bite you and then you die horribly. But you can beat them up. The big monster is impervious to all attempts to make it stop doing monster things.

When considering whether or not this could actually happen, I felt determined not to fall blindly into traps of fallacious reasoning. Just because this sort of thing doesn't appear to have happened before, in other words, I can't with any rationality claim with complete certainty that it will never happen. So, in answer to my earlier question, the answer worryingly seemed to be yes.

But would the monster be exactly like the one in the film? Well, as a consequence of the handicam conceit of Cloverfield, getting a really good look at the monster is difficult. During the film I tried to work out which animals the designers had based their creature on. A look at the internet later helped to fill in the gaps. The chief characteristic of the monster would seem to be it's huge, bendy bat-like arms. This is coupled to a bat-style broad chest and powerful back legs which would not be out of place on an ostrich. The head seems to be that of a crazy, ugly dog, although during the film itself I was convinced it had a beak. Could such a creature really pose such a threat to all mankind?

Well, this morning I got out my needle and thread to find out. I grafted a bat's torso onto an ostrich's legs. Then I shaved the head of an angry pit bull terrier and stuck it on the top. Having given it life using a technique far too boring to detain you with any further, I made the startling discovery that, just like the monster in the film, my creation was pretty furious.

All in all, watching Cloverfield and then going through the natural questions and research that arise from it has been a fairly chastening experience. Not least because of the angry thing I've had to lock in the garage. I remain hopeful that, on a planet as hugely old as the earth (allied to the relatively minute lifespan of a human being), the statistical probability of being around when this shit goes off is fairly low. However, I think I might take to wearing a utility belt and carrying a stick, just in case. To be honest, I've been looking for an excuse for some time.

Friday, 4 June 2010

On films

Recently, I've hardly been watching any films. I'm not sure why this is, because I really like films and every time I look at the TV schedules there's loads of really good films I've always wanted to see on. And yet I do not seem to have any interest in sitting down and watching them. I think the reason for this is that having now turned 30, I am more interested in being proactive with film than reactive, or even passive in my pants eating a whole block of butter.

The time has come, then, for me to make my own films. I'm not interested in the whole Orson Welles thing, because I can't act. However, the auteur ideal of writing and directing all of my films is very appealing to me, so as I can best express my vision to the stupid, ugly masses. You, in other words.

I would be very particular about the sort of films I would want to make, you see, and the kind of topics I would want to deal with. I am put in mind of the Dogme 95 movement here, and whilst I would not be subscribing to the formula they set forth, I would be very keen to lay down my own vitally important ground rules to try and bring realism and soul back to film-making.

I think I will refer to this framework as Dotmund 10. Now, as it may be about to become very apparent, I've not thought any of this through at all, so my list of Dotmund 10 requirements may very well be extremely stupid, hugely boring and, most likely, self-contradictory in several places. But don't let these stumbling blocks put you off. Because a future with better films may very well begin in this document.

THE DOTMUND 10 VOW OF MUNGANITY
  1. All films must be 3 hours long
  2. All films must have a donkey in them. Because people like donkeys.
  3. All films, like real life, must have lengthy periods in which not a lot, or nothing happens.
  4. The camera is not allowed to move beyond turning on a pivot point. If a character leaves the room or goes to the shops or something, we do not follow them. If this means looking at an empty room, then so be it.
  5. All films must feature a significant discussion of all the different kinds of poo it is possible to have. Like those poos where you do a poo and then five minutes later you realise you're going to have to do a bit more. Because everyone on earth does poos and this will engender a sense of connection between the film and the viewer.
  6. The lead character in all the films must be called Bert Harris.
  7. The premiere for all Dotmund 10 films must be an itinerant, flashmob affair, taking place wheresoever my friend Ian is and, if needs be, chasing him down the road. This is because he has suggested I am a stupid fat oaf and all my film ideas are terrible and even if he were invited to the premiere at a star-studded gala with all his heroes in Monte Carlo and all his expenses were paid, he would still not go.
  8. Literally all monies made from the film to be given to me.
  9. All of my friends are to be allowed a part in the film. Unwilling ones will be forced to be in the film, like Eddie Murphy's character Kit Ramsey in the film Bowfinger.
  10. All of these rules may be discarded if I become really successful at films and someone lets me direct Ghostbusters 3. Apart from rules 2, 5, 6 and 9. They are sacrosanct.

So, what kinds of films would Dotmund 10 produce? Well, I think it's quite clear they would be unlike anything ever seen on the silver screen before. But is that a good or a bad thing? The simple answer to that question is: yes. Here are some of the ideas for films I currently have.

  • A Weekend At Bernie Ecclestone's: All the drivers in the Monaco Grand Prix die of some sort of fit whilst rounding the final corner on the last lap of the race, allowing their cars to cross the line under their own power. The podium ceremony becomes an elaborate fa├žade in order to save face in front of the watching millions and is not dissimilar to Thunderbirds.
  • A full exploration of my favourite Thunderbirds episode, 'Path of Destruction', where an atomic-powered logging machine goes out of control when its pilots are incapacitated by food poisoning from bad chilli. The film will explore the countless failsafe measures which could have been employed to prevent this series of events, such as: a dead man's handle on the outside of the Crablogger machine; legislation to prevent both pilots of an atomic-powered logging device both eating the same meal on the night before they are due to log; remote control over the engine. Regulatory meetings would make up the majority of this film, although it would end with a cataclysmic atomic accident involving an atomic-powered crablogger machine, a dam and a huge pile of logs.
  • Andrew Lancaster Has Tea: in which my friend Andrew Lancaster has a cup of tea, but in a twist decides to then have his tea, i.e. the evening meal. Do do this, he has a wee and then goes to the chippy to get a butter pie and parched peas.

As I have previously stated, however, I am available and willing to write and direct a number of sequels to existing films, if I feel they are a strong enough franchise. These include:

  • Ghostbusters 3: in which the Hudson River turns to Red Bull because of all the evil in the world. Venkman has to phone the pope, whilst Spengler and Stantz are forced to try and talk Zeddemore out of the lucrative career he has made for himself as a town planner.
  • Die Hard 5: in which everyone in the world kidnaps one another and John McClane is forced to resolve the crisis by shooting himself in the knee for some reason.
  • Crank 3: in which Chev Chelios' urinary sphincter has been replaced by a polo mint but he is due to take a 4-hour long open-top bus ride over famously bumpy terrain.
  • Death Race 1999: A prequel to Death Race 2000, followed by the other 1,998 prequels to that, detailing in staggering detail what happened in the other 1,999 Transcontinental Road Races, including those that took place using horses and carts.
  • Quincy 2 - The Dead Reckoning: where the dead rise in Los Angeles but, having all read the opinion pages of the print and online media, are very opinionated and all reckon things. Quincy must battle against time to work out why they died, why they stopped being dead, and how to kill them again. All the while trying to get his end away with a much younger woman on his boat.

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