(In theaters, January 2008) It’s too early in the year to start thinking about best-of-year lists, but I’ve got a feeling that I’ll have to keep a spot for Cloverfield. Sure, it can be instantly dismissed as “Blair Witch Gojira”, or a “Monster movie for the YouTube Generation”. The story is short and simple, the characters are sketches and the shakycam cinematography isn’t as clear as it should be. But that’s missing the point. Cloverfield is a modest triumph of concept, taking a popcorn monster movie and bringing the audience so deep into it that it becomes a full-blown horror film. There are clear visual references to 9/11 early in the film, and it’s hard to avoid thinking that this is the first good pop-culture film to completely internalize the chaos, the confusion and the terror of that day, transposed into something (monsters!) that had become innocuous through endless B-movies. As a movie geek, I was impressed at how well the filmmakers integrated the camera as a character in the film, how the continuous filming felt natural in the context of the piece and yet how they ended up capturing exactly the images they wanted. (Although I think the tower sequence is ill-served by the lack of visual detail.) The suspense works; the subway sequence is terrifying, but the death that it sets up is brutal in its execution. Oh, I can quibble with the best of them about the plot’s logistical problems (walking long distances in minutes, getting off a snapping bridge far too easily, running without shoes and a gaping wound), but I can’t deny that when this film works, it really works. One thing is for sure: It’s so much better than the American remake of Godzilla that it’s like talking about different art forms.