James Leroy Wilson's one-man magazine.

Saturday, May 17, 2008


A few weeks ago I saw Cloverfield on DVD, and then last night I saw the 2002 movie Signs, which I believe is an indirect inspiration for Cloverfield. Both are movies about "extras" in other people's movies. One is a monster movie and the other is an alien movie (or both are both) and the audience is never told how or why these creatures came upon the northeastern states. Cloverfield is more to the point, that this is about the "extras" running in a seeming panic in a bad Jerry Bruckheimer movie. Signs is about another story, and the monsters are but an occasion to bring it to light. But in neither one do we involve the White House, the Pentagon, a maverick cop or scientist, his estranged wife, a heroic military unit, or anybody else on the supposed "front lines." It is about people who by their location or status are on the periphery of cataclysmic events, people who have no power and can make no judgments for anyone other than themselves - individually or as families.

Often such movies provide, at most, a mix between the "average" people and the heroes. Perhaps 9/11 and empathy for its victims helped change this equation, although Signs must have been scripted, if not filmed, by the time 9/11 happened. Or perhaps both are prophesying some other, other-worldly event that will sweep up a lot of innocent life in the future. More probably, they're both just movies, but movies in an age that gives some semblance of respect for the audience.

How many other movies have their been about Extras, that is, about people trapped in some cataclysmic time that is not about the heroes who brought the ultimate victory? I know there must be more movies like this than just Cloverfield and Signs, but I'm drawing a blank. Any thoughts?

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