Two very different movies with very different intents are borrowing heavily from the web video aesthetic. Brian De Palma’s Redacted and the J.J. Abrams-produced Cloverfield both make heavy use of messy, first-person handheld camera angles to tell their stories. Let’s call it “cinema vlog-ité.”
Look, I’ll be honest, I haven’t seen either film. Redacted just opened up, and Cloverfield doesn’t come out until January of ’08 (good luck trying to see any of that footage ahead of time). But from clips, trailers and published reports, you can get a sense of what each movie is about.
Now, film snobs will be quick to point out (and comment) that this style is nothing new — heck, The Blair Witch Project was using shaky, first-person camera angles (to nauseating effect) way back in the day. And I’m sure somewhere, somehow, Goddard did it first.
Fine. Whatever. This isn’t about that.
What is interesting is that these are big features with big names creating them. And for the first time, we all have a familiar context for them: YouTube.
War footage. Webcam confessionals. Mayhem caught on tape. It’s not just that we’ve seen it all before, we’ve lived it. We have access to it 24 hours a day. Also interesting is that there are no stars in either film. The cast is full of no-names — anonymous, just like most vloggers.
Will this style of filmmaking be of comfort to us because we are so used to it, or does it just use another cheap effect to (cost-effectively) cash in on the tastes of today’s youth? Jackson suggested that the films could just be employing web video-esque shots in the trailers to appeal to younger audiences, only to have the films be more predominately shot in the traditional style. Which may be the case, though they’d save a lot of money on steadi-cam rentals.
The vlog aesthetic is here to stay — people will continue to sit in front of their webcams and overshare their lives. I just hope filmmakers don’t overuse this device. We get enough of it online.