10 Cloverfield Lane (Informal non-review review.)

You go into a sci-fi horror film prepared for some gore, and eventually, you get… just a little, if it’s 10 Cloverfield Lane. You might even be taken aback when it happens. You probably also go in anticipating campy sci-fi horror film fare, and you might get a tiny morsel of that, too. The smidgen of camp may even come with a light dressing of irony, which would make 10 Cloverfield Lane a clever specimen of its genre.

10 Cloverfield Lane doesn’t insult the intelligence of its viewers. Its writers reveal what’s necessary to piece together the backstory from which horror arises. As important as that backstory may be, no one spells it out for us, and this restraint helps to make up for its lack of depth.

10 Cloverfield Lane is billed with the tagline “Monsters come in many forms.” This is apt, so you could say that it’s a monster movie as well as a horror movie, a thriller, a sci-fi movie, a sci-fi horror movie, and a drama… yet 10 Cloverfield Lane is in no danger of an identity crisis. It works just fine switching its hats. Horror seeps in as the mystery unfolds, and the Great Unknown serves as a character in and of itself.

 

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I just wanted to share these few thoughts with you, should viewer opinions interest you. Sci-fi horror (or sci-fi anything) is readily passed over by those not endeared to such films and their ilk. I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you’re not a sci-fi fan, you may yet find something to enjoy in 10 Cloverfield Lane, as its appeal goes beyond the constraints of its genre.

Not Self/less Enough.

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You know how it is when you’re terminally ill and someone slips you a business card offering help, and, despite all the medical expertise your bottomless fortune could buy at the most prestigious of world-class medical facilities, you call the number, thinking that going rogue with your healthcare might resolve your mortality crisis… and if it doesn’t, you have nothing to lose, anyway?

That story.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I went with Callaghan and two friends to see the newly released sci-fi action-thriller Self/less (directed by Tarsem Singh) on Saturday, but I’d seen the trailer, and I was intrigued. Though it’s been nearly 20 years since my college metaphysics class, my copy of John Perry’s A Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality (1978) still occupies a sliver on my bookshelf, and it was partly because of this pamphlet-size book (required reading for the course I needed to complete my philosophy minor) that I wanted to see Self/less.

 

A relic from college metaphysics.

A relic from college metaphysics.

 

Metaphysics had been one of my favorite philosophy courses, and A Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality is a text that’s echoed in the ravines of my memory ever since, as personal identity theory interests me greatly. My penchant for sci-fi action-thriller-type movies would have been enough to propel me into the theater for this movie, but academic curiosity heightened my anticipation. What were the writers of Self/less going to do with this challenging metaphysical topic?

Turns out, nothing. The people behind Self/less took on the subject by not taking it on at all. This is anything but a toothsome philosophical study; about a quarter of the way through, I accepted the fact that Self/less is a dumb sci-fi action movie, romping around the casings of the ideas.

But no matter! I was really there for the fun of it and the thrill of an action-packed ride… and sometimes, truth be told, the dumber the sci-fi movie, the more I enjoy it. Before I knew just how insubstantial and mediocre Self/less was going to be, I settled back for good times, but a part of my mind remained occupied, needled by the ghostly recollection of Perry’s book. I made a mental note to pull it down from the shelf when I got home.

An hour later, the credits rolled, the lights came on, and the four of us left the theater somewhat underwhelmed by what we’d just seen. The movie fell short of delivering in the “good times” department, as well.

When I retrieved A Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality from my bookshelf the next day, I opened it and read the first sentence to greet my eyeballs:

“Memory is sufficient for identity and bodily identity is not necessary for it. The survivor remembered Julia’s thoughts and actions, and so was Julia.”

Just as I’d thought I’d recalled! I flipped back a few pages, read a little more, and couldn’t help but wonder if the Self/less script-writers had been inspired by Perry’s paper. The story behind the above quote reads:

“Julia North was a young woman who was run over by a streetcar while saving the life of a young child who wandered onto the tracks. The child’s mother, one Mary Frances Beaudine, had a stroke while watching the horrible scene. Julia’s healthy brain and wasted body, and Mary Frances’ healthy body and wasted brain, were transported to a hospital where a brilliant neurosurgeon, Dr. Matthews, was in residence. He had worked out a procedure for what he called a ‘body transplant’. He removed the brain from Julia’s head and placed it in Mary Frances’, splicing the nerves, and so forth, using techniques not available until quite recently. The survivor of all of this was obviously Julia, as everyone agreed – except, unfortunately, Mary Frances’ husband.” 

