The I Can Do It Better blog-a-thon, day 1

And we’re off! The I Can Do It Better blog-a-thon is officially under way.

As described in the original announcement, the rules for this blog-a-thon are:

  1. Please choose a well-known movie, book, painting, sculpture, speech, song, performance, or other manifestation of human artistic expression.
  2. Describe how it fails to attain perfection.
  3. Describe your remedy.
  4. Publish the article on your blog between February 28th and March 2nd. Be sure to state that you’re participating in this blog-a-thon and include a link to this page.
  5. Send e-mail to <icdib@emphatic.com> to let me know about your post and where it is.
  6. I’ll then list it on the current day’s blog-a-thon page.

No easy targets, please, and no mere technical problems. Stick to movies (et al.) that are already pretty good and require only some creative input from you to realize their full potential.

As submissions flood? trickle? in, they will be listed right here. Meanwhile, my own contribution for day one follows below.

  • [your submission here]

For day one of this blog-a-thon I present an e-mail exchange I had with my sister (abridged) upon seeing Cloverfield, which she had seen a few days earlier. Spoilers follow.

From: Bob
To: Suzanne
Subject: Cloverfield

Saw it tonight. Liked it a lot. But there were a few things that bothered me about it.

Liked a lot: it managed to have both a happy and an unhappy ending.

Bothered me: Rob says into the camera at the end, “If you’re watching this, you probably know more about what happened than I do.” But I don’t. Without some clue about where the monster came from or what it wants, it’s just a lot of senseless mayhem.

Liked a lot: looked and felt exactly like playing a game of Half-Life 2 (or something of that ilk), complete with the eerie atmospherics, homicidal creatures of unknown ability, precarious settings, and conveniently timed glimpses of plot (e.g., the fighters flying overhead exactly as our heroes are clambering across the roof, or the tank getting squashed exactly as Hud runs past it).

Bothered me: not a single “only in NY” moment.

Liked a lot: the mysteriously gory fate of Marlena.

Bothered me: the monster was too invulnerable. That carpet-bombing attack should have finished it.

Liked a lot: its horrifying babies.

Bothered me: Hud’s fate. The monster had been seeing and killing humans for hours by that point, why did it pause to contemplate Hud? It’s as if it knew this was its big close-up (which I could have done without; made it less scary). And why was Hud the only one that it used its teeth on (as far as we know), especially if it wasn’t interested in eating him all up?

Liked a lot: the alternately thunderous and haunting monster-movie music over the end credits that they couldn’t use anywhere else in the film because of the “verité” conceit.

Bothered me: I sort of get why Lily and Hud went with Rob. Sort of. Why did Marlena go?

Liked a lot: the shaky camerawork. 1000x better done and more effective than in Blair Witch, which merely gave me a headache.

Bothered me: the shocker climax, when the freshly carpet-bombed monster conveniently reaches up to swat the chopper out of the sky, even though by that point in the film we’d seen dozens of aircraft fly safely out of the monster’s reach.

How it should have ended: as the helicopter lifts off, a monster baby leaps onto it. They just manage to close the doors in time but the monster baby clings on as the chopper flies high enough to get the nice vantage of the carpet bombing. Then it works its way inside, killing the pilot and crashing the helicopter. Our heroes extract themselves from the wreckage only to see the badly wounded monster staggering their way. It dies! …And collapses on top of Hud, killing him. Mixed emotions for the audience. (Well, not so mixed; Hud was kind of an ass.) But in dying, it sheds about a million of those babies, which fan out across Manhattan. Our remaining heroes take shelter, record their final message, and then Hammerdown; the end.

From: Suzanne
To: Bob
Subject: Re: Cloverfield

Bothered me: Rob says into the camera at the end, “If you’re watching this, you probably know more about what happened than I do.” But I don’t. Without some clue about where the monster came from or what it wants, it’s just a lot of senseless mayhem.

[…] Why does it have to make sense? Why does the story have to be linear and wrapped up in a neat little package for you?

Also in case you hadn’t noticed we are watching the events unfold thru the eyes of those who experienced and documented every second of it. What makes you so special as to be entitled to more information than they themselves had? […]

Bothered me: not a single “only in NY” moment.

Agreed. That would have been a nice touch. […]

Bothered me: I sort of get why Lily and Hud went with Rob. Sort of. Why did Marlena go?

Safety in numbers. […]

How it should have ended: as the helicopter lifts off, a monster baby leaps onto it. They just manage to close the doors in time but the monster baby clings on as the chopper flies high enough to get the nice vantage of the carpet bombing. Then it works its way inside, killing the pilot and crashing the helicopter. Our heroes extract themselves from the wreckage only to see the badly wounded monster staggering their way. It dies! …And collapses on top of Hud, killing him. Mixed emotions for the audience. (Well, not so mixed; Hud was kind of an ass.) But in dying, it sheds about a million of those babies, which fan out across Manhattan. Our remaining heroes take shelter, record their final message, and then Hammerdown; the end.

Yes. Far superior ending. Except I already saw that in Aliens.

From: Bob
To: Suzanne
Subject: Re: Cloverfield

Why does it have to make sense? Why does the story have to be linear and wrapped up in a neat little package for you?

Actually I liked the limited perspective, the non-linearity, the don’t-know-wtf-is-going-on of the movie; in fact they were its biggest strengths. However, you’re wrong about this:

We are watching the events unfold thru the eyes of those who experienced and documented every second of it

We’re actually watching it from the safety of a government data lab. Enough time has elapsed since the events of the video for government agents to re-enter Manhattan and, among other things, discover the camera and log its contents. From that perspective there should have been a bit more information. Even a single scrap more than the characters had would have satisfied me. For instance, the pre-video display could have said something like, “Not to be removed from Crisis Command Center, New White House, Lexington, KY,” which might have suggested that parts of the U.S. too close to the ocean had become uninhabitable, because It Came From The Sea (and so did its friends).

Bothered me: not a single “only in NY” moment.

Agreed. That would have been a nice touch.

What would you have added? For some reason I’m stuck on hot dog vendors; e.g., a hot dog vendor cowers as a monster baby rushes him, and then is surprised to find it going after the yummy stuff in his cart rather than him. He’d start to flee, stop, reach carefully around the monster baby to get his cashbox from the cart, and then run for it. Ha ha! But what would a hot dog vendor still be doing standing by his cart by the time the monster babies show up?

Far superior ending. Except I already saw that in Aliens.

Eh, it could be made fresh with minor variations. What if the terrified monster baby, clinging to the rising helicopter (long enough for us to get our good view of the carpet bombing), called to its siblings and they quickly assembled themselves into a towering chain of bodies to pull the helicopter back down? Whoa, creepy!

From: Bob
To: Suzanne
Subject: Re: Cloverfield

which might have suggested that parts of the U.S. too close to the ocean had become uninhabitable, because It Came From The Sea (and so did its friends)

Which — ooh! — turns it into an allegory about global warming and rising sea levels!

Also, you can’t spell allegory without Al Gore. Just thought I’d mention that.

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