While on my way to the Sunshine Cinemas yesterday to see... Sunshine, I ducked into Rosario's for a slice. Orchard Street just south of Houston was weirdly devoid of cars, and as I got closer to Stanton, I noticed that Rosario's had weird scaffolding and semi-transparent plastic covering the area just outside their windows. And then I looked across the street, just past Stanton:
Huh. Weirdly (and this might be attributed to long days at work fiddling with MS Access and Excel, which is a hell no one should experience), it didn't really register to me. I went into Rosario's, ate my mushroom slice, read a terrible magazine, and then left to catch the movie. On my way out, I noticed movie trailers. And an ambulance. Quickly trying to ascertain whether I had stepped into a movie set, crime scene, or an earthquake-esque, 100-block-of-Orchard-Street-isolated natural disaster, I decided not to decide. After all, I was running late for Sunshine.
I woke up today to a post in Gothamist explaining to me that what I had seen was, in fact, part of the filming of the much-hyped, viral-trailer monstrosity that is -- or rather, until it is released sometime later next year, will be -- the new, currently-untitled JJ Abrams film, known around town as Cloverfield. There's been endless speculation as to what the film is going to be about: something apocalyptic and sci-fi, something Godzilla-esque, or maybe just the folks from Lost returning on an alien spaceship piloted by Sydney Bristow. I personally like the Best Week Ever idea:
I mean, just imagine it: a dapper, top-hat-donning lizard named Cloverfield, jauntily making his way through New York City. He means no harm; he just doesn't know where else to ash his gold-tipped Dunhills. At first everyone starts to run, but then ... maybe we get charmed by his British accent, and somehow, with the help of a young reptile biologist wunderkind (played by Jake Gyllenhaal, though everyone will talk about how unfortunate it was that Cillian Murphy turned down the role), we find a way to coax it into the Bronx Zoo, where it gets its own Tea Time Pavilion.
Note: the graphic came from Best Week Ever. The "plot" "summary" was all my doing.
In "reality," and by that I mean "the web" and "fan forum speculation," people are suggesting that it's going to be some sort of cross between Godzilla and the Blair Witch Project: Young hipsters trying to stay alive in a city terrorized by the revered/self-referential monster of B-movies past. This bodes poorly, methinks. But supposed / presumed / speculated plot content aside, the hype surrounding this film is at once completely understandable from a marketing perspective, but also a little strange. We're all keyed up because it's JJ Abrams. He's a Genius! He's Clever! He's a Force To Be Reckoned With! He's Heralded The Return of True Serial Television! But the thing is: has anyone actually seen Lost or Alias? (Confession: I've not seen much of the latter, though I've read enough to know that what I'm about to say is valid for that show as well.) They started out so strong, so amazingly. And then ... they got all kooky. More plot twists and insane connections than a bad soap opera (which at least doesn't try to take itself seriously). The Rimbaldi What-What? Dharma Fish Biscuits? Eh?
JJ Abrams is a man who can't finish the job. Like all great grad students about to write their dissertation*, he starts out with an amazing idea, and the early stages of execution are amazing, and everyone agrees. But by the time you hit chapter 3 or 4, you start forgetting what the main point of the dissertation was. And because you're too lazy to go back and read your introduction, you just start making shit up. And, years later, only your most loyal friends bother to let you ramble on about your project, because just about everyone else is sick of it. They want you to write your conclusion already and be done with it. I worry that JJ Abrams is going to have an amazing first 45 minutes of film-ness, and then the whole thing is going to unravel under the weight of ridiculous red herrings and plot twists aplenty.
So I recognize that I've now officially nudged Probably Awkward into the Cloverfield Blogosphere of Hype. And don't get me wrong: I still watch Lost pretty faithfully. And chances are, I'll shell out the $11 to see Cloverfield next year. Like the way we think of all great grad students, we want/need to believe that our favorites will get the job done in a way that leaves the others in the dust, even if those favorites have written some terrible seminar papers in the past. Part of the hype is, I think, the desire to see JJ Abrams live up to his full potential. (Another part of the hype is the hype itself, but I'm in no mood to have a meta conversation about meta hype.) So JJ: Don't let me/us down. And you might want to think about smoother chapter transitions. And maybe re-read your Enlightenment philosophers. I think you might be misusing a few of them.
* I speak from great experience. And by great, I don't mean Great. I mean Long. Vast. Endless.
[photo of the Cloverfield set swiped from BigSpider.]