This, essentially, provides the premise for Self/less. The “body transplant” procedure described in A Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality is called “shedding” in Self/less, and Perry’s Dr. Matthews correlates to the Self/less character Albright (Matthew Goode).

In Self/less, the (cleverly named) company offering to perform the body transplant/shedding, Phoenix Biogenic, has made an exclusive private industry of the procedure, available to the 1% who could afford it. The company’s slogan? “Leaders in Consciousness Transfer Technology.”

Consciousness Transfer Technology. The door is open here for a re-con mission into the complexities of mind, consciousness and identity in relation to the body, but mostly what we get is Ryan Reynolds playing a character vacationing in another character’s body until flashes of memory from the original owner of said body clues him into the reality of his situation. A bunch of predictable shit hits the fan. “Soon I’ll be gone,” Damian (Ben Kingsley/Ryan Reynolds) intones toward the end. “I can already feel myself fading.” Our protagonist gallantly bows out after Doing the Right Thing. Imagine that!

All snark aside, I have to say that Self/less deserves points for coming up with the most elaborate suicide I can remember seeing in cinema. The movie encompasses a long, slow self-destruction from beginning to end, with Damian unwittingly employing a convoluted and roundabout method of killing himself. This path proves to be beneficial in allowing him opportunities to tie up some critical loose ends along the way, such as banging a succession of hot chicks in his borrowed body (freshly shedded Damian remarks that his new young and healthy body “has that new-body smell,” and he wastes no time in taking it out for a few joy rides) and delivering a heartfelt letter to his estranged daughter, who believes him to be dead (atonement and closure, check and check).

Self/less wasn’t the worst sci-fi action movie I’ve ever seen… I thought it was marginally better than last summer’s disappointment, Lucy… but I’m thinking it rather dulls the luster on the resumes of some of its talented actors. As Albright astutely remarks, “Immortality has some side effects.”

Costco is my Kryptonite, and other tales of things I want to have in my life, but can’t, because they’d kill me.

The other day, I was watching a video, and I had a reaction to it that prompted this brief list of popular trains I can’t board:

1). Costco.

 

Nooooo...

Nooooo…

 

Costco is amazing, but I just… no. I have a panic attack every time I go into a Costco. I mean, every time no matter what.

Your guess is as good as mine. Nothing awful has ever happened to me in a Costco. This makes no sense at all. Costco is my only consistent panic “trigger,” and I have no idea why.

It’s just a huge warehouse with people milling and mingling haphazardly, and everything is towering and disorganized, and the products are piled so high, and you don’t know who or what is coming around the corner, and you don’t know where anything is, and the layout of the place doesn’t seem to make sense, and the noises echo and bounce off the walls, and, and, and, et cetera, ad nauseum.

I could launch into some anecdotes about my panic episodes in Costco in both Arizona and California, but that would result in a complete essay, and how boring would that be? My Ridiculous Panic Attacks in Costco, by Kristi Garboushian. I’ll refrain. (You’re welcome.)

Suffice it to say that the other day (here’s the event that spawned this blog post), I had a panic attack while I was watching a vlog of some people shopping in a Costco. I seriously can’t even see the inside of a Costco on video without having this reaction.

Is there a name for this? Costcophobia?

 

2). Game of Thrones.

 

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I watched most of the first season, and I tried hard to get into it. I plunged in with great expectations because of the series’ high ratings, immense popularity and sheer aesthetic appeal, but my interest waned progressively with each episode. While I could recognize and appreciate the excellence of the writing, acting, cinematography, costumes and basically the entire production, I couldn’t sit the season through to the end.

The reason is simply that fantasy isn’t a genre I enjoy enough to make the mental effort it takes to keep track of everybody running around in that series.

I couldn’t keep up with who was related to whom, and all the interconnections between individuals and groups of characters, and all the intimate liaisons, and who died/got killed (and for what reason), and who was going where, and why, and so on. First it interested me, then it tired me, then it bored me, and that was the end.

(Like most of the rest of humanity, Callaghan enjoyed it, so he’s still watching. I’m glad for him.)

My general disinterest in fantasy (there have been exceptions, like Harry Potter, which I love) contradicts my deep fascination with the paranormal and my affection for most science fiction –especially super high-octane sci-fi with lots of action and cheesy comic book panache, like Tank Girl, Serenity, Transformers and Pacific Rim.

It’s human nature to be contradictory, I guess.

