The Birth of Cinema-Vlog-ité?


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.



Two things strike me about this – is that sort of “handheld video camera” style of filmmaking necessarily vlog inspired, or is it more of a response to the proliferation of video cameras in general? Vlogging is a specific form of videoing and uploading to YouTube, and generally with some sort of commentary about it. I think that there’s a larger community out there that still just videotapes crazy shit when it happens around them and then sends it into the traditional news outlets (the tsunami footage is all online, but it was booming on CNN, too).

And either way, is it really an attempt to market their films to a younger audience, or can it be a method of making the crazy shit seem more immediate, and therefore the threats more real? There’s this strange sense of “holy shit!” that I feel when I see the explosions in the Cloverfield trailer that I don’t get when I watch Daniel Craig leaping around on construction cranes, even though I obviously realize that both of them were staged and fake. I’m just not as desensitized to the grainy video version of staged fakeyness yet. Like in Southland Tales, actually. The footage of the nuclear bomb at the beginning of the film seems raw and real, and stands in direct contrast to the blatant Hollywood fake look and feel of the rest of the film.

Oh, and lastly, I haven’t seen it yet but the new Romero Zombie film is reportedly filmed in this style, too, which also just sounds AWESOME. It’ll be like the zombie apocalypse is really happening!

Karina Longworth

Brian DePalma has said that REDACTED was his attempt to essentially make a movie dramatizing the way the war has been documented and debated on the internet, in order to bring what he perceives as an “underground” conversation into the mainstream. That’s one of the problems with the film, I think–when we can watch something like Alive in Baghdad, it seems a little condescending for DePalma to think that we need an old Hollywood guy like him to make a fake war vlog in order to open our eyes. It’s also debatable whether or not an indie film, at the moment playing on less than two dozen screens, is really more “mainstream” than anything online.

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