Friday, September 6, 2013

Five Nights With...Elle Fanning: Super 8

Well, we are at the end of the week and at the final entry in our 'Five Nights With...Elle Fanning' marathon.  Last night I settled in with a recent sci-fi film, 'Super 8'.  I hope that some of you were able to do the same, and I look forward to hearing your comments and thoughts on the film and, of course, Fanning's tremendous performance.  Speaking of Fanning, she receives a Fisti nomination for this performance, and I stand by that nomination 100%, especially after watching this again last night.  Her scene, out by the train, when she's 'acting' is one of the best moments in film from 2011.  The reaction that her friends have to her 'performance' is the same reaction heard around the world by every moviegoer.  


But, she isn't the only element to this movie.  Honestly, she's the best element, but I'll get to that in a moment.

I remember when ‘Super 8’ was about to drop.  Everyone that I knew was in a state of frenzy.  It just looked so wonderful.  The nostalgia of seeing a science fiction film in the same vein as those pioneered by Steven Spielberg was almost too good to be true.  Could ‘Super 8’ really be this generation’s ‘E.T.’?  The world was on edge and nearly every Oscar prognosticator was prematurely claiming it a lock in nearly every tech category, and some were even claiming that it was on its way to Best Picture and possibly even Best Director glory.

Then it opened to lukewarm critical response, fizzled out and walked away with ZERO Oscar nominations.

I was one of those who rushed to predict this everywhere, and I was wholly thrilled to see the film.  It just looked so lovely.  The biggest issue with a film like ‘Super 8’ is that it is rather silly.  The bugs were not worked out wholly.  The script, while rich with contagious dialog (the sparring between the child actors is the finest part of the film) is too unsure of itself to aid the film any.  When we are focused on the alien, the film falls apart; and that is a sad fact considering that the whole draw here was, in all respects, the alien.

So here’s the basic premise.  In Ohio, way back in 1979, there was a young boy named Joe.  Joe’s mother has died and he’s obviously distraught about it.  His father love him, but he’s preoccupied with work (he’s the Sheriff’s Deputy) and he’s a little too hard edged.  Joe’s best friend Charles is obsessed with making movies and convinces the neighborhood kids to make a zombie film with him.  While making the film, a train crashes and a ‘thing’ escapes and havoc is set loose on the small town as dogs and eventually people start disappearing.  The military is all over it, the citizens are in a panic and Joe and his friends start searching for the answers.

Visually, the film works to a certain extent.  The special effects can feel a little overdone in parts (the crash itself lasts far too long and screams “look at me”) and the alien itself is an uninspired disappointment.  That said, the set pieces are beautifully done and the whole feel of the era portrayed is nicely kept in tone.  The atmosphere of the film’s first half is flawless.  In fact, leading up to the actual alien business, I was thinking this film was truly brilliant.  Sadly, it takes a nosedive into clich√© ridden sci-fi with little inspiration to keep it afloat.  The child performances are all great; Elle Fanning proving once again that she deserves an Oscar, but the adults are all simple creations that lack depth.  The token villain (the military Col. Nelec) is a walking stereotype, and Noah Emmerich is a terrible actor.  I hated the ending, for it felt lazy and rushed and so not worthy of the tremendous build up.  In fact, I really wish that the whole alien thing had been scrapped from this movie completely.  It just didn’t work. 

Why couldn’t J.J. Abrams have attempted to make this generation’s ‘Stand By Me’ instead?

Alas, I’m giving this a B-.  It was surely entertaining, despite its failure to live up to my high expectations.  The acting was very nice and the tone of the film was beautifully rendered.  This is a very good movie; but it could have been great.

So that caps off this week's marathon!  I hope you enjoyed it.  Next month I have a very specific theme and a range of very different movies, two of which I'll be watching for the first time, which is always exciting!  So, next month's theme is 'Killer Couples'.  I thought of this while going into 'Ain't Them Bodies Saints' the other day, thinking that that particular movie was going to be different than it was and so I honestly was thinking I could incorporate that movie in this particular marathon.  Guess what; I was wrong (the movie is so much better than what I expected too!) and so I'm not going to be reviewing it next month.  I will be reviewing it soon though.  No, next month has a bounty of respected films from respected filmmakers revolving around that classic story of man meets girl, man loves girl, man and girl kill some people.

So, here is the lineup:

1983's The Hunger (first time watch for me) 10/7
1967's Bonnie and Clyde 10/8
1973's Badlands 10/9
1994's Natural Born Killers (first time watch for me) 10/10
1965's Pierrot le Fou 10/11

Mark your calendars and take the month to watch these films and write up your pieces.  I'd love for everyone to participate.  You can write reviews of the films, reviews of the performances, dedicate posts to them in an facet (visual dedications, praise for the scores, praise for individual performances, etc.) and please email me the links at so that I can incorporate them in my posts next month!  I hope you can play along.


  1. Elle Fanning is certainly a vision on screen, and she's a tremendous actress!

    I recently watched Bonnie and Clyde for the first time...such an incredible film.

    1. Awesome! I hope you can work up a piece for next month's 'Five Nights' marathon! If you do, send me a link :-D

  2. Elle Fanning was the best thing in that film for me. She was just so natural in the film and was really able to do the dramatic stuff w/o the need to embellish. I also love the way she acted as a zombie. I haven't seen a lot of J.J. Abrams' work as I'm often bothered by the lens flares and such and I don't agree w/ what some people think of him as a genius. Yet, I did enjoy this film.

  3. Super 8 was a big letdown for me. The references to other (better) films could've been handled better, but I did like the performances and the look of the film. Despite its flaws, I'd give it a weak B.

    Yay! I've actually seen all five of your next lineup. I'll try to participate more next month.

    1. YAY!!!!!

      I can't wait to see what you contribute. Next month will be here soon :-P