On Callaghan’s part, there’s a highly rated and extremely popular Netflix series that he can’t watch, and that’s Orange is the New Black. Actually, it’s even worse than that… Orange is the New Black is to Callaghan what Costco is to me. He just can’t deal with it at all; it agitates and angers him.

I liked it, though. Maybe one day I’ll continue watching it.

 

3). Beets.

 

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Beets are nutritional superstars, and I wish I could eat them with enjoyment. As it is, I can barely tolerate them. I love food and I want to love everything that I eat. For me, barely tolerating a food equals zero enjoyment in the whole food experience.

I’m not sure why I don’t like beets. I guess I find something suspicious (unpleasantly incongruous?) about their particular type of sweetness, and the metallic aftertaste in my mouth after I eat them nauseates me a little. I don’t know. On one occasion, I went to a restaurant and the roasted vegetables I ordered included small, whole roasted beets. They were of the yellow variety, and they were more palatable to me than the standard purplish-red ones.

Beets don’t make me sick-sick, though… I could eat them if I wanted to, but I don’t bother. When they arrive on my salad, I pass them over to Callaghan, who accepts them with alacrity. Good for him!

That wraps it up. Have a great Friday and weekend, everyone!

Oh, THAT Apocalypse.

We saw three movies over the weekend: Pacific Rim, The Heat and The Conjuring.

Brilliant times were had.

In the existing sea of apocalypse movies, newcomer Pacific Rim does a fair job of defying all of the superlatives in the English language… and that’s okay, because it handily makes up its own as it goes along, relieving me of the burden of description for those who ask. It’s inventive like that. Pacific Rim is such a staunchly self-defining film that I can only recommend that you go watch it for yourselves so you can see what I mean. It’s visual bombast at its finest. It’s one of those movies that manages to inhabit its own cinematic space while stealing from everywhere at the same time. I might be saying this to lazily avoid thinking of the words, but I also might be doing you a huge favor. Go and enjoy yourselves a hearty 131 minutes of campy, cheesy, Godzilla-mated-with-the-Loch Ness Monster-in-the-aftermath-of-a-nuclear-event-and-spawned-meets-Iron Man goodness. Sit back in your seat in the dark and let your eyes gobble up the spectacle that spills out before them. Not since the delightfully awful Tank Girl have I been so gratified at a Good vs. Evil apocalypse fun fest (though Tank Girl is technically post-apocalyptic). Seriously, I’m not a sci-fi fan per se, but I love these movies. They are the exceptions for me. Like Tank Girl, Pacific Rim is a sci-fi action film that I’m going to want to watch over and over again.

Side note… there should be an industry awards category called “Best Use of War-Paint in an Apocalypse Film,” because Mako Mori co-storms into combat wearing red lipstick, and she would get my vote for that award. Red lipstick? It might sound frivolous and potentially reductive, but it isn’t sexy or glamorous so much as bad-ass. (Becca in Tank Girl wore it too, come to think of it.) People from cultures all over the planet have fought battles wearing paint on their faces from the beginning of time, so there’s nothing new going on when Mako shows up wearing her “Yeah I’m a Rookie SO WHAT” shade of red. She just does it with aplomb, and it’s a costume detail that stands out when you consider the character’s personal circumstances. It’s a dash of defiance. (Interestingly, I can’t find a still online showing Mako in that red lip, but I swear I saw it in at least one scene, and Callaghan remembers it, too.)

If the Kaiju monster in Pacific Rim is the new Godzilla, then Ashburn and Mullins in The Heat are the new Beverly Hills Cops (though Ashburn’s actually a Special Agent), as Callaghan aptly remarked as we exited the theater. We went in expecting raunchy fun times ahead, but we honestly didn’t think we’d laugh as much as we did. Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy make quite a pair!

Finally, The Conjuring pulled off the nearly-impossible and thoroughly creeped us out with its sneaky direction, pacing and use of, um, props, shall we call them. (No spoilers here!) I definitely am a fan of the horror genre, and it’s hard to make me jump. The Conjuring did it.

In summary, it was an excellent weekend at the movies, which is an intensely satisfying thing, especially since a weekend at the movies is a rare event for us. Neither a cent nor a second of our time went to waste.

Okay, so I dwelled on Pacific Rim a bit longer than I’d intended. I also wanted to point out one of the hidden hazards of public transportation.

When this is your bus stop...

When this is your bus stop…

...and this is across the street...

…and this is across the street…

This happens. hahaha!

This happens. hahaha!