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November 27, 2023
"Mes de los Muertos"

Chronicle: Keep the Camera Rollin'

By Bernie and Sand Pilarski


Sand said:

Developing a habit is fairly easy if it feels good or tastes good. The Friday morning go-to-the-movies-and-eat-salty-popcorn-for-breakfast habit was really simple to form. Yes, I'm there. Coke and popcorn for breakfast -- takes me way back and makes me think I am 24 again.

"What's coming out on Friday?" I asked Bernie before he could ask me the same thing. It wasn't a real question, it was a challenge: "What do we have to go watch before we can get popcorn and Coke for breakfast?"

We decided to go see Chronicle, even though it had teenagers in it. Worse still, teenagers with super-powers. It had to be a stinkeroo, but I was comforted by the thought of vast quantities of popcorn, and the knowledge that if it did stink, I could say so publicly.

As the movie began, I realized -- duhh -- that the title referred to Andrew's (Dane DeHaan) decision to begin filming his life with his hand-held camera, something that he says puts a barrier between himself and the world. Andrew's world doesn't feel very good to him: his mother dying of lung disease, his father an abusive alcoholic, his geeky, timid nature making him a target of bullying at school. Yeah, that needed a barrier, and in spite of people telling him that his compulsive filming is creepy, he perseveres. At a party, he ends up following his cousin Matt (Alex Russell) and a good-natured popular boy, Steve (Michael B. Jordan) down a tunnel to an artifact that draws them close, and affects their brains. They find, over the subsequent days, that they have the power of telekinesis.

As the story progresses, so does their control over their power; as the power grows, it begins to control their lives.

After about fifteen minutes, I stopped looking for the crappy movie I had come to see, and found myself drawn into the story. By the end of the film, I was truly amazed at how good it was, and how many layers of story had been told.

A surprisingly good film.

Bernie said:

So I was thinking, you know, occupied by thought, that indeed I have absolutely nothing in common with the 1%. These are the people who generally speaking are making in excess of $250,000 a year. I really can't identify with them. I don't know if I even know any of them. Probably I've met one or two along the way, but we don't tend to hang out in the same places.

Sand and I went to the Hotel Coronado in San Diego once. This is a place where the 1% would tend to hang out. This is a place where the rooms commonly go for $400 to $600 dollars a night. We didn't stay there, of course. We walked around the grounds, went into the lobby and felt terribly uncomfortable, and went back to our Motel 6 where there was more of our kind of people.

It's possible, then, that we are the 99%. Except that even in the heyday of my money making, there was still about 25% of the population that made more than I did, and while we knew more of these people, we didn't always feel comfortable with the rampant consumerism of this group, and they frequently looked at us as cheap. Then again, 15% of the people in this country live in poverty, and (fortunately) I don't really know what that's like. Sand and I have had some lean years, but we've always had a place to live and food on the table. In fact, half the country had an income of half what we made. I'm sure that that whole half looked at us and hoped that they could do as well.

So, we were not the 99%. Excluding the top 25% and the lower 50%, we were realistically more like the upper middle (or lower top) 25%. But if you take that group and look at it, at least half espoused political views that we don't like at all, leaving us with just over 10% of the population that we can identify with. Of this remaining group, I can identify with Bilbo Baggins when he says "I don't know half of you half as well as I should like, and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve."

When it gets right down to it, I find that I can actually identify with about 1%. Sand and I are the 1% of that 1% who go to the movies on Friday mornings to catch the cheap showing of the 1% of movies that catch our imagination.

Frankly, Chronicle did not fit into the limited group of movies that catch our imagination. From the previews I had seen, it struck me as a kind of Harold and Kumar stoner comedy. It had a cast of young people who were totally unknown to me, and was directed by someone I had never heard of, and the previews had only a hint of a plot. But, just like when we were kids and went to movies not so much to see the movie as to just go and be with friends, Sand and I simply wanted to go to the movies and Chronicle happened to be playing. (I once took a girl to see The Exorcist simply because I figured she would end up clinging, and by golly, she clung real good. I took the same girl to a play that, totally unbeknownst to me, had a scene in which the entire cast appeared nude. Really, I did not know. I didn't.)

As it turns out, Chronicle had nothing in common with Harold and Kumar. In fact, it turned out to be very, very good. Three young men happen upon an object that mysteriously invests them with a superhuman power of telekinesis, the ability to move objects by thought. At first they can only manipulate small things, but the ability grows, and soon they are capable of moving cars, and even making themselves fly. But there is a dark side to the story. One of the young men, Andrew, is a very troubled youth. He comes from an abusive home, and he is one of the geeky misfits in school. His mother is dying. So what happens when to this mix you add superpowers?

Chronicle is told largely from the point of view of Andrew's hand held camera, very reminiscent of the style of Cloverfield. Cleverly, since Andrew has telekinetic power, he can allow his camera to float about, freeing the filmmakers to move about and allowing the camera to record events without the need to maintain that jiggly through-the-viewfinder perspective. Nonetheless, the film remains true to its premise, and is presented as a video diary of the events in Andrew's life.

The story unfolds perfectly. There is innocence and humor in the boys' early experimentation with their powers, and a gnawing uneasiness with Andrew's personal problems. Andrew is a real enough character with real enough problems that you want to identify with him, you want him to be the hero. A hero does emerge, but it is not Andrew. The film reaches a spectacular conclusion as Andrew's personal life unravels and his powers lead him into a delusion of being an "apex predator," a predator with no predators of his own.

I do not believe that I have been so successfully sucked into a story since I saw the original Alien movie way back in 1979. In both instances, I went to the movie expecting to see a formula film, and in both cases I ended up thoroughly engrossed in the story. Chronicle is all the more surprising in that the entire cast and crew are virtual newcomers, largely unproven commodities.

A very good story, very cleverly told, convincingly acted. I liked this movie a lot. I liked this movie twice as much as half the movies I've ever seen, and have seen twice as many movies that were not nearly half as good. I haven't done the math, but it may even be in the top 1%.

Article © Bernie and Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
Published on 2012-02-06
1 Reader Comments
03:29:57 PM
Sometimes I think I read your reviews because even if the movie isn't interesting, at least the two of you will be. This time around, your perspectives on why to see this movie have done more for me than Chronicle's ad campaign or a simple description of it. Good job.
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